Next time you’re visiting Auckland, don’t limit yourself to the urban areas – New Zealand’s largest city is surrounded by off-the-beaten-track destinations that are well worth a look.
This morning, I headed southeast and after a drive of less than 45 minutes from downtown Auckland I arrived at the cute little village of Whitford. With all the essentials – gift shop, café, bottle shop, etc. – Whitford is a tiny hamlet at the heart of an idyllic rural region. Palatial houses dot the hillsides here; this is horse country, home to stables and stud farms, and it’s a favourite place for Aucklanders wanting a house in the country and perhaps a pony for the children! And why not? With its picturesque rolling hills framing views of the sea, it feels like a world apart from Auckland City and yet the shopping malls of Botany Downs and Sylvia Park are only a short drive away.
Just down the road from Whitford is the gorgeous Pohutukawa Coast – Maraetai and (unsurprisingly!) Beachlands are seaside villages with good beaches, and there are a couple of coastal regional parks to explore: Omana Regional Park and Duder Regional Park. Pine Harbour, at Beachlands, is a marina with a sheltered beach, landscaped gardens, a café and a pub, as well as all the essential marine services. A high-speed ferry operates between Pine Harbour and downtown Auckland several times daily. Back on land, Formosa Golf Resort at Beachlands is home to an international PGA standard 18-hole golf course offering panoramic views of the Hauraki Gulf.
If your interests tend more towards gastronomic pleasures, take the turn-off at Whitford and head to Clevedon Village. The Clevedon Valley is home to several wineries, while the village itself has a farmers’ market and several boutique food stores. Whether you visit for one day or for several, this idyllic slice of New Zealand countryside is a local secret that’s well worth a visit!
– Michelle Berridge