Travel: Warm up in the big smoke

By Mike Yardley

As we buckle up for the final approach to destination winter, revive your spirits by revelling in the finest trappings of our biggest city.

Auckland has a packed schedule of top-billing live shows. But before you get your theatre toes tapping, treat yourself to some of the watery charms that make Auckland sparkle.

There is no better way to get a grasp on this geographical marvel of a city - pepper-potted with volcanic cones, glistening bays and soul-rinsing vistas - than with a walk along Tamaki Drive.

The pohutakawa-lined parade winds its way through some of the city's most exclusive residential flash spots.

Savour Tamaki Drive at its most peaceful - just after sunrise, when the Waitemata Harbour is at its calm and glossy best, and before the peak-hour throng of cyclists, roller-bladers and joggers pound the promenade.

There's no shortage of cafes which are ready and willing to fortify your walk with a caffeine fix, but make sure you also spend some time in St Heliers. The waterfront village has emerged as a boutique retail hot-spot, with a cluster of fashion boutiques, craft shops and galleries.

The atmospheric village vibe makes it a winning locale.

My favourite day trip is to jump on a ferry across the Waitemata to spunky, historic Devonport. Home to the Royal New Zealand Navy and the family-friendly Torpedo Bay Navy Museum, the character architecture of Devonport is a delight to explore.

Potter around the village and admire the Edwardian and Victorian homes and buildings, before scaling the manageable heights of Mt Victoria or neighbouring North Head.

Both rises traditionally played host to Maori pa and still house gun embankments, which children love. Grab a few goodies from a Devonport deli and enjoy a hill-top picnic.

For nature-unplugged, set aside a day to ferry across to the enchanting, predator-free island of Tiritiri Matangi. The island is a menagerie of native wildlife including the tuatara, takahe, kiwi, kokako, bellbird, saddleback and whitehead.

A historic lighthouse, built in 1864, stands on the island's eastern end. Guided walks will cost you just $5. If you really want to give your walking shoes a workout, the four-hour Coast to Coast walkway traverses the city, linking the Waitemata and Manukau harbours. Starting from Viaduct Basin, the 16km trek includes Albert Park, the Domain and Onehunga.

Fullers operates ferry services to and from Devonport from the Ferry Building in Quay St. See

Operator 360 Discovery runs ferry trips to Tiritiri Matangi from Wednesday to Sunday. See

- Hamilton News

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