Situated some 30 miles north of Auckland by road is one of the most popular holiday resorts in the Auckland Province. This marine playground (Whangaparaoa translated from the Maori means: whanga, bay; paraoa, whale) is populated largely by retired Aucklanders and “weekenders” who may swell the numbers to many thousands in the holiday season.
Situated on the east coast, the promontory is dog leg in shape, extends seawards for some 10 miles, and varies in width from half to 1 ½ miles. It is composed predominantly of interbedded marine sandstones, siltstones, and volcanic grits of Miocene age (12–25 million years ago) that in places form sheer cliffs up to 100 ft high. Rocky reefs and wave-cut platforms fringe the peninsula and extend seawards to sheer edges that fall away to deep water (minimum 7 fathoms). The numerous sandy beaches are invariably backed by dune sands and beach ridges for a short distance inland. Swampy depressions were once formed inland of these sands, but these areas, particularly at the more popular resorts, have been drained and made into ideal “bach” sites that are close to the beaches and sheltered by the surrounding hills. Among the more popular beaches are Big Manly, Stanmore Bay, and Red Beach on the north side, and Little Manly and Arkles Bay on the south side of the peninsula. All areas are easily accessible by sealed or metalled roads, except in the extreme easternmost area, which is a military reserve and prohibited to the public.
The native bush, mainly broadleaf and pohutukawa was once ubiquitous, but is now preserved only as small copses in valley bottoms or on the flanks of steeper slopes. In the west, on the southern side of the peninsula, pinus radiata has been planted, mainly as a means to combat erosion but also with a view to future milling.
by Barry Clayton Waterhouse, New Zealand Geological Survey, Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, Otahuhu, Auckland.