Insider’s guide to Waitakere Ranges
The Waitakere Ranges are a popular destination for visitors and Aucklanders on a day tour alike. This beautiful, scenic area is the result of volcanic activity millions of years ago, and these days is well worth the short 40-minute drive for a tour of the Waitakeres.
Much of the 16,000 hectares of the Waitakere Ranges Regional Park is covered in rainforest.
The kauri tree is one of New Zealand’s most well known species, and it is dotted throughout the Waitakeres, making it important for visitors to follow proper practices to help avoid Kauri die back. You will also find rimu, puriri, kowhai, taka, kahikatea, nikau trees and many others throughout the area.
Plus, you will find plenty of rata in the Waitakeres, which is a cousin of the famous pohutukawa tree.
Due to the region’s fascinating ancient history as a lively volcanic area, the Waitakere Ranges offers up some incredible geology. The area as it is now is heavily eroded after millennia of wear, but you can still see much of the history within the landscape.
The ranges themselves are just the eastern slopes of what was once a massive volcano that rose from the sea and was five to six times the size of Tongariro, Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe put together. About five million years ago, the Tasman Sea eroded the remnants of the main volcano, after which further movements pushed the ranges out of the sea.
Flora and Fauna
The ferns of the Waitakere Ranges are abundant, making for something of a paradise of fern fans with their large varieties and thriving populations throughout the national park. Species such as the mamaku (the black tree fern), the iconic ponga (the silver fern) and the wheki are all common here, as well as a number of small tree ferns.
One of the most interesting members of the Waitakere Ranges rainforest is the Hebe Bishopiana plant. This species is only found in the Waitakere Ranges where it grows on rocky sites (which is where its common name, the Waitakere Rock Koromiko, comes from).
If you venture around the eastern and northern sides of the ranges, you may come across fossil-bearing sedimentary rocks. Ancient fossils have been found here such as marine snails, corals and shells.
And underneath it all is a vast and expansive collection of mosses and fungi, all of which are able to thrive in such a rich environment.
The coastal areas of the Waitakere Ranges are mostly known for their fantastic beaches.
Piha and Muriwai beaches are exception surf spots, and they both share the incredible black sand as Bethells Beach, which is a by-product of the old volcanic activity in the area.
Muriwai is also home to approximately 1,200 pairs of gannets that base their colony around the cliff tops of the beach between August and March every year when they return from Australia to breed.
The coastline is interlaced with countless walking tracks where you can take in the sights including the stunning rainforests, fascinating geological history, rich flora and rugged cliffs and beaches.
Tristan Cullen - Passionate Conservationist