I've visited Cape Horn and the Himalayas all in the same day. That is the Cape Horn and Himalaya reserves on the Puketapapa Coast.
Where? My friends asked and so I've dubbed it "The Forgotten Coast". For the record, this coast is one single green corridor stretching from Onehunga to Green Bay along the Manukau Harbour foreshore.
I'd never considered the coast a destination. That is until I got an email from Michael Wood, member of the Puketapapa Local Board complaining (nicely) that I'd left the coast off my article for Weekend about Auckland restoration projects. A quick call to a friend and an afternoon's adventure was born. We rendezvoused at the Onehunga Lagoon, and created a plan of attack.
There are two ways to approach the Puketapapa coast. Either make a beeline for one of the big beaches such as Blockhouse Bay, Green Bay, Lynfield Cove or Waikowhai Bay for a picnic, swim and laze in the sun; or do the hard yards. Being outdoorsy types, my friend and I chose the latter. We left a car at each end and meandered our way 11km from Blockhouse Bay back towards Onehunga along the almost completed Manukau Coastal Walkway.
The section from Blockhouse Bay to Lynfield Cove brought back a flood of childhood memories; swimming, wallowing in mud, floundering, and having icecreams from the shop, which, sadly, is gone.
The tide goes out for what looks like miles at these beaches, leaving behind mudflats that were once home to mangroves before the locals cleared them in the 1930s.
Although the day was a little bit of a trip down memory lane, it was a complete revelation as well. The extensive track system didn't exist in the 1970s and for whatever reason I'd never explored from bay to bay.
Walkers have a choice of two routes: either bush tracks that dive down to bays and climb steeply up to the clifftops or low tide routes that skirt around the headlands. We took the latter for about half of the walk because the tide was out.
A few highlights worth looking out for are the side track to Cape Horn, just east of Wattle Bay, and the remnant of the original coastal kohekohe forest east of Waikowhai Bay. In September tui flock to Waikowhai Bay to feed on the flowering kowhai trees. Nearby Taylor's Bay, off Frederick St, also has a children's playground.
For less energetic people who still like walking, most of the bays have their own one to two-hour walking circuits. Both Waikowhai Bay and Lynfield Coves are good places for that because they have nice beaches and good playgrounds. Waikowhai Bay also has a free public barbecue.
It's true that Aucklanders don't flock to the Puketapapa Coast in their droves. In part that's because of the harbour's bygone reputation for polluted water. Pollution is largely something of the past thanks to Watercare Services' work in removing the oxidation ponds and cleaning the coastline, as well as improved practises by industry in Onehunga.
There are two times to visit the Puketapapa Coast. That's high tide and low tide and nothing in-between unless you plan a spot of floundering. High tide is ideal for swimming, low tide for walking. So check the tide times before going.
A final word of advice. Don't go when the weather forecast is predicting blustery southerlies. It's much more pleasant when northerly winds prevail.
There is no comprehensive map of the Manukau Coastal Walkway currently. There are some useful guides online.
Our own route is mapped here.
Good cafes along the way:
* Columbus Coffee, 120 Onehunga Mall
* Barefoot in the Bay, 565 Blockhouse Bay Rd