An insider’s guide to Auckland's natural wonders
Even in a country known for its ‘long white cloud’ and ‘100 per cent pure’ scenery, Auckland still manages to sparkle as a precious natural jewel amongst New Zealand’s landscapes.
Where else can you find endangered wildlife, dormant volcanoes, untouched marine reserves and idyllic golden beaches all within a short drive of one another?
We’ve turned our passion for Auckland into a tour company that introduces many of the regions best assets to visitors from far and wide. Come with us to discover Auckland’s best-kept secrets.
Islands, beaches, and marine reserves
Auckland is known as the City of Sails for a reason. It is a place where land meets water in innumerable ways, and each one of them as glorious as the last.
The beaches offer diversity of black and gold sands, extensive shorelines and tiny inlets, and forest-lined shores or grassy knolls perfect for picnics. Take a look at Whatipu Beach in Manukau Harbour, Long Bay by the Hauraki Gulf, or any of those in the Waitakere Ranges. The islands of Rangitoto, Motutapu, Motuihe, and Waiheke all offer their own fantastic beaches as well.
New Zealand is home to 44 marine reserves in total, and you’ll find a few of the best of them in Auckland. Visit Goat Island, Tawharanui, or others in the Hauraki Gulf such as Te Matuku (Waiheke Island) or Motu Manawa.
Rainforests, coastal forests and wetlands
New Zealand’s rainforests, coastal forests and wetlands are unlike anything else on the planet. The Department of Conservation estimates that as much as 80 per cent of our flowering plants, ferns and trees are endemic, which means you won’t find them anywhere else in the world!
We are home to approximately 200 species of fern (about 40 per cent of which only grow in New Zealand), and our kauri and totara trees are amongst the largest in the world.
Large portions of Auckland were once wetland areas, and now there are roughly 18,000 hectares of wetlands, plus 10,000 kilometres of rivers and 30 lakes in the region. Lake Wainamu in the Waitakere Ranges is just one example.
Auckland would be a completely different place without its explosive volcanic activity that has shaped the city as we know it today. There have been 48 active volcanoes in the city’s past, all of which lie dormant today, and many of which can be visited on day tours from Auckland.
Rangitoto is arguably the most iconic as it sits majestically on the skyline of the Auckland Harbour, and it is the youngest as well, having erupted just 600 years ago.
Mt Eden is another famous volcano, and is also the tallest, reaching 196 metres to pierce the suburban Auckland skyline. Then there are the Waitakere Ranges, which were formed from volcanic activity 15 to 22 million years ago!
The Waitakere Ranges, Tawharanui and walking tracks
Two of Auckland’s finest locations (and the two where we take our visitors) are both only a short drive away from the city centre.
The Waitakere Ranges are the result of volcanic activity millions of years ago, and now are covered with 16,000 hectares of rainforest with exceptional coastlines and wildlife. Tawharanui is a much smaller - but stunning - 588 hectares of New Zealand’s best scenery with an open sanctuary on the peninsula and a marine reserve on the coast.
Both of these spots include the choicest walking tracks around Auckland. There are roughly 250 kilometres of walking tracks around the Waitakeres, and a good selection of tracks at Tawharanui for stunning coastal views and wildlife.
There are many things that make New Zealand special, but our wildlife is a chief among them. We are a place where international scientists come to research our fantastic species, and we are a place where our wildlife is fascinating, stunning, and often rare.
The kiwi is the most iconic in the country, but we are also home to the rare stitchbird, the kereru, 70 species of weta and two species of bats that are New Zealand’s only endemic mammals.
We’ve also got an array of native species that are very special to us, and can often be seen on our forays into nature.
Habitat Tours operates small-group trips out to Tawharanui and the Waitakere Ranges so you can get up close to these incredible attractions. Our guides are extremely knowledgeable and make the entire experience easy, fun, interesting, and most importantly – unforgettable!
Tristan Cullen - Passionate Conservationist