Approximately 64 kilometres from Central Auckland, Waiuku lies within the Auckland Region and is its southernmost town.
Today, it services the surrounding farming and horticultural district, but this small town was once New Zealand’s second-busiest inland port, with cargo and passengers ferried between it and Onehunga.
Take a step back in time discovering this area’s history and enjoy the quiet, slow pace of life.
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Wake up in The Kentish Hotel
Said to hold New Zealand’s longest continuous liquor licence, the Kentish Hotel was built in 1851. The two-storey, wooden hotel has 10 historic rooms, with the choice of singles, twins and queens. You’ll have to share the amenities and might be kept up until midnight with the lively bar and bands downstairs, but it has a great atmosphere and is part of New Zealand’s heritage. Bar walls display many historical images.
5 Queen Street, thekentishhotel.co.nz
Breakfast in LK Café
Open from 7am, LK Café is a very short walk from The Kentish. Keep it simple with toast and jam, or try the generous helpings of muesli, scrambled eggs and hash brown, a big breakfast (that includes bacon, eggs, mushroom, sausage and hash brown), or eggs benedict, amongst the other usual breakfast fare.
While you’re there, grab something for a picnic lunch. There are fresh sandwiches and a great variety of slices – the topping on the ginger and date slice has got to be double that of any other café’s.
58 Queen Street, facebook.com/people/LK-Cafe/100042844586443
What to Do
Head north of Waiuku to discover the Āwhitu Peninsula. Forty kilometres away, on a journey that traverses rolling farmland and creased, rugged valleys, is Manukau Heads Lighthouse. Lying at the tip of the peninsula, it gives panoramic views across the Manukau Harbour mouth, to Whatipū and the Waitākere Ranges. Looking further east, you’ll see Huia, and a windy coastline beyond. If the day isn’t too hazy, the Sky Tower is visible.
Take a leisurely drive from the lighthouse to the bays along the tip of the peninsula. The road to Orua Bay, where bush-backdropped baches dotted along the beachfront, also leads to even more secluded Wattle Bay. At low-tide, take a beach wander. Big Bay and Grahams Bay, picturesque sandy beaches with safe swimming, are accessed at the eastern end via Grahams Beach Road.
A picnic lunch at Āwhitu Regional Park
Āwhitu Regional Park lies on the east coast of the peninsula, its entrance about 15 minutes’ drive from Orua Bay. Picnic first, or on the way, on the 3km Settlers Valley Walk, a 90-minute, easy trail which covers most of the park. It leads to Kauritūtahi Beach via a wetlands walk.
A historic jetty juts into the pretty bay where tiny Kauritūtahi Island sits, little more than a mound of land with a towering tree on its peak. The walk leaves the coastline and takes in the dim, musty, three-room bach built in 1907 by the Brook family, English settlers and farmers, along with the more substantial Brook Homestead built around 1880. Brook Beach is a pretty stretch of white sand hidden behind a maze of mānuka. The walk also offers views towards Waiuku and the Glenbrook Steel Mill.
Pollok Arts and Crafts Co-operative
2141 Awhitu Road
Pop into the Pollok Arts and Crafts Co-op – and its small sculpture garden – on the way back to Waiuku. There’s some fantastic works in the gallery by locals; paintings, fabric art, sculptures, ceramics and more.
2141 Āwhitu Road, facebook.com/pollokarts/
Back in Waiuku, if it’s Sunday, pop into the Waiuku Museum to see artefacts and displays on the town’s port and rural history. Behind it, fronting the estuary, there are heritage buildings, including the Waiuku Lock Up, built in the late 1800s.
King Street, backing onto Tamakae Reserve, waiukumuseum.wordpress.com
A short heritage walk starts/ends from the reserve and goes up Queen Street, passing churches and late 1800s buildings. Information boards on some of the original businesses and local characters make for interesting reading.
The Waiuku Trails head from Glenbrook Vintage Railway’s Victoria Road end and follow Waiuku River. At the intersection of Queen and King Street are stories of the port’s history. Paths can be walked either side of the estuary for views back to town and out to the harbour and steel mill. The trail takes around an hour to walk.
Alternatively, head out to the wild, west coast, and Karioitahi Beach, a 10-minute drive from Waiuku, and take an invigorating walk along the black sands. Lifeguards patrol during summer months.
Castaways Resort, just before the road end, is perched on cliffs overlooking the sea. Relax with a Bersantai Exotic Vanilla & Coffee Bean Massage, or a Hot Stone Massage at the on-site Bersantai Day Spa, or pop into the restaurant/bar and enjoy dramatic views. Bar snacks such as french fries with aioli and tomato chipotle, squid tentacles with garlic mayo and lemon, and bruschetta with basil pesto, tomato tapenade and avocado oil, are offered between 3 and 5pm.
685 Karioitahi Road, castaways.co.nz
Dine at The Shires
Back in Waiuku, check out the locally recommended The Shires. After a long day gadding about, you’ll be glad to know there’s no need to dress up for this popular, fully-licensed restaurant. Staff are friendly and there’s a great selection of food; lamb shanks, chicken parmigiana, pork ribs, fish, steaks and pasta, as well as daily blackboard specials. Their beef cups with Yorkshire puddings get rave reviews.
47 Queen Street, theshires.co.nz
End a Friday or Saturday night rocking to live music or the DJ, back at The Kentish Hotel. The popular quiz night is held on Wednesdays.
If you’re not in a rush the next day, check out Manukau Charters. Cruise on the small ship, Ratahi, on a two-hour Waiuku River trip (running on a full-tide), or out onto the Manukau Harbour, past scenic bays and over to Huia. You might even sight seals on the harbour cruise. A minimum number of passengers are required for the cruises to run.