Five Auckland regional parks on your doorstep

A short drive from Auckland city are five regional parks to get away from it all, writes Sally Blyth

Auckland Council manages 27 regional parks, each one a special natural playground to be explored and enjoyed by all. Here are just a few to add to your summer must-visit list

Scandrett Regional Park – pioneers' haven

1 hour 20 minutes north of Auckland

Situated on Mahurangi East Peninsula, protruding into Kawau Bay, this small park feels a million miles from the city yet is just 3km beyond Algies Bay.

The pioneering Scandrett family set up life on this historic farm in 1863; generations enjoyed the beautiful bay, fresh seafood and lush farmland for more than a century until Auckland Council purchased the land in 1998. A stone’s throw from the water’s edge, the old homestead (built circa 1885) and associated barns have been restored.

Pōhutukawa limbs hang low over the cove and a walk around the rocks offers a different perspective of the landscape. Best at mid to high tide, it’s ideal for swimming, kayaking, fishing and picnicking. There are several walking trails including a short track down to Martins Bay.

The clean and accessible public toilets fit seamlessly into their surroundings. Three waterfront baches can be rented from Auckland Council – Coldham, Graham and Moonlight, the latter named after Geoff Moon and Charles Light who built it in the late 1940s when the Scandrett family leased some of their land. Modern yet basic, they’re an ideal place to laze the days away, with paradise outside the door and tangible memories of yesteryear.

TāwharanuiRegional Park – sanctuary on the peninsula

1 hour 30 minutes north of Auckland

Incorporating a pest-free open sanctuary, marine reserve, walking and cycling tracks and a popular campground, Tāwharanui Peninsula is home to plenty of birdlife; pūkeko roam freely, tūī play in the trees and brown kiwi can be spotted at night. Book a tour with KiwiNess Tours.

Anchor Bay is a stunning beach area, with Comet Rocks to the west, Flat Rock to the east and caves cut into the rockface. Waves curl to shore, a deep shade of phthalo green, with Te Hauturu-o-Toi (Little Barrier Island) a distinctive backdrop.

In 1873 the land was developed as a farm and mill. Jones Bay Lagoon was created through shingle extraction and several ships were wrecked in these bays. Auckland Council bought the land in 1973 and important conservation efforts have been effective. The Ecology Trail highlights the region’s natural heritage.

This park has become increasingly popular with surfers and cyclists, as well as nature and beach lovers. In good weather, expect the carparks to be full. A new toilet block, with flushing loos and extra changing sheds, is due to open this month.

Pakiri & Te Arai Regional Parks – pristine ocean beaches

1 hour 45 minutes north of Auckland

Pakiri lies in the northeast of Rodney district, accessed via Leigh or the scenic Whangaripo Valley west from Matakana. The land, including 3km of ocean beach, was purchased by council in 2005. Despite limited facilities, the pristine white-sand beach attracts people all year round and is equally captivating on a perfect summer’s day or a blustery winter’s one. The sea requires respect whatever the weather. The estuary is a great playground for young and old. Horses and surfers are common sights. A great day trip, or the privately run holiday park is ideal for a family getaway.

Further on, northeast of Wellsford, Te Arai Regional Park sits on the border to Northland. Purchased by council in August 2008, this park covers 78ha of coastal headland comprising dune and lake ecosystems, forest and wetlands, stunning views and a campground. Swim safely in the old quarry swimming hole or frolic in the ocean surf. Venture south of the point to explore Forestry Beach and Black Swamp. Surfers gravitate to this area when the swell is pumping, revelling in its isolation and raw beauty.

Ātiu Creek Regional Park – remote and authentic farmland

1 hour 45 minutes west of Auckland

West of Port Albert, towards Tapora, lies Ātiu Creek Regional Park – rolling hillsides, native bush, pine forests, wetlands and inlets set in the remote reaches of the Kaipara Harbour. At 843ha, it’s the region’s third-largest park, having been gifted to Auckland Council by Pierre (Swiss-born) and Jackie Chatelanat in 2005.

There are walks of varying levels as well as tracks for horse riders and mountain bikers, most of which can be done in either direction. The Reservoir Track is a pleasant loop, with birds in action; other trails provide more challenge. Woodland tracks, thick with pine trees and natives, provide a Brothers Grimm setting, NZ-style, while those nearer the coastline offer magnificent harbour views. The park is a working farm and offers a rare opportunity to wander freely among sheep and observe ovine behaviour, and the occasional bovine too. When the wind is up, the pine trees dance and groan in protest.

Cold in a bitter wind, ideal on an overcast day, hot on a blue-sky summer’s day, be sure to arrive well-prepared with adequate clothing layers, sun protection and sustenance. Bear the weather in mind when choosing the direction of a loop walk – it’s shady in the pines, exposed on the paddocks. Swimming and water sports are not possible. Be mindful of kauri dieback. Visitors can book a stay at the campground or Courtyard House (where the Chatelanats lived). Come here to experience impressive landscapes and true isolation.

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