Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Things to see in Auckland, New Zealand

I'm from Auckland and I left so I am bit biased about the place. However, on a recent visit I was reminded of some of the good things about Auckland. 

Feijoa drinkFood and drink

I spent the 8 days I was in Auckland eating and drinking as much as I could of my favourite local treats. In terms of food, I've already mentioned some things here but somehow I forget to mention feijoas. Thankfully it was early autumn while we were visiting so feijoas were in season. Most Auckland homes have at least one feijoa tree in the backyard. I chowed down about six or eight a day and also feijoa flavoured drink. I didn't manage to eat a piece of the feijoa tart, but I bet it was good 'cos it was at our favourite bakery where the chef is French.

Feijoa tart
Also, I forgot to mention the good old Kiwi flat white coffee. New Zealand is very good at independent cafes - a flat white and a delicious brunch is a treat that's hard to replicate in the UK. A full English breakfast and an Americano coffee is not so much to my taste.  

Rangitoto island seen from Milford Beach, Auckland, New Zealand
Rangitoto island seen from Milford Beach
Beaches and islands

Auckland being an isthmus means that it's surrounded in miles of beaches. There probably isn't anyone who lives more than an hour's drive from a beach. On the North Shore, lovely golden sand beaches are anything from a five minute walk to a 15 minute drive away.

Milford beach and Takapuna beach are popular and can be a bit crowded but they are old favourites of mine. The walk along the rocks between the two beaches makes for a good way to earn a sorbet or ice cream at the fancy cafe on Takapuna beach.

Muriwai beach, Auckland, New Zealand
Muriwai beach
Muriwai on the west coast is quite different being a very long black sand surf beach. There is stunning scenery and an increasingly large gannet colony. This visit we saw lots of half grown chicks nesting with their parents.

Tiritiri Matangi island, Auckland, New Zealand
Tititiri Matangi island
Auckland harbour is also full of islands, some of which are occupied and some are nature reserves. On our recent visit to Auckland, we took a day trip on the ferry to Tiritiri Matangi island and saw amazing native birds such as bell birds, saddlebacks and black robins which you would never see elsewhere. You can also take day trips to Rangitoto and Waiheke islands and a short ferry ride from Auckland city to the cute village of Devonport. Getting out on the water is a typically Auckland thing to do and it does show off the city at its best.

Hot pools
Hot pools are the main thing I miss about New Zealand. Much of New Zealand is set on old volcanoes so there is thermal hot water dotted about the country. I grew up close to thermal hot pools so was a regular visitor. In Auckland I recommend Parakai over Waiwera as Parakai is cheaper, less crowded and still has a more authentic 'small town' feel about it. The Palm Springs hot pools have evidently recently been redecorated so if you're not wanting hydroslides then these are the best in Auckland to my taste. You can also find motels and camping grounds with their own hot pools, including some with a private pool for each room, lovely!

Waitakere Ranges, Auckland, New Zealand
Bush (or Forest to you foreigners)
Auckland is bracketed by the enormous Waitakere ranges regional park which has "more than 16,000 hectares of native rainforest and coastline. Its 250km of walking and tramping tracks provide access to beaches, breathtaking views, and spectacular rocky outcrops."

I'm afraid (typical of Auckland) the only way to get there is by car although there are some expensive coach tours that don't let you get a decent walk in. Still, it's well worth spending a day taking a bush walk as you'll see unique plants such as huge old kauri trees and beautiful birds like tui and fantails. Titirangi village close by has some great cafes for lunch - I recommend Stripe Cafe which is just down the road from the main shopping area. Delicious food in a relaxing setting.

Most people fly into and out of Auckland from international destinations and many of them immediately head off on road trips. There are some things worth seeing if you stay in Auckland for a few days - you just have to know where they are!

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