From bustling markets to marinas, coastal walks, birdlife and literal gems – find out what the locals love about North Waitākere.
1. Community spirit
Once a month on a Friday night you’ll find the neighbourhood footpaths flowing with one-way traffic heading for the town centre in Te Atatū. In a community that revels in its strong village vibe, this market is becoming something of a local institution. The DJ spins the tracks and sets the mood, performers put on a show, kids bust a move on the makeshift dance floor and unique handmade stalls and craft workshops abound – make your own dreamcatcher or kokedama.
Then there’s the food. It may be served out of food trucks, but the cuisine is more soul than street. Try dishes ranging from a traditional British roast dinner inside a fluffy Yorkshire pudding wrap, a soft-shell crab burger with mango and chilli salsa or traditional Vietnamese pancakes to pressure-cooked beef cheeks with potato gnocchi or hangi-cooked pulled pork; it’s almost impossible to choose. Wash it down with 100 percent natural wine, local tap beer or an old-school soda.
Take your picnic blanket or nab a beanbag and set up camp in the leafy park and enjoy the sights and sounds – it’s the perfect way to wind down into the weekend.
2. Boat life
One of the country’s largest marinas, Hobsonville Marina is worth taking the time to explore, even if you’ve left your superyacht at home. Have a coffee at one of the cafés before strolling around the marina and picking your pretend boat – a favourite game of the kids.
You can take a ferry ride to downtown Auckland from here too. The Flagship Marina Bar & Restaurant offers seaside dining with great marina views, and the food isn’t bad either. Pop in for their Sunday Session and enjoy the sea air and good tunes over a beer or two.
3. Coastal serenity
It’s easy to forget you’re in the middle of suburbia on the Te Atatū Coastal Walkway. You meander through a variety of coastal landscapes, often with only the twittering birds and the salty sea breeze for company. You’ll follow boardwalks through wetlands before emerging at a playground and a pretty little beach where the kids enjoy paddling at high tide when the sand is only a little muddy underfoot.
Continue along the waterfront towards the peninsula’s eastern side where a stunning cityscape emerges – Rangitoto, the Auckland Harbour Bridge and then the city’s skyscrapers. There’s a stint across soft sand before the track wends its way down the eastern shoreline towards Harbourview.
Birdwatchers take note: Te Atatū Peninsula’s wetlands are home to special residents including rare and at-risk fernbirds, and godwits, the world-travelling birds who visit the peninsula all the way from Alaska.
4. Sweet Red
The fresh-fruit ice cream is a West Auckland summer staple. At the Massey Gardens and Orchard farm shop, a few minutes north of Westgate, their famous Sweet Red strawberries certainly live up to their name. Mixing them into a creamy ice cream is an obsession in this neck of the woods, and few do it better than them. Let the littlies play on a tractor as you devour a towering swirl of fruity goodness, but don’t muck around on a hot day or you’ll be licking it off your hand.
5. Local gems
Tucked away in the beautiful foothills of the Waitakere Ranges is the little gem that is Crystal Mountain. Take the kids on an adventure here – there’s plenty to do, from descending into the depths of the ‘mountain’ to the Crystal Mine Museum, coming face-to-face with moving life-size dinosaurs and meeting farm animals to taking a ride on a road train, tractor, pony or even a mini rollercoaster. The on-site café is not bad either.