Located 30 kilometres north-west of Auckland at the mouth of the Waitakere River, Bethells Beach, or Te Henga to give it its Maori name, offers a vast, wild landscape teeming with birdlife and tramping trails.
Black sand, high surf, sand dunes and bushland provide the perfect environment for the proliferation of birdlife. In fact, the area is so well-suited to our feathered friends that there is an ongoing breeding programme here involving the New Zealand dotterel – a threatened species of bird which nests in the dunes above the waterline. Bethells Beach is now one of the rare places this bird can be seen in the natural environment.
However, these are not the only birds in the area; there's actually a wealth of birdlife that call Te Henga home, including harriers and petrels. Sometimes blue penguins even put in an appearance on the beach at night time.
While the beach is quite an isolated location nowadays, there is plentiful evidence to suggest that humans have lived at Bethells Beach, and made use of its significant attributes, for over 1,000 years. Such evidence includes cave shelters and an inland "pa" (or fortified village) used for crop storage.
While the water may seem appealing, particularly on a fine day, it's important to note that swimming and surfing conditions along the beach can be dangerous, with frequent riptides. On the other hand, this is a great spot for tramping at any time of year. So, bring a picnic and hit the trail to Lake Wainamu or Waitohi Falls. The trails here also form part of the well-known Hillary Trail covering 75 kilometres of the Waitakere Ranges Regional Park.
In good weather, there's often a food truck at the beach, but it's best to bring your own supplies as, once you get here, it's quite a journey to get anywhere else. To reach Bethells Beach, you'll need to rent a car. Fortunately, there's more than enough free parking at the beach, mostly behind the dunes.