Day trip to the environs of Auckland. We headed toward the Waitakere Ranges that separate Auckland from the western coast. Our driver, Taco, was funny and charming and full of wonderful stories, and underscored the value in arranging day trips in advance with knowledgeable guides. First stop was the cultural and nature center of Arataki. From here you can see both the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea to the west. There are board walks and hiking trails you can stroll, taking you through the Kauri trees and the very large Silver Ferns, the symbol of New Zealand. At the Visitors Center are a number of large Maori carvings of their gods and goddesses, most of which were anatomically embellished to the extreme. We all took photos of these embellishments. As far as you can see all around, there is the ""bush"" that is thick and lush.
From there we continued on to Kare Kare where we visited Piha Beach, the set for the movie, ""The Piano"". Black sand, surfing beach, large rock formation in the ocean. Xena Warrior Princess also did some filming here. For those with extra time in Auckland wanting a trip to the countryside, it makes for an interesting day trip, though there’s quite a bit of driving time involved.