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.