Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrLocated just 16 miles west of central Auckland, the Waitakere Ranges is home to a striking variety of landscape, from stunning native forest to rugged black sand beaches.
HistoryThe ranges and the surrounding area were known to the indigenous Maori people as Te Wao Nui o Tiriwa (“The Great Forest of Tiriwa”). Local iwi (tribe) Te Kawerau a-Maki lived on the land between the Manukau Harbor in the south and Muriwai in the north, around 700 – 800 years ago. Te Kawerau a-Maki still holds strong spiritual ties to the land and has inherited the role of kaitiaki (guardians) from their tupuna (ancestors).
The arrival of Europeans in the 1830s led to visible change in the area, as the logging industry and farming saw native trees (including the most accessible kauri) fallen and thousands of hectares of forest destroyed. Bushmen dammed streams to float logs to the coast. They built several tramlines, including a 14km tramline down the coast from Anawhata to Whatipu, which was used to transport kauri logs to a wharf at Paratutai Island.
In 1894, a group led by Sir Algernon Thomas, the first professor of natural sciences at the University of Auckland, persuaded the Auckland City Council to preserve 3,500 acres (5.4 square miles) in the Nihotupu area of the ranges as a bush reserve.
In 1895 the national Government vested the land, and several other smaller areas of the ranges, for example, the City Council as “reserves for the conservation of native flora and fauna”. The Waitakere Ranges Regional Park now contains about 39,500 acres (62 square miles).
GeologyCliffs over 300m can be found along the western coastline of the ranges, interrupted by beaches. The rugged, upstanding topography was formed by erosion-resistant ancient volcanic conglomerate and lava flows, laid down in eruptions from the large Waitakere volcano 12-25 million years ago.
WildlifeThe ranges are covered in native forest, most of which is in the process of regeneration since extensive logging and farming in the mid to late 19th and early 20th centuries.
The ranges are home to glowworms and native long-tailed bats. Long-tailed and short-tailed bats are New Zealand’s only native land-based mammals. Kauri snails are also found in the area, as well as native Weta (a large insect resembling a grasshopper).
The ranges are home to a diverse variety of birds, such as Morepork, Kingfisher, Shining Cukoo, Tui, Kereru, and Pied Tit. At the northern end of the ranges, Otakamiro Point is the site of one of New Zealand’s few mainland gannet breeding colonies.
The “Ark in the Park” conservation initiative, a partnership between Forest and Bird and the Auckland Council, is working to reintroduce some of the species made extinct in the Cascades Kauri Park section of the ranges. Beginning in 2004, the initiative now covers 2,300 hectares (5,700 acres).
AttractionsIf you’re in the area, you can’t miss at least one of the four popular surf beaches: Piha, Muriwai, Te Henga (Bethells Beach), and Karekare. The beaches are famous for their black sand. Please take care at the beaches: the risks to swimmers can be high due to rips and large swells.
The ranges have an extensive network of bush walks and tracks, which provide panoramic views of the east and west coasts and the city. The Waitakere Ranges Regional Parkland alone is home to 250km of walking and hiking tracks.
The Hillary trail was opened in 2010, running 77km south-north from the Arataki Visitor Center to Muriwai, through the Waitakere Ranges. The trail is named in honor of the New Zealand mountaineer, Sir Edmund Hilary.
If you’re not as physically able, the car trip along Scenic Drive provides stunning views along most of the ranges from Titirangi to Swanson.
If you’re an angler, there are many opportunities for fishing on both the west coast and Manukau Harbor. Boating is also available in the Manukau Harbor. Boats can be launched at Cornwallis and Huia.
How to get thereFrom downtown Auckland there are several ways to get to the Waitakere Ranges Regional Park:
- Take Huia Road from Titirangi, to arrive at the southern region of the Waitakere Ranges, including Cornwallis, Huia and Whatipu.
- Take Scenic Drive, the road extending from Titirangi to Swanson. Turn onto Piha Road, and follow the road to Piha Beach.
- To get to Te Henga/Bethells beach, turn onto Te Henga Road from Scenic Drive. The road will join Bethells Road to lead around the northern area of the Waitakere Ranges, including the popular Cascade Kauri area, ending on the West Coast at Te Henga.
Further InfoThe Auckland Regional Council operates an information center near the Titirangi end of Scenic Drive.
Dogs are only permitted in some areas: be sure to check the signs wherever you go.
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Author: Amanda. Last updated: Mar 15, 2016