In Travel SOS, Lee Mylne helps Jane to head off the beaten track.
Auckland is a popular destination for Aussies and Jane is keen to see the sights not listed in the guide books. So in today's Travel SOS, Lee Mylne helps her to head off the beaten track.
I’m off to Auckland for a couple of days and, as you can imagine, I’m very much looking forward to it. I have the obligatory guide book and recommendations from friends but I want to make my trip a little different. Can you recommend five or six sights or activities I should seek out when I’m there? Something that not too many people know about would be great.
A. As you will already know from your guide book and your friends, there’s such a lot to do in Auckland, Jane. Although I’m a New Zealander, I know Auckland only as a tourist myself but over the years and on many visits I like to think I’ve gone beyond the usual sights. So here are my suggestions. Some of them, of course, may also be in your guide book, but I think they’re among the best things you can do that are not strictly part of the ‘tourist trail’.
My first recommendation is to get out on the harbour and visit some of the islands of the Hauraki Gulf. My favourite is Waiheke Island, once a hippy hangout but now home to some very sophisticated wineries (try Mudbrick) and accommodation options. It’s also very beautiful, with views back to the city, and only a 40-minute ferry ride from the bottom of Queen Street in the city centre. No wonder so many Kiwi celebrities head here for holidays (and call it home).
You can see a lot on Waiheke in a day, and there’s a good bus service so you don’t need to rent a car once you’re there. The main township of Oneroa is within walking distance of the ferry. Further away is the long stretch of Onetangi, and it’s worthwhile checking out the Stony Batter tunnels and gun emplacements – a legacy of World War II.
The long,. low shape of Rangitoto Island dominates Auckland views, and it’s only 25 minutes off the coast. Rangitoto is a dormant volcano (the last eruption was 700 years ago) and its charm lies entirely in nature – both the black lava landscape and thick pohutukawa forest, which is glorious when it blooms in summer. There are no houses, cafes or shops here, just a string of beach shacks (New Zealanders call them “baches”) along the southern shoreline. Take a packed lunch if you plan to spend the day here, Jane. You can hike to the summit, but an easier way to get the best views is to jump on the Fullers’ Volcanic Explorer Tour. I spent a very pleasant, interesting day on Rangitoto.
Another day trip, which involves a 10-minute ferry ride, is to the historic suburb of Devonport, where you could easily spend a few hours exploring. Founded in 1840, Devonport is home to the New Zealand Navy. The streets are lined with elegant ‘villas’ and there’s only one shopping street, Victoria Road, where you’ll find plenty of cafes. Walk along the waterfront King Edward Parade to visit the Torpedo Bay Navy Museum.
Speaking of museums, you really should not miss the landmark Auckland Museum – Tamaki Paenga Hira, which has a stunning Maori and Pacific island collection including a massive carved waka (war canoe). Built as a World War I memorial, it also has a whole floor devoted to New Zealand’s military history, from colonial times to Vietnam.
Back to the great outdoors, I’d also recommend a trip to the black sand beaches of Auckland’s west coast if you want to see something really different. Remember those stunning wild beaches in Jane Campion’s movie The Piano? This is where those scenes were filmed, specifically Karekare beach. Piha is another popular west coast beach and there are some lovely walks in the area. Take the scenic drive to Cascade Kauri regional park, where there is another easy walk through native bush, dotted with kauri trees.
Of course, there is a lot more to see and do in Auckland, including some great shopping, fine restaurants and interesting attractions. But to get off the beaten track a little, I hope you’ll get to some of these lesser-known spots. I think they’re worth it!
Do you have a travel question for Lee? If so, email your Travel SOS to firstname.lastname@example.org
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