Real New Zealand begins, for many, in West Auckland, where verdant hills and magnificent beaches replace tower blocks, suburbs and sanitized wharves. The suburban sprawl peters out some 20km west of the centre among the enveloping folds of the Waitakere Ranges. Here, some of Auckland’s finest scenery and best adventures can be had little more than thirty minutes’ drive from downtown.

Despite being the most accessible expanse of greenery for 1.5 million people, the hills remain largely unspoilt, with plenty of trails through native bush. On hot summer days, thousands head over the hills to one of half a dozen thundering West Coast surf beaches, largely undeveloped but for a few holiday homes (known to most Kiwis as baches), the odd shop and New Zealand’s densest concentration of surf-lifesaving patrols.

The soils around the eastern fringes of the Waitakeres nurture long-established vineyards, mainly around Kumeu, just short of the Kaipara Harbour town of Helensville and the hot pools at Parakai.

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

New Zealand features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

Go solo: the 20 best places to travel alone

Go solo: the 20 best places to travel alone

Solo travel can be one of the most rewarding ways to explore the world. Whether you'd rather spend it on a desert island or in a frenetic new city, here are th…

21 Dec 2016 • Rachel Mills camera_alt Gallery
How to find the right New Zealand for you

How to find the right New Zealand for you

While it may not loom large on the world map, New Zealand feels incredibly vast and imposing on the ground, especially to those who try to visit the North and S…

23 May 2016 • Eric Grossman insert_drive_file Article
Everything you need to know about backpacking New Zealand

Everything you need to know about backpacking New Zealand

New Zealand’s craggy coastline and beautiful national parks are dotted with wildlife and beg to be explored. The scenery gets more spectacular around every co…

07 Mar 2016 • Rachel Mills insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month