This story won a prize and was written by Tanya Cumberland and was published in the NZ Herald. Tanya lives on Earthtalk, an organic farm at Awhitu and is part of the Womentravel network
We begin in Waiuku, 40 minutes south-west of Auckland. A sculpture of Tamakae, a Ngaati Te Ata ancestor, welcomes us. Across the road, the information centre for brochures, and a cool drink at the old Kentish pub.
Then a journey north, through gentle dairy country. Suddenly, at Kohekohe, a tiny solitary church perches high above a dune lake, and beyond, we catch a glimpse of the Tasman Sea through a gap in startling hills.
The road follows the ancient walking path along the ridge of the peninsula, each bend revealing a new vista of Manukau Harbour or Tasman Sea or one of many fortified pa. At Pollok, rich in Maori and Scottish history, we stop at Awhitu Arts, displaying work from talented local artists.
Just north, we take the West Coast Road to Waimatuku – a lonely black sand beach with towering cliffs sculpted by the wild wind. Back to the main road, and on to Matakawau, with its friendly orange stock-everything store, school, and a hall which hosts the busy monthly Awhitu Country Market.
Next stop must be Awhitu Regional Park – sheltered white sandy beaches, wetlands, regenerating native bush, exhilarating walks, bike and horse tracks, secluded camping ground, farm and golf course.
Finally, a dramatic drive along the Manukau Heads road to the signal station, where we walk to a clifftop platform with amazing views over the dangerous Manukau Bar, the forested Waitakere Ranges , and, to the east, Skytower and the sprawling city of Auckland. There’s much more, of course – organic farms, vineyards, beaches, and a variety of places to eat and stay www.awhitu.com.
But however long you linger, you will know why the peninsula is called “Awhitu” – longing to return.