Some time around early November I knew that I would soon be leaving Auckland. I resolved to make the most of the time I had left. It was a sort of New Years resolution, and I started strong, with a 3 day trip to Tiritiri Matangi Island in early January.
After that my efforts tapered off quite a bit. I found myself leaving Auckland with the islands of the Hauraki Gulf are still largely unexplored. A trip to the islands takes a fair bit of planning, and I didn’t really make that happen. I made a visit to Waiheke Island, but only for one day of Sculpture on the Gulf.
I did continue to experience Auckland’s nature and culture. I spent a day immersed in Pacific Island cultures at the Pasifika Festival.
Before leaving Auckland I became familiar with my new neighborhood the Kaipatiki region. I moved there at the end of November. This area is densely populated with parks and reserves.
I met a girl last fall, and she had better opportunities in south Hawkes Bay. I’m a digital nomad, so moving is not a problem for me. There are some things I miss about the only place in New Zealand that I’ve ever called home, but leaving Auckland is an opportunity to get to know a part of New Zealand that I’ve barely begun to explore.
I don’t miss Auckland’s traffic. But I do miss taking ferries as a way to avoid traffic.
The gulf, harbors, and islands of Auckland offer a lot of great views that appear before you as you move about the city. Since the end of November we enjoyed a view of western Waitemate Harbor from our living room and deck. It was flanked by young kauri trees.
On our way out of Auckland we drove to the top of One Tree Hill. It was a beautiful winter day. We took in that great 360 degree view of the city and the region.
In both panoramas you can see both Tamaki Strait in the east and Manukau Harbor in the west. Look closely and you’ll see the sheep on One Tree Hill.
There was a bit of moisture in the air, but it was clear enough to see Cornwallis Peninsula across Manukau Harbor, and behind it Manukau Heads and one of the peaks of Whatipu.
After this long goodbye we got on with leaving Auckland. We went slightly out of our way to stop for lunch in Rotorua. We drove to the lake for a quick look before continuing. We had left a day late due to some work that came up, and by waiting we got a much nicer day for the drive.
Southern Hawkes Bay has somewhat more distinct seasons than Auckland, with frost a few times every year. Last summer at least was much more of a summer in Hawkes Bay.
We had the next day off, and the weather was clear, so we were able to get right into exploring the area. We had left Auckland for new horizons. But I’m sure that we’ll return, if only to visit.
I got another chance to act as tour guide and chose Whatipu Beach, still my favorite west coast beach. This visit rewarded us with something I had never seen before anywhere.
To see my various other posts on Whatipu Beach, use the search box at the top of the left column.
The view over Huia Bay was good, so I decided to drive back the short distance to Huia Point.
It was a beautiful day, and I took the opportunity to shoot a high-resolution panorama. Enjoy, but be warned, it’s big.
We started with a walk to the sea caves. It’s been raining a lot for months, and the campground meadow and the path to the point where the track enters the bush were wet, with pools in places.
The large panorama below shows the whole view.
The track rises to offer some great views of the Whatipu Beach area.
There are some good size caves along this track. It takes about 45 minutes to walk to the end.
There’s a toilet near that last cave, and I think there’s a campground, but it isn’t obvious where one should camp.
Maybe inside the cave?
It was a nice day, and I really like some of these pictures of the area.
The tour wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the beach proper.
We made our way to the beach on Manukau Harbor and the rock shelf along the harbor side of Paratutae Island. We immediately saw dozens of small crabs, already scurrying under rocks by the time we spotted them. My companion loves crab. Most western people would have considered them too small to eat, but Asians look at such things differently. Where the rocks could be moved, I moved them, and she grabbed the little crabs. Later she removed the back part of the shell, removed the insides, and fried them in a pan with salt and pepper. The shells were just a bit crunchy, and they were delicious.
Next we walked toward the lighthouse.
The orca below is just visible in the pic above. This gives you a good idea how big this beach is.
Tourists camped at Whatipu told us that the campground owner had taken a picture of the orcas eye and sent it to someone who deals with marine mammals. They had identified the whale, and said that it was very old and had likely died of old age. I had guessed that the really bad storms we’d been having had caused it to be washed ashore.
The golden hour arrived, and everything looked even more beautiful on our walk back to the carpark.
Enjoy the full gallery of 29 pictures below. To view on imgur, click here.
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.
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.
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.
It is important to point out that Auckland is the name for both a citywith 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.
What Else Is Auckland?
Auckland is New Zealand – a place of awesome natural beauty.
Auckland is the mountains and bush of the Hunua Ranges in the east.
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.
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.
Auckland may not have the wildlife that the South Island has. But it does have a great array of New Zealand’s native birds.
And naturalized birds as well.
I did meet a young seal on the coast below JFK Park.
There is a lone leopard seal that has moved into Auckland’s harbor. She’s been here since at least June of 2015.
I’ve been trying to get a look at this seal, but haven’t had any luck so far.
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.
I hope to visit Kawau Island, with its four species of wallaby.
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 visitas 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.
Whakanewha is the only regional park I haven’t posted about, and it is located on Waiheke Island. Sculpture 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.
I chose the Jubilee Walk, which takes in Cornwallis Beach and Cornwallis Wharf, but there is surely more in the area worth exploring. I can’t recommend the Jubilee Walk as a loop, because the road part is dry and dusty and busy with traffic, but the bush part of it is nice enough, although pretty short. Park in the first carpark you see on Pine Avenue – there are signs for the Jubilee Walk. Park on the right side of the road, and take the track that way.
You’ll soon arrive at Cornwallis Beach, which was the highlight of my visit.
It’s a long beach, with plenty of grass and picnic areas along its length.
Maui dolphin have been spotted at Cornwallis Beach, but I wasn’t so lucky.
From some points along the beach you can see McLachlan Monument. Monument Track may be a nice walk, certainly a nice climb, sure to offer some great views.
Once I got a look at a map near the beach I got a better idea of what the area and the various tracks offer.
In retrospect I should have gone and done the Kakamatua Beach Walk, and gotten a look at another Cornwallis area beach. But instead I went and had a look at the view from Huia Point Lookout. It’s well worth a stop if you’re in the area.
Huia Beach was another worthwhile stop.
You can view the full gallery of 23 pictures below. There may be some minor problems with the gallery below, but as always you can view all of the pictures on imgur (click here).
Steppin' the miles, enjoying the view, bringing it all to you.