Franklin and Pukekohe

Franklin & Pukekohe: Where City Meets Country

Unable to hit the road during a recent Auckland lockdown, Lisa Jansen took the opportunity to explore her back yard, and discovers there is plenty to enjoy in the City of Sails’ southwest. 

For many travellers, heading south on SH1 in Auckland is synonymous with freedom and escaping the city. Many can’t get south into Waikato fast enough. However, next time you find yourself in the area, it might be worth making a right turn off SH1 just before you get into Waikato to explore the southwestern part of Auckland. This is where New Zealand’s biggest city meets the country.

Shortly after turning off SH1, you will realise that, while you might still be in Auckland region, you’ve left the busy city far behind. Instead of busy neighbourhoods and skyscrapers, green fields, farms, and livestock dominate the landscape.

When driving through this area, it’s easy to see why Pukekohe and the surrounding areas are sometimes referred to as the ‘food basket of Auckland’. A large chunk of the vegetables Aucklanders – and other New Zealanders – consume are grown here. On any day of the week, you will see farmers tending their fields: growing potatoes, onions, cabbages, and much more.

However, while green still dominates the landscape, the continuous spread of Auckland City is visible as well. New subdivisions are going up, new schools, supermarkets and other infrastructures are being built, and in the township of Pukekohe, it can almost feel like you haven’t left the main city yet.

Pukekohe and south-west Franklin truly is where the city meets the country – and there is plenty to see and do.

Franklin and Pukekohe
Pukekohe produces much of the produce found in fruit and vege shops around the country

Pukekohe Five Summits Walk and Cycle Path

Pukekohe is the biggest town in the area, and offers all the main services and supply options travellers might need. For those who want to explore the town and surrounding area, the Five Summits Walk and Cycle Path is a great option.

The 21km loop starts from the train station in town. The trail utilises the many off-road walking paths in the area, through parks and reserves, and links the five main summits of the town. If the word summit intimidates you, don’t worry. Pukekohe Hill, the highest of the five, is only 222 metres above sea level, and, overall, the trail is rated as easy. It also helps that this is the kind of trail where you regularly pass cafés and shops that offer an excuse to rest and refresh.

A Google search will provide more information as well as a map, and the trail can also be found on the AllTrails and Plan My Walk mobile apps.

Waiuku Museum and Heritage Trail

For those interested in history, a visit to Waiuku is a must-do. Start at the Waiuku Museum to learn about local history and the historic buildings in town. You can find the museum on the Tamakae Reserve beside the Waiuku Estuary, in the old fire station in the centre of town, opposite the library. The museum is run by volunteers and opening hours are limited. At the time of writing, it was open in the afternoons on Saturday and Sunday, but it’s best to check before you plan your visit.

A Triple Harbour Trail

Once you’re done at the museum, grab a brochure for the Heritage Trail (available at the museum and the information centre) and explore the historic buildings and sights on foot.

If history isn’t your thing, or you want to extend your walk, you can find scenic walkways on either side of the estuary that are well worth exploring.

The historic Kentish Hotel in Waiuku

Clarks Beach

Clarks Beach is a small settlement at the southern end of the Manukau Harbour. On a nice day, it’s popular with boaties and provides a safe swimming spot. The beach is tidal, so if you plan to go swimming, kayaking or anything else on the water, make sure you time your visit to around one or two hours either side of high tide. When the tide is out, you can go for a lovely stroll along the beach (at high tide, access will be blocked in some places) or play a round at the local golf club.

If you feel less active, Clarks Beach is a great place to relax and recharge. Grab a coffee or an ice cream from the shops on Seaway Road and then walk down to the water’s edge to enjoy the scenery.

Karioitahi Beach

If you like your beaches a bit more wild and rugged, Karioitahi Beach is the place to go. This is your typical Auckland west coast beach: black sand, big waves, strong currents and often windy. While swimming is only recommended for people confident in those conditions, Karioitahi Beach is an excellent place for a walk – just watch out for cars as the beach is popular among 4WD enthusiasts. Keep an eye out for the horse riders too.

Turn left when you get onto the beach to admire the stunning Karioitahi Cliffs, check out some of the coastline caves – and if you’re lucky, maybe even see a seal. Those who have the stamina can walk all the way to the northern side of Port Waikato from here. Just make sure you check the tides. The best time to walk on the beach is two to three hours either side of low tide.

Franklin and Pukekohe
Parked up at Kariotahi Beach

Wrights Water Gardens and Frog & Lily Café

Garden and nature fans will love the Wrights Water Gardens just outside Patumahoe, on Mauku Road. The four-acre garden oozes rustic charm and features ponds, walkways and the impressive Mauku Waterfall and stream. It is the ideal spot for a relaxing stroll while taking in the many flowers and plants.

Keeping up with the Kāpiti Coast

The gardens are beautiful in all seasons, with a different scene emerging each day from the ever-changing selections of trees, shrubs and native plants. Waterlilies, lotus and iris all flourish in this stunning setting.

The adjacent Frog & Lily café offers a great place for lunch or snacks to refuel after walking around the gardens.

Wrights Water Garden
Take a stroll through the gorgeous Wrights Water Garden

Cycle along the country roads

Cycling enthusiasts will love the primarily flat country roads in this area. While the main roads can be busy and care must be taken when cycling, many smaller side roads see much less traffic. With green fields on either side, they make for a scenic ride.

A great option is cycling from Pukekohe to Elbow Landing reserve or from Waiuku to Hoods Landing. Both are right on the Waikato River, making them beautiful picnic spots. Clarks Beach to Waiau Pā is another excellent option, and there are lots of other short and long rides you can take by connecting the many side roads that weave through the farms and fields.

Where to stay

The area offers several options for campers. Clarks Beach Holiday Park and Sandspit Beach Motor Camp in Waiuku are the places to go for those who appreciate the facilities and conveniences of a holiday park.

There are official freedom camping spots at Rosa Birch Carpark in Pukekohe, the Service Centre Carpark in Waiuku, and St Stephen’s Carpark in Tuakau. NZMCA members can also choose from several Park Over Properties (POPs) in the area, which is a great way to meet some locals while you’re here.

Where to next

Once you’re done exploring southwest Franklin, a trip up the Āwhitu Peninsula is highly recommended. Many call it the most underrated part of Auckland, and with white sandy beaches on the east, wild black sand beaches on the west and rolling green hills in the middle, it’s easy to see why. This peaceful part of Auckland is the perfect getaway; take the time to wander over the pastures, explore the wetlands and enjoy a picnic or barbecue at your leisure.

Who said Auckland was busy?

More Information

Go to to find out more on Waiuku Museum; the website also gives some great suggestions on places to visit, wherever you are.

Kariotahi Beach has a reputation for being very windy; any swimming should always be done between the flags.

Discover more about the picturesque water gardens and the location at

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