Not too far North up the motorway on the Hibiscus Coast is the beautiful Whangaparaoa Peninsula (Whangaparaoa, as with many Maori words, looks more intimidating than it is. Fong-uh-pah-ruh-oh-uh will get you close). The town of the same name occupies the Western bit, while the more seaward Eastern bit is home to Shakespear Regional Park (a family called Shakespear purchased the land from the Maori over a century ago).
Though less than an hour from the city, the park offers amazing views of green, rolling hills as well as some lovely beaches. Surrounded by water on three sides (as peninsulas generally are), you can look in pretty much any direction to find lovely sea views.
It’s also the site of a military facility, so tread lightly.
I parked up in the Northwest part of the park, off of Army Bay.
Army Bay is a smallish beach mostly used for fishing and the launching of boats. There are also some great sea views there, making it worth a stop even though it’s not the normal place to park.
I was blessed with a fantastically clear day. You can see for miles!
Once I’d taken in Army Bay, I walked down the road to the waterfall carpark, which is the more traditional place to start one’s journey. By now, you probably know what opinion I have of tradition.
The entrance into the park is controlled by this airlock-type thing. There are two doors, and only one door will open at a time. The park is home to a number of threatened native species, so this system plus the surrounding fence helps to keep predators out.
The first bit of track is wide and well-marked, and is thankfully under cover. I say thankfully because the Summer sun in New Zealand can be especially brutal. If I’m going to spend all day here I would rather not get toasted right at the start!
When the time comes to cross the river, they even have the kindness to give you a bit of bridge.
The tiny falls here do not appear to have a name (at least, not one that I could find). This area is called Waterfall Gully, a name which I suppose extends to the falls themselves. I was annoyed at these falls, not because I’m biased against a smaller waterfall but because I found it devilishly hard to photograph. The water reflecting the sunlight overexposes some bits, and the shadow underexposes others.
I even tried with my little Canon but didn’t fare much better!
At any rate, let’s move along so I can cover the whole park with one post. Have some stairs :)
My plan was to take the Heritage Trail up to the lookout, then take the Tiritiri Track around the Eastern and Southern portions, popping onto the Lookout Track to take me back up to the Heritage Trail, which would loop me back around to the carpark. The trails here are pretty well marked, even though you’re sometimes walking through an open field with no actual trail in sight! Keep your eyes peeled for these colored posts and you’ll do fine (unless you’re incompetent like me, but we’ll cover that slightly later…).
My trip up the hill was rewarded by this lovely view! I feel like if I provide adequate commentary for every picture then I’ll be spending half the post gushing about how amazing each one is. Even my repertoire of breathless superlatives feels inadequate to describe the views here in Shakespear!
The lookout is Shakespear’s party piece, as evidenced by the fact that pretty much every trail in the park leads here.
You can see Rangitoto from here!
And it was such a fantastically clear day that…wait for it…with sufficient Zooming and Enhancing, I could even see Auckland! That’s a laugh; it’s the better part of 25 km away as the crow flies. But there it is!
This view is looking West down the peninsula at the suburbs of Whangaparaoa.
I could probably spend an entire post just on photos taken from the lookout, but time to move on. I also met a nice British lady here in the antipodes visiting her grandchildren who let me use some of her sunscreen, as I’d already sweated most of mine off.
The Tiritiri Track involved plenty of livestock, as well as one pukeko who I guess was guarding the sheep.
This sheep and I stared each other down. She didn’t believe me when I told her I was photographing the bird behind her.
Also, note that as I’m now on the Tiritiri Track the blazes have gone to red.
This beach is on the South side of the peninsula. Yes, I walked all the way around! Well, at this point I’ve only walked about halfway around, but I’m still going.
The trail runs along the beach here, which is the most confusing part. The key is to trust that they will give you a marker when it’s time to turn off. I met my friend from the UK again right around this part where she had gotten slightly turned around.
She and I decided to walk together for some time. I was too busy photographing cows to pay attention to the signs, so instead of following the Lookout Track as I had intended, we ended up going around the Southwestern quarter of the Heritage Trail. Both would take us back to the carpark, but I felt the Lookout Track would have been more scenic. Oh, well; that’s just an excuse to come back again sometime :)
Off the tip of the peninsula is Tiritiri Matangi Island, where the Tiritiri Track got its name.
And one benefit of going back the way we did is that we found a WWII lookout post. New Zealand were quite afraid of Japanese invasion during WWII and built a number of lookout posts; we’ve seen some on Rangitoto and Bastion Point, as well as the massive emplacements on North Head.
And the path did in fact eventually return my genial companion and I back to the carpark. But photos of carparks are boring, so here’s one of the last bits of the Heritage Trail with Rangitoto in the background.
Thanks for sticking with me in this extra-long post! WordPress tells me I have written over one thousand words, and I’ve also posted 25 pictures, over a third of the 70 that I took. This park definitely stands out in my mind as one of the outstandingly beautiful places even in this outstandingly beautiful country. I wholeheartedly recommend visiting both the country and the park :)
Next time, we’re going out West to see a proper waterfall!