My wayward feet: walking the Onehunga Foreshore

By Sue Moody

Aucklanders have a brand new $28 million foreshore on the Manukau Harbour at Onehunga, so let’s go exploring.

Those brilliant park planners have created new beaches, manicured walking and cycling trails and lovingly planted bird sanctuaries just for our recreational pleasure.

Here’s the plan: come walking with me and This NZ Life and we’ll discover a whole new world (and some parts of a very old one too.) My group of walking friends love finding the hidden nooks and crannies of our wonderful city and revelling in the built and natural environment.

Starting beside Onehunga’s landlocked lagoon, which is now part of Te Tauranga Reserve, we walk west to the footbridge that crosses busy SH 20 with its endless roar of traffic.

Two new swimming beaches have been created in Manukau Harbour.

Two new swimming beaches have been created in Manukau Harbour.

Taumanu (meaning ‘reclamation’) Park opened last November and over this long luscious summer, many visitors have enjoyed swimming and watersports at the newly sculpted sandy beaches. Today we’re walking east, observing bird populations of shags, pied stilts and oyster-catchers which seem to like their new habitat as much as we do.

The Aotea Sea Scouts building.

The Aotea Sea Scouts building.

At the end of the walkway, we join Orpheus Drive and make our way past the handsomely deco Manukau Cruising Club and Aotea Sea Scouts’ retro headquarters.

They serve as reminders of a recreational and port past that’s come around again for Onehunga, which was one of Auckland’s first and premiere suburban settlements when the Manukau carried most of the region’s shipping trade and a cluster of maritime-related industries populated the shoreline.

Ted Ngataki’s wayfinding carving

Ted Ngataki’s wayfinding carving navigates the surrounding landscape from a Māori perspective. The artwork celebrates the layers of mana whenua embedded in the foreshore location.

Always an important area for Maori fishing, gardening and living, five local tribes have advised on the new parks’ design, artworks and signs.

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For a short bit, we’re sharing the slip road with traffic, then turning right; we’re on old Mangere Bridge. Pre-dating its motorway cousin, it has been revamped with a cycling track, boat ramps and lots of great spots to lower a fishing line and try your luck in the now pretty pristine waters of the Manukau Harbour.

There’s always a gaggle of anglers here while on the landward side of the bridge, wading birds are busy fossicking for their feast in the rich mudflats.

The view towards Mangere Bridge.

The view towards Mangere Bridge.

What I love best is to cast my eyes to the horizon and enjoy the bounty of the westerly vista: the Waitakeres, distant Manukau Heads (with airport-bound jets drifting in), Awhitu Peninsula and closer at hand, neighbouring Puketutu Island. Lots to explore!

Turning right, we’re now on the wide sunny parkland of Esplanade Reserve and majestic Mangere Mountain beckons. Be warned: you might need to bring a picnic lunch as it’s quite a climb this maunga’s steep flank from the surrounding suburban streets, but well worth it for the fabulously panoramic views as well as close-ups of a multi-cratered volcano from 20,000 years ago.

Who mentioned refreshments? Time to head back to Coronation Road, the beating heart of Mangere Bridge township, where there are more than enough cafes and ethnic eating spots to replenish energies expended on all that walking and talking and looking.

To complete the loop, we retrace our steps to cross Te Tauranga Reserve’s sculptural new footbridge and reach our starting point.

Voila! Onehunga re-visited, re-claimed and restored.

Kumara at the Mangere Mountain Information Centre.

Kumara at the Mangere Mountain Information Centre.


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Visit all year round. Dress warmly for the prevailing southwesterly. Hardy ones can check the Auckland Council website or 0800SAFESWIM for water quality at high tide.

Family-friendly – no special fitness levels required. Pram, bike & scooter accessible. There are playgrounds adjacent to public parking in Beachcroft Avenue, Onehunga and at Mangere Bridge.

Dogs can visit on and off-lead (check the signs) but are banned from the eastern end of Taumanu Park to protect the birds.

Public toilets and changing rooms are provided next to the carpark in Taumanu Park.

Aim to walk for two to three hours with time for stopping and looking.

Learn more: Mangere Mountain Information Centre at the base of the mountain is open 9-4pm, Monday to Friday. Check out the giant kumara grown here.

Enjoy bakery, café and icecream refreshments at Mangere Bridge shopping centre, Coronation Road. Ruby Red Café, 30B Coronation Road is a favourite.

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