Fall is right around the corner here in Michigan… which means New Zealand is heading into spring! James and I are planning our next trip to NZ and it’s got us thinking about our favorite hikes. James lived in Auckland most of his life, and I lived there for 4 years while at Uni. There were many weekends when we couldn’t manage a weekend away to Rotorua or elsewhere, but needed to bust out of the city and into the the outdoors – going on a hike was typically the answer.
The Hillary Trail through the Waitakere Ranges was our favorite hiking trail in Auckland. According to the Auckland Council, the full Hillary Trail is about 77kms and would take about 4-6-days to complete. Here’s a map from Auckland Council of the full trail, and their site also has information about accommodation and safety if tackling the full Trail.
James and I have never done the full route, though it’s on our bucket list, we have done pieces of it. We’re not professionals. So maybe you don’t have 4-6 days to set aside, but you’re looking for a good day-hike. Here are three day (or few hour) hikes, which are pieces of this beautiful trail.
These are not official starts or legs of the trail. Please hike at your own risk. The trail is posted with small plaques of Sir Edmond Hillary to keep you heading in the right direction. Always have plenty of water and clothing layers – NZ weather changes fast! Take a map, and remember, Kiwis are the friendliest people I know, so when in doubt, ask a local!
1. Mercer Bay, near Piha and Karekare
This leg is near Piha. Off Piha Road, look for Karekare Road. Next, look for Watchmans Road, which will lead you to a small carpark. The trail starts here and it will take you towards the coast. We walked North up the coast. The trail starts in the bush and takes you up, up, and up – teasing you with glimpses of the ocean through the bushes and trees. Until finally, you get your first glimpse of the breath-takingly rugged coast.
Jaw dropping! This was my friend Lindsay’s first glimpse….
And my sister Allie and her finance’s first glimpse….
Literally their jaws are dropped. I mean, cliffs, windswept bush and ocean. It’s a triple threat.
Along this trail is the Mercer Bay Loop Track which is not part of the Hillary Trail but takes you down to a bay with black sand and caves. It’s a steep climb not for the faint of heart, but it’s seriously one of our favorites! There’s a reason we take our visitors to NZ here!
The track is steep, and zigzags down the cliff. At times you’ll be on all fours, scrambling over rocks or using a rope to lower yourself down. (James always tests the rope to make sure it’s secure.) This trail is definitely best when it’s dry. We’ve done this in the rain and getting up and down was difficult, and not to mention scary at times. At one point, I think James tied a rope around my waist just in case I slipped… (don’t tell my mother).
Once you’re down, the black sand is beautiful and there are caves to explore when the tide is low. Getting back up the track is surprisingly easier than coming down.
Now, this is an unmarked and unofficial trail, so hike at your own risk. You can read more about this loop, safety and whereabouts here.
2. North end of Piha
This leg is north of Piha Beach. We drove down to the north end of the beach and there are trails leading you up into the hills from there towards the Te Waha Point Lookout. From the carpark, you can find the Marawhara Track which initially goes away from the beach and is basically a ton of steps. I mean, a ton. It seems to go up forever. The beautiful view from the lookout was worth it.
Once we got there, we noticed how many people were up there! People that we didn’t see on our hike! We realized you can get to the same lookout point from a much shorter (and easier) track starting from the north end of the beach. If we were to do it again, we’d go with the beach route.
3. Muriwai – Te Henga Walkway
We drove south of Muriwai down the Oaia Road. Drive down Constable Ride and you’ll find the Te Henga Walkway. The first part of this track takes you down a huge flight of stairs. Never. ending. stairs. And you’ll have to come back up at the end of the hike.
Then you’ll walk through rolling farm land, maybe even hope a few fences, and head towards the cliffs, which offer awesome views of the ocean. But be careful, there’s no fencing or railing and parts of the track are quite narrow.
We did this on a sunny day and loved it. The vegetation seems so tropical. This is not a loop track and it doesn’t go down to the beach (as far as we know, maybe it does later on the track). We walked north for several hours, had lunch overlooking the ocean and walked back.. The grand finale was that crazy stair case (HELLO quads!)
You can read more about finding this track and the variations in route here.
Well that’s it! Those are our favorite Auckland hiking spots! We’re headed back to NZ in a few months and if we have details and pictures to add, we’ll be sure to share them.
If you find yourself in Auckland wanting to get away from the city smoke, grab your hiking boots and head west.