My Favourite Walk: Mt Auckland walk at Atuanui Scenic Reserve
Some of us may not know the existence of Mt Auckland, which is located in the outskirts of the super city Auckland, just about 70 km north (Rodney District); connected by good highways.
The location is beautified by Kaipara Harbour, surrounding typical New Zealand farmlands, paddocks, and native forest patches, here and there just along Kaipara Coastal Highway.
The peak (305m), including the surrounding reserved area is covered by well preserved dense, mixed vegetation of native bush.
Historically, the area surrounding the summit has been looked after since more than 100 years under native bush conservation. The area is called Atuanui Scenic Reserve.
After the handover of the area by Department of Conservation (DOC) to the local iwi group, Ngati Whatua O Kaipara, and members of local Puhatahi Marae, now, it is looked after by a Trust with members comprising, local iwi, ecologists and environment specialists and representative from Auckland City Council.
It is made sure by the local community including Glorit community that the regenerating kanuka and manuka dominated bush is allowed to cover below the reserve.
I had watched the mountain, while passing through Kaipara Coastal Highway (KCHW) many times in last 20 years. I recently checked the access road to the reserve for the purpose to visit.
Thanks to my son, Sudeep, who offered to drive me there, and walk along with me on one of the weekends, we made it on Sundayi in March.
We checked the weather, that was partly sunny for the day, and also route. We allowed the built-in GPS of the car to help us drive through. It took us through the northern NMW 1, and to Dairy Flat, to KCHW, very close to Glorit.
We had a little difficulty locating the entrance because of the signboard posted on the side of KCHW was tad small.
Once the entrance was found, we went in through a big metal gate for about 75 m to small car park, but enough for about six cars on gravelled ground.
There was a toilet nearby, tbut unfortunately it did not have toilet paper or hand wash. There were two cars at the time. Anyway, we followed what looked
like an old track covered by grass.
We crossed a little gully to go to other side and the track continued up-hill on extensive paddock. The paddock was dominantly ryegrass, occasionally paspalum, and a few broad leaf dandelions occurring here and there.
On the lower side, a lot of flowering pampas could be seen. Luxuriant growth of grass made it a bit strenuous to walk uphill.
After a few minutes the track also disappeared, and we just followed the direction and orange painted pole mark, that were few and far between.
Whenever, we looked behind, the view of distant blue water, beyond the farmlands was beautiful. Then we crossed the high tension transmission line and continued the walk uphill.
After about 20 minutes we reached where new plantation was obvious, and looking back the Tasman Sea could be seen..
After crossing a stile on a fence, and walking for 10 minutes through regenerating manuka and kanuka plantation, we reached the gate of Atuanui Scenic Reserve. This was protected by another stile, and there was disinfection arrangement against “Kauri Dieback”.
After this gate the forest was quite dense with mixed trees and shrubs including nikau, silver fern, puriri, taraire, flax, and cabbage trees.
At one point we saw dwarf rata bush with a beautiful flower. The camera also caught the bee visiting the flower.
We continued our walk, mostly going up and up through undulating hill tops. The track was fairly well established and well directed by orange triangular plastic arrows nailed on the side of tree trunks.
The description of the reserve indicated the hunting is allowed to the permit holders only. While we were walking we heard, what seemed like gun
fire at that time from below. We could not check what it was.
At one point I saw one species of orchid, that was quite common in many trees (taraire), and I would have liked to identify it, but it was not flowering at this time.
Some areas were moist but we had no difficulty walking. After about 25 minutes of walk uphill from the gate, we reached the summit. It was narrow, just enough space for angular cone (trig) and view-tower.
All the hard work to reach there was paid off by the stunning panoramic view of surrounding area, especially that of Kaipara Harbour on north, and Hoteo River estuary on west side.
On the south side the extensive farmland with houses was seen. It has been reported that on a sunny; clear day, one can see Whangarei as well. The vegetation surrounding this peak was very mixed. I saw New Zealand honeysuckle (rewarewa), cabbage, nikau, grisilina and even one species of hebe, and flax.
After enjoying the beautiful surrounding and some stunning views, and, of course, taking photos to record our visit, we rested for five minutes and drank water.
We then descended along the same route. Alternatively, there was another route, that was a bit longer (more than 11 km), but we did not plan that one for the day.
It was evident that the pests are closely monitored with traps.
Enjoying the view and fantastic terrain while descending, it took us about 45 minutes to reach the car park.
The distance recorded is 3.5 km each way, to and from the peak. Official timing recommended is about 3.5 hours. There is a seasonal restriction of walking through this track from 1 August to 30 September because the “KCHW access to the forest edge” is closed due to lambing season.
We met an adult with two children of four and seven years coming down while we were going up, that meant it is accessible for children under 10 years as well.
Good shoes, comfortable seasonal wear, and water bottle are essential. A couple of samies as refreshment will be helpful while resting at the top.
It was a memorable experience to add yet another milestone of New Zealand walk. We enjoyed it very much. We came back through Wellsford to Auckland.
Thanks to the trust for managing Atuanui Reserve for our pleasure; an avid walker will always appreciate it. That is what makes New Zealand, New Zealand.
Above left: The route map and track information posted at the car park. Above right; Metrosideros booming with a bee visiting for honey.
Above: A view from summit towards south west showing Hoteo River. Below right:.The new plantation and the surrounding scenery.
Above: Mike at the tower at the summit.