Just forty minutes north of the Auckland Harbor Bridge, the Whangaparaoa Peninsula has some of the best beaches in the Auckland region. It's a great place to explore for a few days or even for a complete holiday. It's a part of Auckland not often visited by overseas tourists, but it has a lot to offer.
"Whangaparaoa" is Maori for "Bay of Whales" and dolphins and orca whales are often seen in the surrounding waters.
Whangaparaoa Location and Getting There
Whangaparaoa is on the northern outskirts of Auckland City, 25 kilometers/15.5 miles from the city center. It is a long and narrow finger of land with a string of beaches on either side and a number of smaller suburbs contained within it. As Auckland continues to spread, it is rapidly becoming a part of the city itself.
To get there, travel along the northern motorway and exit at Silverdale. Turn right, pass through the Silverdale shopping district and turn right onto Whangaparaoa Road at the top of the hill. The trip from Auckland takes around 30 minutes, but allow at least twice that at rush hour as the northern motorway can get very congested.
An alternative to driving is to take the ferry from the ferry terminal in central Auckland. The journey takes around an hour.
Whangaparaoa Geography and Layout
The peninsula is more than eleven kilometers (6.8 miles) long and relatively narrow. On both the northern and southern sides are sandy beaches separated by rocky outcrops. At the very end of the peninsula is the Shakespeare Regional Park and beyond that a naval training area that is off-limits to the public. The main areas of Whangaparaoa are:
Red Beach, Stanmore Bay, Manly, Tindalls Beach, and Army Bay: These are the beaches on the northern side. They look north along the coast and out to the islands of the Hauraki Gulf, Kawau Island, and Little Barrier Island.
Gulf Harbour: A marina and residential development near the far end of the peninsula.
Matakatia, Little Manly and Arkles Bay: The southern beaches, which look back to Auckland City and out to Rangitoto Island and the other islands of the southern part of the Hauraki Gulf.
Shakespeare Regional Park: This park is at the tip of the peninsula. There are some lovely walks and great views of Auckland and the Hauraki Gulf. The park has also recently become a predator-free zone with the construction of a fence along the boundary to the park. Two beaches are within the park boundary - Te Haruhi Bay and Okoromai Bay.
Tiritiri Matangi Island: Four kilometers from the end of the Whangaparaoa Peninsula, this island is also a nature reserve and home to rare birds such as the takahe. Regular ferry trips leave from both Gulf Harbor and downtown Auckland.
One of the wonderful things about the Whangaparaoa Peninsula is the city and ocean views. Due to the hilly terrain and the narrowness of the land, there are great views to be had from almost anywhere. In many places, you can even see the sea on both sides.
Things to See and Do on the Whangaparaoa Peninsula
Swimming and Beaches: All of the beaches are good for swimming. The best beaches are on the northern side, especially Red Beach, Stanmore Bay, and Manly.
Sailing and Watersports: These are very popular at all of the beaches. Many have their own boat club.
Walking and Hiking: There are several coastal walks around the rocks between beaches. It's possible to walk virtually the entire perimeter of the peninsula. Most are only accessible a couple of hours either side of low tide.
Whangaparaoa Peninsula Restaurants and Cafes
Although there are a number of fast food outlets on the Whangaparaoa Peninsula, there isn't a huge selection of quality restaurants and cafes. Here are my picks for the best of what you will find:
Masala Indian Restaurant (Stanmore Bay): Reliable Indian food in a nice setting. Monday to Thursday evenings the curries are only $10.
Maison Thai Restaurant (Manly Village): The best Thai food on the peninsula, run by a young but enthusiastic Thai couple. For menu and contact details visit their website.
Local Cafe (Manly Village): Open for breakfast and lunch every day, this is a delightful 'local' cafe to call in for a coffee or casual meal. Excellent food and friendly service. Local Cafe is also listed among my Ten Best Cafes on Auckland's North Shore.
Whangaparaoa Peninsula Accommodation
Whangaparaoa has traditionally been a private holiday spot for Aucklanders and there are actually still very few hotels or motels. For accommodation options see here.
Whangaparaoa Peninsula Shopping and Services
There is a full range of shopping and services on the peninsula. There are two large shopping centers, both with supermarkets and other shops. One is in Silverdale at the entrance to the peninsula. The other is the Whangaparaoa Town Center, halfway along.