Thank you to our guest author: Ceana Priest from Outdoor Kid
Auckland is the perfect stomping ground for intrepid explorers! Clamber up ancient volcanoes, squelch through tidal mudflats or picnic in spooky sea caves. Here are five of the best hidden gems in Auckland which have been personally tested by the troops over at Outdoor Kid.
1. Te Naupata/Musick Point | Bucklands Beach
Visit at low tide and clamber down the steep steps that end on a dramatic headland with exposed rocks reaching out into the Hauraki Gulf. In the 1930s, the impressive white building was one of the country’s five strategic locations for a communications network. Today, it houses an important archive of traditional radio equipment and is operated and maintained by amateur radio operators Musick Point Radio Group. Follow to path to the end of the headland then clamber down the very steep stairs leading to the rocky outcrop. Low tide will give you more options to explore at the bottom of the stairs. If you are queasy with heights, perhaps loiter at the upper lookouts which still have excellent views.
Accessibility: Dirt paths and steep stairs.
Time: Allow one hour for a casual explore. More at low tide to clamber around the rocks.
Location: Drive through Howick Golf Club to the car park near the headland.
Important: Dogs on leads and watch kids around the steep stairs and cliffs. Gates are locked at 6pm.
2. Maungarei Springs Wetland | Stonefields
The sound of rock crushing was once deafening here but today this former quarry is a peaceful oasis with just the mellow chirps of native birds. Stroll through the wetland and soak up the views of Maungarei and the dramatic bluestone rock faces beneath Lunn Avenue. Can the kids spot any rock climbers? This is a short adventure which makes it perfect for little ones finding their feet.
Accessibility: Dirt paths and boardwalks suitable for buggies and bikes.
Time: Allow 30 minutes for a casual explore.
Location: Parking available on Tephra Boulevard at Stonefields.
DOGS: On leads.
3. Te Auaunga Oakley Creek Waterfall | Waterview
Take a stroll along the city’s longest urban stream surrounded by greenery teeming with native critters to a picturesque waterfall. The 50 hectares of green space beside the creek are home to plenty of native and exotic flora and fauna, even fresh water mussels. Peer off the numerous bridges and see if you can spot the threatened native longfin eel. The picturesque six metre high falls looks super impressive after a downpour. Highly recommend starting at Waterview Reserve which has an amazing playground and easy parking. Follow the signs to the cross the motorway overpass and the walkway entrance is on the left. Well signposted. The playground has a splashpad, pump track, BBQs and covered picnic shelters.
Accessibility: Outdoorsy buggies will cope fine on the uneven concrete paths. Not suitable for wheelchairs.
Time: Allow one hour. More for playground and picnics.
Location: Waterview Reserve corner of Herdman Street and Waterbank Crescent.
Important: Dogs on leads.
4. Little Shoal Bay Reserve & Le Roys Bush | Birkenhead
Little Shoal Bay is a great spot to start your adventure and follow in the footsteps of Māori who traditionally used this route through the valley and wetland to gather kaimoana from Waitematā Harbour. At low tide, walk on the mudflats and see what you can find. Then, cross the road to enter Le Roys Bush via a footbridge. The wetland was reclaimed during the late 1950s which allowed the towering raupō/bullrush to flourish and become the largest wetland of its kind on the North Shore. The trail ends at the Birkenhead shops, so grab an ice cream before returning down the valley.
Accessibility: Steps and boardwalk.
Time: Allow 80 min return.
Location: Park at Little Shoal Bay, Council Terrace, Northcote Point.
Important: Dogs on leads.
5. Whatipū Beach Sea Caves | Whatipū
These old sea caves were once the spot for rollicking dances during the height of the settlement’s timber milling days! They are tucked under the cliffs and are the perfect stomping ground for curious explorers. An out and back track from the main car park heads north to the base of the cliffs and sidles around to the handful of caves still visible. The largest cave was once a dance hall that hosted formal dances for more than 60 years from the early 1900s. Today, buried beneath five metres of sand there could still be the kauri ballroom dance floor.
Accessibility: At times rough narrow dirt path. Boggy in winter.
Time: Allow 40 minutes (3km) return.
Location: Start to the right of the information shelter and follow the signs beside the camping area. Whatipū Beach will take just over an hour to reach from central Auckland but is worth it.
Important: No dogs because of the nearby Department of Conservation scientific reserve. Take a torch and be careful around the cave mouth as rockfall can occur.
About the Author: Hamilton mum Ceana Priest has explored the best ways to get kids away from devices and get them outside in her guidebook The Outdoor Kid. Initially she launched www.outdoorkid.co.nz as a resource for other parents and grandparents to find local muddy adventures, trees to clamber over, critters to discover or a place where kids can tear around on their bikes. Outdoor Kid is all about getting you and the kids off the couches and devices, and outside into nature!
Looking for more spots to explore with your family? Jump over to Outdoor Kid’s website for free kid-friendly walks and activities. www.outdoorkid.co.nz