It might sound like a cliche but the Arataki Visitor Centre is literally the gateway to the Waitakere Ranges in Auckland's West. Surrounded by native forest, coastal views and endemic birdlife, the centre is a great place to start exploring New Zealand's natural beauty and is only 45 minutes from Auckland City.
The walking tracks are the star of the Waitakere Ranges Regional Park, and from the Visitor Centre you can start out on one of the 250km of walking tracks set amongst 16,000 hectares of bush and trees. One of newest walks is the Hillary Trail, named after New Zealand's most famous mountaineer, Sir Edmund Hillary, who was the first to conquer Mt Everest and whose face adorns the New Zealand $5 note.
The Hillary Trail is a great example of New Zealand's bush walks - a little steep in places, expansive views, hidden in bush and with beaches to boot. Don't forget to pack nibbles and water in a daypack and take a light raincoat just in case, as the weather out west is known for changing quickly.