Location: Little Oneroa Beach, off Ocean Bay Road
Access: Car park at Little Oneroa Beach
Length: ca. 5 km
Configuration: Loop with some repeated sections
Grade: Undulating with some steep sections (often with steps); mix of informal paths, gravel tracks and roadside pavements.
Status: on leash (with some off-leash sections)
Cafes and restaurants: several cafes in Little Oneroa (ca 1 km from start/end point)
More information: http://www.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz/EN/parksfacilities/walkingtracks/Pages/waihekewalkseries.aspx
Waiheke Island has a refreshingly relaxed attitude to dogs, and there's an abundance of walks to do. Well, that's half true. The west side of the island is good; the east contains a huge area belonging to an overly rich (and obviously paranoid) viniculturalist, where almost every field contains a huge sign saying 'Private, no entry, no camping, no fires, no dogs, no foreigners...' (OK, I lied about the foreigners, but the general message is clear.) And if you're on Waiheke Island there are few better places to base yourself than Little Oneroa, for from here there's three or four really good walks. (The nearby Punga Lodge hotel is also dog-friendly and offers excellent accommodation.)
The walk starts as a flight of newish-looking steps, heading east from Little Oneroa Beach. Ignoring any diversions off to the right we climb these to the top of the headland, then down the other side to a little rocky bay with a picnic table. The left fork here takes us uphill again, via more steps and a windy track to a small car park at the end of Newton Road. Straight ahead, there's a short path to another picnic area at Fisherman's Point, but our route goes right, along Newton Road to a T-junction. Left here, and after 200 metres we find ourselves beside a small grassy reserve, with a sign labelled Don's Track.
This will be our route for the next kilometre or so. The first section is steep, as we wind our way down the slope towards a small beach. Just before we reach this, however, Don's Track leaps off to the right, and climbs again, as a pleasant 'green lane' until it gets to Coromandel Road. Here we go right for a short distance, until we meet Hauraki Road, then left for about 100 metres, where we take another left. Just before the junction with Great Barrier Road there's a sign inviting us into a Forest and Bird Reserve. Enter this and we find we are faced with a myriad of paths through a large area of regenerating bush.
Which we take doesn't matter much, as long as the general direction is downhill. At the bottom, we join a gravel road, where we go left (downhill again) and soon join Empire Avenue. Follow this, and after a couple of hundred metres we come to a small beach, which nestles in the suitably names Enclosure Bay. This is a good place for a rest because - as we might have guessed - the route now goes uphill again, with the sea on our right. At first, we follow the road (marked as Great Barrier Road on the maps but signposted Empire Avenue), but in a few hundred metres a track leads off on the right, along the cliff edge. We now take this, and wind our way up and down, around the headland, until we drop down onto another beach.
Given all the ups and downs and lefts and rights we've done, we can be forgiven for feeling rather lost by now. But it's soon apparent that we've just completed a rather wiggly circle and arrived back at Don's Track. Now, therefore, we have to retrace our steps (yes, that means up that steep concrete path) until we get back to the T-junction at the end of Newton Road. Here, there's a walkway leading more-or-less straight ahead. We follow this as it winds downhill, often slippery, often rough, through an area of bush for about 700 metres until we find ourselves at the rocky bay with its picnic table that we saw on the route out. To complete the walk, therefore, it's just a case of trotting up and over that first headland, back to Little Oneroa Beach.