It's been a while since I've done a local tour for my internet friends! Last weekend we went out to Whatipu, a regional park on the northern side of the Manukau Harbour.
Be prepared - it's a long (though scenic) drive. It's about an hour from our house or central Auckland. The last 10km or so is unsealed. I do not recommend driving out here after a storm or when it's about to rain. The road is narrow, the surface will be slippery, and there might be trees down. Also, there is a ford you need to cross. So yeah, safety first!
Whatipu is a regional park, and no dogs are allowed as it's a scientific reserve. While it is remote, it is not hard to access. Aside from the unpaved road, there is a decent carpark with a (clean!) long-drop toilet. It is only about ten minutes walk from the carpark to the beach, along flat dunes. We didn't have to get our feet wet, but I imagine that depends on the tides and the weather.
There are plenty of sheltered and open spaces, so even when the wind is whistling off the Tasman this park would not be too bad. We were fortunate to be there on a clear and calm mid-winter day, and it was very pleasant.
There is no surf patrol here, and the west coast beaches are very treacherous. I would never recommend swimming at one, but if it was hot you could splash along the shallows.
My husband is a keen model flier, and took some amazing footage with a Go-Pro camera on a quadcopter. You can see his aerial perspective of Whatipu here on Vimeo, and more of his videos are on YouTube.
Eventually I'll do a more in-depth photo journey around my own suburb - but I can't hold a camera whilst walking my dog. It will have to wait until Chris can hold the lead while I wield the lens!