Palm Forest Hikes & Island Views on Waiheke Island

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332 Days on the Road

We admit when we first planned our trip to Waiheke Island, we imagined paddle boarding on the still waters backed by sunny beaches, sipping wine in the sun, eating fish and chips on the beach… Well, anything to do with the beach really. But as our paddle boarding trip got cancelled due to high winds and gnarly waves, going to the beach isn’t exactly going to be as pleasant as we thought. But what if we told you that Auckland’s most popular island isn’t just all about the beaches? What if we told you that the centre of Waiheke Island is known as “The Forest Heart” packed with hikes through a mix of ancient and young forest? Let’s go check it out!

Getting around Waiheke Island

We manage to catch a lift from a fellow hostel-dweller at Hekerua Lodge to one of the entrances to the Onetangi Reserve. Because, yes, the thing to know about Waiheke Island is that it’s not exactly a ‘small’ island. At 92km2, to really explore Waiheke, you may need to take the bus, hire a car/scooter or catch a lift.

the Onetangi Reserve

The entrances to the Onetangi Reserve, in this instance on Trig Hill Road, are indicated by huge signs with walking track maps. Because most of the tracks tend to network together eventually, we figure we would just walk in the direction of Onetangi Beach, no matter what track it takes. Before we enter the reserve, we clean our shoes at the shoe-cleaning station – a precaution to take before entering a forest with kauri trees in it to stop the spread of a disease called kauri dieback.

the Kauri Grove: a grove of forest giants

The evidence of these forest giants called the kauri soon emerges at a side track called the ‘Kauri Grove’. A short boardwalk leads to a raised decking area putting us midway up the forest surrounded by a mix of skinny palm trees, nikau, and the huge kauri tree trunks. Although these kauri are nowhere near as large as the trees you’ll see in Northland and the Coromandel, like we did at the beginning of this crazy year-long adventure, they certainly dominate all other trees in the forest. It’s certainly an impressive sight, especially from this unusual perspective raised up in the forest.

A moment of appreciation for the waiheke Island birds

From the Kauri Grove, we continue making our way to higher ground where the forest canopy gets lower meaning we get a lot closer to the birds. Yes, we are going there again, we are going to talk about birds. Coming from European countries where the most common bird sightings are street pigeons and your next door neighbour’s chicken, we are always overly keen to watch New Zealand’s birds when we see them, and the Onetangi Reserve certainly has plenty! We spot these tiny birds with green feathers and a silver circle around their eyes called, well, silvereye, as well as noisy tui birds making strange warbles and clicking sounds. There are also fantails, cute wee birds with fan-like tails. Although there was a sign at the beginning of the track warning to be careful of kaka (parrot) chicks on the forest floor, unfortunately we don’t see any of these guys.

So much to see in the Kauri Grove!

A cathedral of Nikau palms and the tree of life

As we find ourselves walking down the next valley, we delve into a forest full of towering nikau palms – now it feels more like an island paradise. It’s super stunning forest, different to most other forest we have seen throughout New Zealand. The collection of nikau palms are made all the more beautiful by this one tree growing through the forest on its side rather than toward the sky like a normal freakin’ tree. This tree is a whole eco-system in itself with ferns, mushrooms, spiders and all sorts living on it. Although we can’t remember the name of the tree, we were told yesterday in our EcoZip tour that this type of tree inspired The Tree of Life in the Avatar movies – we can totally see why. What’s more, the tree is totally climbable – and that’s all we got to say about that.

Epic views of Waiheke Island

Moving on, we start making our way out of the valley until we emerge on an open grassy ridge. The wind threatens to knock us off our feet. The outline of the coastline is silhouetted in front of the mid-afternoon sun. Beautiful! We slowly walk across the ridge, partly because of the wind and partly because of the amazing views, until we are back in the forest for the final leg of the walk. This time, we hop over streams and tree roots on this kind of adventurous track. All the tracks that we have taken in the Onetangi Reserve are not necessarily well-maintained which we always prefer to make it feel more adventurous – even when reality is you’re just taking a short stroll in the forest…

Bussing it from Onetangi to Oneroa

Soon enough, we make it out of the other side of the Onetangi Reserve onto a road where we need to walk 10 minutes to get to Onetangi Beach where we can get a bus. Until then, we stick our thumb out in an effort to hitchhike while we are walking, but only certain people have the patience to hitchhike and it turns out that we are not one of them. Instead, we see the bus is due to arrive in five minutes to go to Oneroa where we can pick up some food from the convenience store then make our way back to Hekerua Lodge.

Chilling out at hekerua Lodge

Once the grocery shopping is done, we follow the pedestrian walkway back to the lodge which just happens to go along the edge of Little Oneroa Beach which looks pretty darn beautiful nestled between two large cliffs. It’s a quick walk through the forest roads back to Hekerua Lodge where tonight we make use of their board game collection – wahoo!

We have our fingers crossed for some beach time tomorrow, whether it’s paddle-boarding or doing one of the island’s coastal hikes. See you then!

Wandering through the nikau palms of Waiheke Island

Want more?

Have you read yesterday’s post about zipling over Waiheke Island? How about these articles?

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See you tomorrow!

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