One of the enduring pictures of New Zealand’s clean and green image is of majestic trees, dappled sunlight and luxuriant ferns and it’s a little sad to me that many visitors, and some locals, don’t have the means (or inclination) to venture off the beaten track to experience the beauty and variety of our native forests.
Thankfully, there are opportunities to experience a small slice of wilderness without kitting yourself out in fancy gear or travelling far from civilisation and one is just 30 minutes from Auckland’s city centre – the Okura Bush Walkway – on the North Shore. The Department of Conservation grades the country’s tracks according to the difficulty of the terrain and the ability of the walker and the Okura Bush Walkway is categorised as a ‘walking track’ which means that walking is gentle and the track is well formed.
The track follows the Okura River estuary through regenerating kauri forest and magnificent groves of nikau and pohutakawa and lots and lots of silver ferns. There is a very convenient and lovely resting spot at Karepiro Bay, the site of Dacre Cottage which is probably one of the cutest red brick buildings you’ll ever see. The cottage was built by the Dacre family in the 1850s using bricks that are thought to have been ballast in one of the sailing vessels the family used to carry livestock, produce and timber between Sydney and New Zealand.
The cottage was restored in 1984 by a group of volunteers who couldn’t stand to see this little piece of history be ravaged by time and vandals. These worthy individuals continue to look after the cottage and the surrounding area, planting trees and keeping the cottage in good repair. It’s possible to stay here overnight either in the cottage or camping nearby (www.dacre.org.nz for more information).
You could decide to retrace your steps at this point, but if you are heading further you can either follow the coastline at low tide, or take the overland track before dropping down to the Weiti River estuary. From here, the track follows the river, crossing private land to the Stillwater car park.
This is a fantastic walk which is easily accessible and a great way to wander off the beaten track without having to wander too far.
Things to know before you go
- From the start of the walk at Haighs Access Rd to Dacre Cottage is 4.8 km, 1.5 hr one way
- From Haighs Access Rd to Stillwater is 8 km, 3 hr one way
- Although the Okura Bush Walkway is generally easy walking, tramping boots are recommended as there can be muddy spots
- There are toilets at Dacre Cottage but you won’t get a coffee or an ice cream so bring snacks/picnic with you along with plenty of water.
- Even though this is a fairly gentle walk, make sure that you are well prepared and follow the Outdoor Safety Code:
- plan your trip
- tell someone where you are going and when you expect to be back
- be aware of the weather
- know your limits
- take sufficient supplies
- Native kauri trees are being killed by kauri dieback which is a fungus-like disease that affects trees of all ages, is almost always fatal and has no known treatment. You can help prevent it by staying on the track and off the kauri roots, and using the boot spray provided at the start of the track when you enter and leave the kauri forest.
- For all the information you’ll need, plus a map of the area :http://www.doc.govt.nz
Categories: New Zealand