There’s never been a time when us Aucklanders were in greater need of fresh eyes and fresh ideas for the city we live in and UK expat Katie Ham has brought exactly that to this story about where to go and what to see for your masked/socially distanced outdoor activities. Even the most
cynical seasoned Aucklander might find a few surprises here!
Ok so it’s been a strange few days as we get used to the new rules of ‘Level 3 Stage Whatever’. Things are getting hard for us all, and with no end in sight it’s easy to feel like we’re wading through mud (you can’t go over it, you can’t go under it, you’re going to have to go through it) in a desperate attempt to reach for some kind of normality. But surely it’s not all doom, gloom and picnics, right? It’s time to make the most of our (albeit limited) freedom and start exploring our good ol’ backyard.
First things first, a disclaimer – I’m a glorified Brit abroad. Anything and everything New Zealand is exciting to me. The physical beauty of Aotearoa is something we Poms can only ever dream of, so as the weather gets warmer and the days get longer, I can’t think of anywhere else I’d rather be stuck.
But what about Auckland? What actually is there to do within the Auckland boundaries? Turns out, there’s quite a lot…
Any list of things to do in New Zealand would be incomplete without a trip to snorkel on Goat Island nature reserve, and luckily for us it falls within the Auckland border (is it just me who didn’t know Auckland was so big?!). Although it’s not currently possible to rent snorkels, the Warehouse is selling them for $40 (they really do offer everyone a bargain), available for contactless Click & Collect in a range of stores across Auckland. Woo!
If there’s anywhere on the North Shore that needs no introduction, it’s Takapuna. Start your trip with a stop at ‘Takapuna Beach Café’ and grab a scoop (… or three) of their gelato – trust me, you will not regret it. From here break away from the crowds on Takapuna Beach and walk along the Milford Coastal Walk to Castor Bay. Fancy a challenge? Run up the infamous Castor Bay steps – your thighs will be crying in the morning!
Controversial opinion here, but I prefer Mount Victoria to One Tree Hill – only a 10-20 minute walk to the top, let the 360° views speak for themselves.
It may seem unassuming, tucked away in lil ol’ Devonport, but North Head Reserve is one of my all time favourite spots in the world. Head up to the top of North Head and, dare I say it, bring a picnic as you watch the sky turn jet black, with just the sparkle of the city lights on the horizon.
Little Shoal Bay
A bit further West than North Head, Little Shoal Bay is the spot to watch the sunset in Auckland (in case you haven’t guessed yet, I’m a sucker for a sunset). Watch the sun cast fiery hues over the Harbour Bridge, and thank the lord you’re not stuck in the rush hour traffic battling its way across.
Ah, South-East Auckland – my neck of the woods. Dodge the flying golf balls, and take a stroll around Musick Point. It really is a one-stop-shop for views, boasting outlooks of the Hauraki Gulf/Tīkapa Moana, Rangitoto, Browns Island, Motutapu Island and Motuihe Island.
Park up by Macleans College, and wind your way down to the (dog friendly – yay!) bush walk below. An essential stop? The zip wire! If, like me, lockdown has left you with more time than you know what to do with, I recommend you keep walking from Macleans onto Buckland’s Beach (and if you’re really bored you can walk all the way to Musick Point, see above). Time it right and you can hit Buckland’s just as the sun sets, and maybe even treat yourself to some takeaway fish and chips as you sit back and enjoy what is sure to be a show.
Duder Regional Park
When I first said to a friend – who has lived 20 minutes down the road for the past 15 years – that I wanted to go to Duder Regional Park, he scoffed at me. “It’ll just be mud”, he said. Well, let me tell you, it was not just mud. Opt for the Farm Loop if you’ve got an hour and a half to spare, and revel in the natural beauty (and lambs cute enough to melt even my stone cold heart).
Level 3 is the perfect time to take a recreational ramble through Mangemangeroa and along the Shelly Park Beach Path. Because it’s a bush walk, you’re covered for most of the walk, making it a rainproof activity – what more could you ask for?! (I mean an ice-cold espresso martini on a night out would be nice, but I’m trying to be realistic here).
Ōmana Regional Park
Tucked just around the corner from Maraetai is Ōmana – one of Auckland’s best-kept secrets and my personal favourite beach in the North Island. Don’t get me wrong, I like Maraetai, I really do, it’s just that I love Ōmana. It’s the kind of place so serene that you really can get lost in reverie. If you’re looking for a longer walk, start at Maraetai (I did say I liked it!) and walk through Ōmana to Kelly’s Beach in Te Puru Park.
Calling all wildlife lovers – you absolutely must visit Muriwai Beach to see the Gannet Colony, set against the backdrop of some of New Zealand’s finest cliff tops. Watch the clouds roll through, and perhaps even stick around for the sunset (at least I’m consistent). If you’re feeling really extravagant I highly recommend treating yourself to a portable BBQ (I promise I’m not sponsored but only $30 from the Warehouse) and setting yourself up for the evening.
Ok so Piha. Is it basic of me? Perhaps. Is it worth it? Without a doubt. Turn your trip to Piha into a day out by starting at Kitekite Falls, and make the trek to the top to get your insta-worthy basic b**** snap. Feeling brave? Take a dip! From here, head down to Piha Beach itself, and sink your toes into the legendary black sand as you watch the Tasman Sea rush in and try your best to see the lion in Lion Head Rock (I recommend closing one eye and squinting).
Mercer Bay Loop
Grab your favourite walking buddy and use this time to take on the Mercer Bay Loop track. With jaw dropping views, it’s the perfect opportunity to embrace the rich history of the North Island as you spend an hour wondering through the Māori pā.
There sure are worst places to be locked down, aye?!
If you need some baking ideas for your socially distanced picnic, boy, do we have some delicious suggestions.