Arataki Visitor Centre reopens

Last Updated : 01 Dec 2023
Arataki Updated
Arataki Visitor Centre in Waitākere Regional Park.

New staff are ready to assist, three native gecko residents are soon to arrive, and free updated trail maps are loaded with tips to guide walkers around nearby popular bush tracks.

For the first time since February this year, the Arataki Visitor Centre, seen as the gateway to the Waitākere Ranges Regional Park, is set to welcome visitors again in time for the summer.

Auckland Council’s western principal ranger Reg Phillips says the re-opening coincides with a special acknowledgement for the council’s Regional Parks team.

“Our staff commitment to caring for the park, the experiences of our visitors and operating the Arataki Visitor Centre to world class standards has recently been recognised by Recreation Aotearoa and industry peers, with our team receiving an international Green Flag award for excellence. It’s one more step to help us all strengthen the wairua of the Waitākere Ranges Regional Park as a taonga (treasure) for Tāmaki Makaurau.”

Arataki Visitor Centre team leader Laura Peters says after storms earlier this year damaged surrounding roads and forced the beautiful building on Scenic Drive to close down, its 11-metre tall intricate kauri pou has been quietly keeping watch, and waiting.

“From this weekend, our pou – depicting the ancestors of our mana whenua partners Te Kawerau ā Maki – will once again be able to welcome manaaki visitors from near and far to the centre. We’ll be open every day from 9am to 5pm – except for Christmas Day,” Laura says.

A Friends of Arataki Kids Day on Saturday 2 December will re-open the centre with family-friendly activities from 11am to 3pm – rain or shine. For more information, visit here.

Many of the centre’s younger visitors will also be thrilled to see the return of Ina and Huna from Kids Day on, says Laura. The two popular bright green at-risk ‘elegant’ gecko, and Tau, a less colourful but also much-admired ‘forest’ gecko have been temporarily housed at Auckland Zoo since the centre closed. The gecko are soon to be accompanied at Arataki by a live display of native stick insects.

One of two ‘elegant’ gecko at the Arataki Visitor Centre.

One of two ‘elegant’ gecko at the Arataki Visitor Centre.

Parking at the centre during Kids Day will be limited, so visitors should carpool if possible, or take advantage of a free shuttle running to Arataki and back from 221 Scenic Drive car park. 

Robin Taua-Gordon, from Te Kawerau ā Maki, reiterates Laura’s sentiment on how meaningful the centre re-opening is – especially for West Auckland’s mana whenua. “It will allow people to re-connect with Te Wao Nui o Tiriwa, and continue to learn the stories of Te Kawerau ā Maki,” she says.

Arataki Visitor Centre provides a convenient starting point for three popular Waitākere Regional Park bush walks of varying lengths, catering for all ages and fitness levels. Senior Ranger Jack Jones confirms that all Arataki track repairs have been completed and track signage updated.

“The shortest track, Arataki Nature Trail, is essential for all visitors,” he says. “It’s an easy 40-minute round trip bush walk that takes you through Te Wao Nui o Tiriwa. There’s plenty to see and learn along the way, with a Plant ID loop to improve your knowledge and a beautiful ‘kauri cathedral’.”

“Another popular walk you can start from Arataki is the Beveridge Track, which is a 30-minute walk one way and an hour return trip – a great option for those wanting more of a challenge,” Jack says.

More experienced walkers can complete the Slip Track loop, a two-hour circuit that winds through the incredible native bush of the Slip Track. This trail connects to Pipeline Road, where you'll follow water pipelines along a service road. Eventually, you'll join the Beverage Track, offering scenic views over the Lower Nihotupu Reservoir and the Manukau Harbour, finishing back at the Arataki Visitor Centre.

Parking at the centre is currently available from 6am to 9pm, allowing visitors to access Arataki’s popular viewing platform and the surrounding bush tracks during extended hours.

Popular exhibitions at the centre remain in place, with plans under way to host new displays throughout the summer and opportunities for learning.  

An exhibition by naturist and photographer, the late Jacqueline Geux, is planned in January 2024, following an extended postponement due to the storm closure. Geux’s exhibition will be worth the wait, says Laura, including photos documenting natural history in Aotearoa. 

Also returning to Arataki during weekends is the much-loved Danish Delight ice cream kiosk, serving up freshly baked waffle cones.

Laura reminds visitors that access from the Arataki Visitor Centre through to Piha along Scenic Drive remains closed.  

“Anyone looking to complete their Waitākere experience with a West Coast swim or surf will need to head back towards Titirangi and take Shaw Road to access Piha via the West Coast Road route,” she says. 

For more information on Arataki Visitor Centre, visit the Auckland Council website here.

Arataki's viewing platform.
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