Auckland is not just a concrete jungle! Within fifty minutes’ drive of the CBD, heading west, the Waitakere Ranges and west coast beaches will take you back to nature. The Arataki Visitor Centre is a great place to start. It offers fantastic views over the bush-covered ranges, Auckland’s harbours and the city. Information on flora and fauna and local history is available, and details on the around 250 kilometres of tracks within the Waitakere Ranges Regional Park which covers approximately 40,000 acres. Here’s four of those walks.
Te Henga Walkway
The 10km Te Henga Walkway starts from the popular surf spot of Bethells Beach and takes walkers high above the coastline on a rugged, wind-swept path northwards towards Muriwai Beach.
Much of the path is narrow with some steep sections and little shade but the views of the black sand beaches of Bethells, O’Neill and Muriwai, the crashing Tasman Sea, and dramatic cliffs make it worth the effort.
A return trip to the track end at Constable Road will take around 6 ½ hours. The last kilometre however, from Bartrum Bay, leaves the coast and stunning views behind to traverse farmland with nothing of note to see. Plus steep, never-ending stairs at the very end are best avoided! It’s better to turn back at Bartrum Bay.
On the return walk, it’s possible to take a sidetrack down to O’Neill Bay and walk along the beach and over the hill to Bethells Beach. This does require a stream crossing, best done at low tide rather than high.
Late November is a particularly pretty time to walk the Te Henga Walkway, when yellow lupins and the orangey-red flowers of the harakeke flax are in blossom.
Karamatura/Donald McLean Tracks
The Karamatura Track gets the heart beating with over 1000 stairs zig-zagging their way up through dense, lush bush. The track begins alongside the Karamatura Stream and follows the old tramline used during the kauri milling days with information boards detailing the history along the way.
Peeks of the Manukau Harbour, the small settlement of Huia and dramatic rock cliffs emerging from thick bush can be had along the shaded trail which also includes boardwalks and gravel paths. The track finishes on a gravel road where opposite, a short, more open trail leads to Donald McLean Lookout. Two viewpoints from there offer panoramas of the wider Manukau Harbour with Whatipu, Glenbrook Steel Mill and Manukau Heads Lighthouse able to be seen and distant city views revealing Rangitoto and the Sky Tower.
On the return, take a five minute sidetrack off Karamatura Track to view the 15m Karamatura Waterfall. Climbing atop a boulder gives views down onto the falls cascading into a swimming hole, a great spot for a summer dip.
Back on Karamatura Track, explore the Karamatura Loop Track, another sidetrack. This 20 minute loop rejoins the main track close to the carpark end and undulates past large Kauri, tree trunks draped in ferns, a lookout over the bush canopy and gives peeks of a picturesque stream bordered by rocks near the bottom of the walk.
The entire Karamatura/Donald Mclean Lookout walk, including the sidetracks mentioned, will take around 4 ½ hours with a lunchstop.
For those wanting a shorter walk, from the carpark to the waterfall takes around 30 minutes one way, while the Karamatura Loop Track takes approximately 40 minutes.
North Piha/Whites Beach
Piha is a popular spot year-round with its two surf beaches, separated by iconic Lion Rock. It has a camping ground, café, small general store, cute art gallery, and a number of bush walks.
For views of nearby beaches take the Laird Thompson Track at the far end of North Piha beach. A steady incline leads to a junction where a five minute sidetrack brings walkers to Te Waha Point, with awesome views over secluded Whites Beach and coastline north. The beach is accessible via a steepish bush track or, the better option, by continuing on Laird Thompson Track where, at its crest, both Piha beaches and the tiny dots of surfers, awaiting a good wave, can be seen. Rose Track, a little further on, gently descends, to black-sanded White’s Beach. When the tide is out a short cave in the towering cliff face at the northern end is accessible.
Just back from the cave an unmarked trail, the narrow Fishermans’ Rock Track, leads hikers to watch thundering surf crashing around rocks and sweeping onto Anawhata Beach.
Fisherman’s Rock Track, slippery at times, passes by a memorial stone where a 1920s Auckland University hut once stood. It’s hard to believe you’re still in Auckland when you arrive at gravelled Anawhata Road with farmland on one side! Sparsely located homes lie to the right, overlooking bush and sea, as the road is followed for around ten minutes to a steep, concrete driveway which loops back to Laird Thompson Track. Returning to North Piha beach, there are a couple of small caves to peer into, in an area sometimes frequented by Little Blue Penguin.
All up, the walk will take around 3 hours. Stop in for lunch at the Piha Café and then continue onto Kitekite Falls for a full day of walking.
Kitekite Falls is one of the most popular waterfalls in NZ, especially during summer, situated near Piha Beach.
Once a kauri milling area in the early 1900s, there’s history to discover along the way. The falls can be reached via Kitekite Track then Knutzen Track. A boardwalk takes hikers through bush onto a gradually ascending gravel track amongst lush forest which includes punga, Nikau palms and a few ancient Kauri. It’ll take around 30 minutes to reach the 40m falls, heard and spotted well before you get to them. The pool at the base of the falls is a perfect swimming spot on a hot day, and is sure to cool you down! If feeling energetic, cross the stream and hike the Connect Track stairs to the top of the falls, around a 10 minute climb where there are safe swimming holes and views over a bush-covered valley.
Back down at the base of the falls, take the Byers Walk off Kitekite Track for a change of scenery. It follows the Glen Esk Stream with the opportunity to spot Rata trees, which blossom with red flowers between November and January, and rejoins Kitekite Track close to where the walk originally started.
Keen for more walking trails and activities around Auckland? Use Campermate’s maps to filter and find points of interest all around you.