With the Waitākere Ranges largely off-limits to hikers after a rāhui that was placed over the West Auckland bush, many tourists and Aucklanders are looking for alternative walking tracks to enjoy over the summer months.
Auckland Council has closed much of the Waitākere Ranges and parts of the Hunua Ranges to the public to help stop the spread of kauri dieback disease.
The council unanimously opted to close the forested areas in the Waitākere Ranges Regional Park before May 1 last year after mana whenua Te Kawerau a Maki imposed a rāhui in December 2017.
Luckily for those desperate for trail time, the city offers plenty of decent alternatives, meaning those track closures are not only helping to save kauri but are also an opportunity to get out there and explore new trails.
1. Shakespear Regional Park
Instead of heading west, head north to the stunning Shakespear Regional Park, right at the tip of the Whangaparāoa Peninsula.
According to Auckland Council, this is "New Zealand's most visited and accessible open sanctuary integrating conservation, recreation and farming".
Shakespear has a good network of trails and boasts stunning views of the harbour. It includes walking and mountain biking trails that suit all levels and abilities.
2. Riverhead Forest
If you're keen to stay out west, swap the bush for the forest and head to Riverhead. You can stick to the forest roads and just enjoy the silence between the tall pines or venture deeper through the trees and find the trails the locals know all about. Whatever the level of adventure you're looking for, the forest always delivers.
3. Hunua Falls
"But what about the pretty waterfalls in the Waitākeres? I wanted to go see those!"
I hear you and it sucks but we've got to give our kauri a fighting chance. In the meantime, we suggest a walk to the equally pretty and very accessible Hunua Falls, less than an hour south of the city centre.
The kauri in the Hunua area are mostly healthy but need your co-operation to stay that way so, once again, please remember to clean your boots and respect the closure of some of the tracks, using the detours in place.
4. Waiuku Forest
If beautiful tall pine trees and sand-based trails are your thing, set the GPS towards Waiuku Forest, at the mouth of the Waikato River, divided between South Auckland and western Waikato district.
This little-known forest is popular with locals for its network of gnarly trails that give anyone a good workout, rewarded with stunning scenery.
If you don't feel like walking or running, go horse trekking and even fishing.
5. Duder Regional Park
Duder's coastal views alone are enough to make it worth the drive (it is nearly an hour from the city centre, past Clevedon).
On the Whakakaiwhara Peninsula, it is a beautiful spot looking across the Hauraki Gulf.
Mainly on undulating grassland, the trails are not awfully technical and a lot of the park is accessible to mobility-impaired visitors, even when the ground is wet.
There are friendly farm animals hanging around and, if you're feeling adventurous, the mountain-biking farm loop is good enough to get the blood pumping.
6. Ambury Regional Park
If you haven't had enough of coastal views on your tour of other regional parks, Ambury has a lot more of those to offer as it sits neatly fronting the Manukau Harbour.
Farm animals wander around and the park is also the home for shorebirds.
Ambury has a 2.5km mountain bike route and a couple of walks, including a farm walk and a foreshore walk. Both are easy and short (1-2km), ideal for families.
7. Tāwharanui Regional Park
Looking north again, Tāwharanui Regional Park lies just past Matakana, on a remote peninsula facing Kawau Island.
It includes white sand beaches, rolling pastures and a native coastal forest as well as wetlands.
For bird-watching enthusiasts, this is the place to be as many rare native species can be spotted in the area.
During the day, you might be lucky to spot saddleback, North Island robin, bellbird, fantail, pāteke and the occasional kaka. Kiwi and morepork like to wander around in the darker hours.
There is also a large network of walking and multi-use tracks, with varied degrees of accessibility.
8. Totara Park
Totara Park is not far from downtown Auckland, right near the Manukau CBD and next to the Botanic Gardens (so there's a bonus walking idea in here if you're keen).
The 216ha park includes a network of walking tracks through the large stands of native bush and farmland.
The park also has a range of mountain bike tracks in the northeastern section.
How to help stop kauri dieback
Auckland Council's advice for anyone entering or leaving a forested area with native trees across the region is to:
• Scrub – clean all soil off your footwear and gear. Kauri dieback can be spread by just a pinhead of soil.
• Spray – your footwear and gear with disinfectant at every cleaning station you encounter.
• Stay – on open tracks and off kauri roots.