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Tāwharanui Regional Park circuit, Auckland

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September 2023 Issue

Enjoy the bush and birdlife that thrive inside the predator-proof fence on this walk. By Diana Ward

The walk starts from a parking bay through the predator-proof fence. The track then crosses a wetland and heads straight up the hill to follow the South Coast Track, which is marked by white posts.

As you climb, it’s worth gazing back towards the wetland and Jones Bay. Māori – Ngāti Raupō, a hapū of Te Kawerau – lived here for 800 years. In those times you might have seen the people fishing or gathering shellfish, tending kūmara in the sandy soil which was ideal for its cultivation, or collecting wood and thatching material from forest and wetland. From 1870 the land was slowly converted to farmland by colonial settlers, and the trees were logged by the Martin, Jones and Young families. It would have been noisy and full of activity as bullocks dragged pit-sawn timber onto cutters. Shingle was quarried from the beach and an area that would become the lagoon. In 1973 the 588ha of land was purchased for a regional park. It is now a mix of farmland, regenerating forest and wetland, and sandy and rocky bays.

The South Coast Track runs high above the cliffs. Kawau Island is so close you can almost count the windows on the houses. On a clear day you can see Aotea / Great Barrier, Hauturu-o-Toi / Little Barrier and the Coromandel Peninsula. Spin around for views of Omaha, Leigh and Cape Rodney.

After 4km the track briefly joins Fishermans Track (orange/white posts). This runs alongside the main forested area where takahē, tīeke, korimako, tūī and kererū can be found. These birds have proliferated since the 2.5km predator-proof fence was built in 2004. Five minutes further on is the option of taking a short path to Māori Bay.

Continue along South Coast Track to the signposts that mark the start of the North Coast Track and Tokatū Loop Track (adds an hour return). There are good views at the point when you leave the bush. There are also spectacular views from the trig a few metres along the North Coast Track.

At 6km there is a kauri dieback boot-cleaning station where the popular Ecology Trail emerges from the forest and descends to the coast. Follow the yellow posts on your right to the bay below and cross the rocks to Anchor Bay where you may see dotterels in the dunes. The Sanctuary Hut, with detailed information on the park, is well worth a stop.

Follow a gravel path to the main beach and the West End Track (blue posts), which crosses the sand for about 2km. Look for the big yellow triangle that marks the boundary of the marine reserve and head towards it. Walk over the dunes and turn right up the gravel road towards the predator-proof fence, then exit and walk uphill along the fence. It’s worth wading through the kikuyu for views at the top. Continue until you reach the gates back into the sanctuary. This view, of almost the entire park, is among the best.

Turn right onto the Mangatāwhiri Track (purple posts) that winds through bush to the wetland area. Add in Thompson Loop where there are mallards, paradise shelducks or the rare pāteke (brown teal), then rejoin the main Mangatāwhiri Track back to base.

Total Ascent
From Takatu Road, off Leigh Road

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