The City of Sails…
I realise the title of this post may lead you to believe that I dislike living in Auckland city centre — that is NOT the case!!
I actually really enjoy living in the city; we have a lovely flat in walking distance of our workplaces, the supermarket, Queen Street… and there is always something to do. It’s well-lit at night so it’s safe to go for a run in the evenings or walk home from a bar. It also has regular transport links, meaning we can easily escape the city when we need to.
I’ve said it before: I’m a country girl. I’m at my happiest when I’m surrounded by nature, be that in the woods or by the sea. It’s my time to recharge and I feel more at ease, more content, when I’m in the peace and quiet of a forest, on a beach or on top of a mountain.
I was recently offered an extension on my contract at work, so James and I will be staying in Auckland until early October. Our weekdays are a blur of routine – at the weekends, we’re free to explore. Below is a compilation of some of the places we have visited at the weekends, to escape the hub of the CBD.
A forty minute ferry journey from the city centre is Waiheke Island, the most populated island in the Hauraki gulf. Home to many world-famous vineyards, it is the perfect place to go wine tasting for the day.
How to get there: Take the ferry from the ferry building on Quay Street. Tickets start at $36 for an adult return.
Auckland’s youngest volcano erupted under water around 600 years ago. Inactive ever since, Rangitoto is now covered in lush plant life and is completely uninhabited.
You can explore on foot or on a 4WD-train. Tramping tracks are clearly laid out and fairly easy, and the 360 degree views from the summit are spectacular. If you take a torch you can explore the lava caves, and camping is permitted on Rangitoto’s closely neighbouring island, Motutapu, which is accessible by a bridge. Be sure to check the timetable for the last ferry so you don’t get stranded!
- How to get there: By ferry – tickets start at $30 for an adult return.
Hikes and Tramps
Waitakere Ranges Regional Park
Possibly my new favourite place! The Waitakere Ranges are basically a big area of woodland to the west of Auckland. You can stop to pick up some leaflets and learn about the park’s history at the Arataki Visitor Centre. Views of the coastline are breathtaking, and there are many streams and waterfalls along the walking tracks. The lush greenery is beautiful.
With over 250km of walking routes of various difficulty and length, there is something for everyone, and you can camp at a variety of campsites.
Unfortunately there is not a lot of public transport to get to the Ranges, especially on the weekends, so it helps to have a car – though be careful driving as the roads are narrow and bendy!
- Website: www.arc.govt.uk
- Top tip: Stop Kauri Dieback! This disease is threatening the kauri trees in the Waitakere Ranges – keep to the main footpaths and clean your footwear before and after visiting the park.
Long Bay Regional Park
30km north of the city, Long Bay Regional Park offers walking and biking tracks of various lengths. We took the coastal walk, an easy 3 hour stroll over green hills, across sandy beaches and rocky bays.
Since the tide was low we were able to walk along the beach, but when it’s high you have to follow the path along the cliff top. The views were stunning vistas of green and blue. A perfect afternoon escaping the hub of the city.
- Website: http://regionalparks.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz/longbay
- How to get there: Unfortunately this is another instance where you will probably need your own transport – we took the Northern Express bus from Britomart to Albany, where a friend picked us up in her car. According to the above website, there are buses from the city centre, though I believe they are less frequent in winter and on weekends.
Summits & easy walking tracks
I’m not sure why, when the first settlers came to New Zealand, they decided to build the City of Sails on a volcanic field. Across Auckland, as you will soon notice, there are many hills and mounts which are in fact inactive volcanoes! They certainly add an unusual aesthetic to the city’s skyline, and are peaceful refuges from the hustle and bustle of the city, which offer beautiful panoramic views.
Mount Victoria and North Head
Although we went to each of these on separate occasions, they are very close to one another and could easily be done in a day. Each of the summits offer great views of Auckland CBD and Rangitoto and they’re great fun if it’s windy!
We preferred North Head of the two, which is a slightly bigger site and, since it’s by the coast, you can walk along the small beach. Both summits were used in WW2 as places to keep ‘disappearing guns’, which were large slow to use weapons that could be lowered into the ground. North Head also features some tunnels used in the war.
How to get there: Take the ferry from the CBD to Devonport ($12 return). From Devonport port it’s around a 15 minute walk to each summit.
Auckland’s highest volcanic cone is easily accessible by train or is a pleasant walk from the city centre. Mount Eden is an ancient pa, a Maori settlement, and the crater is considered deeply sacred – though you must not enter it! Views of the city are beautiful.
- How to get there: Take the Outer Link bus from Wellesley Street to Mount Eden.
One Tree Hill
Aptly named after the one tree that used to stand at the top of the hill, this volcanic mount was once a Maori pa which was home to the sacred tree. Unfortunately, it was chopped down by British settlers in 1852 and a tall monument now stands proudly at the summit. The surrounding Cromwell Park is an easy walk and a pleasant place to spend the day.
- How to get there: Take the Onehunga line train from Britomart to Greenlane
Most tourists visit the domain to go to Auckland Museum, which is surrounded by a large green area featuring sports fields, gardens, ponds and a few short walks. Be sure to visit the Winter Gardens, a collection of greenhouses holding many beautiful plants.
- How to get there: A short walk from the city centre, or you can take the Inner Link bus from Britomart.
- Entry fees: Auckland Domain and Wintergardens: Free; Museum: $25, BUT if you are an Auckland resident it’s free with a My Museum card (available at the museum). You just need a proof of address (utility bill, tenancy agreement, letter from hostel).
Tahuna Torea National Park
Starting at Point England Reserve, we followed the coastal walk up to Tahuna Torea National Park. The walks were not challenging; we saw a few people jogging and walking their dogs along the paths.
The highlight for us was the Spit, where the beach extends out into the sea and is hit by waves from both sides – bizarre! When the tide is high, some of the tracks are inaccessible, which meant we had to double back on ourselves.
- How to get there: Take the Eastern line train from Britomart to Glen Innes
Western Park in Ponsonby
A small, hilly park home to interesting sculptures and a makeshift rope-swing, Western Park is a good place to people/dog-watch on a sunny afternoon. It can be combined with a trip down Ponsonby Road, browsing the boutiques and stopping for a drink in one of the many cafés or bars.
- How to get there: Take the Inner Link bus from Customs Street to Ponsonby Road
Mission Bay is just a 15 minute bus journey from the city centre and is the perfect place to spend a lazy, sunny afternoon. We enjoyed sitting on the beach with fish / veggie burger and chips.
- How to get there: Take the bus from stand 7010 on Tyler Street
- Regional parks: http://regionalparks.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz/parks
- Ferries: http://www.fullers.co.nz/?site=main
- Auckland transport: https://at.govt.nz/bus-train-ferry/
- Other useful websites: AucklandNZ.com, Auckland Tourism, NewZealand.com.
Do you have any recommendations of things to do or see on the weekends to get out of the city? Do you prefer being in the city or amongst nature? I’d love to hear your suggestions!
Thanks for reading and happy travels!