Waitakere Ranges, Auckland Overview

Waitakere Ranges represent hilly areas of Auckland. These are a part of the western coastline of the city and are known for their forest cover with the native rainforest of more than 16000 hectares. The regional park in the Waitakere Ranges sets a perfect example of an ecosystem that supports both the flora and fauna and the black sand surf beaches that attract tourists for a myriad of adventurous activities. Not only beaches but the walks and waterfalls are also incredible viewpoints with easy accessibility. So be it the sound of the mighty waterfalls, the sight of a beautiful beach sunset, or walking on a rugged coastline, this place can be anything you ask for.

The Waitakere Ranges lie 25 km to the west of central Auckland. It's a mere 40-minute drive from the city centre. They owe the ruggedness to the volcanic eruptions that occurred millions of years ago. The area is considered sacred by the Maori community who feel they must preserve the forests for future generations. Waitakere Ranges are managed and administered by the Auckland Council which at the behest of the Maoris closed several trails for regeneration purpose - to give the forests time to heal.

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Arataki Visitor Centre

Visiting the ranges begins with the spellbinding Arataki Visitor Centre which at the core is a tourist information centre. It sits majestically in breathtaking surroundings and facilitates access to the forests and harbours. One can make the most from this visit by exploring their serene decks that offer a panoramic view. The centre gives a sneak peek into the topography, history of the region and the life forms the ranges sustain. It also organises activities that demonstrate the local culture (like bone carving, native embroidery techniques etc.), the way of life, nature, sciences and also holds outdoor challenges for kids in the summer vacations.

Star attraction -

Clicking a picture with the Golden Picture Frame as a memory of your tour.

Arataki Nature Trail that takes you looping into the rainforest.

Knick-knacks are available.

Location - 300 Scenic Drive, Oratia, Waitakere, Auckland, New Zealand.

Timings - 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM  (7 days a week except for Christmas Day)

Parking space available.

Bookings have to be made 6 - 12 months in advance. If staying overnight, as the park rangers for the best camping and campervan sites.

Dispose of your waste and don't litter.

For further details on the entry fee, upcoming activities, bookings and updates contact - [email protected]

Karakare Beach and Falls

The Waitakere Ranges have more than 250 km of walking tracks. The most popular and accessible site is Karkare Falls. The best way to reach here is to drive down Karkare Road by car. Once you arrive, find a suitable car parking and follow signposts which will guide you to the falls via the footbridge. If you wish, you can go to Karkare Beach which is near the car park. This expansive black sand beach is a quiet beach and is frequent by people for activities like swimming and surfing. A lifeguard is always on patrol during summers.

Piha Beach and Lion Rock

Piha Beach in the Waitakere Ranges is situated 40 km from Auckland city and is to the west of the North Island. It is a surf beach that is a hot favourite of tourists and school children who come here to learn surfing. However, the waves at times can be moody and mighty. It's recommended to only swim in patrolled areas. The Lion Rock stands in a state like a guardian of the beach. Tips -

One can also go for rock climbing for exploring the spot for a better view.

If staying overnight at Piha, do spend the night looking for glowworms.

Make sure to visit Tasman Lookout Walk which is just a ten-minute walk from Piha beach. This gives a top view of the latter.

The nearby Anawhata beach is the quietest beach in the ranges and is suggested for the ones who want some tranquil "me time."

During summers, the sand will burn your feet - take proper precaution.

Sometimes, this area suffers from connectivity issues. Be prepared to see roads get blocked and phone lines getting down.

There are some small cafes around this area just in case you want a quick bite.

Kitekite Falls

Kitekite Falls is located on Glen Esk stream near Piha Beach. The water here seems to fall from the sky (approximately 40 metres) gushing from a small pool to bigger one down below. Kitekite is a three-tiered waterfall where people go swimming, explore forest and canyoning under the guidance of an expert. The sight and sound of the falls lashing out at the rocks and descending make it an experience to behold.

Mercer Bay Loop

The Mercer Bay Loop is the highest sea cliff in the Waitakere Ranges. Located north towards Muriwai and south to Whatipu. This place is perfect for adventure seekers due to the rugged, steep, bumpy, curvy and slippery nature. Adequate care should be taken in this area, especially near the edges and signposts should be obeyed for a safe walk. There is no wheelchair access. However, prams can be used for the first part of the track.

Hillary Trail

Do you want to test your stamina, resilience and strength? This 3-4 day tramp that is approximately 77 km running through Auckland's Waitakere Ranges is your challenge. Hillary trail is dedicated to Sir Edmund Hillary, who was the first one to climb Mount Everest. The trail can be orchestrated either from Muriwai or Arataki Visitor Centre. Bookings can be done with a little fee which provides you with basic amenities and untreated water supplies. However, supplies can be arranged through Piha or Muriwai.


Kauri trees are indigenous to this region. The Kauri dieback disease is a severe threat to these native trees and driving them swiftly to extinction. A speck of contaminated soil is enough to worsen this problem. It's due to this reason that the Council barred tourist access to specific trails. Planning a trip to Waitakere Ranges? Keep the following points in mind-

  • Shoes, tyres and equipment should be adequately cleaned to eliminate chances of soil and plant material spoiling the Kauri Forests. This is done both before and after leaving the forests.
  • Use disinfectant after cleaning the above.
  • Major tracks are equipped with cleaning stations which can be used for the cleaning.
  • Walk on the tracks and stay away from Kauri roots to prevent possible damage.

How To Reach Waitakere Ranges

One can reach the Waitakere Ranges either by renting a car or by planning the visit through a tour operator. Renting or hiring a car is preferable as it's just a 40-minute drive from the central city and one can flexibly plan the itinerary. Whereas, the tour operator will not offer you the privilege to decide how much time you spend and where. Since this area is known for different waterfalls and beaches, it's a good idea to plan the trip as per interests and likings. Hence, car rental is a better option.

Caution - If you are opting for a personal car, be extra careful while driving since the roads are steep and curvy.

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