Tawharanui, Pt. 1: The Walks

I’ve been wanting to go here for ages. On an overcast late Fall day, I hopped in the car and headed North to Tawharanui Peninsula.

Incidentally, Tawharanui is pronounced as “tough-anui” by locals; it’s another victim of the New Zealand War on Syllables.

Like Whangaparaoa, Tawharanui is a peninsula jutting a few kilometers out into the Hauraki Gulf. It’s covered in walking trails and, as it turns out, is an official New Zealand bird sanctuary!

I arrived at about noon, giving me nearly six hours of daylight for exploring.

One of the first things you will notice is the predator fence. As you can see, the fence has an automatic gate for vehicles.

I chose to park outside the fence. You can’t get trapped inside something you’re outside, as I rarely say, and it also gave me an opportunity to photograph the coastline.

Being a peninsula, Tawharanui has quite a bit of coastline.

Taking a look at the map, my plan was to follow the South Coast Track up to the Tokatu Point Lookout track, take that track to the eponymous Tokatu Point at the tip of the peninsula, then come back and finish the loop along the North Coast Track.

No plan, as they say, survives first contact with the enemy. But that was my plan. Lest I be accused of hyperbolic foreshadowing, I will say that my plan actually survived until the third or fourth skirmish, if I may be permitted to stretch the analogy nearly to its breaking point.

It should also be mentioned that Tawharanui, typically, has plenty of cows and sheep wandering around. We will see more of these animals later on.

The start of the hike leads along a gravel road bordering the lagoon.

Even if you choose to park inside the gates, you’re going to spend at least a little bit of time on this road just to get to the trails.

Soon enough, though, the trail head comes into view. It even has a nice map! If you stop by the ranger station near the gate you can grab yourself a spiffy folding paper map, but if you didn’t do this then a top tip is to take a photo of the map on your phone for later reference.

The first bit of the trail involves a boardwalk over the swampy area. The whole peninsula is quite lush and damp, but the trail is pretty uniformly good throughout.

To engage in some now-traditional patting myself on the back, I feel like this shot is a great establishing shot for the walk.

Climbing the hill gives some of the first proper views of the day. The overcast sky is not contributing much, but the views are so nice it doesn’t really matter. I’m going to make a separate post with more of the best views, so this one is going to focus on the walk itself.

Looking back, it’s clear how steep this climb is. It’s a short climb, though, so no worries. Most of this track is a bit up-and-down, but this steep climb at the beginning is the only one that stands out as being potentially challenging.

See what I mean? The terrain is rolling, but it’s not too bad! And the views make up for any small exertions necessary.

The path here is in pretty good condition. It does get grassy and muddy in spots, but it’s never terrible.

This is called a stile, and if you hike in New Zealand at all you will become very familiar with them. In America, jumping a fence or going through a gate is generally frowned upon. In New Zealand, it’s practically de rigeur. If you’re on public land like this, unless there’s an explicit sign telling you not to then you can go over fences and through gates — they’re for the livestock, not for you.

Later on this same walk, the path hits a fence with a locked gate, making the above point not just academic but very practical. I don’t know why the gate was locked, and I spent a long time with the map trying to figure if I had wandered off the correct path, but ultimately I ended up jumping the fence — which was, apparently, the correct procedure. Obviously things are a bit different when on private property, but on public land so long as you are respectful of your surroundings and obey all posted notices, you have a lot of freedom to go where you please.

Going up the hill, I see why there’s a fence. Cows, you have the whole field to roam in. Why are you hanging out right on the path?

In fact, this group of thugs cows is clearly looking for trouble. Cows can be intimidating because of their size and weight, but ultimately they are prey animals and will behave as such. So long as you are determined but nonthreatening, the cows will back down. I approached with a confident, deliberate gait and the cows moved off the path to let me pass. This advice also works surprisingly well at navigating most uncomfortable social situations.

There are a number of places where you can turn off to go down to the coast. I have no desire to hike along the pebble beaches, the weather’s too cold for swimming, and the views are better from the top. I did go down to check it out though.

So worth it! The water is such a pretty color, and this cool little point must be a great fishing spot. I wouldn’t mind having a picnic here if I hadn’t eaten before I came!

Moving back up, the trail entered into a more forested area…

And when I popped out the other side, I was treated to some blue in the sky!

Even better, I got an achievement!

This marker, denoted with a triangle on the map above, sits just about where the trail splits off to the lookout.

The path to the lookout is a very nice forested trail with a number of birds around. Plenty of fantails and saddlebacks, and I caught a glimpse of either a bellbird or a silvereye. I will post bird photos in a separate post, though.

The lookout itself had some great views, which will also be coming up in the next post. But here’s a shot downward to the amazingly clear water. So clear, in fact, that the bottom is very visible! Superb.

Once emerging from the woods, it was time to hike the North Coast Track back along the peninsula.

Along the way back, though, I encountered the Ecology Trail. I waffled about for a bit trying to decide whether to continue along the North Coast Track or go down the Ecology Trail, but I ultimately decided on the latter.

I did plenty of bird hunting under the cover of the forest, and managed to get a couple of snaps I’m looking forward to sharing with you!

The Ecology Trail is well-marked and in fairly good condition. It’s a bit steep, but coming from this direction it’s all downhill.

There are stairs with railings for the steep bits, too. Definitely an easy walk!

More stairs.

At the end, we pop out back on the South Coast Track. It’s possible to take the Ecology Trail and not wind up on the South Coast Track, but a map-reading error on my part put me there and it was getting late enough that I didn’t want to backtrack. No worries, because I got to enjoy the views again. But wait…that’s my car!

I used my elite photo-editing skillz to help you locate it in case you haven’t been keeping up with your Where’s Waldo’s Car training.

(What we call Where’s Waldo in the US was actually created by an Englishman and called Where’s Wally?, which it’s called here as well. Fun fact: in France, it’s called, inexplicably, Ou est Charlie?)

And just like that, my adventure was finished. Just as the sun was starting to make its way below the horizon.

Tawharanui was amazing. I had such a good time on my hike, and the scenery was just beautiful.

This post has already gone on much longer than I like them to be, so come back next time and I’ll show you some more of this lovely place.

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