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Omanawanui Track, Waitakere Ranges Regional Park

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August 2021 Issue

The Omanawanui Track on Auckland’s west coast may be the most impressive tramp in the Waitakere Ranges.

At the southernmost point of the Waitakere Ranges, Whatipu stands guard over the entrance to Manukau Harbour. With vast black sand dunes, a sizable wetland, impressive caves and staggering headlands, it’s about as rugged and isolated as it gets in Auckland.

Until recently, the kauri dieback rahui had closed the track. Thankfully, Auckland Council has redeveloped the trail to include boardwalks and better drainage to make it less muddy and it is now open again.

From the car park at Whatipu, the track begins unambiguously, aiming first towards the beach, before hairpinning to the left with no clear signage. A kauri dieback station marks the beginning of a decent climb, so take your time scrubbing those boots – it will be the last breather you get for a while.

The fresh gravel track is astoundingly dry, even after rain. Since kauri dieback, this is now typical of many west coast tracks, as wet soil is a key component in the spread of the disease. The trail winds its way ever upwards, burrowing through tunnels of mānuka, harakeke, kawakawa and, unfortunately, gorse, populated with tauhou/silvereye, kererū and tūī. 

Perhaps due to high winds, large trees are a rarity here, which means minimal interruption to the views that just keep getting better. The junction to Signal House Track is reached in 15-20 minutes, and the short detour undulates to a steep headland overlooking Paratutae Island and the textured wetlands tucked in behind the foreshore.

From here, relentless stairs climb to just shy of 200m, where the view opens out magnificently to South Head across the harbour. Looking north-east from this vantage, Pt241 dominates the imagination, its silhouette resembling a Kiwi iteration of Yosemite’s Half Dome. 

A brief but spectacular descent follows to the flattest section of the route. Here, the new track construction is divine. A raised boardwalk winds through thick mānuka, its edges railed off by a looping rope. The nostalgic design reminds me of a playground, and it evokes a similar sense of adventure and joy, even in adults. I can’t speak on what the track used to be like, but the upgrades get top marks for style and walker accessibility.

The final push to the trig at Pt241 ramps up the steepness, with around 120m of ascent over very little horizontal distance. Any pause for a breather, however, will be rewarded with gorgeous views looking over your shoulder.

Admittedly, after such an impressive walk, the trig station platform feels slightly anticlimactic, but, on a quiet day, it’s a wonderful spot to sit and enjoy the sounds of birdlife echoing through the gully and surf pounding below. 

To the north-east, the track continues to undulate before meeting with Puriri Ridge Track, where the fit can link with Karamatura Track and walk all the way to Huia. Otherwise, return to the car park on the same track, whilst enjoying the fresh perspective.

Total Ascent
Whatipu Road end car park or small car park at the upper track end

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Omanawanui Track (gpx, 4 KB)

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