Wild west coastal trail
Experience the natural highs of Ōmanawanui Track.
Words and photography Anna Whatmough
Experience the natural highs of the wild West Coast trail that is the Omanawanui Track Only an hour’s drive from Auckland city, Ōmanawanui Track is a total refresh for the mind, body and soul. Even the drive to the start of the track is picturesque as you follow the winding road along the coast of the Manukau Harbour. There’s also a ford to cross and the last 5km is gravel road, so not for the faint-hearted. The Ōmanawanui Track along with Puriri Ridge Track is a six-kilometre upgrade to the Te Ara Tūhura / Hillary Trail, so named because it’s the hills and beaches the legendary Sir Edmund Hillary walked to prepare for his expeditions. Recently upgraded and reopened after three years closure due to Kauri dieback, this is a track you definitely want to add to your list. I chose to start at Whatipu carpark, winding my way up to viewpoints of the black sand of Whatipu Beach and the entrance to the Manukau Harbour. This way you get the steepest part of the track done first. Although the steps are many, they are uniform and well graded. You are rewarded with immense views gazing out to sea or the endless bush of the Waitākere ranges. There’s not a house in sight on this gorgeous hike. Senses take in the continuous sound of crashing waves and cicadas and crickets chirruping. Tui and fantail can be spotted darting between nikau palms and clumps of cabbage trees. The constant crunch of gravel underfoot leaves your mind at rest. I recommend adding the side 20-minute return Signal House Track to the trip. On a hot summer day, swimmers can be seen in the bay below. Once you reach the trig, 360-degree views abound, and a clear day rewards with views – north and south – of the rugged coastline. A 700-metre boardwalk with rope railings through nikau and sprawling punga adds a serene coastal feel. There’s also a floating boardwalk around the Ōmanawanui pā. Allow two and a half hours for a return trip – you walk in and out the same way. Then put your mobile on flight mode and enjoy an enchanting hike you will remember for days to come. Track Notes • Distance: 6km. Allow 2-2.5 hours. • Di iculty: Moderate. There is a section where you need to pull yourself up a steep bit with a chain. • Access: Whatipu Road end car park or small car park at the upper track end. Omanawanui Track