Insider’s guide to Tawharanui
The Tawharanui Peninsula is just one hour’s drive from Auckland city, and is undoubtedly one of the most stunning jewels in the region’s bright crown.
With the mainland decorated with coastal forests and white-sand beaches and the marine reserve brimming with incredible sealife, this area is a must-visit for locals and foreigners alike.
The mainland island
On the mainland, Tawharanui is a regional park. However, it’s also a very special place because it’s the first in New Zealand that combines its open sanctuary with conservation, farming and recreation.
In total, Tawharanui is 588 hectares, and it is a place where people can come to enjoy the parkland through camping, hiking, birding, and other outdoor pursuits.
The open sanctuary here was created in 2002, and two years later, a 2.5 kilometre fence was built across the peninsula to cut off the entire area. The sanctuary now operates free from pests, and is a place where species such as kiwi, kaka, takehe, bellbirds and whiteheads can live and breed in peace.
The marine reserve
The Tawharanui marine reserve runs alongside the northern side of the park on the Takatu Peninsula, and is one of many in the Hauraki Gulf. The area has not been open for fishing since 1981, and it has officially been a marine reserve since 2011.
One of the most appealing features of the reserve is that it isn’t shut off to the public, so you can visit and spend time in the reserve. You can launch a boat from the nearest ramp at Omaha and take a slow (five knots max) tour of the shoreline, swim and dive around the beaches such as at Anchor Bay, or explore the rockpools at the reserve’s edge.
Wildlife in Tawharanui
With the help of the marine reserve and the open sanctuary, the wildlife at Tawharanui offers a great variety of incredible land and ocean species.
On land, the wildlife is abundant. Without pests, species such as the bellbird thrive in this area, and others have been re-introduced such as the rare takehe. You might see the morepork (also known as the boobook or the ruru), or even the highly recognisable weta. There are also whiteheads, pateke, and the North Island brown kiwi and robin. The Auckland green gecko and forest gecko have both also been re-introduced to the area since the predator fence was built.
As many as 50 different fish species have been recorded in the Tawharanui marine reserve. Plus, both orcas and bottle-nosed dolphins are known to frequent the area, and there is a large population of lobster living here, too.
Trees in Tawharanui
The plantlife in Tawharanui is full of iconic New Zealand trees. There are beautiful pohutukawa trees dotted around the peninsula, as well as kauri and rimu trees growing on the ridges. You will also find species such as nikau, tawa, rewarewa, puriri and taraire throughout the coastal forestland of Tawharanui.
Farming in Tawharanui
You can also view a real working farm at Tawharanui, with grazing sheep and cattle on site. Walking tracks and areas allow visitors to get up close and personal with the animals, although they are asked to stay out of restricted areas and leave gates as they found them.
Tawharanui is a fantastic attraction and a point of pride not just for Aucklanders, but for New Zealand as a whole.
Insiders’ guide to walks and trekking
Auckland is a walker’s dream. With endless hiking tracks within a few hours of the city in all directions, the hardest part is choosing which one to tackle first.
From volcanic terrain to lush forestland and sandy coastal tracks, walking is one of the best ways to enjoy Auckland sightseeing, and even has plenty to offer for those involved in birding as well.
Here are a handful of unforgettable walking tracks you can enjoy on day tours from Auckland.
The Waitakere Ranges are situated about 40 minutes to the west of Auckland, making for a quick escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. As such, this is one of the most visited Auckland tourist attractions.
All together, there are more than 16,000 hectares of wild coastline and native forestland to discover and explore at this regional park. Woven amongst the area is roughly 250 kilometres of hiking trails, all decorated with spectacular waterfalls, cliffs, beaches, and vistas.
There are short one and two hour walks, as well as the famous four-day Hillary Trail for serious trampers, and everything in between. Some of the most popular sites are the waterfalls, such as Fairy Falls, KiteKite Falls and KareKare Falls. Plus, the beaches are famous in their own right, such as Piha Beach, which is especially well-known for its temperamental surf.
Tawharanui Regional Park is known for its wetlands, white beaches, softly undulating hills and native coastal forest – and in and amongst all that, its walking tracks. The park is located about an hour north of Auckland on the east coast by Warkworth on a small peninsula outcropping from the mainland.
The Tawharanui Ecology Trail is a popular spot for eco tours, as this 4 kilometre (return) walk is very quick and easy, taking between one and two hours, and includes some of New Zealand’s most iconic and important scenes. It’s one of the country’s best bird watching tours as it’s rich in birdlife such as the New Zealand Dotterel, the kaka and the rare brown teal.
Another fantastic walk is the Tawharanui Ridge Walk, which is a longer trek at 10 kilometres that offers picturesque views of Whangaparoa Bay. It will take you roughly four hours to complete this round trip as you traverse over high rocky cliffs and gorgeous grassy farm tracks.
Much of Auckland’s landscape is built on dormant volcanoes, which makes for a variety of incredible walking tracks.
Rangitoto is the newest volcano in the area, having erupted just 600 years ago. You can take a quick 25-minute ferry ride to this island volcano from downtown Auckland any day of the week. Once there, you can walk one hour from the ferry wharf to the summit at 259 metres above sea level, or you can visit the Lava Caves Track or the Wilson Park Track for longer routes around the island.
Mt Eden is a centrally located volcano, and the highest in the city, making for a quick and challenging steep hike. There are four walks around its sides and summit, each taking approximately just 40 minutes and offering fantastic views of the city.
Tristan Cullen - Passionate Conservationist