If 2023 will be remembered for anything, it will be as the wettest, rainiest year Auckland has ever experienced. It started with the floods in late January that resulted in many of the region’s most popular walking spots being closed for repair work.
The good news is that 48 per cent of parks and community facility repair projects have been made. Auckland Council’s Deputy Group Recovery Manager Mace Ward says that while there was widespread damage, it was mainly focused north and centrally with the brunt of it out west.
“In terms of the Waitākere Ranges, Te Henga and Muriwai, there was very significant impacts on tracks through those areas.”
However, there are still hundreds of repair projects to go.
Mace says that a significant number of those are track-type projects and that most of the repairs will be completed by the end of autumn, with many of the central projects being completed earlier.
Before you head out to walk one of Auckland’s many tracks, Mace advises checking Akl Paths and typing in the name of the path you’re interested in to check whether it’s open or closed.
“Go to some places that you haven’t discovered before - somewhere new,” he says.
To get you started on that mission, here is a round-up of some stand-out walks across the region that are open.
Should I go west?
While many areas out west were hit hard by the weather events, and many are closed due to kauri dieback (check the map), there are still some walks you can do out west.
The Arataki Visitor Centre, the beautiful treehouse-like information centre, on Scenic Drive is still closed and is due to reopen Early December, but the car park has reopened, which means you can embark on the Arataki Nature Trail.
This 40-minute round trip is a refreshing trek through some of West Auckland’s most stunning native forest. Enter the walk through a tunnel that goes under the road – always a highlight for kids – then enjoy walking through Te Waonui-a-Tiriwa (the great forest of Tiriwa), which is the name local iwi Te Kawerau ā Maki gave the Waitākere Ranges. There’s also a fun Plant ID Loop where you can test your knowledge of native plants.
Remember that parts of Scenic Drive are still closed while Auckland Transport is carrying out repairs.
“Check the road first as your normal route may not be the one that you take to get there,” says Mace.
If you’re wanting to get the full West Coast beach experience, Mace says go for it. Just be mindful that many tracks in places like Piha and Muriwai are closed, such as the Lion Rock Walk at Piha and the Lookout Track and Gannet tracks at Muriwai.
“Some tracks will be closed for some time where there are slips. Where there are signs and fences, don’t put yourself at risk and in danger. Use common sense because we don’t want people being hurt or other people being put at risk when rescuing people.”
He also advises not to be a disaster tourist. “Respect the communities you’re visiting and what they’ve gone through in some cases.”
Have you considered the north-west?
Located half an hour north of Helensville – and almost as far as you can drive north-west of central Auckland – Te Rau Pūriri Regional Park, South Head is situated along the eastern coast of Te Korowai-o-Te-Tonga (South Head) Peninsula and offers breathtaking views of the magnificent Kaipara Harbour. Start your journey from Omokoiti Bay, where you’ll encounter a series of carefully crafted ponds that were used as fresh-water prawn farms in the 1980s.
An ideal spot for bird-watching, you’ll also see oystercatchers, herons and maybe even godwits along the shoreline if you’re there at the right time of year.
Take it southside
Use track closures as an opportunity to get to know some new parts of the region. If you always go west, maybe it’s a good time to explore the coastal and bush-clad beauty spots in the south.
Mace recommends checking out the walks at Hunua Ranges Regional Park. The parks walking tracks are open, and if you’re into mountain biking, most of the mountain biking trails are open as well. Try some of the established Loop Tracks like Massey Loop, Wairoa Loop, or for the more adventurous wanting longer day hikes create your own loop linking the extensive networks of tracks.
Please ensure that you use the Kauri Dieback Hygiene stations which now accommodate bikes' and make sure you and your gear arrive clean and free of soil. It makes it a lot quicker and easier to clean in the stations.
If you want to go coastal, check out Whakakaiwhara Peninsula in Duder Regional Park. The park has four walks to enjoy, some with almost-360-degree views, including the 30-minute coastal walk to Umupuia Beach which can only be done at low tide.
Head 40km south of Duder and you’ll arrive at the beautiful pōhutukawa-fringed coastline of Tāpapakanga Regional Park. If you’re keen to explore the terrain, the 7.5km Tāpapakanga Coastal Walk offers excellent views of the Firth of Thames.
If you don’t want to venture too far up north, Mahurangi West is a great destination that offers sheltered bays, native bush, open pastures and historic sites. The Te Muri campground is also here and welcomes families to create new memories in its surroundings.
Further north, it really is hard to go past the views and native birdlife at Tāwharanui Regional Park. For the full beach, bush, wetland and farmland experience, go on the two-hour Ecology Trail.
Mace also cautions visitors to Auckland’s day-long walks to always be conscious of the weather.
“If you’re visiting the Hunua Ranges or the Waitākere Ranges or even your local park, be aware of the weather, but more importantly in those areas where you’re doing a day walk. To use the words of Crowded House, 'always take the weather with you'.