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The Wilderness 100: The 8 best trips in Northland and Auckland

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May 2020 Issue

Looking for a new challenge this year (or for the remainder of your life)? How about ticking off the Wilderness 100?


Welcome to the inaugural Wilderness 100 – an annual list of the best trips in the country. For the website version of this feature story, we’ve broken the trips down into regions and linked to those trips we’ve got route notes and maps for. 

So, without further ado, here are the best trips in the Northland and Auckland regions.

1. Aotea Track, Aotea Conservation Park, Great Barrier Island

Located so close to Auckland, but often ignored by the city’s trampers, the 14km Aotea Track offers superb tramping. Begin at Windy Canyon, take Palmers Track over the island’s highest point, Mt Hobson (621m), through the remnants of kauri forest. Mt Heale Hut offers panoramic views over the Hauraki Gulf and Hauturu/Little Barrier Island before the Peach Tree Track descends to Kaitoke hot springs. DOWNLOAD

Te Whara/Bream Head. Photo: Matthew Cattin

2. Te Whara Track, Bream Head, Whangarei

This challenging coastal track traverses the spine of Mt Lion from Urquharts Bay to Ocean Beach. Sporadic volcanic spires offer 360-degree lookouts for brave trampers, while local conservation efforts have returned an abundance of native fauna, including kākā, kiwi and kererū. Walk in a day, or book a night in the popular Peach Cove hut – an hour’s detour off the route.

3. Cape Brett Track, Northland

Rugged coastal cliffs, gnarled pohutukawa and arguably the most spectacular headland in Northland make this a contender for the region’s best tramp. Catch a water taxi or paddle a sea kayak to Deep Water Cove, then enjoy 2-3hr of rugged tramping to reach the historic Cape Brett lighthouse. Better still, book a night at Cape Brett Hut, one of the former lighthouse keeper’s cottages. DOWNLOAD

4. Te Henga Walkway, Auckland
If you have one day to spend in Auckland, the Te Henga Walkway would be a fine use of time. Forget the city hustle on the high cliffs overlooking the turbulent Tasman waging war with dramatic West Coast headlands. Hot, hilly, and exposed, this track shines on rainy days, when the weather better matches the wild landscape. DOWNLOAD


Climbing Duke's Nose. Photo: Matthew Cattin

5. Kaiaraara Rock/Duke’s Nose, Whangaroa Harbour

This half-day adventure is hugely rewarding, yet often overlooked. From above, the Whangaroa Harbour resembles Thailand’s dramatic coasts, with sheer slabs of rock and still waters reflecting impenetrable bush. The final ascent to the summit of Kaiaraara Rock is more of a climb than a tramp, but to stand upon the monolithic slab is to take in one of the best views in Northland. DOWNLOAD.

6. Te Paki Coastal Track, Northland

A frontrunner for the next Great Walk on the North Island, Te Paki Coastal Track takes in the best of Northland’s rugged tip. Though the headlands are steep, a swim is never far away at your pick of several isolated white-sand beaches. It’s a highly significant area for Māori, so, to enhance your trip, be sure to research local history before embarking. DOWNLOAD

On the Mangawhai Cliffs Walkway. Photo: Matthew Cattin

6. Mangawhai Cliffs Walkway, Mangawhai

A North Island highlight of the Te Araroa Trail, the Mangawhai Cliffs Walkway delivers a taste of the tropics to Auckland’s doorstep. High above the paperwhite sands and turquoise tides, the track weaves through towering nīkau and pohutukawa groves to a pebble beach. Return via a coastal track at low tide.

7. Tiritiri Matangi Island, Hauraki Gulf

Volunteers and DOC rangers have transformed this one-time farm into an important nature sanctuary. Take a ferry from Auckland or Whangaparāoa, and spend a day wandering the island’s forests, looking out for tieke, kākāriki, hihi and takahē. DOWNLOAD