Auckland Sky Tower and the illuminated light path bicycle lane beside the highway. © Mlenny 

Loved by the locals: Auckland

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1. The islands of the Hauraki Gulf

Spread over 4000km of designated marine park, the glistening waters of the Hauraki Gulf reach from the shores of Auckland to the Coromandel Peninsula. With up to 50 islands (not to mention 25 different species of marine mammal) the gulf is a little slice of paradise.

Great Barrier (Aotea), the most far-flung, has no reticulated power and is grand for playing at being Robinson Crusoe. The more sedate Waiheke offers vineyards, sculpture walks and retreats.

Volcanic Rangitoto, the youngest island, makes an excellent day trip however you get to the summit.

The ornithologically inclined visitor simply must visit the bird sanctuaries of Tiritiri Matangi, Rotoroa and Motuihe.

2. Explore Auckland’s volcanic field

With a landscape studded with 48 dormant volcanic cones, there’s no escaping Auckland’s explosive roots and visiting these mountains makes for invigorating expeditions. Maungawhau Mount Eden, with her skirts of urban pastureland, offers 360-degree views from the top. Stroll round Maungakiekie One Tree Hill, in spring when the daffodils and lambs are the stars of countless social media posts.

Visit Mangere Mountain, one of the field’s best-preserved cones, where the education centre helps bring the stories of the mountain and her people to life. Further illuminating the scientific and human tales of the turbulence below ground, Auckland Museum’s Volcanoes Gallery gives plenty of bang for your buck.

3. Waitakere Ranges and west coast beaches

The rainforest-covered ranges and black-sand shores of West Auckland simply have to be sampled.

Gaze down upon the gannet colony at Muriwai, visit Piha to play in the tumbling surf or walk to the waterfall at Karekare, there’s so much to do.

Screen fans take note: Dame Jane Campion filmed some of the most famous scenes from The Piano at Karekare Beach.

Or stop in at Huia, the sweet little seaside settlement that stands in for the town of Weld in 800 Words. Further north but still ‘out west’, Tree Adventures in the Woodhill Forest is an epic challenge; a high ropes course where brave souls clip, climb and soar through the woods.

4. The Coast-to-Coast Walkway

Enthusiastic walkers will want to tackle the 16km Coast-to-Coast Walkway. It's part of Te Araroa, the extraordinary trail that traverses the entire country from Northland’s Cape Rēinga to Southland’s far-flung Bluff.

Starting at the recently revamped Onehunga foreshore on the Manukau Harbour, The Coast-to-Coast finishes on Queen Street and takes about five hours, passing or climbing five ancient volcanic sites.

#temaungatitiro #nofilter #doglife #lifelife

A post shared by Amanda Billing (@_amandabilling_) on Apr 16, 2017 at 10:32pm PDT

Clearly signposted, the walk crosses the entire city, providing an intimate glimpse of real-life Auckland, the houses and parks, gardens and people.

Be sure to pack snacks though, because there aren’t many eating options en route.

5. On your bike

Auckland is doing its best to be a friendly city for cyclists, with some terrific dedicated cycleways and plenty more in the planning stages. Ride along the North Western motorway before heading west, snaking along streams all the way from Henderson to Ōrātia. Te Ara Tāhuna Pathway further north at Ōrewa is an easy flat 7.5km loop circumnavigating waterways and wetlands.

Good night from Orewa.

A post shared by Nick Allen (@nickwallen) on Apr 17, 2017 at 2:28am PDT

Wattle Downs in the south is 10km of gentle scenic cycling, or for much of the same in the east, Pakuranga Rotary’s 9km paved route is a delight for families with many taking the ferry to Half Moon Bay to get started.

All a bit tame? For something dirty deep in the woods, Woodhill Forest MTB Park is world class, a treat for novices and daredevils.

Awesome ride at @woodhillmtbpark yesterday with @kmeachin34, trails were mint! 👌🏻🤙🏻

A post shared by Sam Maclean (@mtbandbrews) on May 13, 2017 at 8:56pm PDT

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