Mt Manaia walking track is still closed after severe weather events. Photo / Tania Whyte
Some of Northland’s most popular walking tracks are closed in the wake of severe weather that has hammered the region.
Further rain over the last few months has meant that reopening the tracks could take longer than expected.
The region is well known for its idyllic coastline and a plethora of day tramps that often pass through places of historical and cultural significance, but about 28 tracks across Northland are now closed.
The Department of Conservation (DoC) said reopening the tracks, which are a major domestic and international drawcard, could be a “long process”.
Many closures are due to the risk of kauri dieback which has appeared in forest areas over the last few years. The mix of kauri dieback and devastating weather events has made it difficult to allow public access.
DoC operations manager for Whangārei, Joel Lauterbach, said Northland’s walking tracks were “incredibly popular” and DoC was working hard to reopen damaged areas.
“We appreciate everyone’s patience during these closures,” he said.
Around 200 visitor sites across the North Island have been impacted by recent weather events, with 550 incidents of asset damage recorded. This includes more than 240 tracks.
Rūnanga o Te Rarawa board chairman Haami Piripi said the issue of slips in the Far North was making it difficult to reopen areas. He noted the Far North forests, as well as walkways near Ninety Mile Beach, were extensively damaged.
He said with the water saturation of the soil at a high level, it put the upkeep of tracks into a “whole other dimension”.
“The slips are the biggest concern, it’s a significant issue,” he said.
Piripi believes it’s important the tracks are maintained to a good standard for overseas visitors.
“They’re our window to the world and we want to give them the best experience they can possibly have while they’re here.”
He wants to see more involvement from hapū around track upkeep and is calling for a major overhaul, particularly around communication between organisations such as DoC.
“A lot of those tracks are our old tracks that have been regenerated and rejuvenated, so we have a sense of ownership and a sense of responsibility.”
Walking was the most popular summer activity from 2021/22, according to DoC. Around two-thirds of international visitors did a walk or tramp during that time, many of whom visited coastal areas.
DoC operations director for the northern North Island Sue Reed Thomas said significant damage from landslides and erosion on coastal walks remained, such as the iconic Mangawhai Cliffs Walkway, which was open but has ongoing work.
Thomas said investigations into repair options would be a lengthy process and resilience to climate change needed to be considered.
“In some places, it may not be viable to repair or rebuild assets, and other options will need to be considered. No decisions have been made about this yet.”
DoC is currently seeking expert geotechnical or engineering advice to assess the most damaged sites and said it would work with mana whenua and local communities when considering options at sites with major damage, or where repair of assets may not be viable.
Closures worth noting
The Drummond track in Whangārei is closed indefinitely. It was first shut after a large slip in 2022 but has since experienced further damage.
Work to reopen the track will not begin until December this year, as the area needs to dry out.
The Quarry Gardens to Frank Holman track is also closed due to a major slip at the gardens, making the track no longer passable. WDC is looking at an alternative route, however, a timeframe for reopening is unknown.
Mount Manaia is also closed but DoC is treating it as a priority due to its immense popularity.
Many large-scale tramps are also closed, such as all on the Te Paki Recreation Reserve, including the Te Paki Coastal Track (48km).
The Waima Main Range Track is a 10-hour tramp that passes over Northland’s highest point and follows a ridgeline of the rugged and heavily-forested Waima Forest.
This tramp is closed, as well as the tracks that connect to it such as the Taita Bridle Track (4.6km) and Waoku Coach Road Track (27.5km).
Connective parts of the Te Araroa Trail are also damaged, including Cape Reinga to Te Werahi Beach Track.
The trail is the first part of the 3000km walk along Aotearoa and ends at Twilight Beach Campsite. This site is also closed.
Northland covers an area of over 13,900km and many trails remain open. Here’s a list compiled of some tried and tested walks which are sure to cure those itchy feet.
This 5.6km one-way tramp located near the Whangaroa Harbour takes around two hours, traversing a range of scenery that covers an idyllic landscape.
You’ll cover grassy valleys, crystal clear streams, rocky terrain and waterfalls that come and go depending on the weather.
At the end of this trail, you may experience an expansive view of the pristine Whangaroa harbour if you choose, by heading up the Kairara Rocks (this requires a bit of climbing) to the Duke’s Nose Track.
Book the Lane Cove Hut if you want to stay for the night, as this is the perfect weekend tramp.
Located in the Whangārei Heads, this walk stretches over a steep ridge that rises above McLeod Bay. One of many ancient volcanoes in the area, this tramp features rocky features that you can climb to the top of, where you’ll be met with a 360 view of Whangārei Harbour, the Marsden Bay port and the oil refinery.
You can either start the track at Tiller Park, 600m off Reotahi Rd, or you can park at the Reotahi carpark, walk around Little Munro Bay and traverse the southern entry, walking up and over and completing a loop.
This steep trail takes around one hour and includes many flights of stairs.
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a track near the Whangārei area that is as challenging yet rewarding as the Te Whara Track. This five to six-hour (one-way) walk requires moderate to high fitness, with what DoC describes as a “steep and undulating” trail.
You’ll experience an ancient Māori trail that leads from Ocean Beach to Urquharts Bay, which features the ruins of a WWII radar station, some of the best coastal forests in Te Tai Tokerau and sight spectacular panoramic views.
The 7.5km track is one way, so may require booking the Peach Cove hut if you’re planning on taking your time.
This one-and-a-half-hour walk will lead you alongside the bank of Kerikeri River through regenerating forest. On the way, you’ll see the remnants of a historic powerhouse, as well as experience the Wharepuke and Rainbow Falls.
This easy walk is a great one for children and is pram and wheelchair friendly most of the way. There’s lots to see including ‘Fairy Pools’ and a wander underneath the Heritage Bypass.
If you’re feeling peckish, be sure to stop in at the Honey House Cafe where you can recharge, and the kids will love feeding the ducks.
If you’re looking for a quick climb, look no further than Tokatoka Peak. This distinctive landmark can be seen for miles in the Kaipara Region.
You’ll get fantastic views of the Dargaville and Kaipara Region and on a clear day, you’ll be able to make out Bream Head and the Tangihuia range.
There is a challenging 20m section at the top of this climb, so come with appropriate footwear. There are no handrails and the area is very exposed, so be sure to supervise children at all times and remain cautious.