The Coast to Coast walk is a 16km hike across Auckland, from the Waitemata Harbour to the Manukau.
The walk takes you through landscapes shaped by 600 years of Maori settlement and offers panoramic views stretching across Auckland city and the region. Along the way you'll see some of our finest natural and built heritage areas, woodland settings, windswept hills, charming parks and gardens, captivating architectural treasures and fascinating geological landforms - all offering glimpses of times gone by.
Auckland has long been known as Tamaki Makaurau - "the spouse desired by a hundred lovers." All who saw its fertile volcanic slopes, sheltered fishing sites, and access to the greatest waterway in New Zealand, the Waikato River, desired it.
The Auckland isthmus is New Zealand's narrowest neck of land, never more than nine kilometres from north to south and less than two kilometres from east to west. Given this short distance, Maori used these as canoe portages, from the Waitemata Harbour and Pacific Ocean on one side, to the Manukau Harbour and Tasman Sea on the other.
Highlights along the trail
Views of Auckland landmarks
To the north: the waters of the Waitemata (meaning 'smooth and shining water') Harbour, 65 islands of the Hauraki Gulf, and Rangitoto - the 600 year old, symmetrically shaped, shield volcano.
To the north-east: the Coromandel Range, an old volcanic chain.
To the east: the uplifted greywacke bulk of the Hunua Ranges.
To the south: the more gentle rise of the Bombay Hills, another old volcanic field.
To the south-west: the vast Manukau Harbour.
To the west: the Waitakere Ranges, remnants of a once-mighty volcanic chain.
Regarded as still active, Auckland's volcanic field is geologically young, having produced mainly small-sized cones. Its pocket-sized volcanoes first erupted through the underlying isthmus rock over 50,000 years ago.
The Coast to Coast walkway passes five volcanic sites:
- Albert Park - now a green shoulder of the Central Business District, is a small, now barely-recognisable volcano.
- Auckland Domain - a volcano that retains its central scoria cone, called Pukekaroa, and the smooth encircling mound from its initial eruption: the tuff ring. The walkway crosses the scoria cone and exits over the tuff ring to pass an adjacent scoria cone at Outhwaite Park.
- Maungawhau (Mt Eden). Many rock walls made from the extracts of the old lava flows shape the trail’s approach to Maungawhau. To see a remnant of the old field and its original forest cover, follow the detour marked on the map. The trail crosses Maungawhau summit, at 196 metres the highest summit in the isthmus. The summit crater is virtually unmodified.
- Maungakiekie (One Tree Hill) has three craters, two breached and one intact. The Coast to Coast walkway passes over the 183 metre high summit.
Fertile volcanic slopes, access to sheltered fishing sites, strategic command of land routes, access to sea routes on either coast, and to the greatest inland waterway in New Zealand (Aotearoa), the Waikato River, gave the isthmus its Maori renown. The Maori name, Tamaki Makau Rau - the spouse desired by a hundred lovers - reflects that renown. As they contended for control of the isthmus, the tribes reshaped the volcanic cones into formidable pa sites.
In 1840, New Zealand's first Governor, Captain William Hobson, acquired some 3000 acres of isthmus land from the Ngati Whatua chiefs, a triangle whose base stretched some 12 kilometres along the Waitemata southern shore and whose apex was the summit of Maungawhau (Mt Eden).
Aside from the colonial governors, the best-known early Aucklander was the Scot, John Logan Campbell. An adventurer and one of the first Auckland settlers, he became the city's most prominent businessman and mayor. He gifted Cornwall Park to the people of Auckland, with the park still run by a trust he helped to establish. As the walkway enters the park, it passes a statue of Campbell. His grave, with the Latin inscription "si monumentum requiris circumspice" - "If you want a memorial, look about you" - is on the summit of Maungakiekie.
Auckland isthmus and the 65 islands in the Hauraki Gulf, covers a land area of 63,174 hectares. It is governed by Auckland Council, which has within its jurisdiction the largest population of any local authority in the country.
Auckland is ethnically diverse, containing some 181 different ethnic groups.
The urban landscape
A warm climate, good rainfall and generous property sizes have encouraged an urban forest of mixed native and exotic trees with gardens at their feet. Street and park plantings date back to the 19th century. The oaks, often grown from acorns from English estates, and the plane trees brought from London reflect the colonial heritage. The distinctive pinnate shape of the Norfolk pines reflects Auckland's sea-route beginnings - brought to early Auckland in tubs and sold by sailors. Many native trees also prevail in the parks.
The city's early merchants built grand verandahed villas in Princes Street, establishing what would become, alongside the later bungalows, a prevailing architectural pattern.
Native birds include the iridescent blue kingfishers (kotare), fantail (piwakawaka), and tui - distinguished by a white throat tuft and a melodious call, and the large wood pigeon (kereru).
Whau trees, whose wood are as light as balsa and were once used by Maori for net floats, still grow on Maungawhau (the hill of the whau tree). The trail passes a small forest of Totara and Rimu on the old volcano's southern slopes and Cornwall Park's many native trees include an avenue of Puriri, and a young kauri grove. You will see introduced bird species en route, including the sparrow, blackbird, the thrush and rock pigeons in the parks. Sizeable grassy areas attract the large black and white magpie and the bright green and red rosella, both Australian immigrants.