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Five sheltered beaches for little ones

Published: 16 December 2020

Growing up in Auckland means spending summers at the beach. With rock pools, shelly bays and pōhutukawa-fringed paddling pools, the region offers a wealth of kid-friendly seaside experiences. OurAuckland visits beaches especially good for young families.

Magazine Bay, Maraetai

There’s something for everyone at this calm, sunny beach. The shallow water is ideal for little legs to paddle in, and the wharf offers aspiring fisherfolk the chance to catch a few sprats when the tide is in.

Older children can burn off energy walking to the bay via the 3km Maraetai Beach Path. Start at the western end of Maraetai Beach, at Maraetai Park. There’s a fun beachfront playground here, and options across the road for an icecream or coffee stop.

Next, head east along Maraetai Beach, climbing over a short section of rocks to get to Waiomanu Beach. Continue along the coast until you reach the wharf. Parking and toilets are plentiful at each bay.

Martins Bay, Rodney

An hour’s drive north of the CBD lies this sheltered, sandy beach that’s great for kids learning to swim, and for building sandcastles. Pōhutukawa shade grassy areas perfect for picnics, and if you’re making a weekend of it, the Martins Bay Holiday Park lets you pitch a tent right next to the beach.

Kayaks can be hired from the camp, so the bay’s also a great place for kids to learn to paddle – when they’re not jumping off the pontoon just offshore. Low tide offers rock pools to explore Scandrett Regional Park is a short walk up the hill from the beach. Here, comfortable baches can be rented, and there’s a working farm complete with historical buildings and gardens.

If you’re looking for a more urban option with many amenities and easy parking, try the nearby shallow, kid-friendly Snells Beach. It’s flanked by an extensive footpath track that is well suited to strollers and the newly mobile.

Āwhitu Regional Park, Manukau

Take a pleasant country drive through Waiuku to this peaceful harbourside spot. Tranquil Kauritūtahi Beach is great for swimming, and there’s plenty of space for beach cricket. If you’re planning a child’s birthday party or another event, you can host up to 100 people at a pre-booked picnic site for a small fee. 

Amenities include a wood-burning barbecue, toilets, parking and a drinking fountain. Five minutes’ walk from the waterfront is Āwhitu House, a two-bedroom cottage built in the 1930s that’s available for hire.

Kendall Point, Birkenhead

If your child and your dog come as a package deal, this is the day trip for you. A short (on-leash) walk through the Kauri Point Centennial Park bush leads you to this beach. There’s just enough room to throw a frisbee, and rock pools to search for marine life. Conveniently, Kendall Point is an off-leash area, so your two-legged and four-legged loved ones can enjoy the sea together.

On your way back to civilisation, if the kids are game, try taking the steeper ‘marshlands walk’, which will reward you all with a great workout and a fabulous view over Auckland city.

Cornwallis, Titirangi

Bordering the Waitākere Ranges, Cornwallis is a popular spot for swimming. The beach has a boat ramp, picnic tables and toilets and plenty of space for sports and activities. And if you have a self-contained-certified (SCC) campervan or motorhome, you can look a spot for the night.

While there, visit the 200m-long restored wharf, the last survivor of 16 that hosted the Manukau’s long-gone ferries. From Cornwallis Road, a five-minute walk leads to the graves of three sailors who drowned when HMS Orpheus foundered on the harbour bar in 1863. Bordering the Waitākere Ranges, Cornwallis is a popular spot for swimming.

The beach has a boat ramp, picnic tables and toilets and plenty of space for sports and activities. And if you have a self-contained-certified (SCC) campervan or motorhome, you can look a spot for the night.

While there, visit the 200m-long restored wharf, the last survivor of 16 that hosted the Manukau’s long-gone ferries. From Cornwallis Road, a five-minute walk leads to the graves of three sailors who drowned when HMS Orpheus foundered on the harbour bar in 1863.


Whichever beach you visit, stay safe. Choose one with lifeguards, and swim between the flags. Make sure to visit safeswim.org.nz for real-time information on water quality, swimming conditions and hazards for many of the beaches.

Read more: Beaches Summer

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