I've always liked the rugged coast west of Auckland. When I grew up we always had dogs, and some of the beaches were great for walking them. Sadly that's now a lot harder, as the few have spoiled the off lead areas for the rest. Piha is nice, but it's always busy, but beaches like Anawhata are a lot quieter. Great for peaceful reflections. The road to Anawhata is windy and unsealed, but it does offer some nice views over Piha as well - see the third image.