The melodic call of a bellbird stops me in my tracks. I glance up to see if it really is a bellbird and it hops obligingly into view on a nearby branch.
A little further down the path, three saddleback appear and I stand transfixed. These birds are on the Department of Conservation’s ‘At Risk – Recovering’ list, and are also a delight to see.
This parade of native birds I enjoy on Fishermans Track at Tawharanui Regional Park is a tribute to the hard work of Tawharanui Open Sanctuary Society and Department of Conservation. Since they constructed a 2.5km predator-proof fence across the peninsula in 2004, bellbirds have returned in great numbers. The tropical paradise, filled with birdsong, is also home to tui, fantail, North Island robin, ducks, kaka and kakariki.
The forested area is small compared to what was here before the settlers cleared the land for farming, extracted shingle and milled the kauri trees for timber. It makes you yearn for how it must have been when Māori tribes lived in the area. There are still some impressive kauri and towering nikau palm here.
Fishermans Track can be accessed from both the North Coast Track and South Coast Track at Tawharanui Regional Park (a 10- to 15-minute drive from Matakana Village). Park in the main carpark by the beach and walk along the path until you reach a junction of signposts pointing to the North Coast Track and Ecology Trail. We opted to take the Ecology Trail, which follows the coastline and then wends its way back to meet the North Coast Track. The latter traverses farmland with a couple of recommended stop-offs: Tokata Point Lookout and Māori Bay.
When you do the Tokata Point Lookout, make sure you do the loop walk that takes you through stands of native flax teaming with tui, before emerging to a magnificent coastal view of stands of rocks protruding from the ocean like a smaller version of Australia’s 12 Apostles. It’s thrilling to stand atop the cliff and look down at the rocks as the ocean swirls around them.
Rejoining the North Coast Track, we walk on to Māori Bay before returning to the carpark via Fishermans Track. It’s a gentle uphill climb from this direction; we take care to spray and scrub our shoes to help prevent the spread of kauri dieback disease.
The track leads us back to where we started – the beautiful golden beaches of Anchor Bay. It’s definitely time for a swim!