View NW over southern Kaipara Harbour. Yellow cross is location of Kaipara Harbour Scenic Lookout.
3 million years ago, the west coast of Auckland-Northland was embayed with two large bays - Manukau and Kaipara separated by a Waitakere peninsula. In the last 2 million years: 1. the eruption of Mt Taranaki and it's predecessors; and 2. the eruption of numerous large volcanoes in the centre of the North Island, have resulted in a large increase in sediment/sand being supplied to the west coast coastal sand system. This excess sand (particularly after large eruptions in the centre of the North Island around 1.2-1 million years ago, around 300,000 years ago, and in the last 25,000 years) has been moved progressively northward up the coast by longshore drift. Some of this excess sand was thrown up as large sand dune barriers across the mouths of the Manukau and Kaipara bays creating New Zealand's two largest harbours.
Some of the sand continued northwards and built the sand spit that links North Cape to the rest of Northland. As the sand moved northwards the less robust grains (titanomagnetite, feldspar) have been lost through abrasion and weathering and primarily the hardest and most inert grains (white quartz) have reached furthest north.