Auckland: Hidden treasures of Hobsonville

By Barbara Cuthbert

Blame it on the cycleways, the artwork and the market, but cycling advocate Barbara Cuthbert just can't stay away.

A ceramic "lava-flow" artwork on the steps to Clark's Lane Bridge. Photo / Patrick Reynolds
A ceramic "lava-flow" artwork on the steps to Clark's Lane Bridge. Photo / Patrick Reynolds

Each time I visit Hobsonville, I discover another layer which draws me in even more. It's a fast changing part of the city, one of Auckland's newest treasures with lots to offer visitors. It is easy to reach by new motorway connections so is perfect for weekend day trips from all of Auckland. I've enjoyed it with friends on several return visits to check out new artworks and walking and cycling pathways.

There are two parts to the suburb: Hobsonville Point and the remaining area of Hobsonville. The new Point is fast developing as a showcase, with state-of-the-art townhouses settled among avenues of trees and elegant tiled- roofed houses built for Air Force officers earlier last century. It's a place to celebrate our early aviation history as the Point was the original home of Auckland's flying boats. Best of all for me, as a cycling advocate, are the cycling networks throughout the Point.

I arrived with my bike, my 92-year-old mother and a friend on the lookout for weekend cycling trips to share with her husband. We parked beside the farmers' market, located inside an old seaplane hangar at the Landing, to make it easy for my mum and her walker.

I was happy to see plenty of people walking, arriving by bike and using the easy parking on the hill above the market. What a shame the ferry service is for weekday commuters only, as that would make a gorgeous weekend outing in our book!

But still, the ferry terminal and moored yachts set off the market beautifully, giving it a relaxed waterside vibe. The packed market stalls open on to a sunny courtyard, where the massive Sunderland flying boats used to pull out of the water.

We grabbed coffees, before tasting and buying artisan breads, mussel fritters, pies, orchard fruits and fresh juices. Mum volunteered to people-watch while Cecily and I biked off to explore. We noticed bikes for hire by Catalina Cafe, before we arrived at the fabulous children's playground, with its artworks themed from nature. The Point's 30km/h speed limit and wide paths are a treat for walking and cycling.

The Coastal Walkway is a gem worth seeking out. It connects to Bomb Point, named after the quaint historic brick buildings by the harbour that were used for Air Force armament storage. There's reserve overlooking the harbour, perfect for dogs to exercise their minders. The crowning glory was the sealed walking and cycling path following the shoreline. Magic for young cyclists.

Don't leave the area without travelling from the Point south along Hobsonville Rd to visit the Clarks Lane's walking and cycling bridge. It's a busy road, so not cycle-friendly for beginners, but the yellow bridge will make you smile and the artwork will blow you away. Built by the NZ Transport Agency to provide access across the motorway for the new residential areas planned for Hobsonville it is still a bridge to nowhere (eventually cycle paths will bring you safely all the way beside the highway).

The name of the bridge commemorates Rice Owen Clarke, a pioneer of the clay industry. His pottery business opened in 1863, using local clay to produce drainage pipes. Grey Lynn potters, Matt and Kate McLean, created tiles lining the deck of the bridge and a brilliant new artwork which forms an intricately coloured and patterned ceramic "lava-flow" on the steps to Clark's Lane.

Like so much of Hobsonville, it deserves return visits.

IF YOU GO

Getting there: The Point can be seen from the Upper Harbour Bridge if you're coming from the North Shore and is the first off-ramp on the SH18 motorway after the bridge. It's just as easy to reach from the south - take the North Western motorway (SH16) and the Upper Harbour Highway motorway (SH16).

Unfortunately, the ferry runs only for weekday commuters - no weekend timetable yet - so leaves Auckland at 8.30am, plus three late afternoon ferries. Adult, one way, $11, kids $6.60.

What to do: The Catalina Cafe's 1938 building was a signals and communications centre for the RNZAF, lovingly renovated into a community hub. Rimu wall boards are recycled into tables and a counter, and cushions are made from old army blankets. The cafe is eco-friendly too.

Hobsonville Point Farmers Market was voted the best in Auckland in 2012. Open Saturdays, Sundays, 9am-1pm.

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