Waitakere or West Auckland (until 2010, Waitakere City) is the western part of the metropolitan area of the Auckland Region and also the Waitakere Range.
Waitakere was an independent city until the cities of Auckland were amalgamated in 2010. Waitakere City had an area of 367 km², with the urban area being 26 km², and a population of nearly 200,000.
Of the area's residents, colloquially called Westies, 71.9% of people are of European descent, 14.5% Pacific Island, 11.0% Asian and 11.0% Maori, with 68% born in New Zealand. English is spoken by almost all residents, and around 5% also speak Samoan and a similar number speak Maori.
It is 18 km by road from central Auckland to Henderson in central Waitakere via the North-Western Motorway and takes about 20 minutes in off-peak times. From Auckland Airport it takes 40 minutes in off-peak times. From northern parts of North Shore take the Upper Harbour Motorway; from southern parts it is more direct to cross the main Harbour Bridge and pass through the Central Motorway Junction.
Regular train services run from central Auckland to Waitakere and there is a network of bus services.
Waitakere is best seen by car. Buses and trains service the area, but many are slow and serve residents rather than visitors out to see the sights. The Auckland Transport (AT) website provides information on public transport, and allows you to select bus, train or ferry to plan an itinerary.
Piha Surf Shuttle offers transport by mini-bus to the surrounding wineries and beaches.
Waitakere offers many of the native delights, such as trees, bushes and flowers that make New Zealand unique.
- Waitakere houses some of New Zealand's best wineries. These can be found in two main areas, Henderson Valley and Kumeu. On summer weekends, these will be packed with those looking to sit in the sun, have a bottle of wine and a relaxed late lunch. On Sundays Pleasant Valley on Henderson Valley Road can be a good afternoon, often having live music. Other vineyards in the area include Delegats and Montana, although these are much harder to find and do not have regular food service.
- Another micro winery is Artisans on Parrs Cross Road, where you can sample a variety of wines made and sold on site. You can stroll through the vineyards or look at the onsite gallery that sells a range of artwork and toys made by local artists. They also have a well priced and tasty breakfast and lunch menu.
- The Kumeu area makes for a wonderful day trip. Follow the Northwestern motorway to the end and take State Highway 16 to Kumeu. Within 10-15 minutes you will start to see vineyards that have cafes and immaculate gardens. Vineyards include Coopers Creek, Soljans and Kumeu River. Stop for lunch before heading further on to Muriwai Beach.
- An attraction popular with tour groups is Arataki Visitors Centre on Scenic Drive, Titirangi. Around the centre there are nature trails which signpost the native trees and birds found in the area. Trails range from 10 minutes to 4-5 hours and are all fully maintained and signposted. The centre itself features models, history and facts of native birds and the surrounding area. The view from Scenic Drive is amazing, the west coast one side and the city the other.
- Waitakere Ranges. Waterfalls, views and rugged, beautiful beaches. Some hiking tracks have been closed since 1 July 2012 to protect some areas from a disease affecting kauri trees. The Hillary Trail, named after Sir Edmund Hillary, is open.
- The west coast beaches, such as Piha, offer sand and surf and are popular for swimming, though dangerous for the unwary, with surf that changes with the tides, unpredictable deep holes, undertows and rips. Swim between the red and yellow flags and pay attention to the lifeguards on duty.
- Woodhill Forest, off State Highway 16, has a bike park where children learn how to ride on tracks amongst the trees. Other activities in the area include BMX trails and racing and a huge high ropes course set in the forest called Tree Adventures (bookings recommended). There are 8 courses to do and it can take 2-4 hours depending on skill and fitness. Fruit shops along the highway offer good selections of fresh seasonal produce. When strawberries are in high season, 3 punnets will usually cost about $5.
- If the weather is not so good try the Waitakere Aquatic Centre, Alderman Drive, Henderson. Home of the 1992 Commonwealth Games competition pools, they have been though major expansion and renovation over the past 3 years. Now the complex consists of 2 x 50m 8 lane pools, a drive pool with 9 boards, a hydroslide, 2 toddlers pools, spa, sauna, steam room facilities, a lazy river and a wave pool. There is also an onsite gym and a cafe. $6.50 adults, $4 children.
- To really indulge yourself, visit Tonic Spa, an award winning day spa with relaxation and therapy spaces inside and out.
Great North Rd, which runs through much of Waitakere, has many places to get food. New Lynn has many cafes and sandwich bars.
Kelston has nothing special except a halal butcher.
Glendene has excellent kebabs, roast dinners and lovely homemade pizza, as well as gourmet burgers (expensive but good) and a regular fish and chip shop. The bakery behind the shops has the best chicken sandwiches out west and the best chocolate chip shortcake caramel slice ever - it's $1.50 and simply divine.
In Henderson there is a Thai takeaway (main & rice $10-13), & a vegetarian Vietnamese restaurant at the far end. Up by the bridge and the bus stop is another fish and chip shop.
Haddad Takeaways, 538 Te Atatu Rd (the main road), Te Atatu Nth, has chicken, fish, potato and kumara (sweet potato) chips and kebabs. Further past the roundabout there is an excellent ice cream parlour where a double scoop of locally made ice cream will cost about $2.20, 5 scoops around $3.70, milkshakes $3. These should be taken in the car and then head down to the beach (2 mins away). You can then sit in the car or walk around the reserve. This looks back uninterrupted across the harbour to the city, which can be very beautiful.
- The Thirsty Rooster, 202 Great North Rd, Glendene. Features Colin McCann artwork in the pub.
Licensing to sell alcohol in Waitakere is controlled by two trusts: the Portage and the Waitakere. Everyone who sells alcohol must be registered by either one. You can't buy beer or wine in the supermarket unlike the rest of Auckland. The trusts are non-profit organisations that reinvest the taxes on alcohol back into local communities, schools, parks and sports teams. Although this is less convenient, the local referendum always supports the trusts as they would prefer money going back into the community and not into supermarkets' profits (lower prices, lower margins, less levied for the community). Alcohol is no more expensive, but it is more controlled and hours are more restrictive. Another argument for this is that there is more control over young people buying alcohol, so it may reduce under-age drinking.
- Muriwai – long surf beach that can be driven on
- Piha – surf beach at the foot of the forest-clad Waitakere Range