Do you already know the Waitakere Ranges in New Zealand? This special nature reserve just outside Auckland is a wonderful stop before you really start your road trip. I visited the Waitakere Ranges several times and in this article you will find my travel report from 2018, including tips for your visit to both the Waitakere Ranges and Piha Beach. At the bottom of the blog you will find some useful tips if you want to go on a road trip yourself. Enjoy reading!
This blog first appeared in 2018 and was updated in 2023
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Off to the Waitakere Ranges
Before I went to New Zealand I had not really arranged much, just my first week in Auckland and the mountain huts for the Routeburn Track. As I expected to need quite a bit of time to buy a car in Auckland, I figured I’d stay there for six nights. However, it took me less time than expected and so I decided to open up my Lonely Planet guidebook and found some things to see around Auckland. A roadtrip to the Waitakere Ranges seemed like the perfect day out.
The Waitakere Ranges Regional Park is located just a 40 minute drive away from central Auckland. This is quite amazing since Auckland isn’t exactly a small city yet you can be in the outdoors within no-time. Within no-time if you’re not driving a manual car on the left hand side by yourself for the first time in your life, that is. While trying to find my way through the city, the gas indicator notified me I was running low on petrol and as I had no idea where I was, I had a small panic attack. Luckily Google Maps soon helped me out and minutes later and with a tank full of gas and a latte in my hand, I took off for the Waitakere Ranges and Piha Beach.
A visit to Piha Beach
As I wasn’t too early, I decided to make two stops during the day: Piha Beach and Arataki, the Waitakere Ranges visitors centre. I started my roadtrip while it was raining in Auckland, but by the time I made it to the ocean, most of the clouds had disappeared and the sun had started to shine. Soon after leaving the city the road changed into a windy way eventually leading me all the way down to Piha, a small town located on the oceanside. As it was December 31st many people took a day off and went to the beach, so it was a little crowded.
On the beach there were mostly surfers as Piha is a true surfers paradise. I spent a few hours on the iron-sand beach, wandered through the sand, enjoyed the sun and took pictures of the rugged coastline. In Piha town there wasn’t that much to do and so I stepped back into my car in the early afternoon and took off for the Auckland-side of the Waitakere Ranges: the Arataki visitor’s centre.
My visit to Arataki
The Arataki section of the Waitakere Ranges is covered by an amazing green and pristine bush. The amazing Kauri trees can be found here, yet they are rapidly being killed by the spreading Kauri dieback disease. Therefor always make sure to clean your shoes when entering on of the many hiking trails. The park has over 250 kilometers of hiking trails, however some of them closed due to the Kauri dieback.
I started my visit to Arataki with a short stroll along some boardwalks and viewpoints of the area. The views of the bay and Auckland in the far distance are simply stunning. Then I quickly went into the visitors center for some information and hiking maps and I had a picknick on one of the tables provided. New Zealand takes excellent care of their visitors and I just love the fact that there are picknick tables everywhere.
A walk in the Waitakere Ranges
While eating a peanut butter sandwich I decided to hike to most popular Waitakere Ranges hiking trail: the 1.6 kilometer Arataki Nature Trail. The path is quite easy and wide and so it can easily be done by anyone. The trail led me through an ancient forest, showing me all kinds of ferns (this is also where I got the idea to have a fern tattooed on my forearm) and of course I saw some giant kauri trees. Some of them take 800 years to complete growing, which I think is pretty amazing. After about an hour on the trail I made it back to the car and slowly started making my way back into the city of Auckland, where I watched the fireworks on the Skytower for New Years Eve that same evening.
From Arataki it wasn’t too far back into the city and so this makes a great day trip from Auckland. If you are lucky enough to spend some time in this city, definitely consider to visit the Waitakere Ranges and Piha Beach.
In case you got curious about the Waitakere Ranges and its beaches and trees, check out the short video that I made of my visit.
Tips for your visit to the Waitakere Ranges
- Unfortunately, the Waitakere Ranges are not accessible by public transport.
- Don’t have your own car? Don’t worry, you can join an organized excursion from Auckland.
- Take plenty of food and drinks with you, there is little available along the way.
- In 2023 there have been several natural disasters west of Auckland, so not all sights in the Waitakere Ranges may be visitable and/or not all hiking trails may be open.
- Another nice thing to do from Auckland is a visit to Rangitoto Island.
Conclusion and disclaimer
I hope you enjoyed reading about my experience visiting the Waitakere Ranges and Piha Beach. In case you have any questions, feel free to drop them below.
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