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May 2012 Issue
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Tawharanui Regional Park, Auckland

Photo: Alistair Hall
Grade
Easy
Access
85km north of Auckland. Follow the signs to Matakana and at the Omaha turnoff turn right onto Takatu Rd
Map
ZA32 or Tawahrenui Regional Park map found at the park’s information kiosk
Tawharanui Regional Park, Auckland

On a previous trip to Tawharanui Regional Park I made it as far as the turn-off on the Matakana Rd before halting my journey from Auckland. A large sign proclaiming the banning of dogs – not just on leads but in cars – put paid to our planned adventure. We had misread the information on the Auckland Regional Council’s website and mistakenly thought dogs were permitted in the park.

But with North Island brown kiwi roaming the predator-free tracts of forest, that just isn’t an option so we turned around vowing to come back without the dog.

It was nearly a year later that we finally made the return trip to explore the park’s network of tracks – in particular the Ecology Trail – and we were absolutely gutted to see what we had missed out on.

Tawharanui is a gem of a park overlooking the whitest of white sand beaches where gentle swells ridden by boogie boarders roll onto shore and stand-up paddle boarders explore the gin-clear water beyond the breakers. While the beach seems to captivate most visitors to the park, it’s the regenerating forest, restored with the help of volunteers and protected by a 2.5km predator proof fence, that offers a paradise of another kind. Here, native birds live in their droves and the air is alive with the sound of cicada and the birdsong of wood pigeon, tui, bellbird, North Island robin and whiteheads.

We started our walk along the North Coast Track which climbs above Anchor Bay and leads towards Tokatu Point for about 2km. This track passes through farmland and provides no shelter from the sun, or rain, but the pay-off is great views of the sea and Kawerau, Little Barrier and Great Barrier islands.

The North Coast Track begins to circle around on itself and melds into the South Coast Track which leads all the way to the park’s entrance – a round trip of two or three hours. But we wanted to experience the birdlife, so took Fishermans Track which soon joined the Ecology Trail.

The Ecology Trail is a self-guided track which can be made more enjoyable with the ecology trail brochure found at the information kiosk near Anchor Bay. While the bush here is mostly regenerating, there are plenty of examples of tall and ancient-looking trees.  Once in the bush, the heat of the day soon dissipated as we were enveloped by the cool shade. Before long we were encountering all manner of birds, with bellbirds appearing to be the most common and vocal. A brace to kereru fluttered across the track ahead of us, perching on branches a mere metre or so from the track. Whenever we saw birds I recognised I played their call through an app on my phone and was delighted to get answering calls from the wood pigeons and tui.

The trail follows a small creek for a while and is crossed on a small bridge. At this point there is detergent and a scrubbing brush to clean the soles of boots with to help avoid spreading the kauri dieback disease.

Soon after we found a place just off the track, atop a massive tree root, to have lunch and just sit amongst the trees listening to all the sounds of birds calling. It was as peaceful and serene a moment as I’ve ever had in the bush.

The ecology trail drops down to the coast for the final kilometre back to Anchor Bay. On this section we encountered a large group of trampers we later found out were from the Auckland Tramping Club. If Tawharanui is good enough for them, it’s certainly good enough for me.

If you are looking for a slice of paradise and some good walking opportunities near Auckland, Tawharanui is a place to go.

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