Aotearoa / New Zealand is well known for its beautiful hiking tracks, but this kayak trail is one for the bucket list. While Te Ara Moana can take up to 5 days to complete, Myrthe shows us how to tackle the best parts of the sea going pathway in your next long weekend.
Te Ara Moana: The Sea Going Pathway
Along the eastern coast of Auckland you’ll find Te Ara Moana, or ‘the sea going pathway’. This 50km kayak trail straddles no less than five of Auckland’s Regional Parks and passes seven bookable campsites. Four of these campgrounds have no vehicle access, which makes them the perfect place to escape the city for a long weekend.
Te Ara Moana is based on an old waka, or canoe route, which the early Māori used to travel between settlements as well as to transport kai (food). The history of this place is still visible with multiple heritage sites across the various parks, for example at Duder Regional Park, you can visit Whakakaiwhare Pa, or at Waitawa Regional Park, where you’ll find Pāwhetau Pā.
With multiple campsites to choose from, this kayak trip is the perfect make-your-own adventure! If you’re feeling strong and are familiar with paddling long distances, you can smash this trip out in two days. Or you can make the most of your getaway and take up to five days to cover the full 50km.
Campsites need to be booked in advance via Auckland Council and can be picked based on the distance you’d like to paddle each day. With a long weekend coming up, we decided to take on the trail in three days.
Be sure to fill out a marine trip report before heading out!
Day 1 – Ōmana Regional Park to Waitawa Bay
The trail starts at Ōmana Regional Park, where you can leave your vehicle behind by booking a car park space for a few days. Depending on whether you want to start things off easy or get straight into it, you can either paddle 11km to Duder Regional Park, or tack on an additional 14km to get to Waitawa Regional Park, which is what we were aiming for.
With all of our gear safely stowed away, we pushed off from the coast and made our way out onto sea. Our first day was a beautiful, sunny day with very little wind – perfect kayaking weather!
Following the coastline, there’s plenty to see as well as several places to stop, if you feel like resting or stretching your legs. We bypassed Duder Regional Park, instead stopping for a break at Mātaitai Bay Beach. With our bellies filled with snacks, we kept paddling along until we arrived at Waitawa Bay.
The campgrounds are simple but great places to stay the night, offering grassy terraces with a toilet and a tap. At Waitawa Bay you’ll also find an open shelter with a cooking bench. We pitched our tents, made dinner and enjoyed the long, balmy summer evening before retiring to bed.
Read more: The Best Campervan Campsites in New Zealand
Day 2 – Waitawa Bay to Tāpapakanga
Distance: 18km (or 20km when including Pakihi Island)
Since our previous day of paddling 25km had only taken us a half day, we were keen to extend day two’s 18km paddle to Tāpapakanga. A quick look at the map showed that a circumnavigation of Pakihi Island would be the perfect addition to our route.
Once we made our way around Pakihi Island, a privately-owned island with an inactive red chert quarry, we pointed our kayaks in the direction of Raukura Point.
Slightly further south, Tawhitokino Regional Park sports another campsite with no vehicle access. This is, in our opinion, one of the prettiest campsites along the trail, so to make up for the fact that we wouldn’t be staying the night here, we spent a good couple of hours walking around, chilling on the beach and even having a nap before moving on to our camp for the night.
Read more: Remember to leave no trace!
Tāpapakanga Regional Park offers two overnight options, the bigger Beachfront Campground and the smaller Waikaha Stream Campground, which has kayak access only. Even though the rocky beach can make coming ashore tricky, the views, remoteness, and beautiful Tarairi Grove make the latter option well worth the effort.
Day 3 – Tāpapakanga to Waharau
From Tāpapakanga, all that remained was a final 8km stretch to the fifth regional park, Waharau.
If you’re not keen on getting back to civilisation just yet you can lengthen your adventure by camping one more night at Waharau Tainui Campground, or by enjoying one of the multiple walks the park has on offer.
If you’re ready to make your way home, and you didn’t manage to organise a car shuffle at the start, it should be pretty straightforward to hitch back to your car, as Waharau Park is right on the main road back to the city.
- Kayak or canoe
- Personal floatation device
- First-aid kit
- Long-sleeved shirt
- Food for the number of days and nights you’re staying
- Water (water’s available at each campsite as well)
- Waterproof containers or dry bags
- Camping gear (tent, sleeping bag, cooking gear)
Read more: Packing List for a Canoe Adventure
How To Get There
To get to Ōmana Regional Park from SH1, take exit 444 and get onto Ormiston Road. From Whitford, follow Whitford-Maraetai Road to Omana Beach Road in Maraetai.
Make up your own itinerary based on the following distances
Ōmana Regional Park – Duder Regional Park: 11km
Duder Regional Park – Waitawa Regional Park: 14km
Waitawa Regional Park – Tawhitokino Regional Park: 10km
Tawhitokino Regional Park – Tāpapakanga Regional Park: 8km
Tāpapakanga Regional Park – Waharau Regional Park: 8km