Waitakere Ranges and the National Park are on the west coast of Auckland, 25 kilometers from the city. This is an area of 16,000 hectares of the rainforest with hundreds of species of wildlife, a rugged coastline, black sandy beaches, foaming waterfalls, and huge trees, the famous Kauri or the Agathis Australis that rises sharply into the sky. There are stunning waterfalls like Karekare, Fairy Falls, and Kitekite. Also, see the huge Upper Huia Reservoir and the Lower Huia Reservoir.
The Waitakere Ranges Park has over 250 kilometers of walking trails. You can hike through the forest to explore and enjoy the natural beauty. Choose from trails offering different levels of challenge. The Hillary Trail is particularly challenging. There are many short walks too that will take you deeper into the forest. You will find several campsites where you can stay for a night.
Wildlife at the Waitakere Ranges Park includes long-tailed bats, giant kauri snails, Hochstetter’s frogs, and glowworms, many of which are rare and unique. Once you cross the forest and reach the sea, see the impressive Lion Rock at Piha, which is a small settlement with a few places to stay including a campsite, restaurants, cafes, and a surfing school. Also, visit the Tasman Lookout at Piha for panoramic views.
Waitakere Ranges Park – Quick Facts
|Waitakere Ranges||Nature park with tall Kauri trees, waterfalls, rugged coastline, beaches, nature trails, and wildlife|
|Area||16,000 hectares or 160 square kilometers|
|Walking Trails||250 kilometers|
|Wildlife||Long-tailed bats, giant kauri snails, Hochstetter’s frogs, glowworms, gannets, velvet worms with 14 legs.|
|Waterfalls||Karekare, Fairy Falls, Kitekite, Mokoroa|
|Beaches||Piha, Muriwai, Bethells, Karekare|
The name Waitakere in native Maori language means cascading waters, after the scenic waterfalls in the area.
Must-Sees At Waitakere
Arataki Visitor Center: This is the best place to start your Waitakere adventures. The visitor center has a host of information, photographs, and displays to help you on the Arataki Nature Trail. The viewing decks of the Maori drawing-covered building give you awesome views of the surrounding landscape.
The Fairy Falls: The track starts 5 kilometers from the Visitor Center. It starts as a forest walk till you reach the stream. From there a boardwalk and stairs take you to the top. You can see the waterfall every step of the way.
Karekare Falls: This waterfall literally cascades down towards the beach. Follow the falls on a hike down. You have to climb black sand dunes to reach the beach. The area is well signposted, so you will not miss the falls. Also, visit the nearby Jamali’s Cave.
Piha Beach: Wide black sandy beach popular with surfers. The waves here are powerful. Lion Rock at the mouth of the Piha Stream. There is a surfing school, bowling club, a few restaurants, cafes, and places to stay.
Bethells Beach: A small beach with a headland. The sandbanks form wide streams that can get quite deep during high tide. Walk on the cliffs around the beach for good views.
Kitekite Falls – The most impressive waterfall at Waitakere. Set between lush forested hills, it is just before the town of Piha. There is a small swimming hole at the base and a campsite beside the waterfall.
Check out our Top 10 Places to Visit in Auckland here.
Top 5 Nature Trails
1. Mercer Bay Loop – This track offers the most dramatic views. In this 2.7 kilometer trail, you will be walking high above the coast, which will provide good views of the ocean. It starts flat and goes downhill. However, after passing a few viewpoints, you have to go uphill as the track goes back to the starting point.
2. Karekare Falls Walk – Drive down to the Karekare region. There is a parking space here. It’s a 5 to 10-minute trek to this beautiful waterfall from here.
3. Kitekite Falls Walk – Kitekite is a spectacular waterfall, so this walk is certainly worth it. The walk from the parking lot will take about 30 to 45 minutes, and it goes through the lush green forest. There is a small pool at the bottom of the waterfall where you can swim. This is a very relaxing place.
4. Tasman Lookout Walk – The Tasman Lookout is at the far end of Piha Beach. It’s a pleasant almost flat walk to the lookout point from where you will get a good bird’s view of the beach, Lion Rock, Taitomo Island, and the small town of Piha below.
5. Arataki Nature Trail – This walk begins from the Arataki Visitor Center. Cross a short tunnel to reach a series of loopy tracks. A few of these loops are steep. See the beautiful kauri trees groves once you reach the top. This nature trail should take you about 45 minutes.
Visit Wikipedia for more information on the Waitakere Ranges.