Auckland has a plethora of activities to whet your appetite this long weekend.
Welcome to Auckland. It's anniversary weekend in the City of Sails which seems a perfect time to celebrate the best of the city's summer offerings.
Best sculpture trails
Headland Sculpture on the Gulf, Waiheke Island: Running until February 20, this 2.5km of coastal walkway features 39 works from the country's leading sculptors. The trail runs from either the ferry terminal at Matiatia (or take the shuttle to the Info site on Nick Johnstone Drive if you want a shorter version) and runs along the clifftops. There's a cafe along the way and Cable Bay and Mudbrick vineyards nearby if you need a stronger refreshment. The walk is free but catalogues cost $5.
Brick Bay: The 2km Brick Bay Sculpture Trail, about 15 minutes out to the coast from Matakana, showcases an ever-changing exhibition of about 45 contemporary sculptures. Experience sculpture in a remarkable landscape framed by native trees, birdlife and green pastures, overlooking Brick Bay Vineyard. Finish with a wine at the winery's beautiful "Glass House".
Kaipara Coast Sculpture Gardens: A tranquil, secluded 1km walk overlooking Kaipara Harbour taking in more than 60 sculptures, about 40 minutes' drive from Auckland. The gardens next to Kaipara Coast Plant Centre, are dotted with seats to rest and admire the works and views.
Best "off the leash" dog walking spots
Big King Reserve, Three Kings: For a workout for yourself as well as man's best friend, Big King Reserve ticks the box. Paths wind around the side of the dormant volcano and a number of craters offer plenty of ball-throwing opportunities. The views across Auckland from the summit are spectacular.
Craigavon Park, Blockhouse Bay: A great place to come on baking summer days with tracks through the trees and a stream in which hot dogs can wallow if they've been put through their paces on the agility course.
Kakamatua Beach, near Cornwallis: A five-minute bush walk gets you to a beautiful sheltered bay with a sandy beach. It's gorgeous and through the bush is a great "off the leash" area.
Best short walks
Hillary Trail: The Waitakere Ranges offer a plethora of short and multi-day walks, but the jewel in the crown is the Hillary Trail. The trail stretches 70km from the Arataki Visitor Centre (west of Titirangi) to Muriwai Beach. The full walk takes four days, with accommodation in basic campgrounds, and takes in the best of the Waitakere Ranges and the wild West Coast. Do the whole thing or choose A section. Good walking experience and fitness required.
Auckland Coast to Coast: This is a great day trip - a 16km city walk that takes in the best of Auckland's parks, history and volcanic landmarks, from Princes Wharf to Onehunga.
Best city parks
Albert Park: It's big sister the Domain might get a lot of attention but as an inner-city oasis you can't beat Albert Park. Framed by universities, heritage buildings and the CBD, its network of paths, elegant statues, and grassy shade spots make a great place to check-out from the rate race for a while. And it's a must-visit come February 18, when the annual Lantern Festival lights up the park for four nights for the Chinese New Year.
Myers Park: It feels a little forgotten these days except by pedestrians taking a shortcut from K Rd to the CBD. This little nook is one of the city's hidden treasures. It will come to life on February 25 when the Fringe Festival moves in for two weeks.
Eden Gardens, Mt Eden: Well-known among Mt Eden residents but not far beyond, Eden Gardens is 2.2ha of perennials, vireyas, camellias, bromeliads and native plants on the side of Mt Eden.
There are waterfalls, rock formations, native birds and fabulous city and harbour views as well as the all-important cafe. Entry costs $8 an adult or $6 for senior citizens.
Best camping spots within 90 minutes of the city
Port Waikato: All right, so it's not technically in Auckland, but Port Waikato is a great getaway - usually without the crowds that flock to the Coromandel and Northland. There's not much here but a dairy/fish'n'chip shop and the camping ground (which has top-notch facilities and cabins for non-campers). But when the sun's out, what more do you need?
Tapapakanga Regional Park: Just south of Orere Pt on the Firth of Thames, this regional park has two campsites - one on the beach, and one higher up with sea views. Facilities are basic but good. It's a great swimming spot and there are plenty of short walks through the park. From $10 an adult a night.
Best winery visits
West Brook, Waimauku: It's a tough category this one with both Matakana and Waiheke staking firm claims, but to narrow it down we kept things closer to the city, which makes West Brook a winner. It's about 40 minutes away in Waimauku, with pretty parklike grounds. There's no restaurant so pack your own picnic (there's a gas barbecue to use), buy a bottle or two of tasty West Brook wine and relax on the grass. There's a giant chess set should the mood take you and it's one of the best wineries if you have the kids with you as there's space to play and ducks to feed.
Villa Maria, Mangere: The city winery is best known, apart from its expansive range of excellent wines, as home to the annual Day on the Green concert. This year it's Roxy Music on March 6. But it's also a good spot to relax and enjoy good food and wine on a weekend afternoon. The menu is small but perfectly formed and you feel you're a million miles out of town - rather than fives minutes from the airport.