You may not have heard of Ambury Park. It’s an Auckland Regional Park located on the shores of the Manukau Harbour and only a 30-minute drive from the city or 10 minutes from the Airport. It’s also a working farm, a good picnic spot, has a number of walking trails and is a place of interest for bird watchers.
If you aren’t going to get out of Auckland on your visit to New Zealand it’s an opportunity for the kids to get up close to the farm animals and get that essential photo of New Zealand sheep, whose going to believe you actually went to New Zealand, the country with more sheep than people and didn’t see one!
Ambury Park sits in the shadow of the volcanic cone of Mangere Mountain and on the shore of the Manukau Harbour. Mangere Mountain erupted around 20,000 years ago its lava flow running down to the sea across the area now known as Ambury Park and the Otuataua Stonefields to the south. This lava field was made fertile by volcanic ash which provided well for the traditional owners of the land, the Maori tribes of Wai-o-Hua and Ngati Whatua and continues today to provide home-owners and market gardeners in the area with rich and fertile gardens.
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There are information boards throughout the park that are good for general interest and also to add an educational aspect to a family outing. For example, they explain how we now know how long ago the volcano erupted. It explains that scientists found a piece of wood buried under a lava flow and dug it up, from that they were able to establish the age of the wood through carbon dating.
Ambury Park Walking Tracks
There are a number of tracks in the park from the Farm Animal Walk (1km) which is easy walking and suitable for pushchairs and Wheelchairs to the Watercare Coastal Walkway out to the Otuataua Stonefields which is around 16km return. In between the 2km Foreshore walk or Lost Gardens walk provide several points of interest and an easy flat walking track.
Because the park is a working farm and to ensure the safety of the farm animals you are asked to leave all gates the way you found them. Also obviously don’t chase the animals and leave the family pet at home. Dogs can’t be walked in the park and are only allowed on the Loop Road between the bull paddocks and Kiwi Esplande.
Farm Animal Walk
This one is suitable for the whole family but younger children were particularly enjoying it. From the car park head towards the woolshed and milking shed. Behind these, you can wander through the grassy lanes between the animal enclosures and get up close with many of the animals. You’ll find sheep and lambs in season, turkeys, chickens, horses, cows, pigs and rabbits. Allow up to an hour to wander through this area.
Watercare Coastal Walkway
The Otuataua Stone Fields are the only place in Auckland where Maori stone structures remain on public land. The walk between the park and the stone fields is 8km of wide and well-drained track, you will return along the same path making for a 16km walk which might be a bit much for most families. It’s a quite varied landscape which makes it an interesting trail with a good variety of birdlife but you might prefer to get dropped off at one end or the other if possible and walk one way which is what we did.
Walking around the headland can be a bit windy with a fresh breeze blowing in off the harbour. Follow the yellow markers out from the woolshed and learn a bit about the local history from information boards along the trail and enjoy the many lookout points along the way. You’ll cross over the open pastures to the shore where birds roost on the rocks and shell-covered beaches. At low tide, you can watch them gathering food in the mudflats.
During the migration there can be up to 20,000 birds in the area or on the wing at once, they have come north from the South Island or from as far away as the Arctic. New Zealand has relatively few bird species compared to other countries but 86 species have been identified in the Ambury Park area which is a significant proportion. One of our favourites is the relatively common tui’s which are endemic to New Zealand. Their song is so beautiful and they are so determined to gorge themselves on flax flowers in season that they end up with their feathers stained with the orange pollen.
Lost Gardens walk
The lost gardens are pre-European gardening sites used by the traditional Maori landowners in the area. You’ll see some original stone mounds in the area which were used to mark the gardens. For this walk head out from the woolshed through the paddocks towards Kiekie Road. You’ll be sharing the paddocks with sheep, huge Clydesdale horses and of the most interest to the children on the walk, feral rabbits. Being a pest doesn’t stop them from being cute I guess.
Ambury Park is an Auckland Regional Park, there are no entry or other fees for day use. Whether you’re looking to fill a couple of hours, of a full day there are options here to enjoy. There are picnic tables, BBQ facilities and clean toilets available for public use and plenty of room to run around and areas suitable for a game of cricket or to kick a ball around. Camping is also allowed in the designated areas but a permit is required and there are fees associated with that.
The Auckland Regional Council manages 26 regional parks around the city and we’ve enjoyed all the ones we’ve been to so far. Have you been to Ambury Park yet?