Piha is a laid-back seaside village 45 minutes west of Auckland city. The dramatic beach, which is marked at each end by rugged cliffs, is a popular surfing location. The water has strong and often dangerous currents. However, in summer, surf lifesavers patrol an area clearly flagged for swimmers. A walk up Lion Rock (101m) is rewarded with spectacular views. There are cottages and caravans for rent, a campground and a B&B home stay. It’s also possible to rent private beach houses. Remember to book ahead, especially in summer. You can take surfing lessons or try abseiling down the Piha canyon. A popular licensed cafe and a takeaway bar offer fast food and there’s a bar and restaurant at the surf club. Functional facts: Approx resident population 600, iconic cafe, art gallery, no service station.