Unearth interesting facts in an Auckland cemetery walks, viewing two massive oceans in a morning, exploring a volcanic site only 400 years in the making, drawing a pint at a historic pub, bridges and beaches. Plenty of hidden corners and interesting places for kids to explore their backyards in Auckland. For visitors, find out the city’s secrets and tag along as well. Create your personal Auckland exploration. For ideas check out Auckland walks creating a tapestry of things to do in Auckland.
CULTURE & HERITAGE: A CEMETERY
Take the kids to a cemetery. Waikumete Cemetery (1886) is the largest park in Auckland with sweeping views of the Waitakere Ranges and Auckland harbour. A great place for picnics with toilets, seating and quiet (it is a cemetery after all).
- Erebus Memorial to AIR NZ crashed in the Antarctic with the entire loss of passengers and crew, a total of 257 people. The bodies that were unidentifiable were placed in 16 caskets and buried at Waikumete Cemetery in West Auckland on February 22, 1980. The grave site was marked with a memorial bearing the names of those 44 people. Nearby, a cherry tree was planted to honor the 24 passengers that came from Japan.
- Holocaust Memoral with ashs from Auwshiti
- NZ 1919 Influenza pandemic memorial
- ANZAC Cenotaph
- Largest burial ground for military service personnel
- Mausoleums of early wine makers, Corban family from Lebanon and some of the many Croatian families who settled in Henderson, including the Nobilos, Ercegs, Marinkovichs, Zencics and Vuletics
- Over 70,000 graves
- The main gates are on Great North Road with other gates situated at Awaroa Road, Glenview Road, Sunhill Estate and Waikumete Road
For cemetery buffs check out Auckland cemeteries where to go and what to see. Kids will be equally fascinated, a bit nervous and totally amazed that your life story can be found in a graveyard.
NATURE: AUCKLAND VOLCANOES
People saw the volcano spew lava and ash – or, more likely, were running for their lives. Take the kids, catch a ferry for a day trip to Rangitoto. Rangitoto, the volcano you can see out in the harbour, is only about 600 or 700 years old. The volcano is a baby and dormant with very real physical geological features to inspire all New Zealanders to study science. Check here for details about getting there and how to get around Rangitoto Island.
The Hauraki Gulf Islands are magical
CULTURE & HERITAGE: ONE TREE HILL
Take the kids to check where a Royal Elephant helped move mountains to build a stone observation platform. The cone of the dormant volcano is Auckland’s highest natural peak.
- The labourers who quarried the side of the mountain to extract lava stones for building materials had a three-year-old elephant, Sir Jung Bahadoor (Tom) was put to work on Mt. Eden’s platform, hauling heavy basalt up the mountainside. Sir Tom was a gift to Prince Alfred 1870’s) from Nepalese royalty and on his way to England, NZ was a detour in the royal tour with a new member of the royal party, Sir Tom the elephant.
- One Tree Hill is one of the largest Maori settlement complexes in New Zealand, abandoned by the late eighteenth century due to tribal warfare. Look for evidence of human occupation with plaques to assist identifying sites.
- Tell the roadside story while at the top of the mountain, Maungakiekie-One Tree Hill – roadside stories.
Walk from the Pacific Ocean to the Tasman Sea in the morning. Take the kids (although this is a long walk for little legs, you could help with catching a bus or driving for sections of the walk) and check out what this is possible. Auckland is a city between two natural harbours. The 16 km walk starts in the Waitemata Harbour by the Pacific Ocean and finishes at the Onehunga Lagoon, Manukau Harbour by the Tasman Sea. Auckland Council website describes the walk as three parts, Route of the walk. We have split the walk into three easy parts. Do one at a time, or if you’re adventurous you could tackle all three in one day:
CULTURE & HERITAGE: INDUSTRIAL ARCHEOLOGICAL SITES
Take the kids to Warkworth, there is lots to see and very importantly places to buy ice-cream. An abandoned industrial site manufacturing cement is the ticket to the imagination of what it was like working there. The sheer size is daunting with the quiet deep Puhoi River nearby. The quarry is now a lake, deep and atmospheric. The plaques describe how important the works were during World War II. I am sure there are worker ghosts, Warkworth Cement Works is definitely worth a detour.
A bonus for nature lovers is the Parry Kauri Reserve described Warkworth – short detour from State Highway one – Best Bits. The reserve is a quiet place with ancient Kauri and Totara trees within view of the car park. You could be very lazy, not get out of the car and simply look at the magnificent kauri (approximately 800 years old) from your vehicle. Take the kids for a walk, around the reserve perimeter. There are great information signs describing the trees and shrubs you are looking at.
Take the kids to North Head, you have to explore military fortifications, tunnels and the imagination can easily conjure up invaders. The views are splendid and click here for additional information Maungauika/North Head Historic Reserve. The reserve is 2 km from Devonport Wharf. Follow King Edward Parade along the waterfront until you reach the end. Straight ahead is the Torpedo Bay Navy Museum. Turn left onto Cheltenham Road, then take the second road on your right – Takarunga Road. The gated entrance to the reserve is at the end of this road.
Great Barrier Island
Take the kids to Great Barrier Island to find the Kaiaraara Driving Dams, instrumental in the wholesale harvest of the Kauri forests. The extraordinary effort to flood streams and divert rivers to float the massive logs for milling. And loggers lived in rudimentary bush huts for months at a time. Kauri Dam Great Barrier Island Destroyed in Store.
NATURE: FOSSILISED FOREST
Mangere Bridge volcanic hilltop
Take the kids to find a fossilized forest and lunch on Mangere Bridge volcanic hilltop. The eruption of Maungataketake rapidly destroyed an ancient forest consisting of rimu, miro and kinau. Below this layer was an ancient Kauri forest (100,000 years ago). There are two fossil forests at Ihumatao both destroyed by volcanic eruptions. The original Kauri forest likely drowned in the rising peaty sediment. Peat preserved the Kauri, some giants estimated to be over 20 metres in height. The second forest flourished on the bones of the original Kauri. Then 50,000 years ago Maungataketake rained lava and ash. The forest was buried. Now erosion has exposed nature’s history. Find Kauri logs, Kauri gum resins and the remains of the later forest, at low tide with your gumboots on as it is muddy. Where, the end of Renton Road, Ihumatao Rd, Mangere (near airport terminals).
NATURE: CORNWALL PARK Heritage Trail
Take the kids to Cornwall Park and shrine to the Goddess of Good Harvests and Auckland’s oldest surviving building. Cornwall Park is a great destination, there is plenty of space to kick a ball, jump and run, an ice cream vendor and interesting nooks to ponder over. The cottage is worth a look as it is an ethnographic display of a standard nineteenth century home. Very little space and ask the kids where the toilet and laundry was located. Adjacent to the car parks is a quiet corner with a waterfall and seating. Look closely and tucked behind the waterfall is a relic of a Maori shrine. Kumara was an essential food crop and to assist Rongo, god of cultivation support was called upon. The shrine is a rock carved figure of Rongo that was part of the narrow column of stone. Here is the link to Cornwall Park’s heritage trail Cornwall Park Heritage Path which will give you directions on google maps.
Bonus for everyone, The Creamery serves ice creams, opposite Huia cottage depicting domestic life circa mid 19th century.
CULTURE & HERITAGE: AUCKLAND HARBOUR BRIDGE
Take the kids to check the underside of Auckland Harbour Bridge. Explore Northcote Point and the remains of an old Pa. The Pa site was the scene of various tribal contests and was largely abandoned by the nineteenth century. A carved pou by Reuben Kirkwood marks the site. You can walk under the bridge, with the thunder of traffic overhead making a fantastic chorus for your investigation of an industrial site. Massive concrete pylons rise from the seabed supporting enormous iron girders. Look at the poems and stories written on the bridge undersides. For people of all ages who want facts about the bridge, click here for more information. Auckland Harbour Bridge. There is also a memorial plaque to the four men who were killed building the bridge.
Getting to Auckland family activities
BEST BITS TRAVEL GUIDE