Parks

Point to Point walkway

 


The Point to Point route introduces you to a range of experiences - sandy beaches that lead to panoramic viewpoints, green sports fields that give way to wide stretches of estuary, and intimate nature reserves contrasting with cow-studded country pastures.

Some say the true heart of the Auckland area is the Tamaki Estuary. In days gone by its riches and strategic value were beyond measure, its waters teemed with fish, flocks of birds swarmed the tidal flats and rich shellfish beds were there for the taking. Fertile volcanic soils allowed extensive gardens and cones and bluffs were ideal for defence. During the early days of Auckland settlement the area was considered to be 'the very heart of the wilds'. As roads and transport grew, residents flocked to the area for its unique character and charm.

The full walk is about 7.5km long, starting at the popular St Heliers Bay and finishing at Point England. Allow three to four hours. Whatever your age or fitness, you will be able to enjoy some part of the walk.

 


Map

Point to Point Walkway Map


St Heliers to Churchill Park

This walk takes you from the charming village and pohutukawa-fringed beach of St Heliers, along cliff tops that offer views of central Auckland and afar, to the rolling farmland of Churchill Park. If you have time, divert your walk down a short pathway to sheltered Ladies Bay, a pleasant sand and shell beach that is renowned for its quietude across Auckland.

St Heliers is named after a township in the Channel Islands. The first farmer was Auckland's first military commander Major Thomas Bunbury. He welcomed new arrivals to his 'model' farm and invited them to contribute seeds. The bay's natural beauty was a big attraction and boatloads of eager picnickers would arrive each weekend. Early photos show hundreds of people lining the beach. One old timer recalls cycling for miles over rough tracks to fish off the jetty and then swapping fish with a farmer's wife in exchange for food and drink. For many years a long wooden jetty stretched out into the bay. At low tide, the remains of the wooden piles can still be seen at the end of St Heliers Bay Road.

The walk leads you past Ladies Bay, which was named after Lady Grey, the wife of George Grey, an early Governor of New Zealand. Further along is Achilles Point - Te Pane o Horoiwi. The headland was known as Te Pane o Horoiwi, named after Horoiwi who arrived on the Tainui waka. He lived here while the waka continued on to Kawhia. Today it is known more as Achilles Point, which commemorates the 1939 battle of the River Plate where the New Zealand crewed Achilles engaged with other allied vessels to defeat legendary German cruiser Graf Spee.

The view from the headland stretches from Auckland city in the west to the distant peaks of Coromandel Peninsula in the east. The distinctive cone shape of Rangitoto Island lies just across the water. This is the most recent and the largest of Auckland's volcanoes, emerging from the sea just 600 to 700 years ago in a series of fiery explosions. This was the only eruption witnessed by humans - footprints were found in ash deposits on the neighbouring island Motutapu. Rangitoto is now a reserve with the largest remaining Pohutukawa forest in New Zealand.

As you stroll down Glover Park you are entering the crater of an ancient volcano. Also known as Whakahumu, the St Heliers volcano erupted about 50,000 years ago. The surrounding houses and concrete water tower are built on a high 'tuff' ring formed from ejected materials and ash. The seaward side eroded to form high cliffs that was once the site of a Māori pā. In human times the crater was a shallow lake but it was drained and filled in the 1950s to form sports fields.

Nearby Brown's Island - Motukorea is said to be the 'prettiest' of Auckland's volcanic cones. When it erupted about 10,000 years ago, the area was in the grip of an ice age and the sea had receded far out into the Hauraki Gulf, thus the lava flowed out over dry land. When the sea rose again it covered much of the lava field and isolated the cone from the mainland. The island has a rich history of both Māori and European occupation and is an important archaeological site.

 

Churchill Park

This walk starts at one of the largest reserves in the eastern area. It offers a mixed personality, from a manicured urban park to a wild country farm - 40 hectares complete with grazing cattle. The park hosts an astonishing variety of birds as you will see and hear as you move through. Most noticeable is the harsh shriek of the Pukeko - the swamp hen - which protests loudly when disturbed.

If you wish to do a side excursion to Karaka Bay, turn left at the first track intersection and climb up to the pine trees. At low tide it is possible to walk along the silt and rock foreshore from Karaka Bay to the Glendowie Boating Club (which takes around half an hour).

Churchill Park began as a farmland but was sold in the mid-1920s for use as a golf course. A lot of money went into developing the links but low-lying areas remained wet and boggy. One wit suggested that the park was 'rubber-mounted' due to the vast number of golf balls sunk in the swamps. The club folded after most of its members enlisted for military service with the outbreak of WWII.

Karaka Bay is a quiet sandy beach that belies its importance in the history books of Auckland. It was here in 1840 that New Zealand's first Governor, William Hobson, met with local Māori chiefs to add their signatures to New Zealand's founding document - The Treaty of Waitangi. An eyewitness said it was a grand occasion with everyone dressed in their finery, waka canoes drawn up on the beach, the British cutter at anchor and a flag flying near the tent with the documents laid out on a table to be signed.

The small hill at the end of the Churchill Park track will reveal a view across to the Tamaki Estuary and the Half Moon Bay marina. In the view to the west two volcanic cones can be seen, one behind the other. The nearest one is Taylor Hill named after an early farming family. It is also known as Taurere and was the site of a large Māori pā. At the parting of her love interest Turanga, young Parehuia planted a grove of Karaka trees knowing that when they were tall he would return to her from Taranaki. In time he did with their daughter Ruahine. Parehuia foretold the return of her daughter by the actions of the kotuku (grey heron) at Waipuna. Taurere takes its name from the lament sung by Ruahine as her mother lay in state in the Karaka grove. The volcanic cone in the distance is Mt Wellington - Maungarei, which also served as a major defended pā.

 


Tahuna Torea

Tahuna Torea introduces you to 25 hectares of unique wildlife sited on a long sand bank extending out into the Tamaki Estuary from Glendowie.

Read more about Tahuna Torea including the three main walking trails around the reserve that you can walk together or separately.

 


Other routes

To Panmure Basin - 45 minutes

From Point England continue along grassy riverside parks to Panmure Boating Club and follow Kings Road, Riverview Road, Queens Road and Bridge Street to busy Lagoon Drive. Cross at lights and pick up walk track around Panmure Basin.

 

To St Johns Road - 45 minutes or to St Heliers - 1 hour 15 minutes

From Point England cut across sports fields to pick up the concrete path alongside Omaru Creek. Follow the creek up stream through a number of urban reserves and climb up through horse paddocks to St Johns Road on the ridgeline. Walk back to St Heliers in another 30 minutes by taking St Heliers Road to the right and follow to the beach.

 


Wildlife

Sea and wading birds can be seen roosting on the sandy tip of the spit and on the lagoon and its islands. While the Manukau Harbour provides feeding grounds and high tide roosts nearby, waders have few remaining secluded high tide resting places on the Waitemata side. The reserve is therefore an important conservation site for these birds.

The main species of wader are the South Island pied oystercatcher, pied stilt and goodwit. Other species are the knot, turnstone, golden plover, banded dotterel, New Zealand dotterel and wrybill. At low water they feed on the exposed mudflats.

The best time to view the goodwits is between full tide and half tide from November to March. In the autumn they migrate 10,000 miles to Siberia while the oystercatchers return to the river valleys of the South Island.

Seabirds likely to be seen include the red-billed gull, Caspian tern, pied-shag and little shag which feed in the waters surrounding the spit.

Like the waders the white-faced heron and reef heron feed on the mud but retire to resting places at high water.

Gannets and the white-fronted tern or kahawai bird fish offshore by diving.
Among the mangrove flats at low tide the banded rail may be seen feeding the mud, while kingfishers gather near the fish dam.

The bush slope forms a habitat for various native species of land birds including the tui, morepork, grey warbler, fantail and silvereye. Introduced garden species include the song thrush, blackbirds, finches and spotted doves. Californian quail, yellowhammer, skylarks and a number of pheasants inhabit the meadow while in spring the migratory shining cuckoo visits. Harrier hawks may be seen hovering over the swamp and meadow. Nesting sites have also been provided for the welcome swallow, now seen in large numbers, particularly in the late afternoon.

Freshwater birds are best viewed at the pond beside the West Tamaki Road entrance or in the brackish waters of the fish dam. The majority of ducks are either native grey ducks or mallards although a few shovellers and paradise ducks visit the pond.

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