RangesThe Waitakere Ranges are a chain of hills generally running approximately 25 km (15.5 mi) from north to south, 25 km west of central Auckland, New Zealand. The maximum elevation within the ranges is 474 m (1555 ft). The ranges and surrounding areas were traditionally known to local Māori as Te Wao Nui a Tiriwa (The Great Forest of Tiriwa). The ranges fall within the municipality of Waitakere City.
The western coastline of the ranges consists of cliffs exceeding 300 m (984 ft), interspersed infrequently with beaches. The rugged upstanding topography is formed from erosion resistant ancient volcanic conglomerate and lava flows laid down in eruptions 12–25 million years ago. The ranges are covered in native forest, most of which is in the process of regeneration since extensive logging and farming in the mid–late 19th and early 20th centuries.

In 1894 a group led by Sir Algernon Thomas (the first professor of natural sciences at Auckland University College, now the University of Auckland) persuaded the Auckland City Council to preserve 3,500 acres (14 km²) in the Nihotupu area of the ranges as a bush reserve. In 1895 the national Government vested the land, and several other smaller areas of the ranges, in the City Council as "reserves for the conservation of native flora and fauna". The Waitakere Ranges Regional Park now contains about 39,500 acres (160 km²).[1] The area is also protected under the Waitakere Ranges Heritage Area Act 2008.

The area is home to kauri snails, glowworms and native long-tailed bats. Long-tailed and short-tailed bats are New Zealand's only native land-based mammals. At the northern end of the ranges, Otakamiro Point is the site of one of New Zealand's few mainland gannet breeding colonies. In the bush are many indigenous invertebrates, including kauri snail, weta and oviparous peripatus (Onychophora) with 14 pairs of legs, and ovoviviparous species of 15 and 16 pairs of legs, none of which are members of any of the five scientifically described New Zealand species.

Some of the ranges' main attractions are: the four popular surf beaches, Muriwai, Te Henga (Bethells Beach), Piha and Karekare; an extensive network of bush walks and tracks; and panoramic views of the east and west coasts and the city. A road, aptly named Scenic Drive, runs a good portion of the length of the ranges from Titirangi to Swanson. The Auckland Regional Council operates an information centre near the Titirangi end.

The beaches are typical of west coast beaches north of Taranaki in that they are all black sand beaches. They have a reputation of being dangerous for swimmers due to rips and large swells.