Three exciting day walks you can do within two hours of Auckland

I was asked recently to recommend some day walks you can do within a couple of hours of central Aucklandia / Tāmaki Makaurau / Akarana. I wrote quite a long email in response, so I figured I should also share it here.

1. Whatipu to Pararaha Valley, return
Drive time: 1 hour

Did you know the Waitakere Ranges used to have little logging settlements within it, and a tram line running along the beach from Piha to Whatipu?


Park at Whatipu Beach and take Gibbons Track up into the ranges for some stunning views to the north and of the beach below. At the Muir Track junction, take the left fork and descend the fairly steep (but fine if you’re sensible track) into the Pararaha Valley. There’s a small campground by the stream, with basic toilets, shelter and tap (which I wouldn’t drink from, unless in an emergency). Follow the track along the river (through it) and out to the boardwalk junction, where you turn left and cross the marshes, onto the dunes. Follow the widened dune track out to the beach, noting that you want to head south (left) down the beach once you find the coast. This is the longest section of the trip, since you’re walking on sand, but it’s a stunning beach, so enjoy what the Tasman has turned up. Once you reach Ninepin Rock (with small lighthouse on it), you’re nearly back at the car park and the beach will have curved slightly, so you’re now walking east. Check out the headland just beyond, where you can see remnants of the old wharf and pieces of old tram track stuck in the sand. Take the beach path back to the car park. Good day out, extend with a trip up the hill on Omanawanui Track if you have time – amazing views of the Manukau Harbour and Awhitu on a clear day!

2. Mt. Auckland / Atuanui
Drive time: 1 hour

Yes, there’s a Mount Auckland and it’s barely inside Auckland. But I recommend it, just because it’s called Mt Auckland.

Access either from Silverdale, take Pine Valley Rd, right on Kahikatea Road then right on SH16 at Kaukapakapa, or you can take SH16 all the way there. I recommend parking at the Kaipara Hills Road end and walking to the summit up the Mount Auckland Walkway from there. It’s a mixture of farmland and native bush, with some steep sections, but not a long walk overall. The lookout offers stunning views of the Kaipara Harbour, one of the largest harbours in the world! Once at the top, you can either head back the way you came, or descend down through the farm to SH16 and walk back along the roads and to the oddly named Glorit and up Kaipara Hills Road. Great day out, some cafes on the drive to/from it and at Helensville too.

3. Karangahake Gorge
Drive time: 1.5 hours

Karangahake Gorge is an old gold mining valley, full of tunnels, rusting equipment, running river, swing bridges and even a cafe or two in the valley.

Park at the Crown Hill Road car park, just over the crazy road bridge which used to have a railway running over the top (turn right off SH2). From there, get up onto that very bridge and enter the tunnel (torch/flashlight/cell phone light recommended!). Once out the tunnel and over the river, turn right along the Karangahake Gorge Historic Walkway (KGHW), then left on The Windows Walk. Follow that for several kilometres, until you find yourself on the other side of the river and at Dubbo 96 Track, which you can either follow back to the KGHW, or head up the 544m hill known as Karangahake for a view, if you have the stamina and the time! If that’s too much, there’s tracks to suit your ability and time all over the place here, so just create a loop that you like.

Remember to always take adequate safety precautions when going out into the wild. Water & lunch are obvious, but have you got a map and a first aid kit? Is your cellphone charged? Who knows what your plans are? Even the most experienced trampers I’ve met have become lost at some point, it can happen to anyone. Drop the “she’ll be right” attitude and tell someone where you’re going. Kia kaha.

Always keen to hear your favourite walks in the wider Auckland region, or anywhere really! Follow and tweet me @djduncwilson