Many equate the city of Auckland with sailboats cruising along the famous waterfront. While there is no denying the city’s maritime heritage, few realize that the “City of Sails” also has bushwalks and tumbling waterfalls which are tucked away in a forested hideaway.
In the Waitakere Ranges—a string of hills which rise to 1,400 feet and stretch for 15 miles—rural hiking tracks weave their way through native wilderness and bush. Set only 30 minutes west of the downtown city center, the park offers everything from twenty-minute loops to multiday trails delving deep into the forest. Along the way, hikers will pass along numerous streams and walk beneath a canopy which teems with birdsong. Of all the trees which grow in the forest, none are more famous than the towering kauri which regularly stretches to over 100 feet in height.
The park has more than just trails, however, and the Waitakere Ranges Regional Park extends to the shoreline of Auckland’s west coast. The sunsets from here are particularly stunning, and the thundering surf crashing into the bluffs casts an eerie spray over the black sand beaches.
While public transport extends to the beaches, exploring the hills and the various hiking tracks will require the use of a personal car. Along the aptly-named Scenic Drive, visitors can stop at the Arataki Visitors Center and peruse displays which teach about the park. Or, for one of the best views of Auckland, there are numerous places along the side of the road where the view stretches eastwards and looks back at the city.
Even though Auckland is a booming metropolis which houses a quarter of New Zealand’s population, the Waitakere Ranges provide a rugged escape where the serenity of nature is only a short drive away.