There are still a heap of fantastic walks you can enjoy in and around Auckland City - despite the closure of tracks to contain the spread of kauri dieback. Catherine Smith put on her walking shoes to track them down.
“We had amazing discussions with Council [about the disease] and had overwhelming support,” says Robin Taua-Gordon, heritage and environment officer for Te Kawerau, the iwi tribal authority for the area.
“The rāhui will last as long as it needs to last, but we are in talks with the council. We’d like to see all tracks as a boardwalk to keep people off the soil, and railings to stop people forming their own tracks. That’s millions of dollars, but that’s our ultimate goal.”
Ironically enough, people wandering off the tracks to capture that ultimate unspoiled photo of the trees for social media that helped spread the fungus-like phytophthora agathidicida, as it can be carried in just a pinhead of soil on shoes or animal paws.
High-risk tracks are closed in the Waitākere Ranges and Hunua Ranges regional parks, while Chelsea Estate Heritage Park which does not have dieback disease, but another less aggressive pathogen, has closed tracks as a precaution.
Auckland Council is working on its kauri management policy for all the local parks, upping biosecurity spending from $5 million to $100 million over the next 10 years. In the meantime, it is promoting bush and park walks around the region so city folks can get their dose of green.
How to avoid spreading kauri dieback
Be respectful of forest areas and use the cleaning stations when you see them
Scrub – all soil off your footwear and other gear.
Spray – your footwear and gear at every entry and exit Kauri dieback can be spread by just a pinhead of soil.
Stay – on the designated open tracks.
City and suburbs walks
Coast to Coast Walk
This might take some organising of logistics for rides/buses at the beginning and end, as the 16 km Coast to Coast walk stretches from Onehunga to the city. Start at the Manukau on the Onehunga foreshore, trek through Jellicoe Park to Royal Oak, onwards into Cornwall Park, then through Epsom, Mount Eden and Newmarket to the Domain and on in to the city. Download the map and follow the fascinating commentaries to learn about the city pre-tarmac and traffic lights. Auckland Transport’s map is a quick skim, while the magnificent Te Araroa New Zealand Walkway site has a terrific commentary that covers the 600 years of Māori occupation, natural and built heritage (and possibly the only shopping recommendations on the whole Te Araroa trail).
Te Atatū Peninsula Walkway
Keen sorts can bike from the city, via the Light Path or Grafton to Northwest cycleways and out to Te Atatū Peninsula. The 4km walkway circuits the eastern edge of the peninsula, from Orangahina Park. Fortunately, there are coffee stops for city-types who need their java to keep up energy levels.
Not as famous as it should be to non-East Aucklanders, this walk is the pretty beachy 6km of coast that wends from one pohutukawa coast beaches to another, passing through Te Pene, Te Puru Park and Omana (it takes about 95 minutes one-way). There are pretty spectacular views of Waiheke Island, the Coromandel Peninsula and around the Hauraki Gulf.
Other Hauraki Gulf coastal walks
If you want to keep heading east and check out the wonderful coastal parks that fringe the Hauraki Gulf and Firth of Thames. In summer you can paddle the Te Aro Moana kayak trail over a few days, wending from Omana Regional Park to Duder Regional Park. You get breathtaking 360-degree views over the Hauraki Gulf from the top of the Whakakaiwhara Peninsula - named for the fruit of the forest found by the Tainui canoe on its way from Hawaiki. Parts of the next park, Waitawa are accessible only by kayak, but there’s a vigorous building programme going on to add land-based amenities too. There are rich archeological finds, as this was an ancient settlement. Fans of Splore will love Tapapakanga park minus the crowds. The final park on this bit of the Firth of Thames is Waharau Regional Park that extends into the eastern foothills of the Hunua Ranges. The Waharau Ridge Track has a 14km track that loops through the mature forest (follow the red markers and any other instructions, as Hunua trails themselves are closed right now).
South Auckland’s biggest park, Tōtara Park is more than just sports, pool and recreation (and mountain bike and bridle trails) - there’s actual country with farmland, bush walks around the Puhinui Stream forest (a loop of about 4 kms). There are magnificent puriri, nikau and kauri as well as tōtara, and tracks then connect over to the nearby Auckland Botanic Gardens, which is also rimmed by bush and streams in its Native Forest trail (spot mature rimu, kahikatea, miro and matai), a 4 km loop.
Carry on into more mature native forest (more kahikatea-pukatea and kānuka at Hillcrest Grove Reserve (73R Hill Road, Hill Park), Orford Park (40R Hill Road, Hill Park), and David Nathan Park (68R Hill Road, Hill Park in Manurewa.
Further south taraire Forest at Kirks Bush (377 Great South Road, Papakura) mix with kohekohe, pūriri, tōwai, tawa and rimu. In the depths of the bush, it’s wonderful to imagine what the whole area would have been like pre-human clearing.
Watercare’s Coastal Walkway
Don’t let the less-than-romantic name of Watercare Coastal Walkway put you off. This gorgeous bit of the Manukau foreshore winds 7km between Ambury Regional Park and the Ōtuataua Stonefields, an unexpected treat so close to the airport and surrounding industrial areas. The 100 hectares of Stonefields are extraordinary remnants of Auckland's 8000ha of volcanic stonefields, extremely important to mana whenua who farmed here. If you’re towing kids along, a stop at Ambury farm is essential to view the animals (and look out for the spring farm day for viewing all the babies in October).
Northcote, Birkenhead and Chatswood
You’ve probably blatted past Smiths Bush, just next to the netball courts at Northcote motorway exit on your way to bigger parks or beaches. But it contains the magnificent Pūriri Cathedral Grove (main entrance from Onewa Domain) and some soaring kahikatea in a magnificent stand of pūriri. Then head across to Birkenhead for one of the central city’s best stands of kauri, plus hard beech, forest in Chatswood Reserve (off Onetaunga Road). Dotted among the 150 years old trees are pockets of kauri and hard beech over 400 years old.
In Birkenhead Point, LeRoy’s Bush, has boardwalks that run from the playing fields at Little Shoal Bay most of the way up to Highbury town centre, past wetlands, streams and waterfall. The 200 steps uphill at the end of the trail are a killer, but there’s coffee and gelato and a ton of good food shops to help you recover, at the top. Head around the corner to the viewing platform, Kaimataara ō Wai Manawa which has panoramic views across Le Roys Bush to the city, harbour and gulf islands.