The wife and I traveled to Auckland from California in early June of this year. We had found a great deal on airfare so although it was really last minute, we couldnt resist the opportunity to check out what NZ was all about.
Our base of operations was out of the Sky City Grand Hotel in downtown Auckland, so we unfortunately didn't get to experience too much of the wild nature that NZ is famous for. We however decided to go on a "Wild Waitakere" day tour to the nearby Waitakere ranges with the Waitakere Tours company that was recommended by a visitor center, and boy are we happy we did!
The morning started off with the proprietor and guide, Shane picking us up at our hotel. We then embarked on a relatively quick ride out of the city, towards the west coast. Being that it was June, the morning was quite gloomy so we were a bit worried about how our outdoor day would turn out. Our first destination was the actual western coast, where we were able to see first hand, the dramatic, rugged cliffs of this region. Being from California, we are accustomed to beaches and cliffs also, but the distinct black volcanic color of these cliffs topped with lush green foliage, being battered by the rough seas was a sight that I will never forget. There was even a waterfall pouring down into the ocean from one of the distant cliffs. Shane was quite accomodating due to the bad weather as he provided us with some rain gear. They say that you can see all 4 seasons in one day in NZ, and this proved to be true this day, because the weather shortly became clear and beautiful.
The next leg of our tour took us to the amazing black sand dunes not too far inland from the coast. The dunes were huge, with glittery iron particles glistening with the sunlight. It was quite a stunning sight to see these giant, black dunes surrounded by the lush Waitakere forests. We even got to take our shoes off, rolled up our pants and walked through a cool stream that was flowing around the dunes. Shane mentioned to us that this area is one that attracts various movie studios due to its unique beauty. I can see why!
After the dunes, we got to go on a couple walks through the Waitakere rain forests. Shane, being native to this area was well versed in the history and culture of the region, in addition to being knowledgeable of the diverse flora and fauna we explored in the rainforests. The giant kauri trees we saw were quite breathtaking, as they were massive! The walks were followed by a leisurely picnic lunch provided by Ana. Boy was it great to have a home cooked meal after a week of food in the city!
After lunch, we spent the remainder of the afternoon exploring two of the most memorable parts of this day, Piha beach and Kitekite falls. Getting to Kitekite falls involved a nice walk through another part of the rainforest, until reaching this secluded, breathtaking waterfall. After the hike there, we even got to dip our feet in the water (freezing but invigorating) as we took some moments to enjoy our surroundings. After the hike out of the forest, Shane took us to our last destination, the black sand Piha beach. Now, I have never seen a black sand beach before, and perhaps this was why, but I was taken aback by the stunning, sparkling black sand, and the massive volcanic rocks jutting out of the ocean. Just standing there surrounded by the beauty of Piha as the sun was preparing to set will be a memory forever etched in my mind, one I hope I will be able to relive again.
I know that this has been a long review, but if you're still reading, I just wanted to share my story about this fantastic tour that we just stumbled upon! Shane is a down-to-earth, personable, and knowledgeable guide, and we couldn't even imagine having done this tour with anyone else. Shane and Ana conduct this tour in a manner where you will feel like you've made two new Kiwi friends during your trip.
For those of you who think that you have to travel far outside of Auckland to see beautiful scenery, think again. A day in Waitakere with Shane is an experience not to be missed!
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