A world apart from city life, the Arataki Visitor Centre is the gateway to the Waitakere Ranges. This lush green subtropical rainforest is just a 30-minute drive from Auckland’s city centre. Here, we found ourselves surrounded by the rugged natural beauty one expects to see in New Zealand.
Greeted by an eleven-meter-tall Māori pou (post) at the entrance to the Arataki Visitor Centre, we are reminded of the importance of the natural world and the relationship we all have with it.
It is carved by Te Kawerau a Maki, the local guardians of the land. The Waitakere Ranges are the tribe’s spiritual home, and they have traditional ownership rights to the area.
The pou, one of the largest in New Zealand, also represents tribal ancestors. It, along with the Māori carvings inside the Arataki centre, is carved out of kauri, a New Zealand native and one of the world’s largest and longest-living trees.
Arataki Visitor Centre
While only a 30-minute drive from Auckland, without a car, it can be difficult to get to the Arataki visitor centre or anywhere in the Waitakere ranges on your own. If you are staying in Auckland without a car, the best option is a day trip with a reliable company. This afternoon Piha Beach and Rainforest tour is popular and has good reviews.
Māori carvings inside Arataki Visitor Centre
Inside Arataki, we found several Māori carvings and what seemed to be unlimited information about the Waitakere Ranges (often called the Arataki forest), including interactive displays. There are Park Rangers on staff to offer guidance to the over 250km of walking trails.
Inside the Waitakere Ranges, an Auckland Rainforest
Some say that the Arataki Visitors Centre and the Waitakere Ranges are hidden gems. I am not sure how you can call a 17,000-hectare subtropical rainforest with over 250 kilometres of hiking trails “hidden”.
We only touch on the beauty that is here, enjoying the Arataki nature trail and the incredible viewing platforms attached to the building.
(These photos were taken over several visits in different weather conditions.)
Important information on the Kauri Forest, Kauri Dieback disease, the rāhui, and the Waitakere Ranges walks
A tree disease known as Kauri dieback has infected nearly 19% of the Kauri trees in the Waitakere Ranges. Worse is that it is spreading at an alarming rate. Te Kawerau a Maki, the local Māori guardians of the land, have placed a rāhui or spiritual restriction on the land in order to reduce and mitigate the spread of the kauri dieback disease.
The Auckland Council’s environmental committee in early 2018 voted to consider publicly closing much of the land to align with the rāhui. (More detail at Waitakere rahui.)
Click for the current status or click for a list of open trails.
The Hillary Trail – the longest of the Waitakere Walks
A destination in itself, the Arataki Center can also be the starting point for adventure. It is one end of the challenging 76km, four-day Hillary Trail that takes trampers through the Waitakere Ranges and along Auckland’s west coast.
Opened in January 2010, it was named to honour New Zealand hero, mountaineer, and explorer Sir Edmund Hillary. He used these hills as his training grounds. The full trail is divided into seven sections. It is generally completed in four to six challenging days. The total elevation change is 420 metres.
It is unclear if any of the Hilary Trail will remain open due to Kauri dieback.
Visiting the Arataki Visitor Centre
- Find the Arataki Visitor Centre at 300 Scenic Drive, Titirangi. It is open 9 am – 12 pm and 1 pm – 5 pm every day and is always one of the free things to do in Auckland.
- Arataki Visitor Centre is open during the rāhui and will remain open even if Auckland Council has closed some of the trails.
- It is often referred to as the Waitakere Ranges Visitor Centre, so don’t let it confuse you; they are the same place.
- Inside the Arataki Information Centre is a kid’s corner with puzzles, puppets, books, and a microscope.
- If you are hiking, remember to bring food, water, insect repellent, and a jacket. Also, remember to use the trackside footwear cleaning stations to prevent the spread of kauri dieback disease.
More highlights in and near the Waitakere Ranges
Since May 1, 2018, there have been many closed trails. Be sure to take the time to clean your shoes at the shoe-cleaning stations at many of the trailheads. Before you go, you might want to check back to this page for updates or contact the New Zealand Department of Conservation.
While I love the Waitakere walks, cherish the birds, and photograph the trees, it is the waterfalls that really capture my heart.
There is plenty more to see in West Auckland. Here are a few of my favourite things to see:
- Cascade Kauri Park where you will find extensive native birdlife and the oldest kauri trees in the Waitakere Ranges.
- Popular trails include Karekare Falls (10 minutes from the trailhead), Kitekite Falls (1-hour return), and Mercer Bay Loop Track (1-hour return)
- The wild west coast beaches, like Piha, are where you will also see the iconic Lion Rock.
- Just north of Piha Beach is a colony of Little Blue Penguins that usually come home at twilight.
- The gannets nest in the summertime on Muriwai Beach.
- Nearby Titirangi is home to Te Uru: Waitakere Contemporary Gallery.
Save on your NZ trip with these resources
These are our go-to companies when we travel. We believe this list to be the best in each category. You can’t go wrong using them on your trip too.
- Flights: we use Expedia for the best and cheapest flight options.
- Accommodations: we use Booking.com (hotels) or BookABatch (self-contained).
- Cars (gas or electric): we use RentalCars to search for deals and dealer ratings.
- Campervans or Motorhomes: we use Campstar where Albom Adventures readers get a 3% discount
- Activity discounts: we check Bookme.com for discounts of up to 70% on activities.
- Private guides: we love the private guides at Tours by Locals
- Travel Insurance: our go-to is World Nomads*.
Check out our travel resources page for more companies that we use when you travel.
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Have you been to the Arataki Visitor Centre?
More from Auckland you might also like … starting with these 75 free and nearly free things to do in the city
I always love to visit rain forest. Auckland’s Subtropical Rain forest is one of beautiful forest. I am planing to visit there.
I live in a tropical rainforest climate but this jungle is a different lush of green. The plant dieback is really a concerning thing and I do hope the ranges are managed in a sustainable manner. It would be sad if this park had to be closed off to all visitors.
You are truly blessed to have such a lush green subtropical rainforest just 30 minutes away from Auckland’s city centre. Arataki Visitor Centre seems like a great place to spend a day: you can see the museum and see those beautiful Maori carvings, then stroll through that beautiful forest. I love the picture of that insect. Do you know what it is?
I agree and hope to get to show our area to you someday. The insect is a male weta, the world’s heaviest insect.
Holy cow, so much beauty! The Maori artwork is just stunning, and the visitor’s center looks fascinating. But then the nature, too! Even more wow. Just like that, there’s a new entry on our Bucket List. Thanks for putting the Arataki Visitors Center – and the whole area – on our radar!
What a beautiful place to explore. I loved the fern. What a great shot. Okay all the shots are great, but that fern jumps off the page. So does that heavy bug. Yikes he’s kind of scary.
Have a fabulous day, Rhonda. ♥
Wow, I didn’t know I could find something like this so close to Auckland. Bummer, because I was bored in the city…
Arataki and the rainforest are great, and there are plenty of other things to do in Auckland. I love living here. For next time, here are 75 Free and Nearly Free Things to Do in Auckland New Zealand
What an interesting site! Love the history and the meaning behind the pou and that viewing platform offers a stunning view!
The place just looks so beautiful especially the waterfall but that bug makes me feel icky. Oh well, beauty is all around Rhonda. See ya.
I’ve never seen a weta, but I’m afraid I’d be far too busy fainting to jump! That is one scary looking bug!!
If I’ve said this before, I apologize for being redundant, but I do so enjoy getting to see places through your photos and words that very likely I will never see in person. What a beautiful place! I should like very much to feel the breezes on my face and catch a breath of the scents in the air.
Your photos and the place are beautiful; I like all the rich greens.
Lydia C. Lee
That looks beautiful…I’m really discovering NZ (or how little I know about NZ) through your posts.
You know you’re somewhere beautiful when the viewing platforms are scenic! Gorgeous photography. Your blog is the only way I’ll get to see some of these amazing places, so thank you, Rhonda.
Grey World Nomads
What a beautiful forests. It must be full of Wildlife. You are very lucky to live at such an awesome place #wkendtravelinspiration
Oh my goodness! This is beautiful!
A couple of my firends went to New Zealand two years ago… they came back with tons of bautiful photos and a longing in their heart.
I love the architecture of the visitor’s center! I’d love to live in a place with such a bold overhanging roof and huge decks and balconies. So cool! Thanks for the pics!
Merlinda Little (Glimmer of Hope)
Amazing how this place is so near the city and yet its so lush and so country looking! I am learning so much about the arts and culture in Auckland from reading your blog eversince. Thanks for sharing such beauty and richness!
You know… there have been these deals that keep popping up for flights to Auckland with a free stopover to Fiji that I keep hesitating on… You keep this up, and I might have to just buy the dang tickets.
Wow! You teach me so much about New Zealand.
Great shots, and thanks for sharing.
Indah Nuria Savitri
I really love the ferns..They are sooo beautiful indeed.
Thank you for the wonderful photos!
Oh wow, great pictures Rhonda, you see some amazing things. Love the close up of the fern and those break taking views 🙂
Thanks for stopping by ..
What a fabulous place!
Truly special and spiritual.
Amila @ Leisure and Me
It is interesting to know about the tribes and the Pou.The entrance of the Arataki is really attractive with the Pou.
All the carvings make it feel like a really special place.
Your photos are amazing! That looks and sounds like a beautiful place to visit.
Teresa from NanaHood
I think I need to come hang out with you for a month or so! Your pictures are always gorgeous! Teresa
You better hurry, I am heading overseas in just over a month.
I love the sculptures, and that close up of the fern is super neat. I wouldn’t have known what that was if you didn’t tell me.
It unrolls to the fern leaves.
What a gorgeous country you have, and your photos always show its beauty so well.
Wonderful photos. You always go to great places.
This is great, what a pity i didn’t have the opportunity to visit this place when i went to Auckland. In case i will have another chance this will be in the list. I have been posting about that visit in my blogsite for already a year now, and i still have a lot more post to do. You are blessed to be living there. Now i will put your link in my sidebar. Thanks.
I am glad you enjoyed your visit here. There is so much to see and write about. New Zealand is an endless stream of things to do and see.
I am still staring at those stunning views… wow it must be so awesome to have seen it in real. Gorgeous captures
It was really cool. It always amazes me to be so close to home and see things like this.
L. Diane Wolfe
Gorgeous area. A pou is like our totem poles, isn’t it?
Yes, I would have called it a totem if I didn’t know the Maori name.
Love the rich natural landscape in new zealand. I’ll certainly bring the kids to a rainforest if there is a chance.. such a rich experience
There is another beautiful one along the south coast of the South Island.
What an amazing trip, the photos are beautiful! Karren
It’s only an hour from my house.
Alex J. Cavanaugh
That’s a really nice visitor center.
Amazing that you have the city in sight when the other direction is all wilderness.
Auckland is really diverse.
I wish we had spent more time in Auckland last year. The New Zealand people were very special.
Maybe next time.
Wow, super stunning photos. Geez, I really got to save my pennies for a trip to New Zealand.
LOL – better save the dollars too.
I’d love to visit there. How fun. A history lesson as well. Those are the very best kind.
Have a fabulous day Rhonda. 🙂
Maybe one day you will come to New Zealand.
A perfect day trip destination.
Or a few days if you like to tramp.
These photos are amazing what a beautiful place love that entrance too, your photos are so clear 🙂
Have a tanfastic week 🙂
The pictures are beautiful. That fern is something else.
Those ferns are fairly common in New Zealand forests.
Hi Rhonda – I expect they mean … many haven’t really explored the whole range. You could so easily just have a day to yourself wandering out there .. looks just amazing and those views are brilliant – cheers HIlary
I think I could spend a week wandering around in the Waitakere Ranges.
Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor
Great pictures Rhonda! The Waitakeres are a great place to escape to and go on some great walks.
So many walks to choose from, although I couldn’t image myself doing any of the really big ones.
What an amazing close up of that fern!