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Bethells Beach (Te Henga) and Lake Wainamu Guide

Bethells Beach (Te Henga) and Lake Wainamu Guide

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Bethells Beach is just one of the many magical places to visit in New Zealand. We love Bethells Beach and have a ton of information to share so you too can enjoy it as much as we do!

Surrounding Auckland are some pretty amazing hidden gems, that in only a short drive, have you feeling lost in nature. Bethells Beach (also known as Te Henga) is one of those special places.

Only a 45-minute drive from the city this beautiful beach is a must-visit for anyone who loves nature.

Bethells Beach stretches almost 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) along New Zealand’s West Coast and is made up of black volcanic sand. There is a “Jurassic Park” feeling as you wander the shoreline. And as well as being amazing to see, the scenery also makes for some pretty awesome photos!

Bethells Beach is an off-the-beaten-path beach in New Zealand, meaning that you can often enjoy this magical place without the large crowds that swarm other attractions around New Zealand.

This, along with the stunning landscapes that surround the beach, makes it one of the most beautiful places I have visited near Auckland!

Also located near Bethells Beach is Lake Wainumu (commonly called Bethells Lake), Bethells Cave, and O’Neils Bay. With all of these stunning sites to see you certainly won’t get bored on your trip out there.

In fact, in one day at Bethells Beach, you can see all of these amazing places – in this guide to Bethells Beach, I’m going to tell you how.

The topics in this guide to Bethells Beach and areas are:

  • Getting to Bethells Beach
  • Opening hours
  • Facilities at Bethells Beach
  • Safety at Bethells Beach
  • Things to do (including a few nearby hidden gems)

Bethells Beach FAQs

Walking along Bethells Beach New Zealand
Bethells Beach is huge!
How long is Bethells Beach?

Bethells Beach is approximately two kilometers long and stretches along New Zealand’s west coast.

How far is Bethells Beach from Auckland?

About a 45-minute drive without traffic (43 kilometers.)

Is it safe to swim at Bethells Beach?

Currents and waves can be strong at Bethells Beach, but if you are an experienced swimmer and swim between the flags, you should be just fine!

What is there to do at Bethells Beach?

1. Relax at the beach
2. Explore Bethells Cave
3. Hike to O’Neils Bay
4. Visit Lake Wainamu and the sand dunes

Getting to Bethells Beach

Getting from Auckland to Bethells Beach is easy for anyone with a car. The short drive is only around 45 minutes (depending on traffic) and is essentially directly west of Auckland. Bethells Beach is also close to Piha Beach so visiting both beaches makes for a great day trip from Auckland.

The drive is beautiful once you leave the city. Only 30 minutes from Auckland and you’re truly surrounded by nature! You seem to step into another world and this only adds to the experience of visiting Bethells Beach.

Visiting on a tour: If you don’t have a car then you can also visit Bethells Beach on a guided tour from Auckland. This small-group tour will take you to a couple of different west coast beaches as well as waterfalls and other hidden gems that even I haven’t found!

This Nature, Ocean, and Towns Tour begins on the east coast and allows you to see the calm white sand beaches there before heading west for the more dramatic and rugged coastlines. Wine tasting and fruit picking are included in the price and there is an option to add on lunch.

Renting a car: If you’re visiting Bethells Beach from Auckland with a couple of other people, renting a car for the day will be cheaper than paying for a tour – and probably more fun too! You’ll have unlimited flexibility and can spend your time however you like – this is usually the option we like to go for if possible.

Related Read: From Pouakai Hut you can see the best views of Mount Taranaki.

Bethells Beach Opening Hours

Bethells beach opening hours sign

Bethells Beach is open from 7 am to 9:30 pm between Labour day (mid-October) and Easter (mid-April). During the winter months, it is open from 7 am to 7 pm.

If you are parked in the parking lot after it closes and the gates are locked, you will have to pay for the ranger to come out and unlock the gate. So, be sure the leave on time!

Bethells Beach Facilities

Sunset at bethells Beach, New Zealand
Me and Bailey love spending sunsets at Bethells Beach


There is one large parking lot at the entrance to Bethells Beach that has room for around 50 cars. This parking lot is unsealed and unmarked. Parking is free!


Bethells Beach is quite a remote place and there is only one small café located in the car park. This small shop sells things like water, coffee, and small meals. It is, however, a food truck, so at times during the week when visitor numbers are low, it may not be there.

The small shop at Bethells Beach
This is the only shop at Bethells Beach


There are toilets located in the parking lot as well as an outdoor shower for washing off after a swim. These are free of charge.

Related Read: Is Hobbiton Worth it? Check out our review and see our honest thoughts!

Safety on Bethells Beach

A blue bottle stinger at Bethells Beach
Watch out for these little guys!


Bethells Beach is located on New Zealand’s West Coast and is subjected to heavy surf. Swimming at the beach could be dangerous for those who can’t swim that well. Checking the swell report is also a good idea as some days are worse than others.

There is a lifeguard tower on the beach so please check if there is a lifeguard on duty before swimming.

Other hazards

During my visit to Bethells Beach, I noticed that a few Blue Bottles (a type of stinger jellyfish) had been left behind from high tide along the sand. Blue Bottles are in no way harmful to your life, but they do leave a nasty sting behind if you touch them.

Walking along the beach barefoot is nice, but please, watch out for stingers! If you do get stung, vinegar is a great way to reduce the pain. These guys are very common where I grew up so I know all about their sting!

Related Read: If you want a unique experience see our guide to visiting Hot Water Beach on the Coromandel Peninsula on the North Island of New Zealand.

Things to do at Bethells Beach (Te Henga)

1. Explore Bethells Beach

Walking along the north side of Bethells Beach
Walking towards the north side of Bethells Beach

Of course, the reason you came was to see Bethells Beach. Despite the other amazing things to see near the beach, just coming to see Bethells Beach alone will be an amazing trip!

The beach stretches almost 2 km (1.4 mi) and with few visitors, it’s easy to find a place to relax to yourself. I found that just taking in the stunning landscapes was worth the trip!

Make sure you explore the whole beach by walking the entire distance, it may be far, but it’s totally worth it!

2. Wander Through the Bethells Beach Cave

Sitting in the Bethells Beach Cave
Enjoying a cold beer in the Bethells Beach Cave

At the south end of Bethells Beach (left when you’re facing the water) is a large cave. During low tide, you can actually go inside the cave!

The cave is only 30-40 meters deep and has a large opening so plenty of light can get in. From the inside, you have the perfect natural window to enjoy views of Bethells Beach and the surrounding landscape.

This cave is easily missed by those who don’t walk the entire beach but is definitely a highlight and worth the walk if you ask me!

To check tide times at Bethells, click here!

3. Hike to O’Neils Bay

O'neils Bay near Bethells Beach
O’Neil’s Bay near Bethells Beach

Although Bethells Beach gets large surf, the most popular place among surfers is the nearby O’Neils Bay. This bay is only a short walk from Bethells Beach and is an awesome place to sit back and watch the surfers in action.

Along the way to the bay, there are a few amazing photo opportunities too!

Getting to O’Neils Bay is easy. Simply walk to your right once you reach Bethells Beach. You will need to walk through a small stream that runs into the ocean. This is much easier during low tide and can be more dangerous during high tide.

Once you have crossed the stream, walk along the beach until the end. From there, follow the path over the sand dune to O’Neils Bay! It’s easy to find and you can just follow the footprints!

4. Visit Lake Wainamu and the Bethells Beach Sand Dunes

Bethells beach sand dunes
Bethells beach sand dunes

Update: The trail to Lake Wainamu is currently closed due to damage.

No trip to Bethells Beach would be complete without checking out Lake Wainamu (Bethells Lake as its commonly referred to) and to the sand dunes that surround it.

The hike to the lake is around 2 km (1.4 mi) and should take around 30 minutes one way. If you’re feeling even more adventurous, you can hike around the lake too.

The walk to Lake Wainamu takes you along some amazing volcanic sand dunes, unlike anything I have ever seen before! There are a few warning signs about entering the dunes, however, if you’re up to it, it is totally worth venturing in.

The sand dunes are massive and once at the end, you are met with a steep drop to a small creek that feeds into Lake Wainamu.

Bathells beach sand dunes
Bethells Beach sand dunes!

To get to the start of the Lake Wainamu trail you must drive 1km back the way you came and find the parking lot on Bethells Road. This parking lot is on the last corner on your way to Bethells Beach and can easily be found on the app called (a great travel app) or on Google Maps.

From the car park, just follow the clearly marked trail along the creek. Once you reach the sand dunes the track stays left, however, if you want to explore the dunes then keep walking straight!

5. Go Surfing or Bodyboarding!

surfing in Raglan New Zealand
Bailey surfing!

Bethells Beach is a popular place to go surfing for any skill level. It’s well-liked because the waves form peaks but break shallow. Unfortunately, there are no places to rent surfboards directly from the beach so you will need to bring your own board from elsewhere. The closest rentals are either in Auckland, Muriwai from Muriwai Surf School, or in Piha.

However, there is another fun alternative that you can do directly on Bethells Beach with the company Bethells Boogie. You can book New Zealand’s first sea cave exploration on a bodyboard! If you are unfamiliar, a bodyboard is essentially surfing but on a shorter board, and instead of standing you lie prone on the board.

You will have a truly unique experience gently making your way out to the caves before exploring the different passageways and once finished with the caves you will body surf your way back to shore. 2 out of the 4 hours of this day tour will be spent in the water and the rest of the time at the beginning and the end will include going over safety, getting into proper gear, and transport to and from the beach.

Where to Stay Near Bethells Beach

the view from Ruru Cottage near Bethells Beach
Imagine waking up with this view?! Photo credit: Ruru Cottage

While a day trip to Bethells Beach is one of the best free things to do in Auckland, if you have the time to spare it is a nice place to spend a couple of nights!

Currently, there is only one place to stay in Bethells Beach but there are also some other options in nearby towns. That being said, here are some great places to stay near Bethells Beach:

Bethells Beach Cottages – These luxury cabins are all self-contained and only a short walk from Bethells Beach. Some cabins have ocean views and they have a hot tub on site for guest use. It’s a luxury escape at Bethells Beach!

Maison de Rose Auckland – Choose from private and stylish apartment units with an open layout and porch. Amenities include a seasonal solar heated pool and BBQ grill. It’s located 15 minutes from Bethells Beach and a 2-minute drive from Swanson Train Station.

Waitakere Resort & SpaLocated on the very edge of Auckland and a 25-minute drive to Bethells Beach this private resort is surrounded by rainforest. There is a swimming pool and gardens to enjoy and the option to partake in a meal or high tea from the attached restaurant. Great for all sized groups, choose a loft, deluxe, 1 or 2-bed apartment, or even a luxury villa.

Related Read: We have some great things to do if you’re only in Auckland for 2 days.

Renting a Car or Campervan in New Zealand

Bailey takes a selfie with a JUCY campervan
Ready to hit the road!
Bailey stands infront of a JUCY campervan in New Zealand
JUCY is another favorite!

The first step to planning your New Zealand road trip is choosing your set of wheels! Most people rent a campervan or motorhome to get around, but you can also just rent a normal car and stay in hotels (as opposed to camping.)

You can search for rental cars online with Discover Cars in advance to compare car models and prices. We’ve used this website all over the world and if you want more details, read our honest review of Discover Cars for more details!

You can also do this with motorhomes and campervans on a website called Motorhome Republic. It shows all of the available campervans and motorhomes for your specific New Zealand road trip dates. You can compare prices and company reviews here too!

JUCY is our personal favorite campervan rental company in NZ. We love JUCY because they have such a range of both cars and campervans available, so you’re pretty much guaranteed to find something to suit your budget and travel style.

We’ve actually secured an exclusive discount code for our readers with JUCY. Just click here to browse their availability and use the code DTRAVEL24 at checkout to get 5% off! What a good deal!

You can check prices, availability and book with JUCY online here.

Star RV is another company we personally recommend but specifically for motorhomes! They offer larger motorhomes (as opposed to budget campervans) at really reasonable rates.

Star RV has actually given us a discount code for our readers too! Use the code DTRAVEL24 at checkout to get 5% off your motorhome rental! Note, this code is only valid for bookings made before June 21, 2024 with travel dates before Dec 21, 2024. Click here to browse availability, prices, and book with our discount code!

Thanks for reading!

Bailey and Daniel take a selfie on Costeño Beach, Colombia
Thanks for reading!

Bethells Beach is for sure worth checking out. And along with the other amazing things to see near the beach, it really makes for a great day out!

I hope you found this guide to Bethells Beach helpful! If you have any questions or feedback please leave a comment below and I will get back to you!

Heading somewhere else? Check out our other blogs from around New Zealand here! Otherwise, check out a few other blogs from around the Coromandel Peninsula and Auckland below!

Things to do in Auckland

Guide to visiting Muriwai Beach

Waipu Caves – New Zealand’s best free glow worm cave

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Guide to visiting Bethells Beach New Zealand

Peter Hatch

Thursday 9th of January 2020

Hi, my fiance and I will be sand dune surfing at the beginning of April. Any suggestions on where we can rent sand boards?


Monday 13th of January 2020

Hey Peter,

I am not too sure where you can rent sandboards from and after some searching, it doesn't appear there are any.

I would try the New Zealand backpacker groups on Facebook you can get some great info from there!

Sorry I couldn't be more helpful!

Thanks Daniel