Kaipatiki Coastal Walk

What I’m calling Kaipatiki Coastal Walk was called Coastal Walk 1 in the 2015 edition of the Kaipatiki Explorer.  The two coastal walks take in almost the entire coastline  of the Kaipatiki region of Auckland (Glenfield south to the Waitamata Harbor, with the Northern Motorway as its eastern border to the Waitamata Harbor as its western border).  Sadly the coastal walks don’t seem to be included in the latest version of the guide.

Coastal Walk 1 from the 2015 edition of the Kaipatiki Explorer
Coastal Walk 1 from the 2015 edition of the Kaipatiki Explorer

The walks do their best to link together the various parks and reserves, keeping street walking to a minimum.  I was able to stick pretty close to the route shown in the guide, starting at Tuff Crater Reserve.

Overlooking Tuff Crater Reserve
Overlooking Tuff Crater Reserve

I entered Tuff Crater Reserve behind the Warehouse Group corporate office off of Akoranga Drive.  On the north side of the crater you can see Highway 1 and the CBD and Sky Tower.

Tuff Crater Reserve
Tuff Crater Reserve

The path leads around a sort of wetlands in the crater.  It’s green and quiet with lots of birds.

Tuff Crater Reserve
Tuff Crater Reserve

I started a couple hours before low tide.  I considered using the pedestrian bridge over Highway 1 at Heath Reserve to see if I could walk the foreshore.  It’s good that I didn’t because I wouldn’t have gotten past the mouth of Onepoto Stream a short distance to the south.

Heath Reserve
Heath Reserve

A path that felt a bit like someone’s back yard and driveway led me to Heath Avenue.  At the end of Heath Avenue and across Sylvan Avenue is a walkway between houses to Onepoto Domain.

Onepoto Domain
Onepoto Domain

I skipped a bush loop and chose the shortest way through the domain.  There are some sports fields and a nice pond.

Onepoto Domain
Onepoto Domain

I really enjoyed the pohutukawa blooming in December.  This tree on the edge of Onepoto Domain is probably the brightest I saw this season.

Pohutukawa at the edge of Onepoto Domain
Pohutukawa at the edge of Onepoto Domain

The Onepoto Cycleway bridge is visible from Onewa Road, but seems to have been designed to be viewed from the other side.

Onepoto Cycleway Bridge
Onepoto Cycleway bridge

The Onepoto Cycleway is also for pedestrians.  It meets and follows Onewa Road. There is no light or crossing at Bruce Street, so it’s probably best to walk to Queen Street instead – Onewa Road is 4 lanes and busy (click here to see the walk on Google Maps).

After crossing Onewa Road it’s quiet neighborhood streets to the Highway 1 underpass.  The route shown on the Google Maps link above actually ends at the front of the police station; I continued on the sidewalk to the south end of the station to reach the underpass shown below.

Walkway under Highway 1
Walkway under Highway 1

I emerged right on the coast of Shoal Bay, right beside Highway 1, with views of Takapuna, Rangitoto, Bayswater, Devonport and the Sky Tower.

Shoal Bay
Shoal Bay
Auckland CBD over Shoal Bay
Auckland CBD over Shoal Bay
Bayswater Marina, Mount Victoria, Stanley Point from Shoal Bay
Bayswater Marina, Mount Victoria, Stanley Point over Shoal Bay
Shoal Bay
Shoal Bay

Sulphur Beach is a great place to park and look at the city.

Sulphur Beach
Sulphur Beach

The bridge is right next to Sulphur Beach; the only road to Sulphur Beach goes under it.

Sulphur Beach and Harbor Bridge
Sulphur Beach and Harbor Bridge

I had never seen the beach below at low tide, so I took this opportunity to walk under the bridge to Gold Hole Reserve.

Auckland Harbor Bridge
Auckland Harbor Bridge

The boat yard at Gold Hole Reserve is off limits.

Gold Hole Reserve
Gold Hole Reserve

So I walked under the bridge again, and up the hill to Stokes Point Reserve.

Auckland Harbour Bridge
Auckland Harbour Bridge
Stokes Point Reserve
Stokes Point Reserve

I love the lookout beneath the bridge.

Stokes Point Reserve
Stokes Point Reserve

I had a late lunch here while enjoying the views.

Beneath the Harbour Bridge
Beneath the Harbour Bridge
Beneath the Harbour Bridge
Beneath the Harbour Bridge

After leaving the point I followed Queen Street to Halls Beach Reserve, which provides attractive access to the foreshore.

Halls Beach Reserve
Halls Beach Reserve
Halls Beach Reserve
Halls Beach Reserve
Little Shoal Bay and Harbour Bridge
Little Shoal Bay and Harbour Bridge

From Halls Beach Reserve it’s a short walk on the foreshore to Little Shoal Bay Reserve.

Little Shoal Bay Reserve
Little Shoal Bay Reserve

I was hoping to stay on the foreshore, but the tide was coming in, and I didn’t feel like taking my boots off to wade across the tidal streams.

Little Shoal Bay Reserve
Little Shoal Bay Reserve

I walked Maritime Terrace and Hinemoa Street to Birkenhead Warf.  This is another favorite place to park at night and enjoy a beautiful view.

View from Birkenhead Warf
View from Birkenhead Warf

I walked up the hill through Hinemoa Park, along Palmerston Road to Rugby Road, and then to the end of Telephone Road to catch a path back to the foreshore.

A short alternate path leads through a small bamboo forest.

Small bamboo forest
Small bamboo forest
Small bamboo forest
Small bamboo forest

This path meets the foreshore Chelsea Bay Beach Area.  There are a couple of houses here with nice big back yards with no boundaries between yards and beach.  I’m always interested in how people deal with the requirement to allow public access to the foreshore.

House at Chelsea Bay Beach Area
House at Chelsea Bay Beach Area

Chelsea Bay Beach Area is very near Chelsea Sugar.

Chelsea Bay Beach, Chelsea Sugar in the distance
Chelsea Bay Beach, Chelsea Sugar in the distance

Chelsea Estate Heritage Park has some nice bridges and walkways, but it could really use at least one more sidewalk along Colonial Road.

Chelsea Estate Heritage Park
Chelsea Estate Heritage Park

I’ve been trying to get a good picture of an eastern rosella for a while.  I saw one soon after crossing the bridge above, and another soon after that.  Then as I walked along Colonial Road I saw six of these colorful birds.  I think they were eating the small white flowers in the grass.

Eastern rosella
Eastern rosella

Eastern rosella were introduced from Australia in the early 1900s.  They’re now common on the North Island, but they had mostly eluded me until this walk.

Eastern rosella
Eastern rosella

In addition to military sites, biosecurity/Places of First Arrival trump the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Act 2011 which guarantees access to the foreshore.  I guess Chelsea Sugar is so big it needs supplies from overseas to pass customs on-site.

Entrance to Chelsea Port Facility
Entrance to Chelsea Port Facility

I heeded signs indicating private property, and wasn’t able to find a way back to the coast or into Kauri Point Centennial Park.  Instead I crossed the bridge on Colonial Road and took the trail to Chatswood Reserve.

Boarwalk in or near Chatswood Reserve
Boarwalk in or near Chatswood Reserve

Chatswood Reserve is a well-signposted park.  Unfortunately I needed to leave it almost immediately, via Homewood Place, in order to follow the best roads to Kauri Park.  I entered Kauri Park via Kauri Road.  At the entrance I met a very swole kererū.

Kererū
Kererū

I paused to enjoy the big kauri, and shoot a vertical panorama, before exiting onto Rangatira Road and walking home.

Kauri tree in Kauri Park
Kauri tree in Kauri Park

This is a great walk.  If I had been able to stay on the foreshore for more of this walk I would have avoided some long stretches on the roads.  One great spot I would have missed is Stokes Point Reserve.

Please enjoy the full gallery of 50 pictures below.  Note that this photo gallery plugin loads the entire gallery before displaying a slideshow, so if you’d like to view the gallery as a slideshow you’ll probably have to wait a bit.  To view on imgur, click here.

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Smiths Bush

Smiths Bush is a great little reserve that is lush with bird song and really impressive large old trees.  It’s unfortunate that it is located right next to New Zealand‘s main motorway, State Highway 1.  You never escape the sound of traffic, but while enjoying Smiths Bush I got used to it.  The video below shows you some of the cool trees, but I shot it for the bird song.  If you like you can click play, and listen to the sounds of Smiths Bush as you enjoy the pictures and text below.

Smiths Bush hides behind the sports fields and tennis courts of Onewa Domain.  The main entrance is next to the cricket clubrooms just off of Northcote Road.  The main path is a nice raised boardwalk.

Smiths Bush nature trail
Smiths Bush nature trail

I still can’t be trusted to accurately identify trees.  The Kaipatiki Explorer mentions puriri, kanuka and kahikatea trees.  the trees below look more like puriri than kanuka or kahikatea, but I’m not at all sure that’s what they are.  I don’t think it’s immediately clear how big they are, in the photo below, but note how they compare to the other trees.

Puriri trees
Puriri trees?

The trees at Smiths Bush are attractively adorned with what I’ve identified as epiphytes.

Puriri trees?
Puriri trees?

The many very tall straight trees provide a great contrast to the much less vertical trees above.  I think these are kahikatea.

Kahikatea tree?
Kahikatea tree?

Below are a few of the different looks of Smiths Bush.

Smiths Bush
Smiths Bush
Smiths Bush
Smiths Bush
Smiths Bush
Smiths Bush
Smiths Bush
Smiths Bush

It was 14 days before Christmas, and near the end of the loop we came across a Christmas tree like I’ve never seen before.

Smiths Bush
Smiths Bush

The note reads “Dear Fairy.  We love you.  From Maddy”.

Smiths Bush
Smiths Bush

The decorations include no bulbs, but some tinsel, and toys, many stickers, and even a small Christmas tree.

Smiths Bush
Smiths Bush

Smiths Bush is a great place for a short walk, and for the birds and impressive trees.  Few people live close to the park, but it’s well worth a short drive.

Please enjoy the full gallery of 16 pictures below.  To view on imgur, click here.

Meet Owha and the Wild Animals of Auckland

One of the greatest things about New Zealand is the number of wild animals that you can meet, and in some cases hang out with.  Auckland has one of the best places in New Zealand to meet a wide range of the rarest species of birds and reptiles (I’ll take you there soon).  Kiwi people love their birds, and I’m becoming a big fan of them myself, but it’s hard to beat the experience of hanging out with seals, sea lions, penguins, dolphins, whales and the like.  Auckland doesn’t really have that.

Or does it?

Owha the leopard seal
Owha the leopard seal – from USA Today

Owha the leopard seal recently made news again in Auckland by sunbathing at Bayswater Marina during commute hours.  I haven’t found a way to embed their video, so I’ll just link to the page at nzherald.co.nz.

Below is a video about Owha taking up residence at Westhaven Marina, the other marina near central Auckland.

A friend met Owha last week when she jumped up onto the dock about a meter in front of her at Basywater Marina, and looked at her with big dark eyes.  She had really wanted to see the big seal, but she wasn’t ready to to be that close, and was too focused on putting some distance between them to take pictures.

Her husband drives a ferry and has seen Owha a number of times.  He thinks that Owha came so close to his wife because she wants help with a fish hook she has in her left flipper, and the fishing line wrapped around her.  You can see it in the nzherald.co.nz video, but not the Westhaven video above, so it seems to be recent.  This is one unfortunate problem for her living the water of such a populated area.  It’s tricky to sedate a big marine mammal without drowning them, and risky to try to capture such a large animal, and I don’t know of any plans to help Owha with that fishhook.

Below is one more video asking for general help with respecting Owha’s space.

“It’s not unusual for a leopard seals to visit New Zealand in winter. But they normally stay for a short period then head south for Antarctica in spring,” says Auckland Marine Ranger Dr. Krista Hupman. “What’s unusual is having a leopard seal stay in New Zealand for 16 months and take up residence in the waters of our largest city,” says Dr Hupman.

“But Owah has been seen on beaches, marina pontoons and public boat ramps throughout Auckland, on Waiheke and on other Hauraki Gulf islands for the last 13 months without causing anyone any harm.”
scoop.co.nz

Owha, from stuff.co.nz
Owha, from stuff.co.nz

While searching for information on Owha I came across video of Sammy the seal.  I don’t know anything about him, but he seems to have been around Auckland long enough to be named.

Bayswater seems to have good luck with wildlife encounters judging by these videos of Owha, Sammy and the family of orcas below.

Even with Owha living in Auckland it’s pretty rare to see her, unless you live or work on the harbor.  People who do have seen orcas in the harbor as well, but I haven’t yet had the pleasure.  Encounters with animals like these in the wild is a rare treat for most Aucklanders, but it’s pretty nice to have the chance in such a big city.

Auckland is a great place to see little blue penguins, kiwi and other rare birds like takahe, and the rare and unique reptile the tuatara.  I’ll take you to meet them soon.

Kaipatiki, Kauri Park and Soldiers Bay

At the end of November I moved to a different part of Auckland’s North Shore.  I set out to explore the parks and reserves in my new neighborhood, starting with Kauri Park.

Kauri tree in Kauri Park
Kauri tree in Kauri Park

I rediscovered Kaipatiki Explorer, a guide to the parks and reserves in an area between highways 1 and 16 on Auckland’s north shore.  Unfortunately it has been recently updated to the 2017 version, which offers convenient navigation, but limits how much you can zoom in, a problem on mobile phone when you need to have a good close look at a map.  Fortunately I was able to pick up a printed version of this guide, and I can photograph the maps I need with my phone before I set out.  I found it at Fernglen Native Plant Gardens. It looked like such literature is commonly available there.

The main entrance to Kauri Park on Rangatira Road is easy to miss.  There’s a carpark that can fit just 8 cars, and the usual kit for cleaning your shoes, to try to keep out Kauri dieback disease.

Entrance to Kauri Park
Entrance to Kauri Park

I took the route that leads directly to the big(ish) kauri.  The biggest trees here are a few hundred years, if I recall correctly.  There are benches provided to allow you to sit and contemplate these big trees, especially the first group.

Kauri Park
Kauri Park

There are quite a few kauri to be enjoyed in this area.  I’m not sure that’s a kauri in the pic below, but boardwalks are usually placed wherever necessary to keep people from walking on kauri roots.

Kauri Park
Kauri Park

I left Kauri Park on the path toward Soldiers Bay, and soon saw this plank path through the wetlands.

Plank path to Soldiers Bay
Plank path to Soldiers Bay

I investigated, and quickly arrived at Soldiers Bay.

Soldiers Bay
Soldiers Bay

On the other side of Soldiers Bay is Kauri Point Domain.

Kauri Point Domain
Kauri Point Domain across Soldiers Bay

The tide was very low, so I decided to see how far I could walk on the foreshore to the north.

Soldiers Bay
Soldiers Bay

The rock shelf was muddy, but it wasn’t deep.  I didn’t go far, but it looked like I could have continued.

Soldiers Bay
Soldiers Bay

When I got back to Kauri Park I continued clockwise to complete the largest loop.  I went a ways down a side path that I believe leads into Muriel Fisher Reserve.  Muriel Fisher Reserve is not listed in the Kaipatiki Explorer guide, and I’ve read that it isn’t being maintained, so info is limited, but I’ll go back for a look some time.

You can view the full gallery of 13 pictures below.  To view on imgur click here.

Rangitoto Island offers some of the best views in Auckland

Rangitoto Island is visible from almost everywhere in the eastern part of Auckland, so it should come as no surprise that all of eastern Auckland is visible from Rangitoto Island.  But this was my second visit, and I was surprised a second time.

North Head and Mount Victoria, Sky Tower and Harbor Bridge, from Rangitoto Island
North Head and Mount Victoria, Sky Tower and Harbor Bridge, from Rangitoto Island

That’s just a small part of the view from the top.  But let’s start at the bottom.

The day started cloudy, and there was a fair chance of rain, but I decided to go for it anyway.

Lighthouse in Tamaki Strait
Lighthouse in Tamaki Strait

Rangitoto often looks a bit 2 dimensional from a  distance.  As you get closer it begins to take shape.  There used to be holiday houses on the island, but people can’t live there now, or even spend the night.  You can see some of the buildings if you zoom in on the picture below.

Approaching Rangitoto
Approaching Rangitoto

The waharoa o Peretu – the gateway of Peretu – welcomes thousands of visitors who enjoy the 35 minute ferry ride from Auckland’s downtown ferry terminal to visit the island.

Peretu, the spiritual ancestor of Rangitoto, is reflected in the beautiful carving. The waharoa itself reflects the rich Māori heritage of pest-free Rangitoto and Motutapu Islands. Ngāi Tai ki Tāmaki carver Reuben Kirkwood tells the story of the wahaora in the following video.
DOC website

Waharoa o Peretu
Waharoa o Peretu

Rangitoto Island is the worlds largest pohutukawa forest.  I should have waited a couple of weeks to visit, in order to see it all in bloom.

The plant life grows over the black volcanic rock that makes up Rangitoto Island.  It gets hot out there.  This is one reason I decided to go on a cloudy day.  The skies cleared, but unfortunately the air stayed a bit hazy.

Volcanic rock and bush of Rangitoto
Volcanic rock and bush of Rangitoto
Rangitoto bush
Rangitoto bush

The landscape is beautiful, but it can’t really compete with the views that appear through openings in the bush the whole way up.

Browns Island
Browns Island

Near the top the path gets steep.  There’s a shady picnic area before this ascent.  Just before the highest point you get a view of the crater.

Rangitoto's crater
Rangitoto’s crater

I haven’t explicitly mentioned in this post that Rangitoto is a volcanic island.  Let’s get some details from Wikipedia:

Rangitoto Island is a volcanic island in the Hauraki Gulf near Auckland, New Zealand. The 5.5 km wide island is an iconic and widely visible landmark of Auckland with its distinctive symmetrical shield volcano cone rising 260 metres (850 ft) high over the Hauraki Gulf.[1][2] Rangitoto is the most recent and the largest (2311 hectares)[3] of the approximately 50 volcanoes of the Auckland volcanic field.[2]
– Wikipedia

There’s a view of the crater from a walkway between the viewing platforms along the rim that makes it easier to take it all in.

Rangitoto's crater
Rangitoto’s crater

Here’s a cool old airplane I saw from the top.

Cool old airplane
Cool old airplane

Ok, I think I’ve built enough excitement, so here’s the view of the city from the top of Rangitoto Island, from Waiheke, Motutapu and Motuihe islands in the east, through the city center, to the Whangaparoa Peninsula and Tiritiri Matangi and even Kawau Island in the north.  It’s a big file, so be sure you’re on WiFi, zoom way in, and enjoy!

The city and more from the summit of Rangitoto
The city and more from the summit of Rangitoto

I’m thinking of using that picture as a way to navigate many of my blog posts on eastern Auckland.  I’ll see what I can come up with.

I took a relatively early ferry and had plans to get in another walk around the island, but I was captivated by this view.  I had a long leisurely lunch and waited for the platform to clear so that I could try to shoot panoramas.  I was asked to take many pictures of people against the stunning background and thus met and talked with many of the locals and tourists visiting Rangitoto that day.

I spent a little time on the other viewing platform, taking in Rangitoto’s crater, northern Auckland, Motutapu and Waiheke and Motuihe islands and southern Auckland.  This file is pretty big too.

Northern Auckland, Motutapu and Waiheke and Motuihe islands and southern Auckland
Northern Auckland, Motutapu and Waiheke and Motuihe islands and southern Auckland

I walked back down the way I had come, with just a little time to spare before catching the last ferry off of the island.  The weather got pretty windy on the ride back to the city, and rained just a little.

Back to the CBD
Back to the CBD

Rangitoto Island is a great day out in Auckland, and the summit does offer some of the best views in the region.  If possible, do it in December when the pohutukawa are in full bloom.

Enjoy the full gallery of ~22 pictures below.  To view on imgur click here.

NZ Sculpture OnShore

NZ Sculpture OnShore is another one of those interesting cultural events in a beautiful natural setting for which Auckland is so well suited.

NZ Sculpture OnShore and Rangitoto Island
NZ Sculpture OnShore and Rangitoto Island

I have no info to offer on the artists, but you can find lots of info on the NZ Sculpture OnShore site.

NZ Sculpture OnShore is New Zealand’s largest outdoor sculpture exhibition, and one of the oldest.
NZ Sculpture OnShore

First held in 1996 in a private garden in Takapuna, the event grew so much in popularity that in 2004 it moved to the spectacular Fort Takapuna Historic Reserve on Auckland’s North Shore.
NZ Sculpture OnShore

All of the works exhibited at NZ Sculpture OnShore are for sale during the exhibition and proceeds from each exhibition are donated to Women’s Refuge. To date over $1.5 million has been donated to help Women’s Refuge support the victims of domestic violence in New Zealand.
NZ Sculpture OnShore

Art by local school children, inside a former gun emplacement
Art by local school children, inside a former gun emplacement

Unfortunately the weather wasn’t good during the 10 days the exhibition ran.  I went on the last Sunday, and other than just a brief shower, the weather was fair, with some sun occasionally breaking through the clouds.

I took a break at the cafe and was joined by a couple of nice ladies, one of whom was Genevieve Becroft, one of the women who started this event.  She asked to see my photos, and I told her it would take a couple of weeks to post them online.  It’s taken a bit longer than that!

Somehow I had never heard of NZ Sculpture OnShore.  It was a nice way to spend an afternoon and contribute to a good cause.

Check out the full gallery of 47 pictures below.

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The Big Smoke

I haven’t personally ever heard Auckland referred to as “The Big Smoke”.  But over the course of last summer, traveling around the South Island, I got to hear a lot of what kiwis outside of Auckland think about New Zealand‘s largest city.

Harbor Bridge and Sky Tower
Harbor Bridge and Sky Tower from Birkenhead Warf

A while back I was having drinks with a native Aucklander who was having endless fun with all of the many easily ridiculed aspects of the USA – easier than usual after the 2016 elections.  Eventually I reminded him that the term “JAFA” is used in the rest of New Zealand to mean both “Just Another F*cking American” and “Just Another F*cking Aucklander” …that for the rest of New Zealand, Aucklanders and Americans are kind of in the same category.  His response was a surprised “You get that!”

Guide books more or less advise tourists to sleep off the jet lag, buy any needed supplies, and head out of Auckland.  But Auckland is part of New Zealand, and it is highly underrated.

Central Auckland at night
Central Auckland at night from Bayswater Marina

In Defense of Auckland

I don’t really want to get into the list of negatives attributed to Auckland, or even to defend Auckland from those claims.  Fortunately, I’m able to link to a blog post that does that beautifully.  It is better in many ways than anything I could have written.  It offers a native’s perspective* on the debate, and offers insight on how taboo it is to say anything positive about Auckland, among kiwis outside of Auckland.  Consensus is enforced by browbeating on a number of topics in New Zealand, and this article offers some insight into this aspect of kiwi culture.

Most importantly, the link above tells us in detail what non-Aucklanders think of Auckland, and does a good job of setting the record straight.

I couldn’t have said it better.  But maybe I can add something to it.

* (Correction!  StoriesThatAreTrue is a travel blog written by Gemma Tarlach, an author (and much more) from the USA.)

Rangitoto Island from Narrow Neck Beach
Rangitoto Island from Narrow Neck Beach

More Than Just a City

It is important to point out that Auckland is the name for both a city with a population of 1,454,300, which constitutes 32 percent of New Zealand’s population, and one of the sixteen regions of New Zealand, with by far the biggest population and economy of any region of New Zealand, but the second-smallest land area.

I have never heard anyone mention this distinction though.  For Aucklanders, other kiwis, tourists… for everyone I’ve ever met… Auckland is Auckland.

Both city and region are governed by the Auckland Council, which began operating on 1 November 2010, combining the functions of the previous regional council and the region’s seven city and district councils into one “super council” governing a “super city”.  This is probably the most important blurring of any remaining distinctions between city and region.

Auckland is about the size of The Greater Los Angeles Area, with fewer than 2 million people.

Rangitoto Island and the Sky Tower from the Waitakere Ranges
Rangitoto Island and the Sky Tower from the Waitakere Ranges

What Else Is Auckland?

Auckland is New Zealand – a place of awesome natural beauty.

Auckland is Piha.

Lion Rock, Piha Beach, Te Waha Point in the distance
Lion Rock, Piha Beach, Te Waha Point in the distance

Auckland is also Whatipu.

Whatipu Beach
Whatipu Beach

Auckland is all of the other great west coast Tasman Sea beaches well.

O'Neill Beach and Bethell's Beach
O’Neill Beach and Bethell’s Beach

Auckland is Tawharanui.

Tawharanui Open Sanctuary
Tawharanui Open Sanctuary

Auckland is all of the east coast, Pacific Ocean and Hauraki Gulf beaches, like Pakiri Beach in the north.

Pakiri Beach
Pakiri Beach

Auckland is Tawhitokino Beach on the southeast coast.

Tawhitokino Beach
Tawhitokino Beach

Auckland is the forests and mountains of the Waitakere Ranges in the west.

Waitakere Dam
Waitakere Dam

Auckland is the mountains and bush of the Hunua Ranges in the east.

Cosseys Reservoir in the Hunua Ranges
Cosseys Reservoir in the Hunua Ranges

In the past 2 years I’ve taken you to almost all of Auckland’s 34 Regional Parks, and I’ve recently created a page to help you navigate my many posts about those parks.  Follow the link above for 34 beautiful things that Auckland is.

There are few things I’ve enjoyed more than the North Shore Coastal Walk, with its rock shelves and tree-lined cliffs and constant changing views of Rangitoto Island.

Browns Bay, Auckland
Browns Bay, Auckland

Rangitoto Island is not just a nice bit of scenery visible from Auckland, Rangitoto Island is Auckland!  Rangitoto is a beautiful place to visit, and returns the favor by offering fantastic views of the city.

Devonport, CBD and Harbor Bridge from Rangitoto Island
Devonport, CBD and Harbor Bridge from Rangitoto Island

Auckland is Waiheke Island.

Matiatia Bay on Waiheke Island
Matiatia Bay on Waiheke Island

Because Auckland is also a large city you get interesting cultural events in beautiful natural settings, like Sculpture on the Gulf on Waiheke Island.

Sculpture on the Gulf, Waiheke Island
Sculpture on the Gulf, Waiheke Island

Because Auckland is a very diverse city it offers events like the Lantern Festival, one of many opportunities to enjoy Chinese culture in New Zealand.

Auckland Lantern Festival
Auckland Lantern Festival

Many ethnic groups from all corners of the world have a presence in Auckland, making it by far the country’s most cosmopolitan city. Europeans make up the majority of Auckland’s population, however substantial numbers of Māori, Pacific Islander and Asian peoples exist as well. Auckland has the largest Polynesian population of any city in the world.
Wikipedia

I haven’t been to Auckland’s Pasifika Festival.  I’ll try to remedy that in 2017.

Cook Island dancers at Auckland's Pasifica Festival
Cook Island dancers at Auckland’s Pasifica Festival – from Wikimedia Commons

Auckland has the spectacular Auckland Civic Theatre.  I’ll have to remember to post about this awesome place.

The Civic
The Civic

Auckland may not have the wildlife that the South Island has.  But it does have a great array of New Zealand’s native birds.

Tui
Tui

And naturalized birds as well.

Eastern rosella
Eastern rosella

I did meet a young seal on the coast below JFK Park.

Seal
Seal

There is a lone leopard seal that has moved into Auckland’s harbor.  She’s been here since at least June of 2015.

Leopard seal - from Wikimedia Commons
Leopard seal – from Wikimedia Commons

I’ve been trying to get a look at this seal, but haven’t had any luck so far.

DOC notice about Auckland's leopard seal
DOC notice about Auckland’s leopard seal

It Gets Better

I can’t really finish what I set out to do with this post, at this time – because it is possible, even likely, that I haven’t yet seen the best that Auckland has to offer.  I plan to remedy that in 2017.

I’ve booked 2 nights on Tiritiri Matangi Island, with its abundance of threatened and endangered birds and reptiles.  I look forward to the dawn chorus of native birds, and with a little luck I might get to meet little spotted kiwi, little blue penguins, tuatara, and other rare wildlife.

Little blue penguin - from tiritirimatangi.org.nz
Little blue penguins – from tiritirimatangi.org.nz

I hope to visit Kawau Island, with its four species of wallaby.

Dama wallaby - from Wikimedia Commons
Dama wallaby – from Wikimedia Commons

And kookaburra!

Kookaburra - from kawauisland.org.nz
Kookaburra – from kawauisland.org.nz

Wallaby are tenacious pests that do extensive damage to Kawau Island, but before they are eradicated, I want to see kangaroos in Auckland.  Of course Kawau Island offers a lot of native, less destructive reasons to visit as well.

I’ll post soon about my recent visit to Rangitoto Island.  Rangitoto is one huge pohutukawa forest, so I may decide to go back very soon to see them all in bloom.

Rangitoto Island
Rangitoto Island

I want to make it out to Great Barrier Island and ideally spend a couple of weeks there.

A view over the eastern coast of Great Barrier Island, from a ridge line in the center of the island
A view over the eastern coast of Great Barrier Island, from a ridge line in the center of the island – from Wikimedia Commons

Whakanewha is the only regional park I haven’t posted about, and it is located on Waiheke IslandSculpture on the Gulf is coming up, from January 26 through February 19.  There are many other places I need to visit on Waiheke as well.

The Hauraki Gulf has over 50 islands, and I plan to visit a number of others that I haven’t mentioned above.

By the middle of 2017 I hope to be a much greater authority on Auckland, and in a greatly improved position to show you what is really great about The Big Smoke!