Today’s guest travel blog is by former Auckland resident Cassie Twemlow. You can read millions of travel blogs, but there’s nothing like getting the inside story from a local. Cassie recently travelled back to Auckland for a family holiday, and I asked her to share her secrets about how she spends her time in New Zealand.
Auckland is one of, if not my favourite, places in the world!
My young family and I lived there for 2.5 wonderful, but not nearly long enough, years back at the start of the decade. We were lucky though – we lived on ‘The Shore’ which, if I had to equate, would be like the Manly of Sydney (but better!). It was flat, we were nestled between the beach and a lake, my daughters could walk to school and kindy, I could walk to work, we could all walk, or cycle, to Countdown or New World (Woolies and Coles), bars, restaurants, cafes and most other places you needed on a weekly basis. It was awesome!
Unfortunately, work prompted our move back ‘home’ (I say ‘home’ lightly because I think I will always consider Auckland my home now). However, in the September holidays I surprised my daughters with a trip back to NZ for a week. I was so excited, and when I eventually told them (the night before leaving) so were they!
As it usually goes, we visited all our oldest and greatest friends and spent many hours at KiwiYo. We admired the harbour and many beaches (their water is BLUE!), froze in the wind and then sunned ourselves in the afternoon sun (Crowded House weren’t joking when they sang about ‘Four Seasons in One Day’) and ate and drank too much.
But apart from catching up with people I wanted to visit old haunts and do things and visit places I missed.
So here is my list of ‘walking’ things to do in Auckland…
1. Climb Rangitoto:
Rangitoto Island is off the coast of Auckland and is visible from most parts of the mainland. Over 600 years old, this once-volcano has a unique volcanic landscape that also boasts beautiful native fauna and flora. Rising to 260m high it is a great morning or afternoon climb to the top for kids and adults alike (although, I wouldn’t rely on kids younger than 4 years to trek all the way up by themselves). You can take a ferry from Devonport, on the north shore, or the city straight across to the island.
A family ticket (2 adults, 2 children) costs $75. We took the 0925 ferry across and had plenty of times to walk up to the summit, around the crater rim and detour to the lava caves, with time to spare before our 1230 ferry back to Devonport. Make sure you bring water, snacks and sunscreen. A torch is useful too if you’re wanting to visit the lava caves (the one on your phone is usually good enough) because these are pitch black. It’s an amazing 360° view from the summit! – You can see all of Auckland and the harbour out to Waiheke and on clear days, as far as the Coromandel and Great Barrier Island.
2. Visit Ponsonby:
I love Ponsonby (or Pon-Snobby as I like to call it). It is a vibrant part of inner-city Auckland filled of streets dotted with gorgeous villas, trendy cafes, cool stores and award-winning restaurants. If you stick to Ponsonby Rd you really can’t go wrong.
Cruising up and down this lively road is always fun no matter what the weather or what time of year it is. There are some amazing unique boutiques scattered along the road that sell everything from crafts, fashion and food. You can easily spend an entire day just wandering around and every now and then stop for a pulled pork burger and kumara fries or a double hot chocolate.
There are some seriously cool bars along and just off Ponsonby Road for those requiring a few adult beverages and a seat at a popular side-walk café. The Fairy Shop and other knick-knack outlets will keep the kids amused for a few hours if you need to drag them out with you – the promise of a mega donut shake will probably encourage them to keep walking with minimal whinging. There is something for everyone along a 1km stretch. If you are there around Christmas time, make sure you check out the light displays on Franklin Rd, which is always a popular and famed street for going completely OTT.
3. Milford Beach to Takapuna Beach:
It is particularly nice because it is varied. You start at the bottom of one of the streets that runs perpendicular to the beach, which will take you to the boardwalk. Walking along here past beautiful water-front homes and with a great view to Rangitoto you will eventually come to the end of the man-made pathway which then merges with more of a nature track that looks like you’re walking through someone’s yard! But, keep going.
The short track will eventually lead you to another man-made retaining wall which is fine for walking along. This brings you out at Thorne Bay, a beautiful little swimming hole only accessible by residents who live in the houses that overlook it or by people willing to take this walk. It’s very trendy and popular in summer with families – the kids swim or poke around in the lava rocks that line the beach and have a great time.
After Thorne Bay you get back onto a path whilst walking around the point. However, when you come out the other side and you can see clearly to the south, you’ll be walking on and around all the rocks that make up the coastline. It’s very beautiful but only for those who have good footing. Again, I wouldn’t recommend this walk for anyone under the age of 4 years and it’s also unsuitable for prams, scooter and bikes.
From here until you reach Takapuna Beach Holiday Park is all rocks. You can be as tame or adventurous as you like but be mindful of tides before you venture off on this walk as some parts of the rocks can be beneath water level when at high tide. Once you’re past the Holiday Park you’ll see the Takapuna Beach Café. Now is the perfect time to reward yourself with a coffee and a gelato for the kids whilst strolling along the beach itself – voted one of the best in NZ for obvious reasons. You can then walk back the same route or head up to Hurstmere Rd and take the easy walk back along the street and past some great bars and restaurants.
4. Westhaven to Wynyard Quarter and Viaduct:
Now, this is something you can do on foot or wheels. Again, because it’s flat, the kids loved taking their scooters on this 5km round trip from the marina around to Silo Park. We parked at Westhaven and walked along the new boardwalk all the way to the equally new-ish (about 3 years old) revamped Wynyard Quarter.
It’s a leisurely walk and the blue and green clean water of St Mary’s Bay is just beautiful to admire (especially coming from Brisbane!). You get to play ‘imagination lotto’ and pick out your favourite boats from the marina, marvel at the real estate on St Mary’s Bay face and catch up for a good old natter whilst pounding the wooden boards.
Eventually you’ll have to turn left down Wynyard Dr or Beaumont St which will bring you out at Silo Park and the play space. The kids can let off some more steam here on the playground, basketball court or by jumping in and out of the paddling pool. If you keep heading down Jellicoe St you’ll get to the famed Auckland Fish Market on your right and many new restaurants and cafes on your left which overlook the harbour.
Grab lunch and a pint whilst you’re here before heading back the way you came. Or, if you want to explore further, keep heading east towards the city centre along Wynyard Crossing and you will ultimately come out at the Viaduct. New Zealand Maritime Museum, the Hilton and many restaurants and bars all populate this area of energy.
(Click on the map to enlarge).
So many people come to NZ to explore the south island for skiing and its beautiful landscape, but don’t rule out Auckland. It is cultural, scenic, and friendly and I would recommend it as a holiday for everyone who especially didn’t want to travel too far from home. There are loads more things that you could do whilst here and, because the country it so small, it is easy and fun to plan day trips or weekends away if basing yourself in Auckland.
Definitely check it out!
Cassie Twemlow is a graphic designer who designs digital artwork, websites, corporate branding, and invitations as well as photography and custom artwork. You can find her at http://www.crashtdesign.com.au She’s also a legend who lets me test out my camera settings on her every now and again.
Thanks Cassie! I look forward to travelling back to N.Z 🙂