Show on the road: Seeing the best of Auckland by public transport

By Alexia Santamaria

They are here for the World Cup and relying on you to show off the city. Alexia Santamaria gives tips on where visitors should head and, most importantly, how to get there.

Stop for a picnic, feed the ducks and admire the flora at the Botanic Gardens, Manukau. Photo / Greg Bowker
Stop for a picnic, feed the ducks and admire the flora at the Botanic Gardens, Manukau. Photo / Greg Bowker

For many Aucklanders, the Rugby World Cup is going to mean visitors descending on a couch near you. Whether it be rugby-mad Uncle Hector from Britain deciding now is a great time to visit New Zealand, or the whole clan from Timaru coming up to check out the action in the big smoke, entertainment will be required.

As anyone who's ever had houseguests knows, it can be exhausting ferrying them around the sights. To help you out, we've tried out a few trips they can do on their own on public transport, easing the load on all involved (guests like a bit of freedom too!). The kids thought it was excellent fun being freed from their carseat shackles and getting on to trains and buses. It gave us a really different perspective too - a bit more "enjoy the ride" than look-straight-ahead-and-concentrate-on-your-lane. What a nice change.

If you're not a public transport user and you're trying to send your family or friends off on a jaunt, maxx.co.nz needs to become your best friend.

The trips we've featured are guides only, so please use the Journey Planner tool on this site to check for the most up-to-date information. For return journeys there is a button at the bottom of your search results which will show you how to get back to the CBD.

Hot pool heaven

Waiwera Thermal Resort is always a lovely family day out. Your guests can have a splash with the kids, soak in the hot mineral pools, have a spa treatment or watch a movie in the undercover pool. Buses leave from 13 Albert St in the city. Take the 895 North Star bus.

Get back to nature

If your visitors have done too much indulging over the Rugby World Cup, they might be up for a scenic walk. Tahuna Torea Nature Reserve is 25 hectares of unique wildlife on a long sandbank with three trails varying from 40 minutes to an hour-and-a-half (to see the whole area). It's perfect for viewing native flora and birdlife. Take the 767 or 769 Metrolink bus from Britomart to Riddell Rd, walk through Glendowie Park to Tamaki Estuary and then south along the waterfront to the reserve. After the walk, head south along the waterfront to Pt England and into Glen Innes where the train and bus options are many for getting back to the city.

Facts, flowers and French-ness

It's not far out of the city by public transport but Parnell will provide your guests with a wealth of choice. There's a green inner LINK bus that goes from Customs St East (opposite Fort Lane). Or from August 21 catch the new amber outer LINK bus (see box at right) from Wellesley St. Both go to the top of Parnell Rd and from there you have several options. Take a 15-minute walk to the fascinating Auckland Museum and Domain; walk to St Georges Bay Rd and head down the hill to La Cigale; or take the 703 bus from 16 St Stephens Ave to the Rose Gardens (or you can walk). La Cigale is a French shop which has a lively market on Saturday or Sunday mornings and the Rose Gardens has stunning views of the harbour. If none of those take your fancy you can just meander back down Parnell Rd past the Chocolate Boutique (try the Italian Denzo hot chocolate) and through the village.

Don't miss the lanes off the main street, where you can check out the art galleries, restaurants and boutiquey shops.

Fluttery friends

If the kids love animals you might want to take the Airbus Express from Queen St, near Tyler St, to the airport. Or take the train to Papatoetoe and then take the 380 Airporter bus which stops at Butterfly Creek. You can see the butterfly enclosure, the fish, the farm and animals and even some crocs. There's a train ride for the kids, cafe and playground. Great for little plane spotters too, and right next door is Treasure Island Adventure Mini Golf.

Markets and coastal walks

Taking a bus to Takapuna is fun. Your guests will have a scenic ride across the harbour bridge and if they go on a Sunday morning they'll catch the markets. There's live music, bric-a-brac, art and craft, fruit and vegetables and fabulous artisan produce such as handmade cheese, sausages and French pastries. Afterwards they can grab an icecream and take a stroll along the beach. If they are feeling particularly active there is a fantastic coastal walk from Takapuna to Milford and back (just make sure to wear sensible walking shoes, as it is rocky) and go at low tide. The market is from 9am-12pm. Buses leave regularly from 17 Albert St (stop 7075) stopping right outside the markets.

Retail therapy

If there are keen spenders in your group, they can easily take a train on the Eastern line from Britomart right to the doorstep of Sylvia Park Shopping Centre. They can give the credit card a hammering on shoes, clothes, homewares and whatever else can fit in their suitcases. Check out the kids' playgrounds and a lolly shop, Sweet, where you can see live demonstrations of candy being made. Closer to the city, there are plenty of buses and trains from south, west and city all running regularly to Auckland's fashion capital, Newmarket.

Beeline for the beach

One of the nicest short trips out of the city to get some instant beach action is to get on a bus along Tamaki Drive. Your visitors can get off where they choose: Kelly Tarlton's Antarctic Encounter and Underwater World, Mission Bay, St Heliers, Kohimarama. If they're after somewhere lively then the people, pubs, restaurants, choice of multiple icecream shops, fountain and playground, make Mission Bay the best bet. The others are good for a slightly quieter, less manic scene. For more action, rent a kayak or bikes. It's so wonderful that in Auckland you can be at the beach after a 10- minute bus ride from the CBD. Take buses 767, 769 or 756 from Britomart and get off wherever takes your fancy.

Ramble through the gardens

A trip to the Botanic Gardens is not just for elderly aunts who love rhododendrons. It's a beautiful 64-hectare lush green space, with room to run and ramble, find a picnic spot and generally have a great family day. It has 10,000 plants from around the world with a cafe on site, if packing a picnic is too much effort. Take a train from Britomart to the Manurewa stop and then take the Howick & Eastern bus 466 to the gardens.

Wonderful west

Titirangi is consistently a fun morning or afternoon out. There's the lovely Lopdell House for some New Zealand art, the fabulous and always-busy Hardware Cafe, the Exhibition Drive pipeline walk (allow 1.5 hours for this) and the Titirangi Village market on the last Sunday of every month. There are plenty of options to get there via New Lynn (a 113, 136, 154, 163, 198, 199, 224 or 233) where you can transfer to a 173 or 179 (which leave hourly on Sundays for Titirangi village). Again, check times on maxx.co.nz to get there and back. .

Thrills and spills

If the kids need entertaining, head south. Take the 471 or 472 bus from 55 Customs St to Rainbow's End, New Zealand's largest theme park. There are loads of rides for all levels of courage. They can get dizzy, be suspended, fall from a height, twist rapidly or get wet - what more could any self-respecting kid want?

Other suggestions

* Bus to Cornwall Park and walk up One Tree Hill

* Ferry to Devonport to explore the shops, Torpedo Bay naval museum and pretty streets of Victorian villas

* Bus to Motat, the Zoo or Western Springs

* Ferry to Waiheke where the Fullers Island Hopper buses take you to loads of interesting places (Hopper restarts September 5).

Travel pass for the Cup

During Rugby World Cup 2011, Auckland Transport will issue a special edition public transport and discount pass for tourists to the city. The pass will cost just $15 a day and offers unlimited travel on Auckland's trains, buses and ferries (with the exception of Airbus Express and ferries to the gulf islands, Half Moon Bay, Pine Harbour, West Harbour, Gulf Harbour and Waiheke Island). Passes will be available for tourists from September 1 to October 31. (Further information on maxx.co.nz from mid- August).

The new link bus services

These will begin on August 21.

City LINK runs the length of Queen St every seven to eight minutes, with every second bus going to Wynyard Quarter. It replaces the old City Circuit bus.

Inner LINK renames the existing LINK with route changes to make it more direct. It will travel via Albert St rather than Queen St, and direct from Ponsonby and Karangahape Rd to Auckland City Hospital and Newmarket via Grafton Bridge.

An Outer LINK will run every 15 minutes around Pt Chevalier, Mt Albert, St Lukes, Mt Eden, Epsom, Newmarket and Parnell, as well as Auckland and AUT universities and Wellesley St in the city centre.

- NZ Herald

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