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    West Auckland
    - 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 region.

    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 vineyards.

    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...

    Historical Background
    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.

    Cornwallis Beach
    Cornwallis Beach
    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
    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 for 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.

    Lopdell House
    Lopdell House

    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 the Manukau 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.

    Wine Tasting
    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 !!

    Getting around
    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