Waitemata Harbour gets a lot of glory for its prominent position vis a vis Auckland City. But just South of the city lies Manukau Harbour, a significantly larger body of water. Manukau Harbour is accessible via a narrow strait between Whatipu on Burnett Head to the North and the Awhitu Peninsula to the South, which are collectively called the Manukau Heads.
(A reminder: I will use the local spelling of harbour when it’s part of a proper noun but will use my native spelling of harbor when it’s not.)
I would like to refer you back specifically to this post where I say “At extreme zoom I believe you can even see the old lighthouse and signal station!” (which is true). Since then, I’ve always wanted to visit the Southern Head. But I look at those photos from the Waitakeres hike and I think…man, those are some beautiful views, and my camera can’t nearly do them justice. My photography skills also couldn’t do them justice, but the camera is the easier part to fix.
Anyway, after getting my new camera one of the first things I did was take a trip down to the Awhitu Peninsula. It’s actually quite a long drive; despite being not far from the city as the crow flies, I am not a crow and to get their by land I had to drive all the way around Manukau Harbour. It was a lovely day for a drive with the top down, so not much of a hardship at all! If you have some time, slow down a bit around Waiuku to see the sights.
My first stop on the peninsula was the fantastic Awhitu Regional Park.
This park includes a beach, which is lovely, as well as some walking trails, which are mostly also lovely. I hit the trails first, because I wanted to cool off at the beach afterward.
The trail starts off through this somewhat swampular area. It would remind me of the Dead Marshes from The Lord of the Rings, except the weather here is too nice and cheerful. This was right after Christmas, and somebody who had presumably gotten a new dirt bike was out running the trails (although I’m fairly certain he wasn’t actually supposed to do that).
The trail quickly enters the bush and crosses a stream.
And it starts going up quite precipitously!
After a very short walk we find the Brook Homestead. Much like the Dacre Cottage from a few posts ago, the Brook Homestead is an early settlement house that’s been reinforced and rebuilt in places to become an historical monument of sorts.
From this point, the trail continues on. Between the beach and the homestead I saw quite a few people, but I encountered no-one on the rest of this walk! It was nice to have some secluded time even at such a popular location.
Once the trail breaks out of the trees, it stops being a trail at all, really; there’s some open pasture land and you can walk wherever you want (so long as you don’t annoy the sheep or cows too much, I suppose). There are also some great views of the harbor!
Having a better camera just exposes more of my deficiencies as a photographer, but at least the subject matter is in no way lacking!
These houses are to the South on Matakawau Point. Although it’s natural to think of the harbor as being North, due to where Awhitu Park is situated on the peninsula the harbor is actually East!
I absolutely love it when scenic lookouts have these things. I know they tend to get vandalized and that’s super annoying, but (as you can probably tell) I nerd out pretty hard on geography and love to know what I’m looking at and where everything is.
Moving along, the track leads to the Settlers Valley!
Let’s be honest, if you were exploring this area in the 1850s you could certainly do worse than settling right here.
So many gorgeous views. Those old settlers knew what they were doing when they chose this place.
After leaving the valley, the track actually becomes quite boring, joining up with a road and running back to the carpark where the changing rooms are. This suited me fine, as it was time to change into my swimsuit and take a dip!
Although this beach is quite close to Whatipu and the Tasman Sea, it’s facing East and has white sand rather than the black sand of the Western beaches. So cool!
Here’s a Zoomed and Enhanced photo of the little island.
There’s also a bigger island, as seen in the corner of this photo (apparently I didn’t get a better photo of it, which is unfortunate). I wish I could say I swam all the way out to the island, but I can’t…because by the time I got in the water the tide was out and I was able to walk out there! The water barely came up to my chest. Granted, on more normal-sized people that would still require swimming, but I have to enjoy my height when I can :)
I sadly did not get any photos from the island because I did not take my camera swimming, for obvious reasons. I also didn’t enjoy the view much, since I had also removed my glasses. Oh well, c’est la vie.
I could have spent the rest of the day swimming, but I had somewhere else I needed to go. Next post you will join me doing something really cool. I’m getting fired up just thinking about it! See you then!