Omana Regional Park occupies the promontory separating Beachlands from Maraetai. Photo/Getty Images
In the latest episode of this short series, Peter Dragicevich explores the best options for extending summer, with a guide to outdoor activities in the seven regional parks in East and South East Auckland.
Omana Regional Park occupies the promontory separating Beachlands from Maraetai. It takes about 45 minutes to get there from the CBD and the instant reward is a sublime view of the Hauraki Gulf islands, with the city skyline appearing in the distance. There is a nice beach but, if you’re after a swim, it’s best to time your visit for high tide or you’ll crash into the mud halfway to Waiheke. The 2.5km perimeter track skirts the well-defined trenches of a cliffside Ngāi Tai pā before plunging into the native bushland lining the mangroves of Te Puru Creek.
The next park is a 10 minute drive across Maraetai, but if you’re coming from the city it’s usually quicker to exit the southern highway at Manurewa and drive through Clevedon. It’s also a much nicer route, avoiding the suburbs a few minutes from the off-ramp. Duder Regional Park occupies a gun-shaped peninsula aiming at Pōnui Island. At its barrel end is another Ngāi Tai pā, with a trench separating the terraced fortress from the mainland. In its heyday, it must have been a terrific sight. These days, Duder is a peaceful place for a picnic, with access to beaches for swimming at high tide.
Although it covers the next headland to the east, you will need to backtrack through Clevedon to reach Waitawa Regional Park – and indeed all of the remaining parks. If you come directly from the city, allow 45 minutes. This cape includes three smaller peninsulas, each capped by a pā site. It’s popular for family swimming, sea kayaking, mountain biking, and horseback riding, and the dock usually has more than a few souls staring wistfully at their fishing lines.
If you continue east along the coast, you will quickly pass through the seaside village of Kawakawa Bay. The main road to the Firth of Thames runs inland here, but if you continue along the coastal road for 4km you will come to Tawhitokino Regional Park, literally at the end of the road. Facing the sea on the crest of the Firth, this park’s main highlight is its secluded white sand beach, backed by regenerating native bush.
Return to Kawakawa Bay where the Miranda road crosses hills for 10 km before reaching the turnoff to Ōrere Point, 3 km down the road. I’d bet only a tiny percentage of Aucklanders have heard of, let alone visited, this secluded seaside settlement and yet it’s home to around 350 people and the smallest of the city’s regional parks. There’s no parking or even much signage, but a 10-minute track at the end of Howard Rd leads through native bush to a boat launch and beach with a swimming pontoon. Keep an eye on weka.
The last of the Coastal Parks is just 3km past the exit from Ōrere Point and it is a real beauty. The remote Tāpapakanga Regional Park gazes out over the Coromandel Peninsula from a pebble beach. Nowadays it is probably best known as the site of the Splore festival, but the ancient stone garden mounds and the remains of a pā bear witness to a long history of occupation. There is also a pretty late Victorian cottage which once served as a farmhouse, one-room schoolhouse and post office.
Of course, we let the biggest and best known natural gem last. The Hunua Ranges are the largest tract of native forest in Auckland, covering 250 square kilometres, around 70% of which is included in the Hunua Ranges Regional Park. A visit can be as simple as the popular five-minute walk to Hunua Falls, or you can spend an entire day hiking, horseback riding, or mountain biking.
It’s amazing to think that such wilderness is within a 45 minute drive of the Sky Tower, but Auckland truly is blessed with an abundance of natural beauty on its doorstep – with its network of regional parks offering a public access to the best of it.
For more travel inspiration, visit newzealand.com/nz.
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