Auckland SurroundingsThere are many towns and attractions in the areas surrounding Auckland which can be easily visited on a day trip from the city.
West Coast Beaches
There are some very beautiful beaches on the west coast, but with their sheer rocks, heavy surf from the stormy Tasman Sea and treacherous undertow they are dangerous for bathers. The following beaches are recommended for good swimmers: the beach at Piha (40km west), Karekare Beach, White's Beach, Bethell's Beach and the beach at Whatipu, at the entrance to Manukau Harbour.Muriwai Beach, about 40 minutes from Auckland is another scenic beach area.
Hauraki Gulf - Hauraki Gulf Beaches
There are a number of good bathing beaches in Hauraki Gulf. Among the most popular are the beaches on the Whangaparaoa Peninsula (40km on Highway 1) and at Orewa and Waiwera.
Tamaki Drive, starting from the Ferry Building, runs for 10km past beautiful stretches of Waitemata Harbour to Judges Bay, below Parnell Park. It then cuts across Hobson Bay to Ohaku Bay, where many leisure craft and yachts are moored. In Orakei a marae constructed jointly by Maoris and whites and a meeting house can be visited.On Bastion Point, further east, there are remains of defensive structures. Some years ago there was a major conflict over land rights between the Maoris and the government when land claimed by the Maoris was to be sold for building luxury houses. Finally in 1988 the government decided to give the land back and pay compensation.On the point is the grave of Michael Joseph Savage (1872-1940), a very popular Labor prime minister. A commemorative column stands out against the triple volcanic peak on Rangitoto Island lying offshore from the point.Then comes Mission Bay, with its beautiful and bathing beach. The mission station founded by Bishop Selwyn is now a restaurant. An exclusive residential district has grown up round the bay.Tamaki Drive ends at Achilles Point, at the east end of Heliers Bay, where a tablet commemorates the cruiser Achilles, which in 1939, along with two other warships, sank the German battleship Graf Spee.
The green hills of the Waitakere Ranges, southwest of Auckland, are a popular recreation area.
Auckland Centennial Park
A particular attraction is the Auckland Centennial Park (64 sq.km), to the south of the Waitakere Ranges area. An information bureau 5km west of Titirangi provides details about the flora of the region, particularly the last stands of kauri trees in this area.
The Hauraki Gulf, enclosed by Northland, the city of Auckland and the long northward-reaching Coromandel Peninsula, is scattered with numerous islands and islets. The gulf is a favorite sailing area and also offers good fishing.
Hauraki Gulf Islands
There are boat trips to some of the islands in the Hauraki Gulf, particularly Rangitoto, Waikehe and Pakatoa.
Hauraki Gulf Maritime Park
Much of the gulf and some of the islands are included in Hauraki Gulf Maritime Park, which is home to numerous endangered species of birds, insects and marine creatures. A special permit is usually necessary to visit the islands, and then only on a day trip.
This volcanic island was likely still active at the time of the Polynesian settlement of New Zealand, for there are no remains of any fortified Maori settlements. This beautiful island with its rolling hills, lying directly off Waitemata Harbour, was purchased by the government in 1857 and ever since has been a popular excursion. From the highest point on the island (260m) there are marvelous panoramas. Rangitoto is now a nature reserve and part of Hauraki Gulf Maritime Park. There is a ferry service from Auckland.
Waiheke, a popular holiday island, is densely populated, with over 5000 inhabitants, many of who commute daily to work in Auckland. In the north of the island there are a number of beautiful beaches (Oneroa, Palm Beach, Onetangi).
Motuihe (area 180ha), lying within easy reach of Auckland, attracts many people from the city on day trips. During the first world war there was a camp for internees and prisoners of war on the island. One of the prisoners was Count Felix von Luckner, who made a daring escape from the camp during a Christmas party, seized the camp commandant's yacht and, sailing under the German flag, got as far as the Kermadec Islands before being recaptured.
This island, on which copper was once mined, was purchased in 1862 for £3700 by Governor Gray, who converted the mine manager's house into a mansion for himself, surrounding it with a kind of Garden of Eden containing exotic plants and animals. The house, restored and furnished in period style, can be visited. There are boat services to Sandspit and Snells Beach.
Great Barrier Island
Great Barrier Island (area 28,000 ha; pop. 600) was so named by Captain Cook because it barred the entrance to the gulf. Once inhabited by loggers felling kauri trees, gold prospectors and copper miners, the island is largely regenerating native bush with significant native forest areas and a wide range of ecosystems such as inland harbours, wetlands, dune systems and a mountainous interior. At the end of the 19th C. letters were conveyed from the island to the mainland by carrier pigeon.
Little Barrier Island
Now a strictly controlled nature reserve, Little Barrier Island is a refuge for rare species of birds and plants.You can only visit the island with special permission from the Department of Conservation.
This tiny islet (9ha) lies just north of Cape Rodney. On the island is the Marine Biology Research Institute of Auckland University.
The little island of Tiritiri Matangi (207ha) lies off Whangaparaoa and has a lighthouse. Formerly grazing land, it is now a nature reserve, to which natural forest is gradually returning. There is a good sandy beach, but apart from this the coast is extremely steep. The island can be visited only during the day.
Motukorea (Brown Island)
This island, an eroded cone of volcanic lava and scoria, lies immediately off the mouth of the Tamaki River next to Auckland. John Logan Campbell and William Brown established their first farm here before moving to One Tree Hill in Auckland. The island is part of the Hauraki Gulf Maritime Park and can be visited only during the day. A landing should be attempted only at high tide, since at other times there may be dangerous shallows.
Just under 50km north of Auckland on Highway 1 is the pretty little beach settlement of Waiwera. Its hot medicinal springs were already famed in the 19th C; many people came here to take the cure and spa establishments and hotels were built to cater for them.
To the north of Waiwera is the Wenderholm Reserve, a small nature reserve with attractive picnic areas and fine views of the Hauraki Gulf.
Puhoi, New Zealand
An hour drive north of Auckland, off Highway 1 to the west, is the little township of Puhoi, founded in the 1860s by immigrants from Bohemia.Martin Kippner, a sea captain from Bohemia who had visited New Zealand, gave such a good account of the country that a party of villagers from Staab, 100km southwest of Prague, were encouraged to make the long and trying voyage. They settled in a forested area northwest of the Hauraki Gulf, where they were allotted plots of land and set about clearing the forest for agriculture. In those days the Puhoi River was their only link with the outside world.
Puhoi is a popular destination for excursions from Auckland. At the entrance to the village is the only wayside cross in New Zealand. The Church of St Peter and St Paul (1881) has an altarpiece (1885) reminiscent of others in the Bohemia. In the nearby churchyard are the graves of Bohemian settlers.
Puhoi Hotel (Tavern, German Hotel)
The Puhoi Hotel - previously called the German Hotel - has been in business since 1879. Photographs on the walls recall earlier days.