Two Auckland weekend escapes: Mangawhai & Awhitu

By: Liz Light & Jill Malcolm


Two Auckland weekend escapes: Mangawhai & Awhitu The view from the cliff-top walk, Mangawhai. Two Auckland weekend escapes: Mangawhai & Awhitu
Two Auckland weekend escapes: Mangawhai & Awhitu Surfers in Mangawhai Two Auckland weekend escapes: Mangawhai & Awhitu
Two Auckland weekend escapes: Mangawhai & Awhitu The cliff-top walk, Mangawhai. Two Auckland weekend escapes: Mangawhai & Awhitu
Two Auckland weekend escapes: Mangawhai & Awhitu View from the Awhitu Peninsula. Two Auckland weekend escapes: Mangawhai & Awhitu
Two Auckland weekend escapes: Mangawhai & Awhitu The Manukau Heads Lighthouse. Two Auckland weekend escapes: Mangawhai & Awhitu
Two Auckland weekend escapes: Mangawhai & Awhitu Orua Bay, Awhitu Peninsula. Two Auckland weekend escapes: Mangawhai & Awhitu

Looking to escape the city for a weekend? Look no further than Mangawhai Heads and the Awhitu Peninsula – two amazing day trips from Auckland.

Check out these short excerpts from issue 123 of Motorhomes Caravans & Destinations – written by Liz Light and Jill Malcolm respectively.

Mangawhai Heads

I like a good walk, and the Mangawhai beach and cliff walk is one of the best.

From the surf club we walked north along the beach and around a rocky headland. From the middle of another beach a sign pointed uphill to where the track curls through dunes and climbs – via a few hundred steps – to the cliff far above.

At the top of the cliff the hard walking work is done and the track ambles along the cliff edge with grassy farmland on one side and the rocky foreshore and ocean far below on the other.

Allow me to go gaga about the views with, to the north, Bream Head and the Hen and Chicks Islands; to the east Great and Little Barrier Islands, which have taken on the colour of the sea and sky and are smoky blue; and to the south where we looked down the endless beach to Cape Rodney.

Giant pohutukawa trees stretched audaciously over the cliff edge, hanging on by their gnarly old toenails, defying gravity, wind, salt spray and storms, to proudly thrive in this inhospitable place. Flax flourishes too on the steep slopes and manuka gets by in a stunted way, with its topknots neatly trimmed by the wind.

The track – about four kilometres long – follows the undulations of the cliff top and eventually descends down a steep valley, through shady groves of nikau and taraire, to the rocky foreshore. The tide is out, so we are able to walk the foreshore back to Mangawhai while enjoying the thrum of the surf and its mesmeric coming and going.

Read more in the latest issue.

Awhitu Peninsula

On an auspicious Sunday last month we set off from Auckland and hauled the caravan to Waiuku, 70km south of Auckland Central with the intention of exploring the Awhitu Peninsula: a crinkled thumb of land, only 40km long that juts into the Manukau Harbour.

The road north from Waiuku, which ends at the lighthouse at Manukau Heads, is long, curvaceous, undulating and in some places a little narrower than we would have liked. Unexpectedly though, the landscapes along the way are spectacular.

At first we drove past ribbed hills dotted with livestock. But towards the cliffs that form the harbour's southern head the ridges rose higher and higher, soaring dramatically towards a pearly sky; some were dotted with thickets of young kauri and puriri trees, remnants of the forests that once covering the whole peninsula.

The valleys below became so distant and deep we could have been looking at them from a low flying aircraft. Farm homesteads shrank to the size of Monopoly houses and in the distance we caught glimpses of the Tasman Sea.

On the north westerly tip of the promontory is the Manukau Lighthouse, a solid squat building that seems to grow naturally out of the cliff. It’s a replica of the original, first built in 1874.

Standing next me on the lighthouse deck were Ron and Susan from England.

"Wha' a view, eh?" said Ron. "It's such a great country this. We've explored New Zealand by motorhome six times now. New Zealanders don't seem to understand how lucky they are."

I assured him that the luck was not lost on me.

Read more in the latest issue.

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