A land rebuilt
Waiheke Island tracks typically aren’t on the list of go-to walks around Auckland. But with the Te Ara Hura walk – a 100km loop around the entire island – running through multiple bush networks, there are numerous options for day and overnight trips.
The Whakanewha Regional Park at the island’s southern side is one of these networks, with the Park Walk the best way to take it all in.
While there are multiple entries to the park, the central point at the Whakanewha sculpture car park at Rocky Bay is the most convenient. A quick walk south from here is Poukaraka Flats, Waiheke’s only campground and a short loop through a historic pā site and kumara pits. However, the Park Loop (and the Te Ara Hura walk), starts at Nikau Track, across Gordons Road opposite the car park.
The surface is flat and well maintained and winds its way through the regenerating scrub. The track name quickly becomes obvious with immense groves of nikau rising out of the swampy soil. After 15 minutes, it crosses a small stream and doubles back before turning north and climbing through a forest of progressively larger and older trees.
Local activists narrowly saved the forest and wetland from developers in the 1990s and the care and upkeep of the area is evident. The steps are well-formed with distinctive orange Waiheke gravel covering the surface and making for easy going even along the steep bits. While there is kauri on the island, most trees were milled long ago and the most extensive canopy trees are now taraire and tawa.
At a junction with Tarata Track, the left direction is a continuation of the loop but a worthwhile diversion is on the right-branching track. Five minutes along is Central Track, across the other side of which is Mamuku Track. Branching off this is the Cascades Track Loop, a 10-minute loop which descends through a cavernous puriri grove before ascending alongside a series of swimming holes and the picturesque cascade waterfalls.
To continue the Park Loop, backtrack to the junction with Tarata Track and continue through the bush.
The track hugs and steadily climbs the southern side of the ridge, skirting around immense old-growth gullies and through groves of pittosporum. While the birdsong and sightings are generous in this bush with tui, pīwakawaka and kererū all abundant, my visit presented a unique spectacle with about 50 tui gathered in one rewarewa, frantically dog fighting one another.
The track continues to climb for the next hour, with views opening up to the south toward Auckland’s eastern suburbs. It then exits the bush at Carsons Road, following it to the intersection with Gordons Road, which is then crossed to reach the start of Cathedral Track. This follows a four-wheel-drive road down through manuka forest alongside groves of native saplings. After 20 minutes a slight left leads onto Dotties Lane Track which gently levels out, leading through wetland and eventually ending near the enclosed dotterel nesting ground on Rocky Bay. From here it’s just a short walk along the sand to the car park.
- Total Ascent
- Whakanewha sculpture car park at Rocky Bay
- Whakanewa Regional Park (gpx, )
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