Many of us love a staycation, and there’s never been a better time to stay put. Here are five of the best ways to explore Auckland’s backyard this summer.
Maungawhau / Mount Eden Boardwalk, Central Auckland
Visitors can see many stages of the Auckland region’s cultural and geographic history from the Maungawhau / Mount Eden summit.
Not only does the maunga offer one of the best panoramic views across the city, it’s a visible reminder of Auckland’s volcanic origins, and the site of a pā (fortified settlement) built around 1200AD.
Maungawhau means ‘mountain of the whau tree’, and the pā was one of the largest and most elaborate in the region. On the outer slopes are numerous flat terraces used for defence, living and working. Pits for crop storage can still be seen today.
Last year, the Tūpuna Maunga Authority, which governs 14 Auckland maunga, opened a new visitor boardwalk around the crater and tihi (summit). This offers long-overdue protection for the features that are the last remnants of the pā. The large viewing deck is already a top Instagram spot.
The maunga’s historical kiosk building, which dates back to 1926 and for decades served as a tea room, restaurant and wedding venue, has also had an upgrade. It’s now home to the Whau Cafe – one of Auckland’s few Māori kai eateries – and the authority’s new visitor experience centre, Te Ipu Kōrero o Maungawhau. The centre tells the story of Māori settlement in Tāmaki Makaurau and the network of maunga pā fortifications through informative panels, a short film and an interactive digital experience that’s sure to impress.
Only visitors with limited mobility can drive to the tihi. For others, there are parking areas at the eastern and southern ends of Puhi Huia Road.
Windsor Reserve, Devonport
The new coastal-themed playground at Windsor Reserve, just along from the Devonport Wharf ferry terminal, is already a huge hit with children from throughout the region and beyond.
Significantly larger than its predecessor, the playground features a 7.9m-high play tower inspired by the historical Bean Rock Lighthouse – which visitors to Windsor Reserve can see marking a reef out in the Waitematā Harbour – and offers play equipment suitable for youngsters up to the age of 12.
If you have toddlers, they’re sure to have fun at the free Raumati / preschool play sessions at the reserve on Tuesday and Thursday mornings from 9.30am to 11am until March 30.
Once the kids have burned off energy, take them over the road to the award-winning architectural marvel that is Te Pātaka Kōrero o Te Hau Kapua / Devonport Library. Nearby Maungauika / North Head Reserve offers spectacular views across the Hauraki Gulf and its islands and is a great place from which to watch the America’s Cup racing.
Because of its strategic location, the maunga has been a significant coastal defence site throughout Auckland’s history. The kids will love exploring its historical tunnels, guns, and defences that were placed on the headland to protect the city from foreign invasion. Dogs on a leash are welcome to join the fun.
Music and Movies in Parks
COVID-19 has made the past year tough for local musicians, so Auckland Council is showing its support by engaging a strong line-up of them for the 43rd Music in Parks programme.
Running from January to March, the much-anticipated free events include dozens of local artists, ranging from classic legends to exciting new acts. Twenty performers from the city’s premier secondary school music and dance competition, Stand Up Stand Out (SUSO), will also be taking the stage this summer.
For those seeking a quieter evening out, Movies in Parks will also return this summer – albeit pared back from previous years – offering viewers of all ages a chance to take in a film for free in some of Auckland’s most stunning parks. Movies start a few minutes after sunset.
Auckland Botanic Gardens
For a shady spot on a hot day, head to the Auckland Botanic Gardens to immerse yourself in the tropical Palm Garden, Rose Garden or maybe the Camellia Garden.
Learning opportunities for all ages abound. The focus this season is on edible gardening, with themed displays running until March aimed at helping home gardeners to grow their own vegetables and herbs.
‘Better, Smarter, Greener,’ a fun and informational module on site designed by MOTAT, blends digital information with the natural world to explore the ways gardening may change in the future. Open daily from 8am to 8pm. Free.
Upgraded kauri tracks
Aucklanders can look forward to reconnecting with the region’s majestic kauri as Auckland Council’s kauri dieback upgrade programme continues to make progress.
A number of kauri tracks have reopened this summer, collectively representing more than 13km of upgraded bush trails.
Three are in the Waitākere Ranges’ Karamatura Valley, one is the Ecology Trail at Tāwharanui and another, near Birkenhead village, is in the North Shore’s largest urban forest, accessible via the 5km Wai Manawa / Le Roys Bush track.
Stu Leighton, a senior ranger involved in kauri dieback management in Auckland’s regional parks, says boardwalks and other upgrades will help protect the taonga, but he urges visitors to follow the rules to keep them standing.
“Please stay on the tracks that have been upgraded and reopened, use the hygiene stations, and make sure your footwear is clean before heading out.”