Shakespear Regional Park was my first experience of New Zealand’s green open spaces. I arrived in Auckland from a country that was dry and dusty where high density housing was the norm and green spaces were a luxury few could afford. It was a surprise to find prime real estate so close to the city that was home only to sheep and cows who generously shared their million dollar views with visitors who came to fish, swim, walk and camp. Despite the relentless suburban creep that has characterised Auckland’s growth, Shakespear Regional Park, just 40 minutes from the city, remains exactly as it always has been, a great place for being outdoors.
There’s a predator-proof fence around the Park to keep pests out but thankfully this doesn’t mean us. We are tolerated as long as we abide by the rules (no dogs, no bikes on bush trails, no litter, no stowaway mice, and no picking plants). The fence creates an open sanctuary so that native birds (over 40 species) and rare reptiles such as the moko skink can thrive.
People have lived and worked on the land that is now Shakespear Regional Park at the tip of the Whangaparāoa Peninsula for a thousand years. Māori lived here before the Europeans arrived in the 1820s and in 1883 they sold a 800 hectare block of land to Mr W. H. Shakespear (different spelling and no relation to the Bard). He built a house which is now an outdoor education centre and started to farm.
Because of the strategic position of the peninsula overlooking the Hauraki Gulf and the entrance to Auckland’s inner harbour, the Army moved in during World War II. They built a defensive site with pillboxes, searchlights, electrified barbed wire entanglements and anti-tank ditches. There was also a de- gaussing station which used the state-of-the-art technology of the time to de-magnetise the hulls of ships giving them the ability to avoid triggering magnetic mines. (The ‘gauss” was the unit used to by the Germans to measure the strength of the magnetic field and the various processes used to counter the mines became known as degaussing.)
Fortunately, Auckland saw no hostile raids during the War and these defences were never fully tested. The Ministry of Defence still occupies a chunk of the peninsula for doing top secret stuff (absolutely no public access) and the remains of the WWII defences are part of a 2 hour Heritage Trail (2 hours return, 3.9kms). Just follow the yellow markers.
There are two other walkways in the Park. The Lookout Track (1 hour return, 2.5kms) and Tiri Tiri Track (2 hours return, 4.8kms). This is by far the best way to enjoy the Park to its fullest, either on foot or on mountain bike. The trails are well marked (blue for the Lookout Track and red for Tiritiri) and pass through regenerating native forest, up and down farmland where you will get up close to the grazing livestock, cut across beaches and be blown away (quite literally on the day of my visit during a bit of a gale) at the wonderful views beyond the sandstone cliffs and across to Tititiri Matangi Island. The walks are generally easy although there are a couple of steepish parts, one of which is necessary to reach a lookout post on top of the hill at the junction of the 3 tracks. The uninterrupted 360˚view is truly spectacular and totally worth the slog up the hill.
Things to know before you go:
- An information brochure with a map of the Park is available in the park or from www.arc.govt.nz
- Drinking water is available in the Park and there are barbecues for public use but there are no shops
- If you’re planning to visit in a group, you’ll need to book in advance if you have more than 75 people (that’s a LOT of sausages on the barbie).
- Find out more information about the Shakespear Open Sanctuary here www.sossi.org.nz. There are regular volunteer days where you can get involved in helping the Park Rangers planting, building, repairing, pruning and hedging.
Categories: New Zealand