Whether it's an afternoon spent in the dappled light of a shady tree, an early morning trek through native bush, or a day of historic discoveries, the Auckland region boasts a unique and varied array of parks perfect for exploring or escaping to over summer. From picture-perfect picnic spots to old ruins and secret places, The Aucklander has 7 of the best parks for you and your family to check out these holidays.
1. MONTE CECILIA PARK
The Pah homestead - thought to be the largest home ever built in New Zealand - houses the James Wallace collection of contemporary New Zealand art and overlooks Monte Cecilia Park in Hillsborough.
Looming from the top of its hill, the homestead offers a feel of ye olde England as you wander down the terraced lawn taking in views north to One Tree Hill, across Onehunga and south to Mangere Mountain and the Manukau Harbour.
Peppered with massive magnolias, fig trees, English oak, London planes and kauri, the park boasts Auckland's most impressive collection of trees.
Facilities: Toilets, cafe in the homestead.
Getting there: From Auckland CBD, head west along the Auckland-Hamilton motorway and take exit 435 for the Ellerslie Panmure highway. Take the second exit at the roundabout on to Great South Rd and left on to Campbell Rd. Take the third exit at the roundabout on to Mt Albert Rd. Turn left on to Hillsborough Rd. Destination is at 72 Hillsborough Rd.
2. HENDERSON PARK TO SYLVAN PARK
On the North Shore, meander the edge of Lake Pupuke from Milford School to Henderson Park. Stop off for a picnic or barbecue at Sylvan Park and watch the windsurfers, yachts and waterbirds before continuing along the track to Kitchener Park for a game of tennis or a nature walk.
Facilities: Barbecues at Sylvan Park, toilets, car park.
Getting there: Head north on the Auckland-Waiwera motorway. Take exit 417 for Tristram Ave. Left on to Wairau Rd, and left on to Shakespeare Rd. Destination is at 34 Shakespeare Rd, Milford.
3. RAHOPARA PA TO KENNEDY PARK
Rahopara Pa in Castor Bay on the North Shore is an idyllic spot of historical significance. With a rolling view out to Rangitoto Island, the site still holds evidence of Maori inhabitants from days gone by.
Visitors can inspect old kumara pits before walking along the cliff to Kennedy Park where a World War II army camp was erected and disguised as a housing estate. Explore the tunnels that burrow to underground bunkers and the gun emplacements overlooking the Hauraki Gulf.
Facilities: Toilets, playground, walkway to beach.
Getting there: Head north on the Auckland motorway. Take the Tristam Avenue exit and stay right (Becroft sports park will be on your left). Turn left at top and head up Forrest Hill Road. At the top turn right at the roundabout onto East Coast Road, and then take the first left down Aberdeen. At bottom of Aberdeen turn right onto Beach Road. Kennedy Park will be on your left, running along a distance on the shoreline from just before Peters Tce right down to Castor Bay.
4. CORNWALL PARK
A long-held favourite spot for Aucklanders, Cornwall Park has pretty much every amenity a park could boast. From its barbecue facilities and playground, to its sunken garden, olive grove, centenary walk and livestock, Cornwall Park offers something for everyone in the heart of the Auckland region. A trail of towering trees line pretty shaded paths for joggers and walkers. Spring lambs are a reminder of the park's origins as farmland gifted to Auckland from Sir John Logan Campbell in 1901.
Facilities: Gas and wood barbecues, toilets, playground, band rotunda, restaurant and kiosk, function centre
Getting there: Head west on the Auckland-Hamilton motorway. Take exit 433 for Greenlane East. Take the first exit at the roundabout to Greenlane East. Continue on to Greenlane West. Turn left on to Pohutukawa Drive. At the roundabout take the second exit on to Twin Oaks Drive. Destination is on the left.
Venture out west along coastal tracks to discover the old sea caves of Whatipu. The larger caves were once the venue of choice for hosting formal dances during the timber mill era and meetings for mill workers. The view from the caves takes in the expansive wetlands between the wild west coast beach and towering wind-beaten cliffs.
Whatipu also offers a campsite and lodge, where the 1870 home of timber merchant Nicholas Gibbons still stands.
Facilities: Campsite, lodge, car park, picnic tables, toilets.
Getting there: Take the Northwestern Motorway, exit at Great North Rd. Follow Great North Rd to Ash St, which leads on to Rata St. Take Titirangi Rd through Titirangi Village. At the roundabout, take Huia Rd through to the end of Whatipu Rd.
If you're feeling adventurous, check out the 10m natural abseil at Huia Park. A quiet settlement by Manukau Harbour, Huia offers more than 30 different walking tracks. The likes of the Con Bryan track will lead you down to a secluded sandy beach while the Farley track will see you venturing over swinging bridges to a waterfall and up to the Kakamatua Ridge.
Huia also has a camp ground and lodgings, and the tidal bay makes for a quaint picnic spot.
Facilities: Toilets, boat ramp, car park, walking tracks, campsite, lodgings.
Getting there: Take the North-Western motorway, exit at Great North Rd. Follow Great North Rd to Ash St which leads on to Rata St. Take Titirangi Rd through Titirangi village. At the roundabout, take Huia Rd and continue through Laingholm and Parau to Huia.
7. SIR BARRY CURTIS PARK
Bigger than the Auckland Domain, Sir Barry Curtis Park in the heart of Flatbush, South Auckland, is a sprawling patch of green that's home to impressive wetlands, quirky sculptures, a playground, skatepark and picnic spots.
Developed to provide a regionally significant park reflecting the people and cultures of Manukau, it is intended the park will eventually house a multi-sports complex, playing fields, an amphitheatre and an education centre.
Facilities: Playground area, picnic area, car park, toilets at the new hall, skatepark.
Getting there: Head west on the Auckland-Hamilton motorway, take exit 435 for Ellerslie Panmure highway. Keep right at fork and follow signs for Ellerslie/Racecourse. Turn right to stay on Ellerslie Panmure highway. Take State Highway 1 motorway on-ramp to Hamilton. Take exit 444 for East Tamaki Rd and turn left on to East Tamaki Rd. Continue on to Stancombe Rd. Destination is on right.
What's your favourite Auckland Park? Comment through the box below.