Bethells Beach (Te Henga), Auckland: What to Do & How to Get There

Want to explore wild west coast of New Zealand North Island to its fullest? Add the rugged and beautiful Bethells Beach to your Auckland travel plans.

Also known as Te Henga, meaning “sand” in Maori, Bethells Beach is one of the most popular day trips from Auckland. It’s a favourite surfing destination and well-known swimming spot for Aucklanders. (Even if its water is a little choppy at times!)

Ready to plan the perfect day at Bethells Beach? Launch your trip with this guide to the Bethells Beach (Te Henga) area including ideas for what to see & do and how to get there…

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What to see & do in Bethells Beach (Te Henga)

Bethells Beach

You wouldn’t come to Bethells Beach without spending much of your time, well—on the beach? Of course not!

Bethells Beach isn’t quite as famous as other west coast beaches like Piha Beach, or, the Hollywood favourite, Karekare Beach. That doesn’t mean it’s not worth the small detour to this quieter corner of the lovely Waitakere Ranges.

The beach stretches across two kilometres of rugged Tasman Sea coastline west of Auckland. Its distinctive volcanic black sand complements craggy shoreline lined with lush native bush.

Bethells Beach

Since Bethells Beach doesn’t sit in a sheltered bay, the surf here can be strong. It’s great news for hardcore surfers and paragliders, not so much for swimmers.

If you’re travelling to the beach with kids or aren’t a strong swimmer, exercise caution. The riptides here can be dangerous at times. Stay between the flags at all times to stay safe. For your safety, a lifeguard is often on duty during the peak summer months.

Rather stay on land? Near the southern edge of Bethells Beach, there’s an interesting cave to explore. The cave is only accessible during low tide. It’s a great place to escape the sun on a hot New Zealand summer day and soak up relaxing views of Bethells Beach and the Tasman Sea through its wide opening.

Bethells Beach is accessible from the car park off of Bethells Road near the Waitakere River. The beach is open from 7:00am to 9:30pm from mid-October and mid-April. The rest of the year it closes slightly earlier at 7:00pm.

O’Neill Bay

Even more popular than Bethells Beach for surfing is O’Neill Bay. Located only a few kilometres north of the main beach over the Waitakere River, O’Neill Bay offers equally spectacular sea views with even quieter surroundings.

O'Neill Bay

If you decide to attempt the Te Henga Walkway (more on that later!), O’Neill Bay is a great place for your first breather. Pull up a towel and chill out to the sight of surfers plowing into the wild west coast waves!

Lake Wainamu

One of the best things to do in Bethells Beach is the hike to Lake Wainamu. Also known as Bethells Lake, this small freshwater lake is undoubtedly beautiful; the real adventure, though, is getting there!

The walking trail to Lake Wainamu runs for about two kilometres. It follows the path of a small stream towards some distinctive volcanic sand dunes. To reach the lake, you have two options: 1) remove your hiking shoes and walk through the stream; 2) walk over the dunes.

Lake Wainamu

Of course, the more adventurous of the two paths is to hobble over the sand dunes. When you reach the summit of dune, the views towards Lake Wainamu from the summit are quite remarkable.

If you’ve got a little extra time on your visit, continue along the Lake Wainamu Track. The round-the-lake loop should only add about an hour to your journey. At the eastern end of the lake, about halfway through the journey, you can stop at beautiful Wainamu Falls for a photo ops—and even a (possibly cold!) swim.

Te Henga Walkway

Craving an Auckland hiking adventure on your visit to Bethells Beach? Jig over to the Te Henga Walkway. This popular west coast walking track is a subsection of the 70-kilometre Hillary Trail.

Te Henga Walkway

The Te Henga Walkway spans eight kilometres between Bethells Beach in the south and Muriwai Beach in the north. The track follows along the cliff-top overlooking the rugged coastline. Along the way, you’ll dazzle at spellbinding views of the Tasman Sea, dunes, lagoons, and native rainforest.

At a decent pace, the Te Henga Walkway should take around 3 to 4 hours to complete each way. To avoid backtracking, arrange for return transportation at Muriwai Beach.

How to get to Bethells Beach (Te Henga)

Bethells Beach is located about 35 kilometres west of central Auckland. The beautiful drive from Auckland to Te Henga should take no more than 45 min.

Frequently asked questions

How far is Bethells Beach from Auckland?

Bethells Beach is 35 kilometres from central Auckland. The drive to Bethells Beach takes about 45 minutes.

Is it safe to swim at Bethells Beach?

As with many New Zealand North Island beaches, the surf at Bethells Beach can be strong. If you’re a strong swimmer, however, it’s relatively safe to swim at Bethells Beach.

During the peak months, there’s usually a lifeguard posted to the beach. Be sure to check for any warnings prior to swimming.

How long is Bethells Beach?

Bethells Beach is approximately two kilometres long. It runs north to south along New Zealand North Island’s west coast.

What facilities does Bethells Beach offer?

The facilities at Bethells Beach include toilets, outdoor shower, free parking, and food (Bethells Cafe and seasonal food truck).


Ryan O'Rourke is a seasoned traveler and the founder & editor of Treksplorer, a fiercely independent guide to mid-range luxury travel for busy people. With over 20 years of extensive travel experience, Ryan has journeyed through over 50 countries, uncovering hidden gems and sharing firsthand, unsponsored insights on what to see & do and where to eat, drink & stay. Backed by his travel experience and in-depth research, Ryan’s travel advice and writing has been featured in publications like the Huffington Post and Matador Network. You can connect with Ryan on Twitter/X at @rtorourke.

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