A 20km return walk through native bush, crossing rock shelves and sandy beaches, by an often serene expanse of water. Amazingly such a thing exists only 11km from Auckland CBD. The Waikōwhai Walkway follows the Manukau Harbour foreshore from Onehunga to Lynfield Cove. On a beautiful summer’s day there was almost no one on the track. It’s a relatively unknown gem that can be done in short sections, or make a full day of it by walking it’s length and back.
There are plenty of access points along the walkway, but one end starts at Taumanu Reserve. This is probably the newest beach in New Zealand, reclaimed in 2015, on the Onehunga foreshore. While the electricity pylons may not be to everyone’s taste, I think there is something quite surreal about these metal giants marching offshore into the harbour.
A recently opened elevated boardwalk provides access to Hillsborough Bay, along which there were lovely views and the occasional fisherman.
The walkway is a great place to spot bird life, including native kererū, moreporks, tūī, grey warblers, fantails, silvereyes, wrybills, pied oyster catchers and kingfishers, and various introduced species.
Continuing along to Wesley Bay was where the bush really starts. Along the walkway there are over 200 indigenous plant species, in original and regenerating bush. Test your flora knowledge spotting kauri, mataī, tōtara, rimu, pūriri, kahikatea and rewarewa in the canopy, and kōwhai, kohekohe, mamaku, ponga, nīkau and tī kōuka underneath. I’m no expert but even I can spot the Pōhutukawa on the slopes above the shore.
Along Waikowhai Bay I spotted an unexpected sight. Turned out that this car had been abandoned, though was slightly confused how they’d managed to drive it there in the first place.
My favourite sections are the views from Cape Horn and around Wattle Bay, where you feel much further away than 20 minutes drive from Auckland CBD. There’s huge variety along the walkway, with some fascinating rock formations by the shore, a mixture of beaches and mud flats, plenty of bush, and the odd park and suburban street to pass through.
There is formed track the length of the walkway, but it’s best experienced walking along the foreshore, though watch the tides. A number of sections of the foreshore can only be walked within two hours of low tide. There are a few steep parts, generally with steps, but the track is a relatively easy walk, particularly if you follow the foreshore. At Wattle Bay I decided to take a short cut across the mud flats. It was quite muddy!
In the Manukau Domain is this rather well situated Opened Stone sculpture by Japanese artist Hiroaki Ueda, and further on more views.
The track ends (or starts) at Lynfield Cove, where there is a well placed bench, and above are some fancy houses.
There are long term plans to extend the walkway out to Whatipū at the mouth of the Manukau, which would be quite incredible, joining up the Hillary Trail and Coast to Coast walk, from the CBD to the West Coast!