Going on a fun filled day trip. While reading this article about Tawharanui Regional Park I was once again reminded of how beautiful Auckland’s outdoor world is.
This gentle reminder coincided with the last Friday of the term two school holidays. Putting a good idea straight into action we checked the weather forecast. The prediction was overcast yet with an 88% chance of a dry day which made it ideal to plan an outing for Saturday. Our car packed with backpacks that held everything from a picnic to water bottles and walking shoes, rain jackets and cameras we were ready to take off. A quick stop at the gas station and we set off prepared for a glorious day trip.
Driving north wards out off Auckland on State Highway No 1 in the direction of Warkworth. There a right turn led into Matakana Road where brown signs indicated Tawharanui Regional Park. Passing signs that pointed out bed and breakfasts, art galleries and vineyards the road headed into a busy little township with coffees, restaurants and shops in abundance. A roundabout then branched into the town centre, Leigh Road and Matakana wharf a picturesque place. Leigh Road was the direction to pursue to get to Takatu Road that soon altered into gravel while winding towards the park. Passing stretches of gently sloping hills with open farmland populated by peacefully grazing cows, sheep and pukekos. First surfers stopped at Jones Bay just before the fenced off open sanctuary to enjoy the lightly rolling surf.
The automatic gate opens for vehicles and pedestrians. While pedestrians may enter the park at any time vehicle entries are restricted during winter between 6am and 7pm and in summer between 6am and 9pm. Right after the automatic gate the park offers an information centre giving insights on the parks’ philosophy and goals. The main idea is to create a space where visitors can enjoy themselves and have a good time within a haven for endangered wildlife in amicable coexistence. The park takes particular pride in their growing kiwi bird population.
Protective actions to keep predators out include that any kind of pets free, on a leash or in the car are prohibited within park boundaries. This also means that traps for possums, rats, stoats or cats are constantly set and monitored. Since these predators take credit for endangering many species of New Zealand’s native wildlife. Despite these protective measurements the park offers a wide selection of activities that spice up a day trip such as swimming, surfing, snorkelling, diving, fishing off the rocks, mountain biking, walking and camping.
On this beautiful spring day trip we decided to explore the park on foot starting from the main car park at Anchor Bay. A rock elevation of the Phoenix Reef allowed for a fantastic view over the whole of Anchor Bay where despite it being early in the season surfers were out to catch waves all along the beach. Even some brave swimmers were prepared to face the cold water. On deciding to explore the peninsula from all sides we connected some trails. For the first stretch we followed the Ecology Trail and carried on with the North Coast Track that peaked at the Tokatu Look Out. From the very top we then took the Tokatu Loop Track and chose to return via the South Coast Track leading to Fishermann’s Track. From here we then followed Maori Bay Track along the coast. After arriving at the Lagoon the main road was to be the connection to the road to the Camp Ground followed by the West End Track to return to the main car park.
With many photo stops it proofed to be a longish walk. The Ecology Trail through New Zealand bush and young kauri trees is also home to the kiwis and probably most exciting at dusk. To protect the kauri trees from kauri dieback disease spray stations at the beginning of the track gave the opportunity to disinfect our walking shoes. Along the trail off the ground on slanting trees possum traps were fixed giving a hint on how much effort goes into keeping the peninsula predator free.
The North coast Track along meadows is shared with grazing sheep and adorable young spring lambs, pukekos and a variety of ducks. For bird lovers the Tokatu Loop Track is a must. The time we past we were lucky to watch a pair of South Island Saddlebacks amongst the playful performances of fantails. The Lookout opened views over the Hauraki Gulf to Little Barrier Island and Great Barrier Island. The Maori Bay Coast Walk seemed to be the most challenging of the walks due to the very uneven and stony coast but still worth every effort. Pohutukawa fringed cliffs keep the promise of a colourful coastline at the end of November to December. On both ends of the walk we discovered that fishing off the rocks is a popular way to spend the day. Around the Bluebell Point a pied shag colony gathered. Their pre-flying stage looked quite majestic.
Walking past the campground revealed two separate ones. One is reserved for motor home campers while tents find spacious sections just behind the dunes with a short cut to the white sandy beach of Anchor Bay. Amenities are for each section a basic drop toilet and scattered fresh water outlets. The beach is part of a marine reserve which makes it a great area for snorkelling activities but restricts on fishing and shell gathering.
A mesmerizing game of light illuminated the sky at sunset and ended our day trip. It was a fantastic outing well worth it but in need of a vehicle since the park is about 11km outside Matakana which is a charming oasis for holiday makers.