Waiheke Island Coastal Loop is a 3.7 mile moderately trafficked loop trail located near the city of Auckland that features beautiful wild flowers and is good for all skill levels. The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, nature trips, and birding and is accessible year-round.
Waiheke Island, a short ferry ride from Auckland, New Zealand, in the Haruki Gulf, has a reputation as the Kiwi playground of the rich and famous with its boutique hotels, pricey wineries, and colorful arts festivals. Like much of New Zealand, however, this is mixed with stunning vistas and hiking tracks that seem isolated from the rest of the world due to the rugged landscape and thick bush. This coastal loop is part of a large network of tracks that runs throughout the island. As Waiheke is rather large, however,Â (approximately 100 square kilometers, almost twice the size of Manhattan) much of the island is inaccessible for a day hike unless you're willing to rely on the bus service or rent a car and drive on the narrow and winding roads. The advantage of this six kilometer track is that it starts and ends at the ferry terminal, requires no additional transportation, and gives you a representative slice of the island flora coupled with spectacular ocean views and close-up looks at some of New Zealand's priciest mansions. Just because you can't afford them doesn't mean you can't dream! Starting at the ferry terminal you cross an open beach in Matiatia Bay which can be blocked at high tide (if this is the case simply do the track in reverse by walking up the road towards Oneroa, giving the tide time to go down). The track out of the bay is clearly marked, although somewhat narrow, and makes a sharp turn to the right towards Owhaneke Bay with multi-million dollar mansions perched on the hillside above the trail. The walk here is spectacular and you'll find yourself stopping many times to snap photos. Turning into the bay after a kilometer or two, the trail goes along the top of a sheer cliff that still provides plenty of walking room. The surface is hard-packed and provides good footing as it goes steeply up and down; however, in wet conditions it could be treacherous so plan your trip accordingly and wear proper shoes with plenty of grip. At the bottom of the trail, it flattens out onto a wide sandy beach and then turns up into the bush for a rather steep 100 meter climb to the trig (ship navigation marker) on top of the hill for great views. As you come up the hill the trig is to the right, across the road, and then the trail continues down the hill, backtracking along the road in the direction you came from, a short distance on the right. This final pleasant downhill section is filled with native plants and shaded for most of the way, which is a welcome relief from the exposed and windy trig. The trail empties into a dirt road, which you will take to the left and will put you onto the main road. To return to the ferry terminal to complete the loop go right for 15 minutes. If you have extra time and energy you can also go left at the road and take a short 15 minute walk into Oneroa, where there are restaurants and shops to browse and enjoy.