Location: Wenderholm Park, near Orewa
Access: Carpark, 50 metres inside Wenderholm Park
Length: 0.75 km (one-way)
Grade: Gently undulating, but with steeper sections; gravel and boardwalk; signed
Status: on leash (with off-leash area available in adjacent field, when no stock grazing)
Cafes and restaurants: Walnut Cafe, Orewa (ca. 2km) - excellent for lunch!
More information: Map and description can be downloaded from http://regionalparks.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz/wenderholm
Wenderholm Regional Park is managed by DOC, and therefore for the most part is closed to dogs. We are, however, allowed access to part of one walkway – the Perimeter Track which, as its name implies, runs around the edge of the park. Though short, it is worth exploring both because it passes through some pleasant semi-native bush, and because it gives access to a small beach on the estuary of the Waiwera River. There are also picnic tables and a WC in the parking area. In addition, there’s the benefit of a couple of large fields where dogs are allowed to run off-leash (but presumably not chase the pukeko that reside there) – so long as no stock are grazing.
Parking is under a row of puriri trees, on a grassy strip on the right of the entrance road, about 50 metres beyond the entrance (near the WC). The track starts at the eastern end of this area (i.e. by the entrance) and is reached by following the raised terrace that runs at the back of the parking area. From here, it’s a gentle climb through manuka bush, then a swing left where the track approaches the main road. One hundred metres or so further on we reach a broader trackway that runs from a gate, and turn left along this for a few metres, then right again to follow the walkway.
This continues, climbing over a wooded ridge, at first as a gravel track, and then as a stepped boardwalk. At the top of the ridge, the track curves left and descends via a series of steps, then becomes a gravel track again as the terrain flattens out. All the way, we can enjoy the rich bush, which includes the normal (for this part of Northland) mix of fern trees, nikau, manuka and taller white pine and rimu. There are also occasional kauri. It’s shady and cool, even on a hot summer day – though the climb may have worked up a bit of a sweat. And bird life is usually abundant, with fantails mooning from the lower branches, wood pigeon blundering through the canopy, and tuis cooing and clucking and clunking from their perches in the pine trees.
As we approach the estuary, the gradient of the path lessens, the vegetation thins out, and as the track curves left we come out onto a grassy terrace. The Perimeter Path skirts this and continues on, uphill – but this is the limit of DOC’s dog-tolerance in Wenderholm. If we pick our way across the grass, however, we reach a pebbly beach beside the Waiwera River. From here, we can look across to Waiwera – a spa town, built around a complex of hot pools (the name means ‘hot water’) . Depending on the state of the tide, we can explore downstream a short way. But then it’s back the way we came.