What Makes Muriwai Special

What is Muriwai known for? We have the answers!

Muriwai is tucked away on the west coast of the North Island. Like many, we’ve come here plenty of times to get a breather from the hustle and bustle of the city. 

But if you’ve never been to this secret hideaway, you might wonder: What is Muriwai known for? 

Muriwai is known for its black sand beaches stretching as far as the eye can see and its unique gannet colony that draws birdwatchers from all over the world. It’s also known for its rugged coastline and thrilling outdoor activities. 

Want to know more? Join us as we dive into the place’s attractions!  

Black Sand Beaches

Muriwai is recognized for its black sand beaches. Unique geological processes created the sand’s colour and texture. Today, people come to see the beach’s natural beauty and cultural significance.

The black sand found on Muriwai and other west coast beaches of the North Islanis is made of titanomagnetite—a mixture of titanium and iron. This material originates from Mount Taranaki and is swept up the coast as far as the North Cape—a distance of about 400 km. 

Muriwai is not just known for its black sand, however. The beach is also a favourite destination for day-trippers and picnickers, offering various activities such as surfing, swimming, and fishing. 

The rugged beauty of Muriwai extends beyond the beach itself, with a mountainous backdrop providing walking trails and viewpoints. This windswept coastline stretches 60 kilometres, making Muriwai one of New Zealand’s most spectacular black-sand surf beaches.

In addition to its natural wonders, Muriwai holds cultural significance. The modern name, Muriwai, means “End of the Water”. 

It refers to the Te Muriwai, a kāinga (settlement) located upstream of the beach along the Muriwai Stream/Okiritoto Stream. Over time, this name came to represent the river valley and, eventually, the wider area. 

Due to Muriwai’s extensive coastline, it doesn’t have specific sub-beaches but rather different areas of interest. Here are some key spots to visit! 

  • Muriwai Beach Main Area

This is the most accessible part of Muriwai, where most surfers head to catch waves. Visit during low tide when the expansive beach is at its widest. 

  • Maori Bay (Maukatia)

Just south of the main beach, Maori Bay is known for its rock pools and caves. This is the best spot for sunset views and shell collecting. 

The low tide reveals marine life in the rock pools, which can be fascinating for kids and adults alike.

  • Otakamiro Point

This area is popular among rock climbers for its challenging cliffs. Even if you’re not into climbing, the point offers spectacular views of the ocean and the beach.

Muriwai Gannet Colony 

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The Muriwai Gannet Colony is one of only three mainland gannet nesting sites in the country, making it a special and intriguing place for birdwatchers, photographers, and nature lovers alike.

The windswept cliffs and rocky outcrops of Muriwai provide an ideal habitat for the gannets, also known as takapu in Maori. So, when we went, we were able to observe the birds up close! 

A part of what makes the gannet colony so unique in Muriwai is the birds’ interesting lifecycle. Every year, from August to March, around 1,200 pairs of gannets make their nests at Muriwai, transforming the cliff edges into a bustling avian metropolis.

The birds mate for life, returning each year to the same nest to lay a single egg. Both parents share the responsibility of incubating the egg and feeding the chick once it hatches.

 After approximately 15 weeks, the young gannets are ready to take their first flight, embarking on a journey across the Tasman Sea to Australia. 

Remarkably, after 2-5 years, these juvenile gannets will return to their birthplace in Muriwai to breed, perpetuating the cycle.

The accessibility of the Muriwai Gannet Colony is another reason why it’s so well-known. A short walk from the car park leads you to view platforms where you can watch these magnificent birds up close without disturbing their natural behaviour. 

In addition to the thrill of observing gannets in their natural habitat, visitors to Muriwai are treated to stunning panoramic views of the coastline and the Tasman Sea. The black sand beach, dramatic cliffs, and rolling waves create a backdrop as captivating as the birds themselves.

Rugged Coastline 

Muriwai is renowned for its rugged coastline. It is shaped by natural forces and teeming with life, offering a unique blend of scenic beauty, wildlife encounters, and outdoor activities. 

A remarkable stretch of 60 kilometres of wild and untamed shores, it offers an awe-inspiring mix of natural features that come together to form a landscape of unparalleled beauty. The coastline also boasts rolling dunes, which further enhance its rugged charm. 

Lastly, Muriwai’s rugged coastline is also known for its excellent surf conditions. The powerful swells rolling in from the Tasman Sea make it a popular spot for surfing enthusiasts who are drawn to its challenging waves.


Muriwai has carved itself a name as a surfing destination and for good reason. Muriwai’s dependable waves, expansive beach, and supportive surf community have cemented its status as a top surfing destination in New Zealand. 

The primary reason Muriwai is known for surfing is its reliable swells. Due to its open-facing position on the Tasman Sea, it receives a regular supply of waves, making it a consistent and dependable surf spot. 

The key surfing area in Muriwai is to the right of the rocks in the main beach area, which provides the most consistent breaks. However, the 60-kilometre-long beach allows surfers to spread out and find their own space away from the main crowds.

While its powerful waves are a magnet for experienced surfers, Muriwai also caters to those new to the sport. The Muriwai Surf School, located on the beach, provides lessons and equipment hire, making it easy for beginners to learn the ropes in a safe environment.


Muriwai’s reputation as a fishing hotspot is well-deserved. Its diverse fish populations and multiple fishing methods offer a unique and rewarding fishing experience for all anglers.

For one, Muriwai’s surfcasting potential is legendary. This method of fishing, where bait is cast into the surf from the shoreline, is particularly popular here. 

The beach’s black sand slopes steeply into the Tasman Sea, creating deep water close to shore that attracts a variety of fish species. Snapper, gurnard, and kahawai are among the species that can be caught year-round, making Muriwai a reliable destination for surf casters.

The beach also offers excellent conditions for kite fishing, a method that uses a kite to carry the bait far out into the sea. This allows anglers to reach areas teeming with otherwise unreachable fish from the shore. 

Muriwai Beach is a favourite spot for this type of fishing due to its consistent onshore winds. 

For those who prefer freshwater fishing, the Muriwai region also hosts several streams and rivers populated with trout and other freshwater species. The Muriwai Stream, in particular, is a popular spot known for its trout population.


Muriwai is a paradise for hikers. What makes hiking in Muriwai truly special is the diversity of the landscapes you can explore. Each trail offers a unique perspective of this region, from coastal cliffs and black sand beaches to dense forests and dunes.

Here are a few of our favourite hiking trails! 

  • Takapu Refuge Walk 

One of the most popular hikes in the region is the Takapu Refuge Walk. This trail takes you along the cliff tops, offering spectacular views of the Tasman Sea and Muriwai’s black sand beach. 

The highlight of this walk is the gannet colony at Otakamiro Point! 

  • The Muriwai Beach Loop 

The Muriwai Beach Loop is another must-do hike in the area. This 5.3 km looped trail starts and ends in Muriwai, taking you along the beach and through rolling dunes. 

It’s a great way to experience the unique beauty of Muriwai’s black sand beach.

  • The Hillary Trail 

If you’re looking for a longer hike, the Hillary Trail is a fantastic option. This trail stretches from Arataki to Muriwai and covers a variety of terrains, including rainforests, coastlines, and streams.

Along the way, you’ll enjoy panoramic views of the Waitakere Ranges and the west coast.

Maori Historical Archaeological Sites

Muriwai holds a rich tapestry of Maori history that is preserved in its numerous archaeological sites. The archaeological sites in Muriwai narrate the tale of a time long past, of a people deeply connected with the land and sea. 

They provide valuable insights into Maori culture and history, making Muriwai a significant location for both local and international researchers and history enthusiasts.

The Te Henga district, within which Muriwai is located, is home to several sites that are important in traditional Maori history. About 75 recorded sites include numerous pa (fortified settlements), pits and terraces, and occupational sites.

One significant discovery in Muriwai was a nearly complete seven-metre-long Maori wooden waka tikai, or river canoe. The presence of this canoe suggests that the region was not only a settlement but also a hub for transportation and trade.

Adding to Muriwai’s archaeological significance is the Muriwai Pa, an archaeological site marked on the map of Auckland. It offers valuable insights into the social and defensive practices of the Maori communities.