One of the things I like most about New Zealand is that it’s basically one big dog park! I used to live in Santa Monica, California where dogs are NEVER allowed on the beach, not even on a leash. Dogs and their owners are relegated to designated dog parks that are usually not very big and are never on the best bit of park land.
Here in Auckland we are spoiled for choice. You really can’t go wrong anywhere you take your dog. But here is the best of the best: my very favourite dog-friendly walks on Auckland’s North Shore:
1. Centennial Park, Campbells Bay
Although the Council’s website says that Centennial park is an on-leash area, I rarely ever see any dogs actually on-leash and I have never seen anyone patrolling the area, so you’re probably fine walking your dog off-leash (but you didn’t hear it from me!)
You really feel like you’re in the middle of the bush, with all of the flora and fauna you could ever want or need, complete with little babbling creeks. There are several trails you can choose. We like the Nature Trail which takes you on a loop complete with numbered indicators pointing out various trees and other points of interest. Much of the trail is on wooden risers.
You can complete the entire loop in under an hour and you’re never more than a 5 minute walk from civilization (on the other side of the trail is a world-class 18 hole golf course). And for you history buffs, the ‘nature trail’ features a WWII pill box!
Getting there: Access is either from Rae Road (off Aberdeen Road, by Campbells Bay School) or from Beach Road (by Campbells Bay).
2.JF Kennedy Memorial Park Beach, Castor Bay
This is one of a few beaches on the North Shore where no leash is required- EVER. We like to start this walk at Castor Bay Beach although you can go up to Kennedy Park and begin there.
This walk is fantastic because it involves open grassy fields perfect for playing fetch, long spurts of running, and a fully protected beach where your dog can run free without any worry that he will run into the street. On one side you have the ocean and the other side a cliff. So you’re really safe!
The beauty of this beach is amazing, especially at low tide, because the rock formations are so interesting, almost prehistoric. In certain areas it looks like dinosaurs are underneath the ground and the cliffs will definitely intrigue the geologist in you (although your dog will probably find that aspect less interesting!)
It’s best NOT to do this walk at high tide because you won’t be able to walk on the beach at all.
Getting there:Park your car at Castor Bay Beach near the little park by the big tree. There’s usually heaps of paring. Walk toward the beach and then turn left. Near the public restrooms you’ll see a steep hill. Walk up the hill and go left. Follow the grass fields around. You’ll pass through a couple of gates, and go up and down a set of stairs.
You’ll follow the coast around until you see some bunkers. On the right you’ll see a massive set of stairs. Go down the stairs and there you are. Or you can continue driving north and park right at Centennial Park. It’s much closer to the big set of stairs but you’ll miss all of the green grassy fields.
3. Takapuna Beach
This is a no-brainer and a very obvious option so I won’t go into too much detail. Takapuna is one of the largest stretches of beach on the North Shore and lots of people take their dogs there making it a perfect spot to chase tail (for both the canine and human set I reckon!)
At high tide it’s difficult to walk the entire length of the bay but at low tide you can continue all the way south around the point to St. Leonard’s Beach, which is off-leash all the time.
Takapuna Beach is off-leash 24/7 in winter, but only before 10am and after 6pm during daylight saving.
4. Onepato Domain & Northcote Tuff Crater
One of the many reasons we love this walk is because it starts at the Onepato Domain which has an awesome playground. So, if you have kids and dogs you get to kill two birds with one stone (please don’t actually kill any birds on this walk as many of them are endangered!)
From the park you’ll head over to the Tuff Crater Reserve which features a flooded volcanic crater encircled by a mostly-flat pathway.
Onepoto Basin is a the oldest dated explosion crater , erupting about 250,000 years ago. The Maori name “Onepoto” means small beach (named after Halls Beach near Northcote Point).
There’s lots of native bush to check out, views across Auckland Harbour, native birds and of course the volcanic crater.
Here’s a handy little video about this area compliments of AnywhereAuckland.com
By the way, there’s a lake near the playground where the kiddos can feed the ducks… but beware, our Westie wanted to eat one of the ducks and proceeded to jump into the lake. She didn’t catch the duck, but she did catch the most disgusting tar-like smelly black goopy mud in her coat. Luckily, there was a faucet near the restroom where we could clean her up. So if you have a water-loving (or duck loving) dog, don’t take them near the lake!
5. Eskdale Reserve Bush Walk
Who knew that there was an enormous park right in Glenfield? Several reserves flow into one continuous forest walkway with a several tracks to choose from so be sure to familiarize yourself with a map before you head out. The following parks can all be accessed from Eskdale:
- Birkenhead Domain
- Hiwihau Scenic Reserve
- Eskdale Bush
- Laurderdale Reserve
- Francis Kendall Reserve
Once you’re in, you really feel like you’re in an oasis in the middle of the hustle and bustle of the surrounding area. You’re calmed by the swaying of the trees, the chirping of the birds and the stillness in the air, that is until your dog sees a duck or bird and starts barking like crazy!
Our favourite thing to do is the two hour return walk past an old cemetery, boardwalks, bush and mature forest. You’ll see ponga tree ferns, nikau palms and kauri trees. It even meanders alongside the Kaipatiki stream. Bring a picnic to enjoy along the way!
Although dogs are meant to be on leash, we did see many rule breakers.
The Eskdale Reserve bush tracks are highlighted in the Kaipatiki Explorer maps which you can download HERE.
6. Le Roys Bush Loop
We haven’t personally done Le Roys Bush Loop so credit goes to the website Walks In Auckland, an excellent resource you should bookmark. It sounds like a fabulous walk and we will absolutely be trying this one next with the pups.
Here are the highlights:
Le Roys Bush follows a stream downhill to the restored wetlands of Little Shoal Bay, Northcote (which was once a tidal estuary filled with mangroves).
Kauri Glen is one of the oldest bush reserves on the Shore (measures about 25 acres and first sizeable pieces of land that was placed under public management) which includes trees such as taraire, totara, kauri, tawa, rewarewa and maire.Kiekie and nikau are abundant in this sub-tropical rainforest. Smaller species of note are pate and karapapa. The area is alive with the likes of tui, fantails and moreporks.
Little Shoal Bay Reserve is a great place to start and finish at – with plenty of parking and a fun looking children’s playground. Dogs must be kept on leash to protect the flora and fauna.[Read more about this walk]
7. Castor Bay to Milford Adventure Walk
Note: For this one you have to leave at LOW tide, it won’t be possible at high tide. Wear shorts, water is involved and remember, Milford & Castor Bay Beach are off-leash 24/7 in winter, but only before 10am and after 6pm during daylight saving.
Start at Castor Bay Beach and walk toward Milford. At low tide you are able to walk over all of the rock to Milford. This is fun for dogs, kids and adults. There are no big rocks or boulders so it’s no problem for small dogs (our Maltese and Westie managed perfectly). There are lots of nooks and crannies for dogs to sniff out, while the adults and kids look for starfish and other critters.
You’ll get to the entrance of the Milford Marina. If you time it just perfectly, you will be able to cross from Castor Bay to Milford getting only the bottom part of your lets wet. You’ll have to carry small dogs.
Once you’re at Milford, it’s a very similar vibe to Takapuna. Lots of dog walkers out enjoying the nice long stretch of beach. If you walk to the end, you’ll reach a raised sidewalk which takes you along lava rock. When the sidewalk ends, you can actually keep on walking over a narrow bridge, through more lava rock and some other bumpy terrain until you get to Takapuna. We usually don’t last that long. The real fun is walking over the rocks in Castor Bay and then wading across to Milford.
8. These beaches on the North Shore are ALWAYS off-leash
- Rahui Beach, Greenhithe
- Soldiers Bay Beach, Birkenhead
- Chelsea Bay Beach, Birkenhead
- St Leonards Beach, Takapuna r.
- JF Kennedy Memorial Park Beach, Castor Bay
- Churchill Reserve Beach, Rothesay Bay
List Credit: http://planmyplay.co.nz/
More Walks on the North Shore
Here’s a handy reference brochure to check out which goes over many walks on the North Shore.
Did we miss your favourite walk on the North Shore? If so, please tell us about it in the comments section below!