Meeting place by the sea

Head for the Pohutukawa Coast

Maraetai Beach continues to offer a peaceful, warm and friendly break away.

By Leslie Clague

Maraetai Boat ClubHave to go to Auckland any time soon? I’d like to recommend a small place to visit south of the big city.

For a girl who grew up in Los Angeles, I don’t know why Auckland doesn’t have more appeal. Recently my husband and I travelled there and I went through congestion, motorway and crowd freak-out. Fortunately, we actually stayed somewhere quite different: Maraetai Beach.

If you take the Papakura off-ramp from the Southern Motorway and just keep going until you hit the Hauraki Gulf, you can find Maraetai Beach. The community has joined with nearby Beachlands and Whitford to promote themselves as the” Pohutukawa Coast.” Indeed, during our visit, the pohutukawa were just beginning to bloom. At Christmas, it should be spectacular.

The beauty of Maraetai Beach

Maraetai beach sceneThe actual beach at Maraetai is very beautiful. It is a long, white sand arch, with water gently lapping, protected by the shape of the gulf in which it sits. Water depth is very suitable for swimming and also safe for children dabbling.

It is a typically “crowded” New Zealand beach. Looking both ways, for as far as I could see, I counted 17 people. Mind you, this was mid-afternoon on a week day. I am sure humanity descends in greater numbers as the summer and Christmas holidays become reality.

Plenty of history

Maraetai historyMaraetai means “meeting place by the sea” in Maori. Settlement started here in 1837. The first school was built in 1881. A book was published to celebrate the school’s 100th anniversary and then its 125th. Entitled The Magic of Maraetai, it was available in the holiday accommodation at which we stayed. It gave a lovely history of the area and demonstrated the strength of the community spirit which still exists. (The school has a few copies of this book still available. Cost is $30.)

Accommodation and food

Our accommodation for this two night visit was at Gulf Retreat on Maraetai Drive. Gulf Retreat is actually a flat and/or various bedrooms available beneath a private residence. It can accommodate up to 10 people. The flat, with kitchen, dining area and large bedroom has a nice homey feel. Not a bed and breakfast, one has plenty of privacy, plus an outside barbeque area. The actual beach is a 15 minute walk away.

Most guest facilities at Maraetai are holiday homes. Motels/hotels don’t feature.

There are a range of restaurants but because of the nature of our stay, we went with takeaways. A half block walk from Gulf Retreat is The Flying Pizza, just around the corner on Maraetai School Rd.

We thoroughly enjoyed the gourmet pizza named after the restaurant, featuring salami, ham, chicken, onion, mushrooms, capsicum, olives, sweetcorn and cheese. Yum. The pizza base was especially nice, too.

The next night was fish and chips from Maraetai Lucky Takeaways two doors up from Flying Pizza. The chips were outstanding.

An interesting peaceful place for now

Maraetai ParkIn addition to walking the beach, there is Omana Regional Park and nice places to meander along the Pohutukawa Coast Trail. The Beachlands Maraetai Coastal walkway includes Leigh Auten Reserve and Te Puru Park as well as Omana Regional Park. It is suitable for both cycling and running.

Views vary across the gulf to Rangitoto Island, Waiheke Island and even, downtown Auckland’s Sky Tower! The hub of the Big Smoke is about 50 km away, depending on what road you choose.

Maraetai BeachMaraetai Beach is mostly surrounded by woodland and farming. The farming ranges from a goat farm to orchards to 10-acre blocks. A couple of times on our visit, however, we’d round a corner and there would be a series of denuded hills, turned to dirt, being levelled or stair-cased. Giant diggers, tractors, grinders were hard at work, raising giant clouds of dust. Housing development and urban sprawl is spreading further as New Zealand’s mega-city continues to grow.

Aside from that one day inevitable future, Maraetai Beach continues to offer a peaceful, warm and friendly break away.