Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Bethell's Beach and O'Neills Bay - Wildly Inspirational

"Like a nautical siren calling you forth, wild, remote and inhospitably beautiful"  
me, 2014

The West Coast of NZ is a stunning symphony of scenery.  Wild, secluded, and surrounded by native bush rich in birdsong.  These beautiful vistas can be found on both Islands.  Bethells Beach and O'Neills Bay are two such stunning destinations and are found on the West Coast of the North Island, close to Auckland in the Waitakere Ranges.    Bethells, also known as Te Hunga (sand) is the main beach, and a steep but relatively short stroll over the saddle will find you in O'Neills Bay.  Not easily assessable in high tide, it is a treasure, and well worth the extra steps.  There are also stunning lakes that can be reached from here but alas, time did not allow us to explore them this trip.

Looking back to Auckland from the Waitakere Ranges

The day we visited it was an overcast day - but it was hot, humid and as the tide was out, we were able to explore a number of amazing caves that would normally be difficult, to impossible, to access at high tide.   The following is a series of pictures that give you a taste of the serenity and beauty you can find out here.


A relatively short drive (sealed) from West Auckland finds you in a wild paradise.  There is a large carpark and a short stroll to access the beach.   The beach is patrolled with lifeguards during the busy periods.  The surf is wild, unpredictable and shot full of rips.  Warnings about the dangers are displayed.  A most definitely 'swim between the flags' beach.  Whilst we were there the surf patrollers took their boat out to check for conditions.

Surf LifeSaving Patrol - looking towards Northern End 

When you arrive you are warned about the conditions.   A large sign displays the following:

- Large Waves
- Strong Currents
- Unstable Cliffs
- Slippery Rock

Looking towards the entrance to the beach 

Special cave at the northern end of the beach that had two access points

Main access cave

What we discovered at the end of the caves (only accessible during low tide)

There are many jellyfish washed up on the beach along this stretch of the West Coast 

The caves are tucked away in the rocky cliffs to the right

Heading back down to Bethells from O'Neills Bay 

Stunning, looking north 

The Southern End of Bethells 

The cave at the southern end of the beach is a large cavernous hole in the cliff face - it is not accessible during high tide, and it is the first time we have been able to explore them.   A smaller cave is set in the cliffs just above this bigger cave.

Looking towards the Southern end of Bethells

Looking towards the larger cave from the smaller one

Looking out of the big cave towards the smaller cave set in the cliffs

Entrance to the smaller cave

A wild beauty 


Looking down to O'Neills Bay

A panorama of O'Neills from the Saddle 

This is one of those bays that when you reach the top of the saddle (after a climb up the sand dune that can be described as 'good for the thighs'),  rewards you with visual feast for your soul.  You know its rugged beauty when it comes with a caveat - see below.  I term this Bay wildly inhospitable.

You have been warned - but well worth the visit 

Inside the large cave

Looking out from inside the cave

The splendour that is nature

Starfish clinging onto the rocky outcrop that is usually submerged 

Standing on the rocky outcrop - serene and magical (a popular fishing spot during low tide)

Looking towards the saddle 

Interesting Facts 

Apparently (and fortunately we didn't see this when we were here), this area is known as a 'free beach' (a place where one can be nude).  You can read more here….gonewzealand

These are black sand beaches - read more about the history here...wikipedia

This is a well known haunt for surfers, despite the dangerous rips.  The wild waves are a surfing paradise.  While we were there we noticed a number of surfers braving the extreme conditions on both Bethells and O'Neills.  I applaud their courage.

Many fisherman like to come and fish from the rocks.  Over the years there have been many people washed out to sea due to the slippery rocks and unpredictable surf.  We noticed a number of fisherman making the most of the day.

You can see why artists are attracted to the dangerous beauty that is this area.  It is inspirational, and a place where the sins of stress are washed away.   My inner muse was in her element here.

Some 'beach art' left by a previous visitor 

If you are visiting Auckland I would urge you to come to this amazing part part of the world and come and explore.   You won't be disappointed.

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