1. Waitawa Park
Auckland's newest park on the south-eastern coast, Waitawa recreation park fronts on to four bays and is part of Te Ara Moana, the sea-going pathway. There's even a purpose-built sea kayak campground for overnight stays (just past the Koherurahi Point wharf and boat ramp) or the paddle from Duder Regional Park is around 14km.
Open 6am-7pm. Signposted on the Papakura-Clevedon road. Continue along until you reach Waitawa. regionalparks.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz, search Te Ara Moana.
2. Tamaki Drive and the Waitemata
Good old Ferg's Kayaks Auckland is one of the early enthusiasts for getting folks out on the water. They offer guided tours, but if you want to potter close to shore off the beaches, this is a pleasant way to start. Open daily, 10am-5pm 7 days. 12 Tamaki Drive, Okahu Bay. fergskayaks.co.nz
3. Waikato River
The original route south was on the water. So get off the road and paddle through the by-ways and fascinating wetlands of the mighty Waikato River. There's a hire company at Waiuku, or you can launch near the Tuakau Bridge. stressfreeadventures.co.nz
4. The Manukau
The Manukau, from Onehunga across to Franklin was once a massive waka highway. Putter from any of the beaches, but a sweet secret is a guided kayak tour between Slippery Creek in Drury and Hingaia Bridge west of Papakura. Ph 021 818 376 or kayaking.slipperycreek.co.nz
5. Puhoi River
Paddle from the Puhoi village to Wenderholm Regional Park for a flat 10-12kms. Or just paddle around Puhoi through native bush and mangroves, and spot plenty of birdlife. puhoirivercanoes.co.nz
• Always check weather conditions, tide timetables (even for rivers/inlets) and marine forecasts before you hit the water.
• Listen to the kayak pros - many hire shops also offer beginner lessons and club get togethers.
• Always wear a lifejacket, bright/high-vis clothing and good thermal layers to add if the weather cools.
• Tell people your plans, and agree a time to call the coastguard if you haven't checked in.
• To start out, paddle only with experienced kayakers and confident swimmers
• If you don't have marine radio or flares, at least carry a fully charged mobile sealed in a ziplock bag (tucked into your clothes, not on the boat).
• Boating and alcohol don't mix.