Lonely Planet Writer

Just back from: Auckland

Tracy Tracy soaking up the views atop Paku Hill in the Coromandel. Image courtesy of Tracy Whitmey

Tracy Whitmey, Product Editor at Lonely Planet, is just back from a visit to Auckland, New Zealand.

Tell us more Since moving from Auckland to Melbourne nine years ago we have made frequent trips back to New Zealand but usually we scoot through the city on our way elsewhere. This time, a two week trip allowed time to mooch around the city, strike out for some superb day trips and have a few days visiting the Coromandel region.

In a nutshell... For me Auckland’s charms lie in its villagey neighbourhoods, its stunning harbourside location and the fact that you’re never very far from a volcano.

Defining moment? Getting up at 4am to go to the pub! The All Blacks were playing in the Rugby World Cup final in England and we weren’t going to miss watching the game live on the big screen. Bleary-eyed to start with, caffeine and the pre-match haka soon revved us up to yell and cheer on the mighty men in black. Not that there weren’t a few tense moments though…

Fave activity? I never miss the chance for a walk along Tamaki Drive, Auckland’s beachfront promenade that skirts the harbour past the chi-chi suburbs of St Heliers, Kohimarama and Mission Bay. You really can’t beat being right on the water’s edge looking over to Rangitoto, the dormant volcano just offshore, and the distant mountains of the Coromandel. In good weather Aucklanders like to socialise outdoors, so we strolled on a sunny Sunday among runners, cyclists, kids on scooters, dog walkers and huge family groups picnicking on the beach, playing games, singing and swimming.

A view of Rangitoto from Tamaki Drive. Image courtesy of Tracey Whitmey A view of Rangitoto from Tamaki Drive. Image courtesy of Tracy Whitmey

Quintessential experience? We love nothing better than a day of good food and wine, followed by a laze at the beach. One Saturday morning we took a trip to the Matakana Farmers Market, where we bought local Mahurangi cheese and huge crisp, cannoli pastries to eat beside the river. The Matakana area, north of Auckland, is one of New Zealand’s newer wine-growing areas, so next up we visited the Matavino vineyard (matavino.co.nz) to taste a highly-rated Barbera, followed by lunch at the Omaha Bay Vineyard (omahabay.co.nz) where we sat on the terrace enjoying stupendous views over the sweep of Omaha beach and Little Barrier Island. As if being a food and wine hub isn’t enough, the region also has some of my favourite coastal parks, so we rounded off the afternoon with a swim at one of the lovely sheltered beaches in the Mahurangi Regional Park.

If you do one thing go and see… The pounding surf and black sand beaches on the coast west of Auckland. We visited Muriwai beach, an hour’s drive west of Auckland, on a very windy day and were thrilled to watch kite surfers doing aerial acrobatics and sand yachts zooming for miles on the hard packed sand. We also spent ages at the gannet colony, watching these amazing birds swoop and soar around the cliffs.

Next time… I will definitely make time for a trip to Waiheke Island and go kayaking on the harbour or among the gulf islands.