I discovered Otuataua Stonefields in the summer of 2014. It is said that Auckland was born here; the local Maori tell stories of people settling in this area around 835 AD. The reserve is waahi tāpu (a sacred place) to descendants of Te Wai-o-Hua and Waikato Iwi
of the Tainui waka (canoe).
Otuataua Stonefields is located on the Ihumātao Peninsula in the suburb of Mangere. The 100 hectare reserve is full of volcanic rock, and features Māori stone garden mounds and Māori and European dry-stone walls. I immediately recognized similar rock and stonework at Ambury Regional Park, about 7km away along the coast.
Otuataua Stonefields Historic Reserve is located on the Manukau Harbor near the Auckland Airport. Sandy beaches on the coast here combined with the fertile volcanic soil, making this a desirable place to live for centuries.
It was a hot day in the summer of 2014, and I sought out the shade of some forest remnants along the long dry stone wall near the southern edge of the reserve.
My feelings about graffiti in a reserve, especially one of great historic significance, are mixed at best – but this is some pretty cool graffiti.
The pictures above surely look pretty green compared to many parts of the world, but by New Zealand standards, the summer of 2014 was apparently a fairly dry one – compare with the pictures below, taken in the wet March of 2017.
I was surprised at how much I found myself adjusting the saturation of these pictures downward in order to make them look real. The grass was probably a brighter green than you see here.
With a friend, I explored the southern part of Otuataua Stonefields as I had in 2014. But this time, on the way out, we found the avocado orchard.
There were several families using very long sticks to get avocados from the trees. I hoped that someone would leave a stick behind for me to use, but that didn’t happen, and I couldn’t be bothered to find a harvesting stick of my own.
I regretted not taking any avocados home with me, as I had never picked one from a tree. So on my next visit in May, I visited the orchard first.
There was a wedding party taking pictures.
There were fewer trees with fruit in May, and the low-hanging fruit had long been taken. It was a lot of work – the avocados weren’t ripe and didn’t come off the tree easily, and it took a while to find a branch that I could reach by jumping to pull the fruit down into reach – but I managed to collect my limit of 5 small ones. I let them sit at home for weeks before they ripened, and when they did so, it happened very suddenly. Fortunately the flesh stayed nice and green, and the seeds were the easiest to remove of any avocado I’ve had. This summer avocados were as cheap as I’ve ever seen in New Zealand, but by May the price was again so high that I don’t even consider it, so these free avocado were nice to have. I enjoyed them with lemon and salt.
The grass in May was an even brighter green. This time I checked out the Puketaapapa Cone, the smaller of the reserve’s two volcanoes.
Puketaapapa Cone is part of the geology walk in the northeastern part of Otuataua Stonefields. It offers some nice views of Mangere Mountain, another volcano closer to Ambury Regional Park.
One Tree Hill is visible across the Manukau Harbor; in the picture below it can be seen beyond the palm grove in the foreground.
The geology walk also visits the lava caves. I only saw what must be the most obvious of the caves, which has bars mounted to prevent entrance. You have to look closely at the picture below to see it (lower center).
Otuataua Cone is what remains of the reserve’s larger volcano. It is located in the southernmost corner of Otuataua Stonefields. The crater was once the site of a Maori pa, or fortified village. It was quarried in the 50s, and some of the stone was used to build the Auckland Airport. Partial reconstruction left the Otuataua Cone a shallow, grassy crater.
It took me 3 visits and some research online to feel that I had experienced most of what Otuataua Stonefields has to offer. I recommend that you Google it before you go. When you arrive, snap a pic of the info board for reference, and follow the various walks.
Please enjoy the full gallery of 22 pictures below. To view on imgur, click here.