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New Zealand’s most raucous walk

It takes just 30 minutes to walk the Wattle Track on Tiritiri Matangi Island but in that time you’ll encounter more birds than you’ve ever seen before.

You may feel as if you have stepped into Aotearoa’s past as you walk the Wattle Track on the island sanctuary of Tiritiri Matangi, in Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf. 

Delving into a time where New Zealand was all towering trees and deafening bird song. 

Leaving the wharf, there is a sudden steep ascent which is part of the road on the island, but this branches off to a separate walking track. The track leads to a lush forest which was planted by thousands of volunteers between 1984 -1994. This team was known as the ‘spade brigade’ and combined, they planted more than 280,000 trees.

The former farmland became a forested island sanctuary and a home to many native birds. 

A tieke/saddleback looks for nectar on a harakeke plant. Photo: Athena Rhodes

Walking onto the Wattle Track, visitors are met with a cacophony of bird sound.

From the joyfully laughing tīeke to the tinkering bell song of the korimako and the harsh coughing calls of the tui. The soundtrack of this forest is one I wish I could bottle and take with me when I depart the island.

Blooming harakeke line the track in many places, the birds sipping eagerly at its sweet nectar. Their beaks seem to glow with the orange pollen.

Walking this track, a sense of excitement perpetuates the experience. You never really know what feathered friend you will meet around the next bend. A kererū feasting in the nīkau, a hihi on the sugar-water feeder. Or perhaps even the elusive kōkako, the songstress of the forest.

A kererū in the Nikau. Photo: Athena Rhodes

It may be a brief walk – only 30 minutes each way – but it is rich with experience and wildlife encounters that many will hold dear to their hearts when they depart.

At the end of the track is the imposing white and red lighthouse. Built in 1865, it boasted 11 million candlepower and was known as the brightest light in the Southern Hemisphere. Though the light is now automated, it is the oldest working lighthouse in New Zealand.

You may encounter ancient-looking takahē wandering around on the grass in front of the lighthouse – as this is one of their favourite haunts to munch on grass.


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Distance
1km
Total Ascent
100m
Grade
Easy
Time
30min each way
Access
Via ferry which departs from Auckland or Gulf Harbour.

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