Auckland – or Tāmaki Makaurau in Maori – has a fiery past. While the scenic waterside metropolis is rightly lauded for its dining, retail and nightlife, the region is also a dream destination for hikers thanks to it being founded on a field of more than 50 now-dormant volcanic peaks. That means there are few better places in New Zealand to head out for a night on the town, then switch your dress shoes for hiking boots and hit the trails.
Here are five easily accessible walks that take in spectacular views of Auckland, its harbours and the surrounding landscape.
Maungawhau / Mt Eden Path
Maungawhau, also known as Mount Eden, is a dormant volcano and the highest natural point in Auckland. Once the home of a large Maori pa (a hillfort or settlement) dating from 1200AD, Maungawhau’s crater is sacred to Maori and off-limits to visitors. In 2020, Tupuna Maunga Authority, which manages Maungawhau, finished work on a new boardwalk and viewing platform at the volcano’s summit, designed to protect the terraces and other historic remnants of the pa.
The two-kilometre Maungawhau / Mt Eden Path begins at Puhi Huia Road and follows the old summit road clockwise up the mountain – cars are now restricted on the main loop, meaning you can relax and take in your surrounds as you go. There’s a bunch of supplementary walkways if you want to take a different route to the tihi (summit) but the terrain can be stony and steep so be sure to stick to the formed paths. However you get there, you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking 360-degree views over the entire region and harbour.
Maungakiekie / One Tree Hill Path
Maungakiekie, or One Tree Hill, is another significant site in Maori history. Named after a vine used for weaving (kiekie) that grew in the area, Maungakiekie was home to thousands of people who lived in a large pa on the volcano’s slopes. Today, easily visible terraces, pits and craters remain as archaeological evidence of the once thriving community. The English name One Tree Hill reportedly came from a pohutukawa (also known as the New Zealand Christmas tree, a native New Zealand tree that has striking crimson flowers) that stood near the summit at the time of European arrival.
The Maungakiekie / One Tree Hill Path, a three-kilometre return journey, is steep in sections but offers a spectacular 360-degree vista at its peak. Just be sure to tread carefully around this culturally important site and always stick to the sealed road and formal paths where possible. There’s also a fantastic playground, flying fox and the Stardome Observatory at the foot of the trail, if you have little ones travelling with you. Cornwall Park, on the northern side of the reserve, is a good spot to picnic in the summer, and features farmland, a cafe and a garden where you can view cherry blossoms during the spring.
Maungauika / North Head Path
Like Maungawhau and Maungakiekie, Maungauika is one of Auckland’s 14 Tupuna Maunga, ancestral mountains of spiritual and cultural significance. A former Maori settlement at the base of Maungauika is one of the oldest in the region. During colonial times, Maungauika (also known as North Head) played an important role in coastal defence due to its strategic location at the entrance of Waitemata Harbour. Fears of a Russian invasion led to the construction of a fort and a series of gun batteries on its slopes in the 1880s.
Visitors to Maungauika today can walk a 1.8-kilometre path to the maunga’s summit. Along the way there are terrific views over the Waitemata Harbour to the city centre, and over Rangitoto Island and the broader Tikapa Moana / Hauraki Gulf. It’s a sealed path so you can take a stroller with you, and take a torch if you want to explore some of the old fort’s tunnels.
Rangitoto Island Summit Track
Rangitoto Island is a volcanic island in the Hauraki Gulf that formed just over 600 years ago when it emerged from the sea in a series of volcanic explosions. The Rangitoto Island Summit Track – which begins at Rangitoto Wharf, a 25-minute ferry ride from Queens Wharf – is an easy climb that passes through the world’s largest pohutukawa forest and ancient lava fields. Famous for its birdlife, the island is home to native forest and shore birds such as the korimako (bellbird), the tui, the piwakawaka (fantail), the riroriro (grey warbler), the popokotea (whitehead), the kakariki (New Zealand parakeet) and the tuturiwhatu (New Zealand dotterel).
Allow yourself two hours to complete this fabulous seven-kilometre return walk, and an extra half an hour if you want to branch off the main route to explore some of the island’s lava tunnels and caves – just be sure to pack a torch.
Coast to Coast Walkway
The 16-kilometre Coast to Coast Walkway, part of a continuous 3000-kilometre walking track from Cape Reinga to Bluff known as Te Araroa, or the Long Pathway, connects Waitemata and Manukau harbours.
From Viaduct Harbour, the walk winds its way through Auckland Domain, past five of Auckland’s most famous volcanic sites, including Maungawhau and Maungakiekie. Both peaks offer bird’s eye views of the region and its surrounding hills. Keep an eye out for local birdlife. The trail is split into three smaller sections, for those keen for a shorter hike.
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Visit Auckland. Lonely Planet recently named Auckland the "best city to travel to in 2022".