One of the best walks I’ve done relatively close to Auckland, the Hakarimata Walkway is an absolute gem close to Huntly. Huntly is somewhere that most people drive through on their way south from Auckland to Hamilton and beyond, but I found it well worth a day spent exploring.
I walked the northern section of the Hakarimata Walkway from Parker Road to the summit view tower, ~13km return through some wonderful native bush. The car park was near empty at 8am on a Sunday, but surprisingly was nearly as empty when I returned mid-afternoon. It seems that almost everyone walks the much shorter, 2km, 1,349 step, summit track from Brownlee Avenue. It may be faster but I much preferred having the track to myself (saw one family on the track all day) and navigating a narrow rooty track than a stairmaster challenge…
DOC have done a great job installing robust cleaning stations at the start of the track, critical to preventing the spread of Kauri dieback disease. The Kauri Loop Track demonstrates why is so important to protect these incredible trees, with the seven metre wide Hakarimata Kauri a thousand year old example.
Nearby is a grove of younger Kauri reaching toward the light.
Due to thick fog / low cloud (quite common in the Waikato) there wasn’t much to see from either the lower or upper lookouts.
There weren’t any views walking along the twisty, undulating track but the bush was endlessly fascinating with plenty of variety along the way.
I reached the 374m high summit and viewing tower by noon for a welcome lunch stop. Below the Waikato was covered in cloud, with a few of the larger hills and mountains peaking out of the whiteness. It reminded me of an amazing day walk along the Kepler Track a year ago, though without the snow capped mountains.
The cloud didn’t appear to be clearing fast so after lunch I returned the way I came to find much the same non-view from the upper lookout, but when I reached the lower lookout my jaw nearly dropped. Below was a stunning panorama of Huntly (and it’s sizable power station) and the Waikato River, basking in wonderful light and a few low clouds.
Above the clouds on a hill was the aptly named Hillside Hotel Hamilton.
Below a lengthy train was making it’s way slowly toward Huntly.
There was more impressive bush on the way back to the car park, passing by huge Nikau, the only palms native to New Zealand.
From the summit I’d seen a couple of lakes behind Huntly. The weather was glorious (sunny, warm for a week before winter, with no wind) and they were only ten minutes drive from Parker Road so I headed first to Lake Puketirini. This is a man-made lake developed from a disused coal mine pit, probably related to the coal fueled Huntly Power Station across the water.
Across a railway line Lake Waahi stretches for over 500 hectares but is no more than 5m deep. With no wind and some sunshine it was quite stunning.
Before heading back north to Auckland I stopped by the Waikato River as the sun started to set behind the mighty (if hugely polluting) Huntly Power Station.