The hustle and bustle of Auckland is mere miles from lush forests and stunning landscapes. The Waitakere Ranges, a short drive northwest of the city center, are home to a regional park full of dense native bush, running rivers, and enchanting waterfalls. Enjoy numerous walking trails and incredible views of Auckland and the Tasman Sea.
Formed by eruptions from the underwater Waitakere Volcano millions of years ago, the vibrantly forested Waitakere Ranges run for 15 miles (24 kilometers) from Manukau Harbor to the suburb of Waitakere north of Auckland, with peaks reaching 1,400 feet (427 meters). If you’re a hiker or are just looking to get out of the city for a bit, the hills have a number of bush trails—from short loop tracks to multi-day treks—for all fitness and experience levels. You can walk to several large dams deep in the Ranges, like the Upper Nihotupu Dam and the Huia Dam; keep your eyes peeled for waterfalls along the way. Intrepid hikers can try the Hillary Trail, a 46-mile (74-kilometer) trek that runs from Muriwai to Titirangi, passing through Piha. On all tracks, watch for native insects, birds, and bats—the bats in the Waitakere Ranges are New Zealand’s only native land-based mammals.
In addition to full-day walking tours from Auckland, the regional park is also popular with sightseeing tours that stop here while exploring Auckland or New Zealand’s West Coast. The lookout on Scenic Drive offers panoramic views of Auckland, or peer out over the forbidding West Coast beaches from Te Henga Walkway.
Things to Know Before You Go
- The Waitakere Ranges are ideal for outdoor adventurers and nature lovers.
- Many of the Waitakere Ranges tracks are closed to protect the native forest from kauri dieback disease. Contact the Arataki Visitors Centre to see which tracks are open when you want to visit.
- Marked by a 36-foot (11-meter) Maori pou (carved post), the Arataki Visitors Centre on Scenic Drive is full of information about the area’s history and ecology—and also offers grand views of nearby Symonds Bay. The park rangers here can help you pick out treks and tell you about the don’t-miss sights.
- There is limited mobility access at the Arataki Visitors Centre and in the park. A wheelchair accessible track links Arataki with Titirangi Village.
How to Get There
Auckland’s public transport network doesn’t reach the Waitakere Ranges, so your best bet is to drive. From central Auckland, follow the Northwestern Motorway to Great North Road. Turn right at Blockhouse Bay Road onto Ash Street, then follow that road (which changes name twice, to Rata Street and Titirangi Road) through Titirangi until you reach the Scenic Drive turnoff.
When to Get There
The Waitakere Ranges offer stunning, uninterrupted views of the Tasman Sea, Auckland, and nearby beaches, so it’s best to visit in summer and fall to avoid fog, rain, or flash flooding.
Best Walks in the Waitakere Ranges
While many of Waitakere’s bush trails have closed to prevent the spread of kauri dieback disease, some tracks are still open. That includes a lot of picturesque coastal walks like the Whatipu Caves Track, the Kakamatua Beach Walk, the Tasman Lookout Track, and the Te Henga Walkway.