25 January 2014

Auckland walks: Orakei Basin

It has been an absolute cracker of a day here in Auckland for the start of our Anniversary Day holiday weekend so I was out early for a long walk … and it was a long walk – just over three hours from go to whoa. I was hot and thirsty and my feet were a bit sore by the time I got home but it was simply wonderful!

I’d been meaning to check out the Orakei Basin walkway for some time but hadn’t ventured quite that far. Of course, I could have caught the train to Orakei station or a bus to various points nearby but I was determined to walk all the way which, as you can see from this map, is quite a distance for me. The basin walk itself is supposedly 4 kms so I figure my walk was around 15kms all up – no wonder my feet got a bit sore!

From home I headed down Constitution hill – a walk back UP it does your constitution the world of good! – then up through Parnell village with a slight detour off Parnell Road to photograph some streetart I’d spotted on a previous day.

From the top of Parnell I turned left by the Cathedral then headed down Brighton Road to join the Hobson Bay walkway at the bottom. This is quite a short walkway, covering just a small part of the bay’s coastline – hopefully it will be extended and completed in the not too distant future.

Mangroves grow in the mud on one side of the path, which runs firstly alongside Thomas Bloodworth Park, then the Shore Road Reserve. There are good views back towards the city centre, with the Sky Tower its perpetual marker, and across the Waitemata harbour towards Mt Victoria in Devonport, North Head and Rangitoto Island – extinct volcanoes all. I had to get back on the pavement for the steep trudge up Shore Road, then turned left down Victoria Ave to rejoin the coastline walkway. Here there is a sandy beach, with lots of scallop shells, and a kingfisher flew in to perch on the end of the short jetty.

The walkway continues along a boardwalk through the mangroves and past the sports fields at St Kentigern College, before once again rejoining Shore Road. I didn’t stop but, if you were feeling thirsty or peckish at this point, you could stop off at Café Greenfingers, at Palmer’s Garden Centre, though a quick google produced some fairly average reviews. I continued across the roundabout and up the appropriately named Upland Road a short walk to the start of the Orakei Basin walkway.

Orakei Basin is the crater of one of Auckland’s 50-odd extinct volcanoes. According to Hayward’s Volcanoes of Auckland, ‘Orakei Basin is a large, 800-metre-diameter explosion crater which erupted on the side of Purewa Creek about 85,000 years ago’.

I expected the Basin walk to be entirely flat but it is, in fact, a mix of flat areas and steep bits, both paths and steps, so it provides a good cardio workout, especially if you keep up a good pace. The first part of the walk took me along a flat grassy area, where locals can unleash their dogs to give them a good run and a swim, then continued through a small area of bush to the clubhouse of the Orakei Water Ski Club, where enthusiasts were out enjoying the perfect weather, practising their twists and turns and somersaults.

The steps up the hill behind the clubhouse were steep, then I crossed the road and headed back on to the track at the other side. A short bridge crosses the Waiatarua arm of the lagoon at this point and the boardwalk continues to ‘shag tree’ – my name for an old tree that today played host to a group of shags, enjoying the early morning sunshine. That necessitated another photo stop.

More steep steps took me up and over another ridge, then down to the boardwalk that runs parallel to the railway line on the eastern side of Orakei Basin. At the end of that boardwalk, I should have stopped for a drink at the Kings Plant Barn café but I decided to keep on.

From there, I walked along Ngapipi Road – the least pleasant part of the walk as the traffic was busy, with many large trucks heading down to the container terminal. But I did spot some oystercatchers hunting for food in the mud at Whakatakataka Bay and then, where a group of old boathouses line up along the waterside of Hobson Bay, a peek between them revealed a group of shags sitting together on a railing, preening – another photo stop. 

Once I reached Tamaki Drive, I turned left and headed back towards the city, alongside the sparkling waters of the Waitemata harbour. Lots of boats were heading out from the Outboard Boating Club of Auckland’s marina to enjoy the perfect weather, and the pavement was busy with lots of other folks out walking and biking. The cool breeze was most welcome as I headed along the final straight towards home, a loooooooonnnnnng drink of water and a hot shower. It had been a splendid morning’s walk!

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