Four of the best walking trails to explore tunnels and caves in Auckland

Publish Date : 14 Dec 2022
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Nothing generates the childlike thrill of exploring more than the great outdoors; it’s the ultimate freedom. Seeing life through a screen doesn’t compete with the experience of hiking tracks or discovering the region’s underground spaces.

Karekare to Tunnel Point

A 30-minute walk south along Karekare’s rugged black sand beach at low to mid-tide (check the tides first) leads you to Tunnel Point, the site of a cool former tramline tunnel, which was constructed after the Pararaha Mill burnt down in 1881. The rusty boiler sitting outside the tunnel was taken from Whatipū on the coast up to the tunnel, with the intention of being used elsewhere. When it didn’t fit through the tunnel, the cylinder was left behind, and it makes for a cool spot for hikers to take a photograph.

Whatipū caves loop track

Just south of Karekare, near the mouth of Manukau Harbour, explore a series of caves on the remote Whatipū Beach. This out-and-back trail from the car park is an easy length for kids. The sea caves there were once used as shelter by Māori and, in the early 1900s, as a venue for dances.

Whatipū caves

Whatipū caves

Rangitoto lava caves

With Tāmaki Makaurau sitting on an extensive ancient volcanic field, it stands to reason there are some lava caves. Rangitoto Island is the city’s largest and youngest volcano, and home to the world’s largest pōhutukawa forest. A walk to the summit will take you across volcanic lava fields, and another track links to the lava caves that were hollowed out in the most recent eruption around 600 years ago. The largest cave is around 50m deep so take a torch to explore the twisting tunnels.

Maukatia Bay cave

A cool little cave that’s been carved right through the rock by the rough west coast tides. At certain times of the year, the top of the cliff is where you’ll find the Muriwai gannet colony, or spot white-fronted terns, which use the lower ledges for nesting. Even at low tide, there’s water inside the cave so tread carefully and always put safety first.

Taking your dog

Most beaches on the west coast are sensitive wildlife areas. If you are taking your dog with you on any of your beach walks out west, remember they need to be on leash all summer long.  At Te Henga / Bethells Beach dogs are completely prohibited south of Picnic Rock.

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