We all love Piha, Bethells and Muriwai, regular haunts for many of us. But how about trying a different stretch of western sand. And, while the weather's still cool, take a barefoot walk on the iron sand without making a big old song and dance about it.

1. Karekare
35km west of Auckland's CBD. South of Piha.

Karekare is a lovely beach and not nearly as busy as its bustling neighbour, Piha, perhaps because the road is pretty narrow. Aside from the fabulous beach, the Karekare Falls is another reason to visit, less than 1km up the valley from the beach on Company Stream. And there's a great surf club to help keep swimmers safe.

2. Port Waikato
Franklin Ward. 88km from Auckland's CBD.


This is a perfect place for a family holiday. Loads of activities, great fishing, surfing, swimming and walking. Good parks, places to eat and stay, the only danger is, once you've visited you may not wish to leave. Nikau Caves make a great adventure. Another great surf club.

3. Whatipu
42km from Auckland's CBD.

Wonderfully remote and boasts a great campground. As well as an amazing windswept (often dangerous) beach, there are caves, fabulous walks, some of them quite strenuous and, if you listen to some people's accounts, there are ghosts. In fact, former mayor Bob Harvey calls this area the Coast of Ghosts.