First 24 hours: Auck­land, New Zealand

Many trav­ellers skip the big city in a rush to reach the coun­try’s wilder at­trac­tions. But Auck­land has plenty of wild right on its doorstep, dis­cov­ers

Wanderlust Travel Magazine (UK) - - Contents - Gareth Clark

While most swerve the North Is­land hub for sights be­yond, Auck­land’s vol­canic isles, doorstep rain­for­est and wartime tun­nels are a match for even New Zealand’s big hit­ters

Be­fore you ar­rive

One in three New Zealan­ders call Auck­land home. Yet ask lo­cals out­side this great north­ern hub and they’ll say they were glad to es­cape: too busy, too ex­pen­sive, too built-up. True enough, it is a city of ram­pant growth; much of its wa­ter­front is re­claimed land, snatched out of the sea from the mid-20th cen­tury on­wards. To­day, most vis­i­tors stroll its steel-and-glass down­town, the shops of Queen Street and the pretty wharf, then make for the beach or bus sta­tion. And there it usu­ally ends…

But – and there’s a big ‘but’ – spy­ing the ur­ban sprawl from atop grassy Mount Eden (one of nearly 50 vol­canic cones that blis­ter the city), you will see an­other side to the met­ro­pol­i­tan area. There’s so much va­ri­ety here, from the Vic­to­rian sea­side of Devon­port, flush with war tun­nels and his­tory, to the vol­canic isles of the Hau­raki Gulf. Ran­gi­toto, the clos­est is­land, is just 600 years old. Apart from the odd bach (sum­mer house – vis­i­tors are only re­cently al­lowed to stay overnight) and an old mil­i­tary look­out, it’s never been in­hab­ited, while hikes to its sum­mit and coal-black lava caves are great fun. By con­trast, Wai­heke Is­land ( just 40 min­utes by ferry) has nearly 9,000 res­i­dents, yet was lit­tle more than a hippy hang­out a few decades ago. To­day, it sup­ports dozens of star vine­yards (Mud­brick, Stonyridge), mak­ing it a busy week­end es­cape. But go dur­ing work­ing hours and you’ll find empty trails around its coast and One­tangi Re­serve.

To the west, the city lim­its suck in the sprawl­ing nat­u­ral rain­for­est of Waitakere, which bleeds all the way to the coast. But while Waitakere is not closed per se, most walks are, in a bid to fight the loss of its kauri trees – sa­cred to the Maori – to dis­ease. To help, it’s best to avoid all trails, though the coast is less af­fected and the beaches there are truly wild.

In fact that’s the thing with Auck­land – look past the ob­vi­ous and there are flick­ers of New Zealand’s raw grandeur. You just need to stick around to see it.

At the air­port

Auck­land Air­port lies 20km south of the city cen­tre. There are no di­rect flights to Auck­land from the UK; air­lines fly via Hong Kong, Dubai, Sin­ga­pore and oth­ers. China South­ern (csair.com) of­fers the cheap­est flights, via Guangzhou, from £655pp re­turn. Flight times from around 25 hours.

Those car­ry­ing used hik­ing equip­ment (tents, boots, etc) will need to have them dis­in­fected at the air­port, to avoid the spread­ing of dis­eases.

Get­ting into town

Sky­bus (sky­bus.co.nz) ser­vices run reg­u­larly from the air­port via both Mount Eden and Do­min­ion roads to down­town (NZ$16/£9 one way). Tick­ets are avail­able at air­port kiosks or on board (cash only). For on­ward travel to the is­lands of the Hau­raki Gulf (Wai­heke, Ran­gi­toto, etc), fer­ries leave the City, Devon­port and other har­bours; tick­ets can be bought at the counter or on­line (fullers.co.nz).

Gulf in class The har­bour­side of Auck­land is a ticket to the vol­canic highs and wild trails of the Hau­raki Is­lands

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