Puhinui Reserve Cycle Trails, Auckland

Nice views, easy trails, one for the family

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Note: No dogs allowed on Puhinui Reserve (try the Manukau Coastal Cycleway)


Purchased by the then Manukau City Council in October 1991, Puhinui Reserve is home to a fair bit of horse jumping, having hosted some major international events from time to time.  And it is quite cool to see all the various designs of jumps around the park as you leisurely ride around.

The reserve is 199 hectares in area and has considerable historical and conservation value. It was part of the extensive Matukurua volcanic field and linked with settlementscentred around Wiri Mountain and Matukurua (McLaughlins Mountain which you can remnants of poking up at the northern end where you park [I could be corrected here - ed.]).

Horsin' Around - one rather unique thing about riding around Puhinui Reserve is the great variety of horse jumps.  This park hosts the annual 3-day and 1-day events.

There has been human activity within the region for as much as 1000 years (that's a long time for New Zealand!). An extensive range of archeaological features remain within the reserve.

At some stage of the park's development, someone decided they should try and build some off-road cycling trails, the idea of it being part of the Te Araroa trail traversing the length of New Zealand.

It would have been nice if they had involved off-road cyclists to assist in design but at least you are away from the roads and on a nice day this circuit might interest the family looking for a fun ride before having a picnis looking out at the big planes taking off and landing at the Auckland International Airport across the Manukau Harbour.

Cabbage Patch Doll - at the lower southern tip of the reserve is a great vista of New Zealand's Cabbage Tree - there are hundreds of them!  Unfortunately every time we have visited the reserve, we could go no further due to horrible mud across the lower paddocks - but they still went and spent money making tracks through it all!  Go figure...

Here's where it stands so far...

It is all very easy trails but at least they have these fancy cow-grates to allow you to get through fenced/gated paddocks without having to dismount.  The cynics amoungst us however can't get over how much these grates must have cost - meanwhile we continue to have very limited trail options in the city 'due to cost constraints'.   The world of politics sure is a strange thing.

But on a nice day the little network of tracks here through the open fields can be a good little excursion for the family.  Pack a picnic for afterwards and off you go.

Drop to the coastal side and see planes landing at Auckland International Airport just across the water.  In fact, you get some pretty good angles of the planes coming in just like you do further east at the Totara Park MTB Park (see our feature on Totara Park MTB here).

Being part of the plans for the Te Araroa trail (probably thanks to the energetic 70yr+ John Smith, onya), we've included the trail that exits the Reserve at the bottom of the top paddock to follow the Puhinui Stream towards Manukau City and Totara Park.  Now the South Western motorway loop is complete, that track should eventually allow you to link all the way to Manukau City, across the southern motorway and into the enjoyable Totara Park trails.  Now that would be a nice little ride.

And then looking north, the idea was somehow to get around the Airport and back onto the coast for the Manukau Coastal Cycleway (also called the Watercare Coastal Walkway, see our feature here)


Grate way to miss the gate - Mad Marty can stay on the pedals as he traverses through another gate via the fancy cow grates.  We do wonder about the cost of these (and the low use of these tracks) versus getting more km's of trail happening in Auckland, but at least they'll be there for a while yet! That's the Auckland International Airport in the background.

These trails are taking off - packed yourself a sandwich?  Then head to the northern coastline and check out the planes taking off and landing at Auckland International Airport, New Zealand's largest airport in New Zealand's largest city. 

Speaking of the coastline, the remnant coastal and associated vegetation types here provide unique examples of their type. There is high species diversity and the area has several species regarded as "uncommon".

The coastal edge is the habitat of some rare and threatened fringe and wader bird communities - all being helped by the vegetation restoration that has been part of the park's development.

Oh, and watch for the peanut butter sannies.  It gets stuck in your teeth.


Bikers doing their bit - young mountain bike twins and cyclewaynewzealand.co.nz team members Bridget and Nathan Rogers spend another day out by the Puhinui Stream working for the wonderful regeneration of natives to follow this waterway along its length.  Good on you guys!

Fun in the Sun - it is a fairly large park, so a ride around the trails here is a great way to get the family out and enjoying some physical activity.

Some History

Click here to see a newspaper clipping from the Manukau Courier (April 2005) relating to the moving of the old Papatoetoe rail footbridge to be used as a stream crossing for the Puhinui Stream Trail (850kB jpg image, opens in new window).

Some excerpts;

  • "Manukau resident John Smith saved the bridge from the scrapyard."
  • "The old footbridge will form part of the Manukau section of the Te Araroa trail, which will eventually span the length of New Zealand."
  • "'Manukau City Council has approved in principle a route for Te Araroa through the city."
  • "..the bridge has historic value bacuase it was in Papatoetoe for 85 years. The bridge is made from rails imported to New Zealand in the 1860s."
  • "When new locomotives arrived in the 1870s the tracks had to be changed and the stock of British wrought-iron rails became redundant.  They were used instead for bridges".
  • "The proposed route then heads through Totara Park and into Whitford, across Clevedon Scenic Reserve and the centre of Clevedon."


Click here to see a newspaper clipping from the Manukau Courier (July 2006) relating to more of John Smith's work on the old Papatoetoe Rail Bridge that was transfered to be used for the Puhinui Stream Trail crossing by AeroVista Place (370kB jpg image, opens in new window).

Some excerpts;

  • "The Conservation Corps program is run by the Tamaki Ki Raro Trust and helps young people get involved in local conservation and community projects."
  • "Volunteer John Smith was impressed with the youngsters. 'They quickly learnt to measure, use the skill saw and drill bolt holes' he says."


Click here to see a newspaper clipping from the Manukau Courier (March 2006) relating to the great work being done by the community in planting regenerative fauna around the Puhinui Stream Trail (495kB jpg image, opens in new window).

Some excerpts;

  • "Children are helping restore the Puhinui Stream by growing native plants."
  • "The children will plant the seeds and nurture the seedlings before th e trees are transplanted near the stream."
  • "The site near the Manukau SuperClinic is already being prepared. About 75,000 plants are planned for the the site."
  • "'That's what this program is all about, giving kids the skills to make a difference in their neighbourhood'."
  • "...three schools are monitoring the stream for water clarity and temperature, measuring stream flow and looking into stream life".
  • "The Puhinui Stream Restoration Project is part of Wild Places and City Spaces, a program that enhances and restores natural environments in cities."


Horse Events

The jumps you see out at Puhinui are cross-country jumps for the 3-day and 1-day events held at Puhinui on an annual basis which at last check runs each March, all welcome to attend and the cross country day is when most non-equestrians go out to have a look, enjoy the day etc, see http://3dayevent.co.nz

Puhinui is an international level course at what's called 3 Star level, a level down from the biggies like Badminton or Burghley.  You will also see smaller jumps out there as they run a number of different level competitions on the same days.

Eventing is derived from military games, the horse (and rider) had to prove they were fit, agile and could endure over multiple days. The dressage is always Day One to prove the rider has control over the horse to 'parade' (show off the twiddly moves), despite it being fit enough to run the equivalent of several steeplechase races the next day, and still have enough in the tank to jump the day after.

Get this irony of ironies, horse riders aren't allowed on this park or trails!  So this is another very underutilised Auckland City Park.

How to get to the Puhinui Reserve MTB Trails

Parking is at the main gate which is at the end of Price Road.  Price Road is off the busy Puhinui Road which is the southern back access to the Auckland International Airport so be careful turning into Price Road!

There are toilets right there at the parking area and your riding is all south of here, immediately within the main gate.

View Puhinui Reserve MTB in a larger map





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