Enjoy Autumn in Auckland: Top 5 Places to See in Autumn
It may be spring in the northern hemisphere, but they’re settling into autumn in New Zealand, a time of cool bright weather when the landscape lights up with the flaming colours of harvest time. Autumn in New Zealand starts in March and extends right through April and May. It’s a perfect time to rent a car in Auckland and get outdoors cycling or walking the many trails, and it’s still warm enough to go swimming with dolphins on the east coast. Here are our top picks for autumn in Auckland:
Even though the delightful historic village of Warkworth is a mere 45-minute drive north of metropolitan Auckland with car rental, it might as well be in another country. Surrounded by idyllic beaches, marine reserves, parks, and vineyards, it radiates a laid-back atmosphere and old-world charm. Stroll along streets lined with heritage buildings and boutique shops before exploring the scenic native bush and the boardwalk that winds its way beside the serenely picturesque Mahurangi River. More boardwalks await at Parry Kauri Park, home to majestic 800-year old kauri trees that earn their title of “the kings of the forest.”
Not only does Warkworth serve as a stunning destination in itself, it also serves as a gateway for the beach and wine regions in the east. Goat Island, Tawharanui and Matakana are all an easy drive away with car hire. As discussed below, Goat Island is a wonderful snorkelling location. Tawharanui is great for surfing. Nearby Matakana is a good base for discovering the local wineries, as well as artists’ studios, and rustic cafes.
Great Barrier Island
The Hauraki Gulf’s biggest and most remote island, Great Barrier Island is a place of pristine natural beauty just a ferry ride (4.5 hours) or a short flight (30 minutes) from Auckland. For millennia, the island has served as a buffer against the ceaseless turbulence of the Pacific Ocean – hence the name. The island’s eastern shore is framed by towering cliffs and endless white surf beaches, whereas the western side is characterised by deep sheltered harbours and tranquil sandy bays.
Some 60%of the island’s 285 square kilometres is public land managed by the Department of Conservation. The wilderness areas, coastline, and estuaries harbour a number of unique plant and bird species, while, in the background, the 627-metre-high bulk of Hirakimata (Mount Hobson) draws hiking enthusiasts with the promise of memorable 360-degree panoramas.
If you like the outdoors, you’ll be in heaven here, where you can trek through native forest, hike the Aotea Track, kayak around the coves and inlets of the island’s coast, or swim and surf at such exceptional beaches as Medlands. Forest trails lead to swimming holes, waterfalls, and old kauri dams. An abundance of native wildlife makes for superb bird watching, snorkelling, and fishing. And if it all gets too much for your aching muscles, have a blissful soak in the natural hot pools at Kaitoke Hot Springs.
Collect your rental car from Auckland Airport and you’re just over an hour’s drive from Goat Island Marine Reserve, the first and most accessible marine reserve in New Zealand. Founded in 1975, the reserve had previously been overfished, but in less than 10 years it became a rich ecological habitat for fish and other sea life. Underwater habitats include rocky shores, sandflats, deep reefs, underwater cliffs and canyons – each with their own distinctive families of sea animals.
See a magnificent selection of vibrant fish up close in this pristine location for snorkelling and diving. Take care around small fragile creatures including gorgonian fans, lace corals and sponges, as some of these are centuries old and easy to break.The sheltered surroundings and crystalline waters make this an oasis for marine life, as well as an idyllically stunning place to experience New Zealand’s natural beauty at its purest.
Two coastal walkways start at Goat Island Bay and wind through seaside forests to present magnificent ocean views and tranquil picnic spots. One walkway extends from the western end of the car park, whereas the other starts at the entrance to the marine laboratory. Relax after a day outdoors or in the water with delicious food and refreshing craft beer at the nearby hamlet of Leigh.
An oasis of history, personality, and immense beauty, Awhitu Peninsula is only an hour’s drive from downtown Auckland. Extending northwards from Waiuku, the peninsula offers some of the most breathtaking views of both the Manukau Harbour and the wonderful west coast along the Tasman Sea. Meaning “place of longing” in Maori, Awhitu was a significant early settlement site and an entry point to the rest of New Zealand for Maori and settling Europeans.
The lighthouse at the top of the peninsula is a replica of Manukau Heads Lighthouse, constructed in 1874 after HMS Orpheus ran aground in the worst maritime disaster of the country’s history. The current lighthouse contains the original light and has become a magnet for visitors. Climb the steps to the top of the historic lighthouse and prepare for unforgettable views.
Endless panoramas sweep across the black sand of Karioitahi and the winding roads that cling to the cliff tops. Stroll through the rolling expanses of Awhitu Regional Park and along the serene coast, kick back with a picnic and a swim on the safe, white-sand beaches, or enjoy a shot of adrenaline with stunning mountain bike trails, hang gliding, and surfing. Boutique cliff-top vineyards offer wine tasting and stunning harbour views.
Auckland is surrounded by areas of breathtaking beauty, but that doesn’t mean the city itself is short on attractions. Anchoring the Domain in the city centre is the impressive Auckland Museum, a neo-classical temple topped by a magnificent copper-and-glass dome.
Boasting the world’s most extensive collection of Pacific Island and Maori artefacts, the museum offers such must-sees as a 25m war canoe and a carved meeting house, as well as an Egyptian mummy and an imaginative exhibit on the volcanic field that includes an eruption simulation. Upstairs, you’ll find military displays, which reflect the museum’s role as a war memorial.
Get there at dawn on April 25th for Auckland’s main ANZAC commemorations, staged at the cenotaph (empty tomb) in the museum’s forecourt. Per head of the population, New Zealand sent more soldiers for active duty in World War than any other nation, and given that a third of those killed were buried in unmarked graves overseas, Aucklanders raised subscriptions for the building of the Auckland War Memorial Museum.
After it opened in 1929, the museum became touchstone for Aucklanders wishing to honour and commemorate their war dead. Events for ANZAC day include poppy making, choral performances, and guided tours of the museum.
These are just five of the reasons you should rent a car in Auckland. Once you get here, you’ll discover a multitude more.