Few stretches of sand have more personality than Karekare. Those prone to metaphysical musings inevitably settle on descriptions such as ‘spiritual’ and ‘brooding’. Perhaps history has left its imprint: in 1825 it was the site of a ruthless massacre of the local Kawerau iwi by Ngāpuhi invaders. Wild and gorgeously undeveloped, this famous beach has been the setting for on-screen moments both high- and low-brow, from Oscar winner The Piano to Xena: Warrior Princess.
From the car park the quickest route to the black-sand beach involves wading through a stream. Karekare rates as one of the most dangerous beaches in the country, with strong surf and ever-present rips, so don’t even think about swimming unless the beach is being patrolled by lifeguards (usually only in summer). Pearl Jam singer Eddie Vedder nearly drowned here while visiting Neil Finn’s Karekare pad.