View of O'Neil Bay on Auckland's West Coast. © Andrew MacDonald

Te Henga Walkway: a wild and wonderful west coast walk

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You ask an ex-pat Aucklander what they most miss about their beloved city and you can guarantee that in their top five will be the city’s outstanding west coast beaches.

There are half a dozen wild and wonderful spots to choose from and Te Henga, also known as Bethells Beach, is one of the most accessible and most popular.

Like its close neighbours Piha and Karekare, it offers surfing for the bold and swimming under strict and necessary surf lifesaving guidance.

Yep, it’s wild out there, people, that thunderous surf starting its journey at the next nearest land mass: Straya mate. Uh-huh.

One of the big attractions is Te Henga Walkway, where you can stride along the rugged cliffs that survey the sea, as well as past lagoons and amazing sand dunes. To the south O’Neills Bay and to the north the dive-bombing gannets at the colony at Muriwai . . . Just watch out for . . . Oh, anyone got a hanky?

The track is part of the Hillary Trail, an amazing combination of tracks and trails that runs throughout the Waitakere Ranges, named in honour of the man who conquered Everest, New Zealand’s Sir Edmund Hillary.

This is an environment that soothes the soul yet inspires it in equal measure, blowing away the cobwebs from the city that is only an hour’s drive away. The black sand, white surf and blue skies have inspired local artists and excited visitors for decades, an experience that changed little in centuries. Except that the tracks are much safer and you can get an ice cream at the store on the way out of the car park. All bases covered, then.

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