The Tradition of a Kiwi Beach Visit

It is 9am.  Jess’ dad decides the swells should be perfect for surfing. He is tanned, in shape, with warm eyes, a healthy face, and a baseball cap with a light ponytail sticking out from under it.

Kiwi tradition dictates lots of time spent in, on, or around the water, and he fits the bill. We pack into the car, windows littered with surfing stickers, and head off.

Paddleboarder taking on the waves.

The area is all windy roads hugged by impenetratable greenery – bush, palms, grass that goes up into the hills with the occasional toi-toi feather duster clumps of grass adding a light touch.

We arrive at Te Arai.

1. Climb the dune to watch how the waves break

Te Arai is a surf beach, and I follow Jess up the dune to where her dad is watching the waves break. My first New Zealand sand is just off-white and almost powdery fine between my toes. Heaven. There’s maybe 30 people in sight.

Forestry – a perfect beach with almost no one around…

But the swell’s not breaking right.

We move on to Forestry, another beach just behind the bay cliff to the south. We climb the dune to watch how the waves break. There’s even less people here but is is decided that the surf is better. We’re staying.

2. Explore & Enjoy

We set up chairs and blankets and head in our separate directions.

Jess’s dad goes off to find surf. On any given day, depending on the water, Kiwis will surf, kayak, paddleboard – anything to get out on the water.

We ladies walk far along the beach and beachcomb the sand for seashells while waching oystercatchers with their long red beaks tap away at the shells.

An oyster catcher with its pronounced red beak
An oyster catcher with its pronounced red beak

3. Picnic

We sit, chat, and eat corned beef sandwiches, snacking inbetween with some carrots and chips.

It is warm in the sun but the moment that wind blows I zip up and feel ridiculous. We flip through magazines and make conversation with friends that stop by.

I can feel the heat of the sun of my face, the slight wind cooling my cheeks. There’s really no sound other than the waves lappping on the shore and breaking, and sometimes they crack so hard I look up expecting to see a broken surfboard.

Kat at Forestry Beach, watching the surfers
Watching the surfers, feeling the wind

The Last Untouched Te Arai

After a short nap, and meeting the rest of the family, it was decided that we were popping off to Te Arai late morning – the swells were going to be perfect.

Te Arai is on the east coast about an hour north of Auckland and, as the whole area, is known for its surfing.

Looking out at the swell
Looking out at the swell

We walked up a small white sand dune where Jess’s father is staring out onto the water. “I’ve been coming here for 40 years,” he said.

“Has anything changed?”

“Not really, just more people.”

“Well, it’s good they haven’t developed it at all.” I comment.

But there’s plans to, apparently. Te Arai is the last untouched ocean beach area in the region – it is home to endangered birds, threatened geckos, and a variety of fauna and flora – but there are currently plans in place to scrap the current zoning plans for development of a golf course, housing, restaurants.  It is largely protested, so for now, Kiwis can enjoy the surfing, kayaking, and beachcombing they so love the beach for.

An oyster catcher - just one of the species found at Te Arai
An oyster catcher – just one of the species found at Te Arai

But the swell is crashing too hard, with nowhere to turn out. This will not be the beach. We head just down the road to Forestry. There’s even less people here; clumps of about 4 or 5 hang out prepping their boards, about fifteen dot the waves. There’s more roll out here, and after another five minutes of contemplation, we decide to stay.

Waiting for the perfect wave
Waiting for the perfect wave