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Explore Auckland's urban forests

Published: 19 December 2019

Native urban forests are something few connect with Auckland, but the hidden gems are worth exploring, and getting into the native forest doesn’t have to mean travelling to regional parks.

There are lots of great places within the urban boundaries of Tāmaki Makaurau where you can get out and enjoy walking amongst native flora.

Many are often driven past but seldom get explored.

These urban patches of native forest allow native birds to travel from one side of Auckland to the other and then onto the Hauraki Gulf Islands safely.

They are a great place to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life and enjoy the song of tui, piwakawaka (fantail) kereru (wood pigeon) and other native birds.

To get you started, try exploring the following:

Hellyers Creek Path 

Located in Beach Haven, Hellyers Creek Path starts at Shepherd’s Park where there is a children’s playground. Regenerating forest and great views of Hellyers Creek are key aspects to this walk. The path is undulating and there are some stairs and tree roots to negotiate.

As you get close to the creek lookout for our native tuna (eel). At low tide the mudflats that are visible host a number of feeding birds.

Mangemangeroa Kōwhai Path 

A path with a variety of native forest is the Mangemangeroa Kōwhai Path in Howick. A great example of mature coastal broadleaf forest, this path weaves its way alongside the Mangemangeroa Stream. Features include a large kōwhai grove along the way and plenty of bird song.

For those wanting a longer adventure, carry on down the valley to Shelley Bay, following the Mangemangeroa Stream till it opens out into a beautiful estuary.

Oakley Creek Path 

Driving into the city centre from the airport you would completely miss Oakley Creek Path because the Waterview Tunnel travels right underneath this beautiful gem. But visiting this path is a must-do.

Te Auaunga (Oakley Creek) is not only the longest urban creek in Auckland, but it is also the home of the highest urban waterfall in New Zealand. Make an afternoon of it and take the kids to either the Waterview Reserve across Great North Road from the path or to Heron Park playground at the southern end of the path.

Tōtara Puhinui Creek Path 

Not only is the Auckland Botanic Gardens home to amazing gardens but it also has the Tōtara Puhinui Creek Path. As the name suggests the path passes beautiful tōtara and is a lovely example of lowland broadleaf conifer forest. With flying foxes, a tunnel slide and some outdoor pools there is plenty of fun to be had here.

Mercer Bay Path 

Although most of the Waitākere Ranges are closed, one great walk that is open is the Mercer Bay Path. Starting just off the main Piha Road, if rugged and wild is more your thing then this path is a must-do. This loop path is situated right on the coast so it can get quite windswept at times but the coastal views are stunning.

Along the way stop off at the lookout and look out for the pou (marker sculpture) that marks the site of a significant pā (fortified village) for local iwi Te Kawerau a Maki. If you visit this path please stick to the path especially around the pou and make sure you follow the instructions at shoe cleaning stations.

For more information on these walks or to find another urban forest walk near you check out AKL Paths.

Keep Kauri Standing

Wherever you end up, if you enter or leave a forest/area with native trees anywhere across the region, here are three easy steps you need to remember:

  • Scrub– clean all soil off your footwear and gear.
  • Spray– your footwear and gear with disinfectant at every cleaning station you encounter. Kauri dieback can be spread by just a pinhead of soil.
  • Stay– on open tracks and off kauri roots.

Always check the Auckland Council protect kauri webpage before going for a walk to find out what tracks are currently closed. 

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