- An Area Not To Be Missed
- Kate - 19/12/97
Over the next few months NZine will bring you up to date information
on places of interest, regional parks, beaches and activities around the
Auckland region. If you are planning a trip to New Zealand you can
browse these articles at leisure before arriving 'downunder'. Then you
will be able to make a more informed choice of what you wish to see and
do around Auckland especially when time is limited.
Welcome to West Auckland
Most of West Auckland is within the boundaries of Waitakere City, the
sixth largest city in New Zealand. However this is not your usual city
environment. The large open spaces, beaches and areas of magnificent
bush give it a unique character unlike the other parts of the Auckland
Bordered on one side by the Tasman sea and nestling beside the bush
covered Waitakere Ranges, Waitakere is a successful eco city recognised
by a recent overseas award for its clean, green image. The lower region
with its more fertile land is home to many market gardens, orchards and
So when you arrive in Auckland jet lagged after a long flight, take time
out in West Auckland. It's only 20-30 minutes from the city but the
contrast will amaze you...
The European settlement of the area began in the 1840's when the new
arrivals discovered the high number of kauri trees - majestic towering
specimens which they valued for the hard timber and resin. Many of
these were cut down and moved away and then farming and gum digging
became the major sources of employment. After a time farming became
uneconomic and so the land was left to regenerate. Remains of the bush
railways and timber dams are still around and can be reached from
walking tracks. If you would like more information visit the Kauri Gum
Store and Museum at Riverhead, the Settlers Museum at Huia, the Oratia
Folk Museum or the Pioneer Museum at Helensville.
There are three harbours in the area - the Waitemata, Manukau and
Kaipara - each offering a range of activities for visitors. The West
Auckland beaches are wild and rugged and much more isolated than the
east coast beaches - ideal if 'getting away from it all' appeals to you.
However, surfers do come from far and wide to ride the waves at Piha,
notable for its high rollers and pounding surf. If swimming appeals a
slight caution is necessary. In some areas there are strong rips so
always choose a safe beach or a beach where there are Lifesavers
patrolling marked areas.
The black sandy beaches of Cornwallis and
Huia on the Manukau harbour are more sheltered and safe than Piha,
Bethels and Karekare (where the film 'The Piano' was made) which are on
the ocean side.
Further north Muriwai beach is a favourite spot for
viewing New Zealand's northernmost breeding colony of gannets. The
headland and off shore islands are a favourite home for white-fronted
terns. An absence of commercialism and people is what I feel makes
these beaches special. Here you can enjoy long stretches of coastline
and take bush walks with mainly just the birds and sounds of nature for
company. Definitely recommended for reducing stress levels.
Centennial Memorial Park
The park covers an area of over 10,000ha and includes many of the west
coast beaches as well as the Waitakere Ranges where the native bush,
small streams, tumbling waterfalls and bird life all add to enjoyment.
There are over 200kms of walking and hiking tracks in the area which are
graded to suit people's needs.
An ideal starting point is the Arataki Park Visitors centre 5 km beyond
Titirangi on Scenic Drive. From here you can enjoy wonderful views, see
the displays and learn about the bush by taking the Arataki Nature Trail.
There are picnic tables provided at the centre so why not pack a lunch and
take a leisurely walk along the trail.
View from the Arataki Park Visitors Centre
There are alternative routes with different grades of difficulty and no
special gear is needed except good walking shoes.
Staff at the centre can provide more in depth information and brochures
outlining other walks in the area. Many parts of the Waitakeres are
quite rugged so some tracks will require you to have tramping experience
and good gear. It's a good idea to check it out first.
There are easy all-weather walks at the Cascade/Kauri area in the north and
Karamatura Valley beyond Huia on the Manukau harbour. Guided walks are
offered at certain times of the year and you should contact the Duty Ranger
details. There are many picnic/barbecue areas so be prepared and enjoy
a great day outdoors. Camping is allowed in certain places but a
permit must be obtained from the Ranger first.
Art and Craft
This area is well known for its artists, potters and craftsfolk and a
visit to the market held on the last Sunday of the month in Titirangi
village is a must for viewing local work. Apart from pottery and
paintings there are a variety of hand crafted wooden ware and jewellery
which would be easy to pack for sending or taking overseas. Items like
salad bowls and servers, spoons and carved fish all made out of the
local kauri wood are particularly attractive.
Whilst in Titirangi it's a good idea to visit the art gallery at Lopdell
House, where there are ever changing displays and exhibitions. There is a
gift shop, coffee shop and restaurant also in the building and the views of
Harbour are wonderful.
There are a number of local shopping centres and two major shopping
malls in the area. West City in Henderson has recently been totally
renovated and now has a total of 83 boutiques and shops. Lynmall at
New Lynn is currently being updated and will have over fifty shops when it
is completed in 1998. Generally speaking the shops in West Auckland
do not cater for tourists specifically except for the many cafes and
restaurants. Eating outside is now very popular and places like
Titirangi have a number of pavement eateries where you can relax and
enjoy the local ambience after visiting the local sights.
A visit to this area would not be complete without sampling some of the
local award winning wines. There are many wineries to visit - so many
that I will be giving more details in another article early in 1998 -
watch this space !!
Whether you are visiting for a day or two or staying longer do try to
make time to visit West Auckland - it's only 20km from downtown. Some
places are not well served by public transport so I would suggest you
hire a car if possible or take one of the local tours that are
advertised in the hotels. Perhaps some of you already have a
favourite walk or place to visit - I would love to hear from you.
Published with permission from NZine