Most people think of sailing, traffic and Al Brown's restaurants when they think of Auckland. But with its warm weather, volcanoes and loads of islands there are plenty of walks that make you feel like you're far away from the chardonnay-swilling metropolis. We've put together 12 of the best that locals and visitors can do. And they don't cost a dime.
Remember to leave no trace (or trash) and keep these walks beautiful.
A visit to Kawau Island can also include a visit inside this 18th Century mansion, built by Sir George Grey, twice Governor and an extraordinary politician who was respected by Māori, and often travelled with a company of chiefs.
Afterwards, have a picnic on the lawn and take off for a hearty stroll on one of four good walks.
Redwood Track : Mansion House - Lookout, via Redwood Track 45 min one way.
A shaded track through exotic pine forest and ferns, with a notable large redwood tree planted by Sir George Grey in 1864. Take the track to Two House Bay and then head inland up the Redwood Track. Brick house foundations near the top of the track mark the old dairy site and remains of two cottages associated with copper mining on the island in the 1840s and 1850s.
Dispute Cove Track to Coppermine : Mansion House - Coppermine via Dispute Cove Track 50 min one way, or 60 min one way via inland route.
This track follows the original route used by miners to get to work. There were once miners' cottages along the route as well as a village and school at Dispute Cove. Walk to the lookout via Ladys Bay and follow the Dispute Cove Track to Dispute Cove. Part of the track's coastal section is impassable during very high tides. An alternative inland route back to the lookout follows an old coach road built for Sir George Grey.
Coppermine round trip: Mansion House - Ladys Bay - Lookout - Dispute Cove Track - Coppermine - Redwood Track - Two House Bay - Mansion House 2 to 2.5 hr
Take the track from Mansion House to Ladys Bay and continue on to the Coppermine via the lookout and Dispute Cove Track. Return to the lookout via Coach Road, the take the Redwood Track to Two House Bay. Follow the track from Two House Bay back to Mansion House Bay.
Schoolhouse Bay - Lookout is 35 min one way.
Picnicking on the Mansion House lawn is a leisurely way to spend an afternoon, so make sure you pack a picnic.
A public wharf at Schoolhouse Bay provides an alternative access point to the historic reserve. Sir George Grey had a school built at Schoolhouse Bay for the children of his workers. The old schoolhouse, now much modified, can be seen from the wharf. (However, it is privately owned and not open to the public). From the wharf follow the road up the hill past private residences. Just beyond the houses is a short side track to a knoll with a small historic cemetery, the resting place of some early Kawau residents including copper miners and their families. Schoolhouse Bay Road continues to a junction near the lookout, where there are several routes to choose from to return to Mansion House Bay.
As these track times are indicative only and ferry sailings are limited, please make sure you allow plenty of time to complete your walk and catch your ferry back to Auckland.
Visiting Mansion House: Opening hours Monday to Friday 12:00 noon to 2:00 pm Saturday, Sunday and public holidays 12:00 noon to 3:30 pm Closed Christmas Day, and in winter from June until end of August. During winter the house may be opened by prior arrangement, for groups of 10 or more. Email: email@example.com
This return walk traverses the coast part way to Cape Rodney overlooking New Zealand’s oldest and most popular marine reserve. Walk up the Auckland University Marine Laboratory driveway to the start of the track. The track passes along the cliff-top beyond the marine laboratory through paddocks and fine remnants of coastal broadleaf forest. (Please note, there may be stock in the section through the farm paddocks.)
In the distance you can see Hauturu or Little Barrier Island, a nature reserve now pest free that is home to tuatara, giant weta and a huge variety of native birds.
There is no formal track in the Fort Takapuna Historic Reserve, but you can wander around the grassed area of the reserve taking in the military history and superb views of the Hauraki Gulf. Fort Takapuna consists of two main buildings: the larger barracks built in the 1880s, and the smaller brick building beside it - built by the navy in the 1920s to store warheads for torpedoes and depth charges. The buildings are below ground level because originally they were surrounded by a dry moat, most of which was filled in 100 years ago.
Please note : The inside of Fort Takapuna is only open to the public during special events, such as the NZ Sculpture Onshore event.
A series of loop tracks introduce you to the military history of Maungauika/North Head – the tunnels, guns, searchlights and defences that were placed on the headland to protect Auckland from feared Russian invasions.
The Summit Loop takes you past our two movie theatres where at certain you can watch some short films.
Track times and distance : Coastal Loop - one way, 1 km, 30 min Summit Loop - one way, 1 km, 25 min Tunnels Loop - one way, 1 km, 20 min Map notes (numbers below relate to the numbers on the above map):
There is a welcome sign with track information - in the lower car park near the North Battery. This sign is repeated at the Takarunga Road entrance. And there are other signs which explain about the structures, various buildings around the mountain. And look for the "North Head in uniform" series of life-size figures with historic information, behind the long barracks building at the entrances to the Summit Battery. The Stone Kitchen Theatre and Fire Command Post Theatre are near here too and you can visit these little theatres to watch one or more of the movies available. Other signs, such as South Battery/Disappearing Gun, explain the guns history and workings.
Getting there : Maungauika/North Head is located in Devonport at the northern headland of the Waitemata Harbour. The reserve is approximately 16 km from downtown Auckland by car, taking around 30 minutes, depending on traffic conditions.
You can also catch one of the ferries from downtown Auckland to Devonport Wharf. The reserve is 2 km from here and is a lovely walk on it's own right. Follow King Edward Parade along the waterfront until you reach the the Torpedo Bay Navy Museum. Turn left before the Navy Museum onto Cheltenham Road, then take the second road on your right - Takarunga Road. The gated entrance to the reserve is at the end of this road.
Vehicle and pedestrian access is via Takarunga Road.
There are a number of different walks here : Haigh Access Road entrance to Dacre Cottage - 4.2 km / 1 hr Haigh Access Road to Stillwater via Overland Track - 7.6 km / 2 hr Haigh Access Road to Stillwater via Low Tide Route - 7.4 km / 1 hr 50 min
This track takes you through regenerating coastal kauri forest along the Okura River estuary and edge of the Long Bay – Okura Marine Reserve to Karepiro Bay and historic Dacre Cottage, and then on to Stillwater. From Haighs Rd the track follows the Okura River estuary through mixed coastal forest, with groves of nikau, pohutukawa and regenerating kauri.
After a 20 min hill climb the track drops down to the rivers edge where you can see a variety of wading birds such as stilts and oystercatchers.
The track then climbs to a headland before dropping quite steeply to Karepiro Bay, where the restored historic Dacre Cottage is located at the northern end. Dacre Cottage was built in the 1850s by Henry Dacre, son of the retired sea captain Ranulf Dacre, who bought the Weiti block in 1848.
If heading onto Stillwater, you can follow the coastline at low tide, or if the tide isn't right, take the overland track, which climbs steeply above the coastal cliffs and has good views of Karepiro Bay and the Hauraki Gulf, before dropping back to the Weiti River estuary. From here the track follows the river, crossing private land to the Stillwater car park.
Please note: due to storm damage, a section of track between the sand spit and the staircase is very narrow - so please take care.
For many people this iconic volcanic island is a symbol of Auckland, visible from so many vantage points and always a delight to catch sight of. Having erupted out of the sea a mere 600 or so years ago, it’s also the youngest island in Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf and taking the ferry over makes for a splendid day trip.
With plenty of information panels dotted about the place to explain the geology, flora and fauna as well as Maori history and connection to the island, it’s quite another world from the bustling city. The historic holidays homes are another element that delight many visitors, so, do pop your nose into quaint little Bach 38 if it’s open, this tiny home doubles as the island’s museum and information centre.
Taking 25 minutes to get to the island on a Fullers ferry from Downtown Auckland, there are three departures on weekdays, at 9:15am, 10:30am and 12:15pm and two additional departures each weekend at 7:30am and 1:30pm. Returning to the mainland on weekdays at 12:45pm, 2:30pm and 3:30pm and on weekends at 12:45pm, 2:30pm and 4pm. Fares are $30 for adults and $15 for children and some sailings stop in at Devonport - which is a little excursion in it’s own right. Please make sure you’re not late for the last sailing to Auckland as there are no hotels or restaurants on Rangitoto.
Summit Track : Two hours return from Rangitoto Wharf, basic fitness required. Combining some boardwalks and some rocky paths, the shorter route to the top starts at the wharf where the ferry drops you off and ascends across rough scoria and through glades of native trees including the pohutukawa. When you reach the peak, 259m above sea level, you’ll find yourself faced with beautiful views of the Hauraki Gulf and Auckland city.
As you walk around the crater, try to imagine that night all those years ago when the island was little more than a boiling sea of molten lava. As it can get mighty hot in summer, take plenty of water, for the walk, and a picnic for when you reach the top is also recommended.
Lava Caves Track 15 minutes extra from the Summit Track. Look for the sign from the summit track pointing to the lava caves and have a little explore of these tunnels, but bring a torch as there are some places there that the sun just doesn’t shine.
Tiritiri Matangi Island is a wildlife sanctuary and one of New Zealand's most important and exciting conservation projects. It is located 30km north east of central Auckland and just 4km from the end of the Whangaparaoa Peninsula. A hundred and twenty years of farming had seen this 220-hectare island stripped of 94% of its native bush but between 1984 and 1994, volunteers planted between 250,000 and 300,000 trees. The Island is now 60% forested with the remaining 40% left as grassland for species preferring open habitat.
In conjunction with this planting programme, all mammalian predators were eradicated and a number of threatened and endangered bird and reptile species have been successfully introduced, including the flightless takahe, one of the world’s rarest species, and the tuatara. There are few places in New Zealand where you can readily see and walk amongst so many rare species.
The project is managed by the Department of Conservation in conjunction with the Supporters of Tiritiri Matangi Incorporated.
This nature reserve can only be accessed by ferry from Auckland. And access to the island is limited so booking the ferry is essential in the high season.
On disembarking the ferry you should make your way along the wharf to the concrete pad where the island truck is parked. Please assemble on the concrete pad for the ranger's briefing as you must wait for the briefing even if you have been to the island many times.
If you are not doing a guided walk you are free to disperse once the ranger has completed the briefing. If you are doing a guided walk you will be organised into groups immediately after the briefing.
For first-time visitors especially, a guided walk will greatly enhance your enjoyment of the Island. Guides will explain about the plants and animals you see (and hear), about the history of the island and how the forest has been restored. Two routes are used for guided walks. The shorter route (Wattle Track) takes about an hour to an hour and a half; the longer route (Kawerau Track) takes up to two hours - perhaps longer depending on what you see en route.
Tracks are either hard surface, grass, or boardwalks, with many wooden steps, so if you have a child in a pushchair please be prepared to do a bit of lifting.
Bookings for guided walks are made with 360 Discovery at the time that you book your ferry ticket - phone 09 307 8005. The number of guides allocated for each trip is dependent upon the number of visitors who have booked a guided walk. So to avoid disappointment on the day, please book your guided walk prior to arriving on the Island.
This area offers a number of walking options depending upon the time you have. They all offer a good look at the regenerating forest and views across Dome Valley and the surrounding countryside and coast.
Getting to the look out takes about 40mins one way and is a walk recommended for those of moderate fitness.
Starting from the Dome tearooms carpark, steps climb steeply for the first 300 m along a narrow road reserve to the Dome Forest conservation area.
The track passes through mixed podocarp and broadleaf forest and follows a ridge to a lookout platform, with views across the Mahurangi Peninsula to the Hauraki Gulf. This track is part of Te Araroa - The Long Pathway.
When you get to the lookout you can continue on to Govan Wilson Rd.
Getting there : The main area is 68km from downtown Auckland, and 10km from Warkworth.
Please note, the Dome Walkway crosses land sacred to local iwi, please keep to the track.
Banner Photo Credit: Piotr Zurek