Kia Ora: Huia

This proud community plays host to the best scenery — and cake — you’ll find, writes Elisabeth Easther.
The view towards Manukau from Mt Donald McLean Lookout. Photo / Richard Robinsomn
The view towards Manukau from Mt Donald McLean Lookout. Photo / Richard Robinsomn

Origin of name: Originally called Te-Rau-o-Te-Huia (The Treasured Possession of Te Huia). This name refers to the tail feathers of the Huia " a source of prestige and desirability that Chief Maki of Te Kawerau conferred on the area. Called Te Huia until the 1970s, the name has since been shortened to Huia.

Population: 1000 residents, 300 houses.

Town slogan: Just like Hawaii, only cooler.

Claim to fame #1: This year's hit Aussie soap 800 Words was filmed in Huia (and Piha), whereupon it received the dubious honour of being described as a "dead end town at the arse end of the world".

Claim to fame #2: The Man Who Lost His Head was also partly shot in Huia with the star, Martin Clunes, subsequently telling the English press that the most exciting thing to happen in Huia was when three ducks crossed the road.

Main employer: Locals reckon 60 per cent of the residents are self-employed, with a fair few graphic designers, writers and artists calling Huia home.

Huia Foodstore and Cafe is for sale. Photo / Supplied
Huia Foodstore and Cafe is for sale. Photo / Supplied

An opportunity: The Huia Foodstore is currently for sale if you're looking for something exciting to do in 2016. And, if you do buy it, how about restoring the petrol pump, because that'd be handy.

Source of pride: Locals here get things done. Having spent four years pitching for a cellphone tower, they eventually won that battle and now they're fighting to save Huia Domain from the ocean (a long story), but it looks as if the residents have won again, with the final terms currently under negotiation.

Town fiestas: There's a fabulous quiz night held a couple of times a year; they're so epic, the latest one was filmed by Maori Television.

Best reason to stop:: Because it's so flipping scenic, besides it's also the end of the sealed road.

Best place to take the kids: You simply must visit Karamatura Farm Park; this working farm is the perfect place to take city kids for a taste of rural life. On Waitangi Day they throw a big open day where kids can pat the animals (including piglets) and go for rides on tractors. You know where I'll be on February 6.

Best playground: At Huia Bay, you'll find Huia Domain. Aside from being home to a perfect little beach there's also a neat playground, a truncated basketball court and a half pipe for skating. There are also picnic tables and a barbecue.

Best facilities: The heritage toilets and shower at the domain are groovy. Happily, the locals fought to save these loos when council looked set to replace them for no good reason.

Best walk: There are loads of stunning walks around Huia. The Lower Huia Dam Walkway starts at the carpark at the base of Lower Huia Dam and is an easy two-hour stroll through forest, beside a stream and includes a swing bridge. The Karamatura Loop Walk is also divine: a scenic 60-minute walk with a bit of climbing but nothing too taxing. Huia is on the Hillary Trail if you fancy being much more energetic.

The Karamatura Loop Walk is also divine: a scenic 60-minute walk with a bit of climbing but nothing too taxing. Photo / Flickr Creative Commons
The Karamatura Loop Walk is also divine: a scenic 60-minute walk with a bit of climbing but nothing too taxing. Photo / Flickr Creative Commons

Best view: The viewing platform at the top of Mt Donald McLean, (also known as Te-Rau-o-Te-Huia) is well worth the 15-minute trek, offering up panoramic views of Auckland City, the Waitakere Ranges and Manukau Harbour.

Best place to pull over: Stop by the Huia lookout for 360-degree views of Huia Dam, the bay and out to Manukau Heads. Found on the aptly named Huia Point Lookout Road.

Best swim: There is so much good swimming to be found around here, but many people say the best spot is Kaitarakihi Beach. Found between Cornwallis and Huia, it's safe for kids.

Best museum: The Huia Settlers Museum. The HMS Orpheus display is worth the trip alone, telling the story of New Zealand's worst maritime disaster, where 189 people lost their lives. There's also a fair bit of pre-colonial history, plus displays about early settlers and milling.

Nice arts: Once a year, local artists open their studios, organised by the local board; the curious can watch creative people at work.

Tours: Te Huia Tours take visitors on small, guided group tours right across the Waitakeres. Action, history and culture.

Top shop: The Huia Foodstore is an institution, serving the area since 1886, they sell coffee, delicious food, groceries, even second-hand books. Their collection of old confectionary jars is beautiful and it's amazing how many lollies you can buy for $1. They brew excellent coffee with Mt Atkinson beans.

The Huia Foodstore sell coffee, delicious food, groceries, even second-hand books. Photo / Supplied
The Huia Foodstore sell coffee, delicious food, groceries, even second-hand books. Photo / Supplied

Baked: The Huia Foodstore has great pies and fabulous sweet treats. Check out their chocolate cake, it's seriously indulgent.

Wet your whistle: There's no pub, so locals are quite keen on home brewing, probably because it is such a long way to the nearest liquor store. The local wine group gets together to make vino using everything from dandelion to gorse - which, interestingly, is quite coconutty.

Team time: There are lots of tour operators who bring groups out here, from team building to school camps, with a number of lodges to accommodate them

Best-kept secret: Karamatura Waterfall is a sight for sore eyes with a big, cool pool at the bottom for swimming.

Wildlife: There are plenty of birds in the trees, mainly kereru and tui. In the ocean you'll occasionally spot whales and seals, and in the streams you'll find some pretty big eels.

Safety warnings: Please don't drive too fast, the roads are narrow and winding and aren't suitable for speeding.

Locals say: You don't choose Huia, Huia chooses you.

Thanks to Jade Reidy for sharing the love.

Checklist: Huia

Where is it: Essentially a Westie suburb of Auckland, despite being just 35 minutes from the city centre (outside rush hour) it feels as if you've travelled much further.

- NZ Herald

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