Auckland off-road running blog

Welcome to Trailophile - a blog with information about off-road running trails in and around the Auckland area.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Totara Park

Trailophile Run #3: Totara Park

Even a storm the size of Australia couldn't deter us from completing this week's run at Totara Park in Manukau. Luckily, this run provides shelter in pockets of native forest, although it was mighty unpleasant in higher places which were exposed to the rain and south westerly gales.

I remember our grandparents used to bring us here as kids to swim in the free pools - it was one of the destinations to which Harriet the 1976 Honda would "decide" to drive us. Then it was in a totally rural area, but today new suburbs are encroaching on the park borders. Apart from the Auckland Botanic Gardens on the southwest side, I imagine it will soon be completely surrounded by houses. But that's progress, and at least all 216 hectares of the park itself is beautifully maintained.

It's an excellent place for all manner of outdoor activities: tennis, swimming, picnicking, walking, horse-riding, mountain-biking, walking the dog, and of course a spot of off-road running.

Getting to Totara Park
Amazingly, you can get to Totara Park in only 20 minutes by car from Auckland CBD (provided it's not rush hour). We exited the motorway at Redoubt Rd which has the northern entrance to the park. The main entrance is off Wairere Rd at the south end of the park, which you can get to from the Manurewa motorway exit.

Totara Park run starting from Redoubt Rd
From the carpark head down the wide gravel 'Bridal Track' (I think this is perhaps a spelling error and is meant to be 'Bridle Track'!) and follow this down the hill. It forks but keep to the right if you want a longer option. You can see various mountain biking routes that lead off this path and over to the other side of the valley. At the bottom of the hill you enter some bush, and further along the road you can enter the 'Puhinui Stream Track" on the left and on the right. If you continue along this road you'll reach the pools and main carpark. I think at this point that I will stop giving instructions and refer you to the map - there is definitely at least 15k worth of tracks to explore in this park if you're keen to do them all, not to mention the grassy bits, and plenty of shortcuts here and there to get back on the way to Redoubt Rd if you get tired.

The Totara Park page on the Manukau City Council website has excellent information and maps of the park. Also, here's the mapometer map of our run. We didn't fully explore the western side of the Puhinui Stream Forest Trail, but hey, I guess we can do that next time!

  • Distance: we did about 7 and a half km's but there are definitely more tracks in this park to explore
  • Terrain: some big hills on the way back to Redoubt Rd on the Bridle Track... I can't even pretend we ran these!
  • Track type and condition: range from big gravel tracks suitable for park maintenance vehicles to nicely maintained bush tracks. All in very good condition
  • Mud: just a tiny bit. If you venture onto the grassy bits, prepare to get ankle-deep in it
  • Views: on the higher bits there are views (according to the Manukau city website) but today there was nothing to see but imminent rainclouds...
  • Novelty: Pretty good - especially for a park in the middle of the 'burbs
  • Remoteness: Not really remote at all (and pity about the power pylons overhead in some bits), although some parts feel like you are in the middle of nowhere
  • Toilets: At the Wairere Rd end
  • Crowd factor: Not crowded and plenty of room for all I imagine, summer or winter
  • Watch out for: some menacing-looking bulls in the grassy area we crossed to get back to the bridle track
  • Extra for experts: If you're feeling really masochistic, on the way back to Redoubt Rd, do the Bridle Track loop, thereby doing two pretty massive hills

A wonderful park, big enough to keep running and not get bored, but small enough so you won't get lost. Bring the family and a picnic (and togs if it's summer), and have a run while you're there!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Te Atatu Peninsula

Trailophile blog off-road run #2: Te Atatu Peninsula
On Sunday we went to lunch at a friends' house on Te Atatu peninsula. We ate lots and enjoyed the great company, and then it got we gave up on our good intentions to go to the Waitakeres for this week's run. We eventually ended up taking their very big, very energetic dog and very genki (lively) 11 year-old for a walk around the Peninsula, which turned out to have an excellent, mostly off-road track on the eastern side looking back over the Waitemata Harbour to Auckland city.

Te Atatu Peninsula eastern side out and back
We diligently returned on Tuesday evening to actually run this track (no slacking off here!). Te Atatu Road ends at the northernmost tip of the peninsula. Here you'll find a carpark and entrance to Chapman Strand, which is where we began our run. According to the Waitakere City Council website (incidentally, I'm guessing I'll have to update all these links when the councils merge into the super city) there will eventually be a run that goes all of the way around the peninsula. For now we kept to the eastern coast - in this direction there is a decent buffer between the houses and the sea, and you can run pretty much all the way to the North Western Motorway!

This is a great run and well worth the trip if you've never been here before. Starting out, there are views across the mangroves to West Harbour Marina. Living out east as we do, you get a new perspective of the city and harbour. In the squally Auckland spring weather, the harbour bridge appeared cloaked in a rainbow for much of the time, which was truly stunning (and utterly impossible to photograph on our crappy phone cameras). Further around, there are ponds with goldfish and very kiwiana panoramas of native cabbage trees and flax. Heading south from the easternmost suburb of Harbour View, the track is mostly paved and carries on all the way to the motorway. (By the way, I think a little bit of paved track is ok in this blog - let's say anything goes that is not roadside suburban running.) I turned around when the paved track ended, but there were some people ahead so I think you can keep walking alongside the motorway for a while at least (but would you want to?). In any case, it was starting to get rainy and dark, so it was time to head back.

Here's a map of this run using This run is very straightforward - all you have to do is keep following the coast and you'll be fine!

  • Distance: nearly 10k.
  • Terrain: easy! Hills practically non-existent
  • Track type and condition: a mixture of gravel, beachfront, grass, and concrete. You can run on the grass beside the concrete if you prefer - it's not too muddy
  • Mud: not really muddy at all, especially for this time of year.
  • Views: spectacular views across the Waitemata Harbour towards the city
  • Novelty: for us, incredible novel, and I think even our peninsula-dwelling friends were also keen to make more use of this track from now on
  • Remoteness: not really remote at all - houses and roads pretty much always visible on the non-coast side (although I find the beachfront houses interesting to look at also!)
  • Toilets: at Chapman Strand and the carpark at the end of Harbour View Road.
  • Crowd factor: not crowded at all, even at peak time after work on a weekday
  • Watch out for: ...I can't think of anything! It's just a really easy, nice run.
  • Extra for experts: continuing the run at either this space and I'll see if I can try this out
An excellent surprise discovery, with the added bonus of being close to (our friends') home!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Tahuna Torea and Pt England

Here's the first entry of my new off-road running blog, Trailophile, where I aim to find and share the locations of awesome trail runs in Auckland and beyond.My goal is to do one new off-road run (ideally between 7-15kms) a week and post an entry in this blog about it – let’s see if I can meet my own challenge!

For the first week I’m starting with a track very close to home. My fiance Kelvin and I live on the Glen Innes/Glendowie border, and at the end of our road you can access the Tahuna Torea nature reserve to the north and also a track that goes south to Pt England reserve. Both tracks form part of the Point to point walkway maintained by Auckland City Council, and have fantastic views across the Tamaki estuary towards Bucklands Beach and Half Moon Bay. Yesterday, Kelvin and I decided to check out these trails from a runner’s perspective.

We started our run from the carpark at the end of West Tamaki Rd (which is also the main entrance to Tahuna Torea nature reserve). This means that we essentially did two out-and-back runs.

Tahuna Torea out and back:First we headed through Tahuna Torea via the Upper Bush Track (there are a few different tracks through here) which heads towards Roberta Reserve at the bottom of Riddell Rd. There are fantastic views through regenerating bush out to Brown’s Island in the Hauraki Gulf. We ran around Roberta Reserve and then back to Tahuna Torea and along the beach towards the spit. At low tide you can walk from the end of the spit directly back to the West Tamaki Rd carpark, but be prepared for wet and muddy shoes! I also don’t like to disturb this area as there are living mangrove forests. So instead of this option, head back along the spit and rejoin the Lower Bush track to head back to the carpark. In total this was about 4k although you could make it longer with more loops of the tracks. Mention and thanks should be made of the huge amount of work done here by Forest and Bird.

Out and back to Pt England reserve: After emerging from a bit of bush, the track disappears and you run for a while on a grass reserve between residential houses and the water’s edge. There is nice shade from some big macrocarpas and a beautiful view down to the water and across to Half Moon Bay marina. You then cross a bridge to the Pt England reserve, which has a nice sand/shell track on the sea side and a field on the right where cows are grazing. The track meanders along with its stunning views and lovely picnic tables and it was all but empty – we saw only two other groups out and about! Watch out for water and mud on some parts of the track. When we reached Pt England Rd we turned and ran back, although you could turn inland and do a circuit of Pt England reserve if you wanted. We were enjoying the view too much to stray from the water’s edge, so it was back to the carpark along the same track, stopping for a muesli bar at one of the picnic tables along the way.


Here's a very crude map of this run using (it’s a little difficult to see the exact track locations so I promise to look for ways to improve the quality of these maps to make them more useful! Perhaps I'll have to get an iphone with GPS, hehe). And here is a link to a map of the entire Point to point walkway on the Auckland City Council website, including the tracks we used in this run.


  • Distance: about 7-8k depending on how many different tracks you’re keen to explore
  • Hills: very mild hills – this is a good run to do if you are just starting out with off-road running and you should be able to manage the hills without getting too tired.
  • Track type and condition: Tahuna Torea has a combination of nicely kept gravel tracks and wooden tracks that protect the wetlands. There is no track along the spit so it’s sandy and shelly. To Pt England it’s a mixture of mud tracks (some badly maintained), grass, and a nicely formed track laid with shells.
  • Mud: It’s winter so we expected mud, but all in all it was pretty good – our shoes got a bit wet and muddy but never completely immersed!
  • Views: nice harbour and estuary views and, on the Pt England side, a voyeuristic glimpse into the backyards of houses bordering the reserve
  • Novelty: Pt England reserve is definitely a novelty and would be for most people who haven’t been to that area (and even for those that live there by the looks of the empty tracks!)
  • Remoteness: not really remote at all, although I was surprised at how quiet it was!
  • Crowd factor: at this time of year the tracks are not busy at all, but you'll definitely need to stay aware of others using the tracks
  • Watch out for: Remember that dogs are not allowed in Tahuna Torea.
  • Extra for experts: you could do the whole Point to point walkway (about 15km there and back) - it’s not totally off-road but this will be a good challenge for a later blog post perhaps! Watch this space.


A stunning local track, especially the under-utilised Pt England component. Kelvin and I are definitely feeling lucky to have such a great running route on our doorstep!