Waikōwhai Bay

The bay that gives the area its name, Waikōhai can be beautiful on the right day. The name Waikōwhai means “Kōwhai trees by the water’s edge” and the valley used to be full of the beautiful flowering trees. There are some sections of the walkway that still feature impressive mature Kōwhai trees but unfortunately down by Waikōwhai Bay most of the trees are relatively young.

This is because of the very short-sighted decision to turn this into a dumpsite in the 1960’s. It’s hard to comprehend the thought process our civic forefathers went through. “We need somewhere to dump all our home furniture, car parts and building material.” “I know just the place Reginald, a beach on the Manukau. Far away from our stately residences on the Waitemata.”

Eventually the tip was closed and covered and replanted, and once again the beach is a nice place to swim, constantly achieving great results on http://www.safeswim.org.nz. This beach is not as tidal as Wattle Bay, but it is still important to give yourself 40 minutes either side of high tide to get the maximum swim time.

To get down to Waikōwhai Bay, park up at the top carpark of Waikōwhai park by the playground and head down the track to the right. Follow the signage to the beach, ensuring you check out the old changing rooms, then try to walk as far along the beach itself to the left as you can, as the ocean floor is nicer down by the point.

Waikōwhai Bay Ranking:

Aesthetic:

Waikōwhai Bay is surrounded by native bush and is a “twitcher’s delight.” You are almost guaranteed to spot a variety of native birds, from Kōtare, Petrels, Tui, Oystercatchers to Kereru. The view out to Puketutu and Mangere mountain is great on a nice day. However, the built infrastructure drags this place down. Broken chairs, unsightly pipes and overgrown gardens.

2/5

Cleanliness:

The water can be quite murky here, especially on an outgoing tide and there is an unsightly pipe on the beach itself. Apparently this is just a stormwater pipe but it definitely doesn’t add to the natural beauty of the area. This is a bay that needs some love and will hopefully be getting it soon.

2/5

Accessibility:

A five minute walk from the carpark, or a 20 minute one from the bus stop on Hillsborough Rd.

2.5/5

Amenities:

Not a lot going on here. A missing bench seat and a rubbish bin. The historical changing rooms make it a bit more interesting than others around.

1.5/5

The ‘feel’

The walk down to Waikōwhai Bay is nice, and if you can get to the far end it is a nice spot to enjoy the incoming tide. However, it is not the greatest spot by a long way and needs a lot of TLC to get up to scratch.

2/5

Total score:

10/25

Now that I’ve added it up, the score seems a bit harsh. The bay is a nice enough spot, but there are better bays close by. However, if Faulkner is packed, pop over here. It’s fine.

Taylor’s Bay

Taylor’s Bay, an hour after high tide.

Rather unimaginatively named, Taylor’s Bay is arguably the most accessible and well provided for beach in Puketāpapa. There is plenty of nice white sand, a playground, a nice long grassed area, bushwalks heading over to Granny’s Bay and eventually there will be a boardwalk connecting it up to Taumanu Reserve.

Taylor’s Bay used to be fed by a stream coming down from Belfast Reserve and the street behind it was split into two. In the 20th Century, the stream was covered up and the road connected together – saving drivers a couple of minutes off their journey, but at what cost?

Getting there:

You can catch the 68 bus from Onehunga, 27H from the CBD and get off on Hillsborough Road at the top of Carlton Street. There’s a bit of a walk down, but the 68 route will eventually go down Carlton Street.

If you are driving, you can park on Bluff Terrace.

Taylor’s Bay Ranking:

Aesthetic:

At high tide, Taylor’s Bay is geeeee-orgeous. White sand, flanked by Pohutukawa trees, views over to Onehunga port. The water is OK – a little bit murky. However, the tide goes out quickly here and you will be knee-deep an hour and a half after high tide, not so nice.

3/5

Cleanliness:

Taylor’s Bay is well looked after. The grass area is kept well, rubbish is picked up quickly and the toilet is usually clean. The water itself can be a bit murky but overall, a fine place for a swim.

3/5

Accessibility:

Very easy. You can park right beside the beach. Public transport is about a 10 minute walk away too.

4/5

Amenities:

A toilet, drinking fountain, playground (including a sand laboratory), swings, and Kayak hire across the road. Great place to come with the whanau.

The ‘sand lab’ in the playground

4/5

The ‘feel’

Taylor’s Bay is a good place to come with a group for an afternoon swim and picnic. It lacks some of the privacy of other beaches but the facilities here are arguably the best along the coast.

4/5

Total score:

18/25

Arguably the best spot for a whanau picnic along the coast. Swimming is pretty good – when the tide is in. If you have young kids or others who cant walk too far, this is probably your best bet.

Nice summer’s afternoon down at Taylor’s Bay

Wattle Bay/Taunahi

Wattle Bay is one of my favourites. Accessible with a 15 minute bush walk from Sylvania Crescent, or down from Cape Horn Rd, there is a large grassed area beside the beach. At high tide, the water is nice and clear and the bay is surrounded by hectares of beautiful native bush, which supports a fantastic range of birds and insects.

Wattle Bay is so-named because the hill behind used to be a Wattle plantation. Yes, a now-pest species was farmed- mostly for firewood. Since these trees are no longer there, maybe we can start to use the Māori name – Taunahi. I’m not 100% sure but the name seems to come from a combination of words to mean “nurse after an attack” – so possibly this was a resting place after a battle. There is archaeological evidence of pre-european Māori occupation – something that will hopefully be investigated further in the future.

This area used to have a number of baches, which were demolished in the 1980’s. This is also the site where Wally Kerschel did his famous beetle study in the 1970s – where he found over 900 types of beetle in a very small area.

But the real highlight of Taunahi/Wattle Bay is an unnamed beach about 5 minutes further along the track, towards Cape Horn. Let’s call it…

Taunahi iti (Little Taunahi)

On the incoming tide

This is a beautiful little beach. Aesthetically, the flaxes and overhanging bush make it a fantastic spot for an afternoon. There is a seat, a tire swing (which looms dangerously over a fallen pine…) and a nice grassed area. This also has more sand than the ‘main’ Wattle Bay. This beach is probably easiest accessed from Cape Horn Rd and walking down the track.

Wattle Bay Ranking:

Aesthetic:

When you take both beaches into account, Wattle Bay is a beautiful place. The main beach itself is lovely on a high tide, and even on a low tide the walk around the rocks is top notch. “Little Wattle Bay” is what pushes this to such a high ranking, this spot in the evening is world class.

4/5

Cleanliness:

The water is extremely clear on an incoming tide here, due to the tidal nature of the bay. There are two rubbish bins provided, both of which are regularly emptied. I’d like to see the tall grass behind the main bay given a bit of love.

3/5

Accessibility:

A decent walk to both beaches. Coming down from Sylvania Cres will take around 15 minutes, returning will be a bit longer. The walk from Cape Horn would take about 10 minutes down, but 20 going up – you’ll probably need a few breaks.

2.5/5

Amenities:

2 rubbish bins, a broken seat and a tire swing. Not the greatest. However, the history of the site, and the great Bush walk in, push this score up.

2.5/5

The ‘feel’

I really enjoy Wattle Bay. The native bush, wildlife and undisturbed peace. However, the long walk, lack of facilities and somewhat unkempt grass keeps the score down.

3/5

Total score:

15/25

Let down by accessibility and amenities, don’t let the score deceive you. Taunahi/Wattle Bay is well worth a trip.