All posts by Charmaine Vaughan

exploring a volcano in my own neighbourhood

I’ve always enjoyed the Auckland landscape with its stunning harbour and dormant volcanoes dotted across the horizon. Growing up in East Auckland my local volcano was Mt Wellington/Maungarei and seeing this mountain always connected me with coming home. I am now lucky enough to raise my family in a suburb that has views of that same volcano.

Maungarei is a 135m volcanic peak, and is one of Auckland’s many dormant volcanoes, formed by an eruption around 10,000 years ago.

Not only is Maungarei a dormant volcano with the largest scoria cone of any volcano in Auckland, it was also a significant pa in the Tamaki area and still has examples of early Maori life including terraces, middens and pits.

In March 2019, the pine trees that have grown for over 100 years on the mountain were removed and over 10,000 native trees are going to be planted over the next few years.

And all of this right in the heart of Auckland and in my neighbourhood. We have enjoyed many walks from our house up Maungarei, from the whole family training for Tongariro Crossing to my daughter and I training for Abel Tasman and when we just want an urban adventure. The summit of Maungarei is the perfect spot to enjoy the stunning views of Auckland city and the harbour.

In fact walking is the only way to enjoy this culturally and historically significant site in East Auckland as the road has recently been closed to vehicles.

Its nice to see an old favourite landmark getting the love and appreciation is deserves and I have a new appreciation for the mountain that links to my childhood.

Ways to enjoy Maungarei:

  • You can park at Mountain Rd, Mt Wellington and walk up the road which is now more of pedestrian path seeing as its closed to traffic.
  • The ‘road’ up the mountain is still open to cyclists and those with impaired mobility wanting to enjoy all that Maungarei has to offer can contact the Auckland Council to obtain a code for the gate at the bottom of the road.
  • Park near the Hollywood Bakery on Lunn Ave and walk along the Stonefields Heritage trail and up the mountain from there.
  • Park in Stonefields, near Papango St and Tihi St and walk up the Stonefields Heritage trail and then up the mountain.
  • Once you are at the top you can chose to enjoy the views or walk right around the crater which takes about half an hour

Other things to do in the area:

  • Enjoy the wetland area in Stonefields – you can walk there via the Stonefields Heritage Trail.
  • Check out some of the playgrounds in the Stonefields area
  • Explore the Stonefields Heritage trail which runs from Golan Rd ( close to the carpark at the bottom of Maungarei ) to Magma Crescent and goes passed cafes and restaurants in Lunn Ave.

Exploring auckland by bike and train

As West Auckland seems to have more than its fair share of shared paths we decided to combine our love of cycling with my son’s love of public transport and explore the Waterview shared path.

After a rather disorganised effort getting out of the house ( see below for the list I am using next time and when I say ‘I’ I mean me and the kids ), we caught the train in to Britomart on the Eastern line but you could use any train line to get you to Britomart and then get on to the Western line. 

If you haven’t taken your bike on the train before ( and to be honest neither had I but I had an expert guide in my mother as she has done it a number of times before );

  • Head for the train carriage that has the bike symbol on it

  • You will see the seats on the train that flip up have spaces for bikes ( indicated by a sticker ). There is even a strap to secure bikes – two bikes. We had 4 so two were unsecured and I had to stand and hold them.

From Avondale train station head towards Rosebank Rd down Layard Rd. Turn right on to Rosebank Rd. At the traffic lights go straight ahead to Trent St, this brings you out in the middle of the path. You can head towards Waterview or Onehunga.

Of course you could always drive to the start of the shared path. A great spot to park would be at the Waterview reserve which has a great playground, BMX track and skate park and is close to the historic ruins of bye-gone years.

The path itself is an easy gradient with wide concrete paths. We were there on a weekday so there weren’t many people using it but I can imagine it could be popular in the weekend.

We rode from the Trent St entrance down to Waterview and had a wee break at the playground in the Waterview Reserve. Be sure to check out the historic remains between the Reserve and the motorway.

We when headed back passed the Trent St entrance to explore the path in the other direction for a few kilometres before turning around and heading back to the train.

We definitely plan to come back and ride the path all the way to Onehunga.

All in all a fun day out.

To find out more about the trail have a read of Auckland Transport overview and map.

Getting ready check list

  • Bikes
  • Helmets
  • Gloves
  • Appropriate clothing
  • AT Hop card
  • Drink bottle
  • Snacks

Explore more:

 Auckland Adventures

Mountain biking with kids

Reconnecting with yourself and the outdoors after having kids

Tiri Tiri Matangi

Tiri Tiri Matangi is such an awesome spot for bird watching and located so close to Auckland, just a picturesque 1 ¼ hour ferry trip across the Hauraki Gulf from central Auckland.

You can visit for the day or stay the night in the Department of Conservation hut.

When you visit I have put together some handy hints to maximise your bird watching experience;

  • paying for a guided walk is well worth it ( you book this when you book your ferry ticket ) and all the money goes straight to the sanctuary society
  • look up and you will be surprised at what you see. Our visit to Tiri Tiri Matangi was the the best bird spotting we have experienced and we all came home with sore necks from looking up #birdspottinginjury
  • while there is an awesome visitor centre on the island there are no shops selling food so make sure you take enough supplies.
  • most of the trails would be pushchair friendly although a little steep – going at a slower pace would be great for bird watching though.
  • the penguin nesting boxes are easier to view when you put your phone on camera and use the phone screen to view
  • there is a ute and trailer that can take your gear up the top of the hill to the visitor centre ( and if you are staying the night they take your gear up the hill too )
  • if you want to stay the night in the hut, plan to book early as its very popular and such a great way toe experience the island after the day trippers go home

and the other thing I learned is that the kokako ( featured in the image above) is actually rarer than the kiwi so we were super lucky to have one put on quite a show for us on our last visit

To book your ferry go to the Fullers website, hut bookings for overnight stay are on the Department of Conservation website.

https://www.doc.govt.nz/tiritiribunkhouse

https://www.fullers.co.nz/destinations/tiritiri-matangi-island/

Reconnect with the outdoors (and yourself) after having kids

Have you heard – it’s Get Outdoors week, an initiative to encourage New Zealanders to get outdoors safely. Of course we all want to be safe when we get outdoors and there are lots of great resources on the Mountain Safety Council and Water Safety website but do we really need to be encouraged to get outdoors in the first place?

If I think back to my former self, when my kids were younger, then yes I probably did need to be encouraged to get outside. Yes I went for a walk each day around the suburban streets but the thought of packing and taking the kids out ( or getting out and doing something without them ) just all seemed like hard work. Of course, once I rediscovered my love of the outdoors WITH my children I have created so many happy memories adventuring all over New Zealand, from walking Tongariro Crossing to mountain biking the Timber Trail to exploring the South Island for 4 weeks. In fact, I think I rediscovered a part of myself I didn’t even know I had lost and life has seemed so much better for it.

Of course I didn’t wake up one morning and stumble across an adventure, I had to have the desire to make it happen, and then plan to get out there while still maintaining the desire. Now I could try to convince you that getting outdoors is going to be amazing but its more of a feeling, an amazing feeling….do you remember it?

So now you have the desire to get outdoors, what does it take to plan to get outdoors?

  • Little did I know it but having a partner who enjoys getting outdoors as much you do certainly helps. My husband is great at researching and logistics and then I make it happen. Of course this isn’t essential but it certainly helps. And it might be that your partner has lost their outdoors mojo too so maybe you need to be the chief organiser until your partner rediscovers the joy of the outdoors too….trust me its going to be worth it.

  • Start small and focus on what’s achievable for you. Yes you are going to see people on social media doing multi-day hikes with babies, and running ultra marathons with stops to breast feed their baby but if that all seems too much for you ( and it does to me ) then focus on something that is achievable for you and your family. And maybe multi-day hikes used to be you but its not right now and that’s OK too.
  • Now you have a few ideas, run them passed the family ( if the kids are old enough to have an opinion ) to get them on board, then get the date(s) in your diary.
  • Read up on it and be prepared. Taking children outdoors does have more of an element of risk. There are some great resources on the Mountain Safety Council website including what to take on a day hike.
  • Pack the night before. There is no denying there is more to pack when kids are involved so getting prepared the night before makes getting out the door so much more achievable and enjoyable. I like lists, I also like reusing the same list with additions and modifications as we learn from our experience.
  • Lets return to the reason we are planning this adventure….to have FUN!!!! Know your childs limits and modify the outing to suit their limits and make the adventure fun for everyone. Of course lots of encouragement along the way is going to be key to everyone having fun,
  • Also know when to push your child, and this mostly applies to getting them out the door. I can’t believe the number of times ( um, yes every time ) my children don’t want to come out on an adventure and yet within 10 minutes of being out they are having THE best time. 
  • Now my children are a bit older ( 10 and 14 ) I let them decide if they want to walk in jandals ( and yes if it’s a long trail then I might insist on shoes ) but if getting them out the door in jandals to do a walk or shorts instead of bike pants for a ride is easier ( and doesn’t put them at risk ) then that’s OK with me.

  • Just like adults, children have different interests and things they enjoy about the outdoors. My son loves any walk with running water nearby and my daughter loves bird watching. Its great to see the outdoors from a different perspective and a win-win if we do an adventure that ticks both of these boxes. Hopefully you will find something in nature that sparks your childs interest.
  • I have learnt this next tip from experience…before heading out check the trail is open, the ferry is running and the weather forecast hasn’t changed overnight.

So whats your first family adventure going to be, or maybe its not your first but there is something you want to do but have been putting it off. There really isn’t a better time than now.

Places to find more inspiration to get outdoors:

  • If you are looking for some inspirational mamas then the Outdoorsy Mamas is a ‘NZ based’ online group of Mums sharing their adventures and what they have learned along the way. And if you are looking for some adventure buddies then its a great place to meet like-minded mums too.
  • Rather than get FOMO from social media I find it a great source of inspiration for my next adventure.
  • The Department of Conservation have a searchable site of walks and great lists of short walks, family friendly walks, one day hikes and ‘great’ walks and gear lists for each type of walk and tips for having a safe trip.
  • Local councils also have some great resources like the Auckland Council Akl paths that has searchable functionality for the type of path and location you want.
  • Trail forks has a great database of all of New Zealands mountain bike parks.
  • For multi-day mountain biking trails check out NZ cycle trails.

Read more from our adventures:

Saving you time and money on transporting bikes

We’ve spent a bit of money on transporting our bikes over the years so to save you the money I thought I would take you on our bike rack journey and rate each one.

When we went from 2 bikes to 4, 2 of the 4 were kids bikes and fitted on to our existing bike rack which was just a two prong tow bar one. We got away with that for quite a few years, it took a while to strap them all on and the bikes were pretty jammed on so there was lots of making sure they didn’t rub together and we also couldn’t get into the boot of the car when we had the bike rack on.

 

When the kids upgraded to adult sized bikes we purchased a 4 bike two prong one. After a while wrangling 4 adult size bikes on to the two prong tow bar bike rack and wondering about the weight dangling off the bike rack and tow bar, we moved on to the channel bike rack. This seemed like a game changer as it was so much easier to put the bikes on; they all had their own channel so no chance of bikes rubbing together and quicker to strap on but we still couldn’t get in to the boot of the car.

Along with not being able to get into the boot we also couldn’t tow our camper when we had the bike rack on the tow bar.

Cue the next change in transporting our bikes – yes, we finally bit the bullet and spent the money on roof racks to transport the bikes. My husband got some roof racks off Trademe but it did still cost more than the other two bike racks combined. The ease of putting the bikes on the car and being able to get into the boot is a game changer. It’s a little tricky getting them up on top of the car but once up its very quick to secure them. Not to mention we can now tow our camper and take our bikes away too.

Given our time over we would bite the bullet and go straight for the roof racks.

As its my husband who puts the bikes on the car most of the time I have also asked for his input on the grading system used below.

  Two prong Channel On the roof
Ease of putting bikes on Fairly quick but need to arrange bikes so no rubbing. Fairly quick but need to arrange bikes so no rubbing. Fast. Strength and balance required to lift bikes onto roof.
Cost $$ $$$ $$$$
Can open boot No No  Yes
Can use tow bar No No Yes
I ( Charmaine ) can load bikes on rack by myself No No Probably not

Another thing to consider is going up and down steep driveways when the racks that go on the tow bar can get in the way.

There is also the Thule Bike rack that is two ball mounted and swings out of the way giving you the ease of putting bikes on at easily accessible height and access to the boot but not that ability to tow anything.