Thursday, 7 May 2015

Auckland - Coast to Coast Walk - Highly recommended

This Easter was glorious, as it often is in Auckland, and just the right weather for me to fulfil my ambition of walking the 16 kilometre Auckland Coast to Coast trail. With an early start and a small pack on my back holding water and a map I set off from downtown Auckland happily full of the joys of autumn.

The Waitemata Harbour from St Heliers Bay
Auckland's Maori name is Tamaki Makaurau which means the spouse desired by a hundred lovers.  It is an apt name for a city which is built on rich volcanic soil, has sheltered fishing sites, commanding views in all directions and is blessed with two magnificent harbours. At it's narrowest point Auckland, and indeed New Zealand, is less than two kilometres across, from coast to coast.  This was strategically important to the early Maori enabling them to portage their canoes from the Waitemata Harbour and Pacific Ocean on the east coast, to the Manukau Harbour and Tasman Sea on the west.  Today that is not a walkable route due to motorways and industry slicing through the middle of it.

University Clock Tower aka
The Wedding Cake (photo Colin Rose)
The official Coast to Coast route now, which is much more interesting anyway, starts at the downtown Ferry Building, on the shore of the Waitemata Harbour and ends on the foreshore of the Manukau Harbour at Onehunga. It winds it's way through varied and beautiful scenery and some pretty suburban streets.  At first I was clicking my camera furiously at everything I saw but after a while decided there was just too much worthy of photography and if I didn't keep walking I'd never get to the end. Most of the route was very familiar to me however I did travel streets I had never seen before, even after a lifetime in this city.

Spain meets Auckland at Auckland Grammar School

There is so much to see and enjoy from the flamboyant clock tower at Auckland University,  opposite the Victorian
gardens of Albert Park and grand old merchant houses, to the vast expanse of central city parkland and duck ponds of the Auckland Domain. Then there is the  Spanish deco architecture of Auckland Grammar school and the stately, opulent homes in Epsom. 

View of downtown Auckland and the Waitemata Harbour
from Mt Eden (Maungawhau)

For fit walkers it is worth climbing Mt Eden. At 196 metres it is Auckland's largest volcano, and one of the 5 extinct volcanoes along the walk.  The views from the top are stunning and a must for tourists to the city.

Monument and Ancient terraces
on One Tree Hill

A few kilometres on and you come to Cornwall Park and One Tree Hill Domain, a working farm.  Gifted to the city in 1901 by the successful Scottish businessman and mayor of Auckland, Sir John Logan Campbell,  the 220 hectares are a magnificent slice of pastoral beauty slap bang in the heart of the city. This is where city children can see sheep and lambs grazing and picnic amongst them.  It is, nevertheless a fully functioning farm. Sir John's early home, Acacia Lodge is within the park.  Built in 1841 it is Auckland's oldest wooden house. Climb to the top of the hill, through the farmland, to get another breath taking 360 degree view of Auckland.  A tall obelisk monument stands at the top alongside Sir John's grave.  As
per his wishes the monument is not to honour him but to honour the Maori people who lived in tiny settlements on the slopes of the hill in pre European times. The 170 terraces covering the hillsides are the only remaining evidence of their gardens.

Whew!  After all this exercise it was time for refreshments.  Frolic Café in Manukau Rd at the gate to Cornwall Park is a great little café and that is where I stopped for a welcome cup of coffee and some lunch before making the final push towards Onehunga and the Manukau Harbour. Funnily enough I especially enjoyed the next part of the walk, not because it is particularly scenic but because the suburban streets of Royal Oak were unfamiliar territory to me. I knew I was getting close to the end of the walk when I came to Jellicoe Park in Onehunga, a pretty little reserve housing some historic buildings and a blockhouse built in 1860 to protect the residents of Onehunga from

supposed attacks by Maori. 

The Manukau Harbour foreshore, Onehunga

 From there it was a walk down the hill to the recently refurbished foreshore of the Manukau Harbour at Onehunga and a sense of elation and fulfilment before catching a bus back to the central city and then home.

This great walk has been listed as one of the ten best city walks in the world. For any tourist to Auckland who loves walking and has a spare day I highly recommend it.  Maps are available from the downtown Auckland I-Site at 137 Quay St, Princes Wharf,  or online at  search- Coast to Coast walk. It is safe and easy for anyone who is reasonably fit but make sure you take a sunhat, sunblock also water and a snack, as there are long stretches between shops.