Kitekite Falls (the original native Maori name was said to be "Ketekete") was in our minds the most scenic waterfall in the Waitakere Ranges (pronounced "wai-TAH-kur-ay"). In my first visit to this falls in December 2004, I was blown away by how relatively close it was to the city of Auckland, and what was even more amazing was how relatively quiet and peaceful the experience was. Even the neighbouring picturesque Piha Beach was serene, and it just seemed to be too good to be true that there was this over 40m multi-tiered waterfall in such close proximity to a beach that otherwise would have attracted massive crowds had it been somewhere like Los Angeles.
A little over five years after my initial visit to Kitekite Falls, Julie came along and got to see the falls herself in January 2010. She too, was impressed by this waterfall. It was also reassuring to see that not much about this falls and its track had changed over the years. In fact, it might have even improved, which I'll get to shortly below. On the flip side, it looked like the secret was out about Piha Beach, and it was way busier on our second visit though I wondered if some of that had to do with some kind of public event going on.
The hike began from the well-marked Glenesk car park (see directions below) where we followed a sign said "Kitekite Track" and pointed to our right. The sign indicated that the walk was about 30 minutes in each direction (or one hour return). This track followed along the Glenesk Stream as we walked through a pretty shady canopy of native bush. There were many paths branching off in different directions and I suspected that they were alternate ways of reaching the falls. In fact, I wasn't so sure that the path Julie and I took was the same one that I took back in December 2004. Nonetheless, the path we took criss-crossed the stream a few times before we started climbing up a narrow ledge that eventually reached the front of the base of Kitekite Falls.
The first time I was here, there were a handful of abseilers who were rappelling down the cliff alongside the waterfall. On our second visit here, the place had a little less commotion, but there were maybe a dozen people or so chilling out here or even having a swim. Indeed, this place was pretty popular with locals and tourists alike though it still didn't feel like it was overrun. Both of our visits happened to be during the mid- to late morning, and from a photography standpoint, we were always looking against the sun. I'd imagine this would be more of an afternoon waterfall for better lighting conditions.
After having our fill of the base of Kitekite Falls, we then crossed the stream and went up some steps that led up to a ledge track that went back in the downstream direction. As the track curved, we started to get a very nice look back at the entirety of Kitekite Falls including its upper tiers that weren't visible from the base. There was even a picnic table near this viewing area, which I swore wasn't there in December 2004. In fact, I often wondered how I missed this spot the first time when I realized that perhaps this view was overgrown back then (and since cleared and built-up a bit). In any case, that photo you see at the top of this page was from this spot, and I'd argue that my follow-up visit was better than my first visit probably for this reason alone.
The first time I did this track, it only took me about 45 minutes return. However, the second time we did this track, it took us 90 minutes but a large chunk of that time was spent having a friendly chat with a couple of Kiwi parties while enjoying the lookout with the picnic table. Indeed, the vibe we got on our visits to this waterfall was chill, and I guess that was exactly what we tended to get on most of our waterfalling experiences throughout New Zealand.
Directions: There were a lot of ways to get from the Auckland CBD to Kitekite Falls so we'll just describe the route that we took.
From the Auckland CBD, we went through the maze of city streets until we ultimately found our way onto New North Rd, which was south of SH16 and southwest of SH1. According to our GPS tracks, the route we took from the CBD was to go south on Hobson St, then going left on Pitt St before turning right onto Karangahape Rd, which then became the Great North Rd. We'd eventually take this road towards Bond St (about 1.3km west of SH1), then turn left onto Bond St for about 700m before turning right onto New North Rd.
After about 5.7km, New North Rd rejoined the Great North Rd, which we continued on for the next 3.4km. We then turned left onto West Coast Rd and followed it for about 10km to Scenic Dr. Turning right onto Scenic Dr, we then turned left onto Piha Rd (about 400m later) and followed it through the winding Waitakere Ranges for about 13.6km as it descended towards Piha Beach and became Seaview Rd. After another kilometre on Seaview Rd, we then turned right onto Glenesk Rd and took it for another kilometre to the car park near its end.
The car park was busy on our January 2010 visit and we were fortunate to have had a couple of spots still available. However, there was also spillover parking adjacent to the main car park had the main one been full.
The Arataki Visitor Centre was on Scenic Dr, which somewhat paralleled West Coast Rd further to the south. It was about 4km southeast of the junction of West Coast Rd and Scenic Dr on Scenic Dr.