Karekare is a small coastal settlement in West Auckland, New Zealand, sandwiched between the Waitākere Ranges and a large black sand surf beach.

Waves rippling over Karekare Beach
Waves rippling over Karekare Beach
Coordinates: 36°59′10″S 174°28′48″E / 36.986°S 174.480°E / -36.986; 174.480
CountryNew Zealand
RegionAuckland Region
WardWaitākere ward
Community boardWaitākere Ranges Local Board
 • Territorial AuthorityAuckland Council
 • Total11.92 km2 (4.60 sq mi)
 (June 2023)[2]
 • Total320
 • Density27/km2 (70/sq mi)



It is located 35 kilometres (22 mi) west of Auckland city centre, south of the larger beach of Piha. It is north of Whatipu, south of Piha and west of the Centennial Memorial Park and Water Catchment area, which cover most of the native bushland Waitākere Ranges. Karekare Beach is the confluence of the Company Stream, which was traditionally known by the name Waiteahoaho,[3] and the Karekare Stream.[4] The Karekare Falls are located inland from the beach.[5]

The beach at Karekare is split into two sections separated by the, Karekare Stream, Karekare Beach to the south and Tāhoro / Union Bay, to the north.[6] Two major geographical sites within Karekare are The Watchman, traditionally known by the names Te Matua and Te Tokamatua, a significant knoll on the beach's ridge,[7] and Paratahi Island, located to the south of Karekare.[8]

Karekare is the remains of an ancient volcanic crater of the Waitākere Volcano, which was uplifted due to tectonic forces between 3 and 5 million years ago.[9] Te Matua (the Watchman) is the hardest remaining portion of dacite of the crater, and Paratahi Island is a lava dome.[10]



Karekare, along with the greater Waitākere Ranges area, was traditionally settled by the Te Kawerau ā Maki iwi.[11][12] Karekare is one of the few locations where textiles created prior to European contact have been preserved.[13] The ocean between Piha and the Pararaha Valley was traditionally known as Waikarekare, referring to the turbulent waters of the Tasman Sea.[14][15] Over time, the name was shortened to Kakare and Karekare, and began to be used for the beach and the general area.[14]

A traditional Te Kawerau ā Maki legend of the area involves three rocks found on the beach. According to the legend, Te Matua (the Watchman), the large headland of the beach, had two children during Te Ao Kohatu, the age where inanimate things of the world could walk. Te Matua's children would play at the beach, however one disobeyed their parent, and strayed too far away. When the age of Te Ao Kohatu ended, her two children were frozen in place: Te Tokapiri, the obedient child who remained close to their mother, and Te Tokapaoke, who stands at the southern end of Karekare, alone in the ocean. Te Tokapaoke became known as Paratahi Island.[16]

Karekare was a major settlement for Te Kawerau ā Maki in the Waitākere Ranges, known for its extensive kūmara (sweet potato) cultivations inland.[17] Te Kawerau ā Maki rangatira Kowhatu-ki-te-uru, known for his abilities to create stone ,[18] settled at Karekare in the mid-18th century.[19] Directly north-east of the beach, Kowhatu-ki-te-uru built a pā known as Te Kaka Whakaara ("The Kākā Parrot Standing Watch") on The Watchman (Te Matua),[20][21] while the kāinga (village) near the pā was known as Te Marae o Mana, referring to Kowhatu-ki-te-uru's son Manaairangi.[20] The cultivations were known as Māraroa ("The Great Gardens").[15] Other significant pā in the area included one on Te Ahua Point, and one at Te Aoaho (above Karekare Falls).[21]

In 1826 during the Musket Wars, Te Kaka Whakaara pā was attacked by two Ngāpuhi taua (war parties) led by Hōne Heke and Te Kahakaha.[22][23] Te Kawerau ā Maki killed many of the Ngāpuhi taua by pelting them with rocks, however could not match the musket fire from the war parties.[22] Te Kawerau ā Maki suffered many losses, especially at Wharengarahi, a cave on the beach where many of the tribe's women, children and elderly were taking shelter.[22][23] Due to the battle, Karekare was not occupied when Te Kawerau ā Maki returned after the war, due to the tapu caused by the deaths.[24]

During the early colonial era, Karekare was the site of two Kauri mills: Karekau Sawmill, which operated between 1881 and 1886, and a smaller mill which opened in 1906. In the early 20th century, the lower Karekare valley was farmland, tended to by the Farley family.[21] In 1935, the Karekare Surf Club was formed.[21]



Karekare is described by Statistics New Zealand as a rural settlement, and covers 11.92 km2 (4.60 sq mi)[1] and had an estimated population of 320 as of June 2023,[2] with a population density of 27 people per km2. It is part of the Waitākere Ranges South SA2 statistical area.[25]

Historical population
YearPop.±% p.a.
Source: [26]

Before the 2023 census, the settlement had a smaller boundary, covering 6.03 km2 (2.33 sq mi).[1] Using that boundary, Karekare had a population of 255 at the 2018 New Zealand census, an increase of 39 people (18.1%) since the 2013 census, and an increase of 63 people (32.8%) since the 2006 census. There were 90 households, comprising 132 males and 123 females, giving a sex ratio of 1.07 males per female, with 60 people (23.5%) aged under 15 years, 27 (10.6%) aged 15 to 29, 123 (48.2%) aged 30 to 64, and 39 (15.3%) aged 65 or older.

Ethnicities were 92.9% European/Pākehā, 8.2% Māori, 2.4% Pacific peoples, 3.5% Asian, and 2.4% other ethnicities. People may identify with more than one ethnicity.

Although some people chose not to answer the census's question about religious affiliation, 77.6% had no religion, 10.6% were Christian, 1.2% were Hindu, 1.2% were Buddhist and 4.7% had other religions.

Of those at least 15 years old, 75 (38.5%) people had a bachelor's or higher degree, and 12 (6.2%) people had no formal qualifications. 39 people (20.0%) earned over $70,000 compared to 17.2% nationally. The employment status of those at least 15 was that 87 (44.6%) people were employed full-time, 42 (21.5%) were part-time, and 6 (3.1%) were unemployed.[26]



At the turn of the century, holidaymakers would travel by coach from Glen Eden to stay at the Karekare guest house.[27] Karekare continues to be a popular destination for Aucklanders in summer, but receives fewer visitors than nearby Piha, partly because the road is narrow and only recently sealed. There are surf patrols in summer.

Karekare Falls

The track to the base of the Waitakere waterfall—Karekare falls—is a short walk from the road. The track to the top of the falls is now closed to help stop the spread of the incurable Kauri dieback disease.[28]

Farley's Boarding House circa 1916

The settlement was immortalised in song by Crowded House on their Together Alone album in 1993, much of which was recorded at Karekare; the well known Dub/Reggae group, Salmonella Dub, used the name as well on their album Feel the Seasons Change - Live with the NZSO. The location will also be familiar to viewers of the film The Piano, which included beach scenes shot at Karekare and Piha.

Safety information


The rips along this section of coast are very unpredictable and can shift with little warning, and have caused a number of drownings. Lifeguards advise swimming between the red and yellow flags, during patrol hours.



There is a small community primary school (Lone Kauri School) with approximately 30 students located at Karekare. It is an independently operating branch of Oratia School, under the supervision of a senior teacher.[29][30]


Looking north from the southern end of Karekare Beach.


  1. ^ a b c "ArcGIS Web Application". statsnz.maps.arcgis.com. Retrieved 3 May 2024.
  2. ^ a b "Subnational population estimates (RC, SA2), by age and sex, at 30 June 1996-2023 (2023 boundaries)". Statistics New Zealand. Retrieved 25 October 2023. (regional councils); "Subnational population estimates (TA, SA2), by age and sex, at 30 June 1996-2023 (2023 boundaries)". Statistics New Zealand. Retrieved 25 October 2023. (territorial authorities); "Subnational population estimates (urban rural), by age and sex, at 30 June 1996-2023 (2023 boundaries)". Statistics New Zealand. Retrieved 25 October 2023. (urban areas)
  3. ^ "Company Stream". New Zealand Gazetteer. Land Information New Zealand. Retrieved 29 September 2022.
  4. ^ "Karekare Stream". New Zealand Gazetteer. Land Information New Zealand. Retrieved 29 September 2022.
  5. ^ Rich, Alice (27 January 2022). "8 Epic Auckland Waterfalls You Can Actually Visit". The Urban List. Retrieved 29 September 2022.
  6. ^ "Tāhoro / Union Bay". New Zealand Gazetteer. Land Information New Zealand. Retrieved 29 September 2022.
  7. ^ "The Watchman". New Zealand Gazetteer. Land Information New Zealand. Retrieved 29 September 2022.
  8. ^ "Paratahi Island". New Zealand Gazetteer. Land Information New Zealand. Retrieved 29 September 2022.
  9. ^ Hayward, Bruce (2009). "Land, Sea and Sky". In Macdonald, Finlay; Kerr, Ruth (eds.). West: The History of Waitakere. Random House. pp. 10, 13–14. ISBN 9781869790080.
  10. ^ Hayward, Bruce W. (2017). Out of the Ocean, Into the Fire. Geoscience Society of New Zealand. pp. 116–117. ISBN 978-0-473-39596-4.
  11. ^ Lawrence, Joan (1990). "Combs from Rock Shelters in the Waitakere Ranges, West Auckland". Records of the Auckland Institute and Museum. 27: 61–71. ISSN 0067-0464. JSTOR 42906402. Wikidata Q58677387.
  12. ^ "Te Kawerau ā Maki Deed of Settlement Schedule" (PDF). New Zealand Government. 22 February 2014. Retrieved 29 January 2021.
  13. ^ Mckendry, Lisa (2020). "Māori archaeological textiles: a structural analysis of Māori raranga 'woven' basketry from the Waitakere Ranges in Auckland Museum". Records of the Auckland Museum. 55: 19–28. doi:10.32912/RAM.2020.55.2. ISSN 1174-9202. JSTOR 27008990. S2CID 229659991. Wikidata Q106827316.
  14. ^ a b Murdoch 1992, pp. 7, 11.
  15. ^ a b "Karekare". New Zealand Gazetteer. Land Information New Zealand. Retrieved 29 September 2022.
  16. ^ Murdoch 1992, pp. 11–12.
  17. ^ Murdoch 1992, pp. 21.
  18. ^ Waitākere Ranges Local Board (October 2015). Local Area Plan: Te Henga (Bethells Beach) and the Waitākere River Valley. Waitākere Ranges Heritage Area (PDF). Auckland Council. ISBN 978-0-908320-17-2. Retrieved 15 May 2022.
  19. ^ Murdoch 1992, pp. 17, 22.
  20. ^ a b Murdoch 1992, pp. 17.
  21. ^ a b c d Cameron, Ewen; Hayward, Bruce; Murdoch, Graeme (2008). A Field Guide to Auckland: Exploring the Region's Natural and Historical Heritage (Revised ed.). Random House New Zealand. p. 176-177. ISBN 978-1-86962-1513.
  22. ^ a b c Murdoch 1992, pp. 23.
  23. ^ a b Dench, Alison; Parore, Lee-anne (30 April 2011). "Walking the Waitakere Ranges". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 21 May 2022.
  24. ^ Murdoch 1992, pp. 25.
  25. ^ 2018 Census place summary: Waitākere Ranges South
  26. ^ a b "Statistical area 1 dataset for 2018 Census". Statistics New Zealand. March 2020. 7007104 and 7007106.
  27. ^ Vela, Pauline, ed. (1989). "From Four Horses to Four Wheels". In Those Days: An Oral History of Glen Eden. Glen Eden Borough Council. pp. 80–81. ISBN 0-473-00862-9.
  28. ^ Council, Auckland. "Protect our kauri trees". Auckland Council. Retrieved 4 September 2018.
  29. ^ "Education Review Report: Oratia School". Education Review Office. 7 September 2016.
  30. ^ "Lone Kauri School". Oratia School. Retrieved 14 May 2022.
  • Murdoch, Graeme (1992). "Wai Karekare - 'The Bay of the Boisterous Seas'". In Northcote-Bade, James (ed.). West Auckland Remembers, Volume 2. West Auckland Historical Society. pp. 7–28. ISBN 0-473-01587-0.