Explore the Manukau Harbour's beaches

Last Updated : 01 Jan 2024
Overall Swimmers

Looking for somewhere new to have a splash? Thousands of Aucklanders flock to the beach over summer, most attracted to the east coast.

That means Manukau Harbour spots are often uncrowded, yet offer great beaches with good water quality, and often give opportunities to enjoy nearby walkways and playrounds.

Some are much closer than you might think, with easy access from city suburbs.

The Safeswim website has water quality information and it’s advisable to check tide times in the harbour too, with beaches heavily tidal.

Jon Turner, chair of the Manukau Harbour Forum, made up of nine local boards bordering the harbour, says a lot of work has been done to improve water quality, with more to come.

“We hear about the Waitematā and the Hauraki Gulf, but less about Manukau. Some of our beaches are staggering and the water quality is generally good. The more people who visit, the more we’ll have acting as advocates for a special place.”

West coast beaches require care while swimming, but here’s five you can check out with the family.


Part of the Waitākere Ranges Regional Park, Cornwallis is a safe picnic and swimming spot with a 200m long wharf. Vehicle gates open 8am to 9pm. The area is noted for its tracks. The Jubilee takes about half-an-hour, Kakamatua goes to the sandy beach at the inlet’s head, the McLachlan Monument Track takes 10-minutes to reach an obelisk giving harbour views, the Orpheus Graves Walk goes to historic graves of three unknown victims of the 1863 HMS Orpheus wreck, and the Spragg Monument Walk to the nine-metre memorial for pilot Lieutenant Wesley Neal Spragg and all those killed in war.


Never heard of it? You also probably drive straight by it. It’s the Auckland Council created Onehunga foreshore and is divided into Central, East and West on the Safeswim site. Taumanu Reserve was created as part of the Onehunga Foreshore Restoration Project, returning access to an inner Manukau coastal environment that was lost when SH20 was built in the 1970s. It’s almost seven hectares on reclaimed coastal land with 1.4km of coastline featuring sandy and gravel beaches, picnic areas and open space. Walking and cycling paths extend through the park and across the motorway to the Onehunga Bay Reserve.

Clarks Beach 

Clarks is a beachside rural town at the mouth of the Waiuku River, fronting the harbour, it’s north facing and famed as one of the few beaches where scallops can be collected by hand at low tide. Clarks is seldom crowded and has playgrounds and reserves nearby. The sprawling Clarks Beach Recreational Reserve has boasts a skate park and a basketball court you can access from a driveway on Stevenson Road. The beach provides for great views across the harbour back to Auckland city, and if you get bored, just go a kilometre down the road the Torkar Bay!

Waikōwhai Bay

Waikōwhai has the largest native forest block left on the Auckland isthmus. Settlers thought the block too infertile for farming, giving it to the Wesley Mission. The Waikōwhai Walkway extends 10-kilometres, linking Onehunga to Lynfield. It’s the perfect spot for a dip, with good water quality, and its closeness to the city. Waikōwhai Park, accessed off Waikōwhai Road, has a good playground, picnic tables and is a noted spot for bird-lovers. The best news is that being a jewel in the crown of a city suburb, you are never too far from that other summer essential - ice-cream.


The name doesn’t spring to mind in terms of beaches, but the Forum has worked with teams of volunteers to restore good quality to the suburbs’ water. Locals love it that their place isn’t a mecca for visitors because it means there are seldom big crowds, but Weymouth, St Annes and Kauri Point are all great spots. Manurewa Local Board has restored Weymouth Wharf, so join the locals and show off you best manu. If you are out that way, visit the Auckland Botanic Gardens too – it’s free and has loads of cool stuff for families to enjoy.

Find out more about the Manukau Harbour Form here.

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