Five brilliant family days that harness the best our biggest city has to offer and keep the kids entertained, too.
1. Ferry to Devonport + North Head tunnels + Devon on the Wharf
Catch the ferry from downtown to Devonport and walk along the waterfront to North Head Maungauika. This is about a 20-minute walk so if you think little legs are going to struggle with that, you can take bikes, scooters and pushchairs on the ferry.
When you get there, head up the mountain and explore the old military tunnels that are open and free to explore. Take a torch and a map of the tunnels if you haven't visited before... the kids will love freaking each other out in the tunnels and batteries – it's excellent entertainment for all ages.
If you have plenty of time after all of that, stop off at Torpedo Bay Navy Museum (which is free) on your way back to the ferry.
On your return to wharf, treat yourselves to an ice cream and a coffee from the kiosk at Devon on the Wharf before your ferry – there's a warm, sheltered area outside where you can enjoy the fresh air without getting the chills.
If you take your own food along with you, this day will cost you just the price of the ferry tickets...
2. Stardome + Cornwall Park + Ollies
Head to the Stardome Observatory Planetarium for all things astronomy. The observatory always has brilliant kids' shows and activities set up – see their website for details.
The observatory is set in One Tree Hill Domain next to beautiful Cornwall Park so it's easy to spend a whole day in the area. Play in the excellent kids' playground near the observatory, walk to the summit of One Tree Hill or have a picnic in any one of a number of lovely settings in either park. Either way, you can be sure to watch sheep graze slap bang in the middle of the city.
Go to kid-friendly Cornwall Park Café for lunch and a deconstructed hot chocolate, or grab an ice cream from The Cornwall Park Creamery attached to the bistro at the top of the park to eat as you stroll.
Alternately, you can head down the road to beloved Ollies – an old-style ice cream parlour with an excellent selection of burgers, sundaes and shakes on the Royal Oak roundabout – the kids will love the range.
3. Bike ride under the Harbour Bridge + Swashbucklers + Silo Park
This is fun AND an adventure that can take the best part of a day. The cycling is all flat and mostly on cycle paths so it's a great one for kids.
From downtown, head along the waterfront past the Viaduct Basin and onto Te Wero Island where you can ride over Wynyard Crossing bridge to Wynyard Quarter.
It's always worth a stop off at any of the cafés or drop into Auckland Fish Market to sample some of our freshest seafood.
Once you're past Silo Park, turn down Beaumont Street and wind your way along until you find yourself cycling alongside the motorway. Once you reach Swashbucklers, you go up and over the motorway, via a footbridge – there's an elevator for getting bikes up and a ramp on the other side to get you down again.
The kids will love crossing above the motorway and seeing the traffic rushing underneath their feet.
When you come down the ramp, turn right and head down the path that goes alongside the motorway. This takes you to a point where you can only go up towards Point Erin Pools Reserve – with a warning: there's a small part here that isn't an easy path for bicycles, but if you are willing to push the bikes (and realistically probably your kids' bikes too!) up a short, steep hill you'll discover pools on the finest piece of land in Auckland (although Parnell Baths don't do so badly either!). Though the pools are closed in winter, there's a wee playground and a lovely park.
From here, carefully bike from the pools down Curran Street – the path loops you back out right back to the water and it's a brilliant place to find yourself. There are always people fishing here and going under the Harbour Bridge is a thrill, no matter your age. Take Westhaven Drive, with its excellent new bike path and bridges, past all the yachts and boats back towards the city – there are plenty of nice little spots to stop and rest along the way. By the time you get back to Swashbucklers, you've earned a beer and the kids a lemonade – and if you're hungry the deep fried calamari, mussels and oysters are good.
Head back to Silo Park and let the kids rip on the playground or join in on any of the many activities that take place here. If you haven't eaten by the time you get back to Wynyard Wharf, the Seafood Central Courtyard is especially good for kids. Get fish and chips (free kids' meal with every adults' meal) and they can play in the sandpit while the adults have a drink from the bar. It'll be a slow cycle back over the footbridge to downtown, but what a great day!
4. Aotea Square Ice Rink + Myers Park + Queens Court
You know it's winter proper when the Aotea Square Ice Rink opens. This is a great way to have a go on the ice and be in the middle of the city while you do it – it's $20 for adults and $15 for kids, including skate hire, or there's a snow dome for the littlies ($5).
If you hang around until it starts to get dark you can see the Mountain of Light, an impressive digital light installation that looks like an iceberg by day and by night lights up in an interactive display of changing coloured light triggered by the movements of those around it.
From Aotea Square, walk the short distance along the side of Auckland Town Hall, through the car park of the Basement Theatre on Lower Greys Ave to Myers Park – a beautiful old park on a steep slope that goes up to K Road. The kids' playground here is great – let the kids have a play while you sit under one of the huge old palms and admire the surroundings.
5. Walk from Takapuna to Narrowneck
This is a very special walk indeed. It'd be a half an hour if you were walking briskly, but there are far too many rock pools to explore and interesting rock formations to look at on the way, especially for those on little legs.
It's very very important to get the tide right – the tide needs to be going out at the beginning of your walk –or you'll not be the first people stranded and knocking on the bottom gates of the mansions that line the cliffs if you get it wrong.
We're getting some great sunshine this afternoon after the rainy weekend. ☀ Takapuna looking gorgeous this winter, thanks @miodukic for the photo. #ilovetakapuna . . . . . . . . . . #takapunabeach #visitauckland #auckland #newzealand #nz #travel #takapuna #nzmustdo #ourakl #beautiful #nature #purenewzealand #weloveit
When you get to Narrowneck, get an ice cream from the Narrowneck Beach Café before turning around and heading back to Takapuna.
When you get there you'll have time to stop and play in the awesome (but ridiculously popular) playground at the Takapuna Beach Reserve while you send someone up to the Takapuna Fish Shop to get very good fish and chips for all, or, if you're feeling flush, enjoy lunch at one of the many restaurants that have cropped up along the edge of the reserve in the last couple of years. (Mexico is always a good one with kids – they have a kids' menu as well as activity sheets and plenty of crayons.)