Visitors to Auckland could very easily spend all their time in and around the central business district. Always up for a challenge, John and I decided to get out a bit more. Way out.
The 16km Coast to Coast walkway took us on a natural and historic journey across this city and past five volcanic sites. One of the first things you notice about Auckland is how hilly it is, these hills actually being the cones of dormant or extinct volcanoes. We were excited to check out some of these sites and also to see another side of Auckland.
The walkway is somewhat easy to follow, with yellow or blue signs (depending on your direction) marking the way across the city. Beginning at the Viaduct Harbour, we enjoyed a beautiful view of the Waitemata Harbour. The Viaduct Harbour is a very popular area with restaurants, cafes, shopping and residential apartments.
The path then snakes through the downtown area to Albert Park. This is the most well-preserved Victorian Park in the city and was formerly the site of the Maori village, Rangipuke. It is also a small volcano, though you would never know this from looking at it. Home to several memorials and statues, the park is also a former military site and has a network of sealed tunnels beneath it that date back to World War II.
Following the walkway next took us through The Domain, Auckland’s oldest park. Its 75 hectares house beautiful gardens, paths, duck ponds and an arboretum, with vast green spaces for sports and relaxation. The Auckland Museum towers over this space, built in memory of the veterans of World War I.
We continued on to Maungawhau, which is also known as Mt. Eden. It was enjoyable to pass through neighbourhoods and see lovely houses along the way, which became a hallmark of the walk; it really gets you out into Auckland’s suburbs and where the city’s residents live and spend their time.
As we reached the base of the mountain, it began to rain. After a soaking climb to the top, we shivered under the eve of a lookout platform until it stopped. At 196 metres, Mt. Eden is the highest volcano in the city. From the summit you can view the crater or walk down into it. We skipped the latter since it was so wet and slippery.
On we went down the mountain and across a school campus and Melville Park to reach Cornwall Park. These were the first steps onto the grounds of One Tree Hill Domain, which is the burial ground of one of the first European settlers of New Zealand, Sir John Logan Campbell. This is a striking property and was filled with families enjoying picnics and barbecues two days after Christmas. Called Maungakiekie, One Tree Hill is a 183 metre volcano with three craters and was at one time home to 5,000 people. It is Auckland’s second largest volcano.
We climbed the hill up to the Acacia Cottage, the oldest wooden house in Auckland. On the way we stopped to look at some sheep behind a fence. Both cattle and sheep graze in the parkland here and it was fun to see them in a major metropolitan area.
At this point we were starving and hoped to have a meal at the Cornwall Park Restaurant, which was closed because of the observed Christmas holiday. After a brief stop in the visitor centre, we pressed on up the terraced hills to the obelisk at the summit. It was packed with visitors so we stuck to the grassed area around the lookout point and took some photos.
And then it was down the last hill to another residential area. The final park on the tour was a small one named Jellicoe Park. Lovely as it was, we were completely exhausted by this point, having walked and climbed for about six hours. We finished the hike, however, reaching the Manukau Harbour foreshore.
Apologies for being anticlimactic, but there really was nothing to see here. The end of the signposted walkway is at one end of Beachcroft Avenue facing an estuary and we only saw some people walking and dogs frolicking in the water there. Turning left takes you to a light-industrial area with not even a fish and chips shop for your efforts. Luckily we found an open pet supply store and the kind woman at the counter directed us to the bus station of Onehunga, which is actually a nice little suburb with a main street and several shops and cafes. Being a public holiday, nothing was open and a bus ride back to the downtown area ended our day. Our recommendation is to either finish the walk at the shopping strip after the One Tree Hill playground or turn left onto Church Street to Onehunga if you have a reason to visit there. Buses and trains are available from Onehunga to take hikers back to the beginning.
Learn more about Auckland's Coast to Coast Walkway.