Head east to the Hūnua Ranges to tempt the family outdoors on these fun adventures.
Just after a Sunday drive? Take a selfie at the popular Hūnua Falls, then detour 15-minutes north to Clevedon’s famed farmers’ market with its tasty pastries and rejuvenating espresso. But if the troops are rugged up and keen for more, there are plenty of forest trails across swing bridges to sprawling reservoirs with impressive flyer saucer-shaped engineering feats to explore. This vast patch of native forest is Auckland’s largest and home to the rare kōkako and primitive pepeketua/Hochstetter’s frog. Here are five adventures to discover out east this autumn.
Hūnua Falls Loop Walk | Hūnua Ranges Regional Park
Join the crowds admiring the falls as it tumbles over a volcanic cliff into a plunge pool 30 metres below before climbing through the native forest to see the falls from another vantage point. It is popular for its easy accessibility – a mere minute’s stroll from the car park. After admiring the falls, clean your shoes of any kauri dieback spores at the cleaning station before crossing the bridge. A pinhead size of soil with the pathogen is enough to spread the disease, which is lethal to kauri. The signposted loop suits little legs and crosses a handful of boardwalks towards a lookout with a bird’s-eye view of the upper reaches of the waterfall.
Need to know: Walking only. No dogs on loop. Allow 20 minutes return. Parking at the end of Falls Road, Hūnua. Toilets available.
Cossey Gorge Track | Hūnua Ranges Regional Park
This bush-clad trail climbs steadily through a shallow gorge to an impressive engineering feat nestled in 14,000 hectares of native forest. There’s a shallow stream crossing near the trailhead – hop across the boulders – before strolling to Cosseys Reservoir. Have a bite to eat and see if you can spot any water flowing into the reservoir’s UFO-shaped drainage hole before returning. Or, for a little bit of variety, walk down Cossey Access Road before connecting back with the track again on your left. There are plenty of stairs to jiggle the kneecaps on the way down.
Need to know: Allow 2 hours return. Walking only. Dogs on leads but not allowed near the dam. Parking at the end of Falls Road, Hūnua. Toilets available.
Hūnua Suspension Bridge Path | Hūnua Ranges Regional Park
Escape the hordes of tourists at the bustling Hūnua Falls on this lesser-known adventure. The first 20 minutes after the wooden suspension bridge are uphill to the first lookout before the trail becomes undulating and passes through stands of spindly trees to a lookout across Wairoa Dam. Seats along the way let you catch your breath and watch the acrobatic pīwakawaka/fantails. From the dam, follow the four-wheel-drive road past the picnic area and toilet and back to the suspension bridge. Save the kids’ energy by parking beside the suspension bridge instead of the main car park.
Need to know: Allow 1 hour and 30 minutes return. Walking only. Dogs on leads. Parking on Ōtau Road off Moumoukai Road, Hūnua. Toilet available below the dam.
Tōtara Walking Track | Clevedon
Prepare yourself for this nuggety climb. Known to locals as the ‘Stairway to Heaven’, this adventure climbs a ridgeline to a lookout with impressive 360-degree views, including the bush-clad Coromandel Peninsula. Feel the burn as you clamber through mature stands of kauri on a wooden staircase built to protect native tree roots from kauri dieback. This 100-hectare patch of native bush overlooks the Wairoa River and is home to a noisy collection of native birds.
Need to know: Suitable for walking only. Dogs on leads. Allow 1 hour for a short hurty return trip or allow 1 hour and 30 minutes with younger kids. Parking on Thorps Quarry Road, Clevedon. Toilets available.
Old Thorp’s Quarry Waterfall | Clevedon
This short easy walk to a moss-draped waterfall in a disused quarry is perfect for little explorers. Perch on the koru-shaped seat and absorb the history of the greywacke quarry; its heydays were during the early 1900s when extracted rock helped build roads and footpaths within the region. Despite periods of intensive logging and burning for pasture, this scenic reserve has retained valuable ecological stands of lowland and riparian broadleaf forest. Keep an eye out for taraire, pūriri, rimu and kahikatea.
Need to know: Suitable for walking only. Allow 15 minutes return. Dogs on leads. Parking on Thorps Quarry Road, Clevedon. Toilets available.
Looking for more family-friendly walks? Our Auckland guidebook has 100+ outdoor adventures including adventures for walking, bikes, buggies and dogs.