It's hard to let your children travel on their own for the first time, but do you really want their initial steps in the direction of commuter independence to be flying away for their OE?
Here are some options to give them a bit of freedom to roam, while still being close enough for you to drive across town if they need you.
Village peak: Mt Eden
Catch the train from Britomart just two stops to Mt Eden, or check maxx.co.nz for bus timetables. Take the Batger Rd entrance to Mt Eden for a more exciting walk to the summit.
Batger Rd is between the play park at the base of Mt Eden on Normanby Rd and the village. Walk up the street to a gate at the edge of Maungawhau, Mt Eden. The smell of pine and wildflowers is strong as you walk up the clearly marked track.
Once the trees clear you can see for miles, over the tiny Mt Eden village below and out across to One Tree Hill, giving a new perspective high above the rooftops.
When you come to the road, cross it and pull yourself up the less-cleared steep pathway by holding on to tree roots and long blades of grass, colourful wildflowers scrunched in your hands as you go.
At the top, you'll see spectacular Auckland City views, as well as many tourists looking down into the famous crater, unaware of the true beauty that is on the walk up the mountain.
Slide back down the mountain to Batger St, then turn left into Mt Eden Rd and grab an icecream at Casa del Gelato, sweets at The Candyman or a cake at City Cake Company.
TimeOut Bookstore in the village has a great selection of books for teens and the staff are enthusiastic about the genre. It also has a fantastic Teens Book Club each term.
Up and coming: New Lynn
Take the Western Line to New Lynn, one of Auckland's eight metro systems of the future. A single train ticket now lasts just two hours so it's best to buy an AT Hop card for $5.
You notice so much more sitting on a train than in the car. From Britomart, we pass a man in a Rastafarian hat halfway up a tall building washing the windows, amazing murals near Newmarket and Morningside stations, and we gain an insight into people's backyards with washing drying on lines and impressive rose collections backing onto the tracks.
Auckland Council is transforming New Lynn into a vibrant and cosmopolitan metro centre, but there's still a long way to go. Almost across the road from the station is Lynn Mall. It's great for teenagers because it's crammed with low-priced stores such as Ruby Shoes by Cotton On, Glassons and Diva jewellery, as well as EB Games, Jay Jays, Stirling Sports and the bigger department stores such as Farmers; but is less intimidating than the sprawling Sylvia Park.
Around New Lynn, Totara Ave West has been made into a slow-speed zone and if teenagers bring scooters or skateboards they can head out to Olympic Park to see the sculptures. There's also a sports field and playground with rope climbing frames.
Also at Olympic Park there's the Waitakere Gymnastics Centre, which has recreational classes for teenagers aged 12-18. If you're lucky, you'll spot a few parkour or free runners training in the gym.
Lopdell House also temporarily relocated to New Lynn from Titirangi and the Serene Thain architectural installation is worth stopping in at, especially during the week of January 7 when Serene will be creating a window installation.
Shop until you drop: Sylvia Park
Catch the South Eastern train between Britomart and Papakura (via Glen Innes) or visit maxx.co.nz for bus timetables from your part of Auckland.
Once teenagers have become familiar with their local shopping centres, send them to teenage shopping heaven at Sylvia Park. We took the train from Orakei, shunting past water on both sides of the train into Meadowbank, past horses on the hills and through a long tunnel.
At Sylvia Park station, every carriage seems filled with teenagers hopping off and heading into the shopping centre with its maze of shops including Factorie clothing, Backdoor surfwear and the bright neons of Valley Girl. There's also Kathmandu, Bivouac and Macpac for the outdoorsy-types. Just remember where you came in to find your way back to the train.
Try the Sylvia Park phone app for retailer specials and news. There's also Mall Fit where you can walk your way around the centre under the guidance of Configure Express or cinemas such as Hoyts with New Zealand's first bean bag cinema, the Halfpipe.
Going round in circles: Link buses
Most major attractions and shopping precincts are in the centre of Auckland, so make use of the Link services, which are the easiest way to get around and so frequent you don't need to bother with a timetable. Jump on a City Link bus (red) for just 50c (or free for Hop users) and choose from Wynyard Quarter to K Rd shopping and back down Queen St.
The Inner Link bus (green) takes you a bit further out and we stop at Auckland Museum, where teens are most interested in the volcanoes gallery, ancient worlds and arts of Asia. During December and January there will also be free photography expert sessions. The Inner Link also takes you to Ponsonby or Victoria Park and back to Britomart. $1.90 maximum fare. The Outer Link (amber) is a great option if you want to explore further afield such as St Lukes Mall, the wave pools at Mt Albert or Motat. $1.90 or $3.40 maximum cash fare. See maxx.co.nz/link for a full list of stops.
Rangitoto: Ferry nice
Head to Rangitoto from Auckland or Devonport on a Fullers Ferry: Adult $28, Child (5-15) $14. Early bird special fares are available on the 7.30am weekend or public holiday return trip. Ph (09) 367 9111.
Drop by the Woollypoles yarn bombing by Knitty Graffity along Victoria Rd in Devonport before hopping on your ferry. It features knitted poodles in silver sequined dog collars, monkeys eating bananas and ladybugs wrapped around poles. Head to the wharf, stopping in at the puzzle shop or for an icecream before jumping on the Fullers Ferry across the Hauraki Gulf.
Rangitoto is so much more than a walk to the peak, though that's always a good challenge for fit teenagers. It's about a one and a half hour return walk to the summit past scoria desserts and native bush, with spectacular views at the top.
There's a new wharf being built so it's a little less straightforward to make your way around the bottom to the lighthouse and past the baches, but head right from the ferry and you'll see signposts to the prison for a spot of history or to the kowhai glade, lagoon and a few remaining baches.
Summer holiday day-trip: Orewa
Search maxx.co.nz for bus timetables taking you to Orewa. The 895 from midtown to Waiwera via Orewa ($10.30 adults, $6.10 child) takes just over an hour.
Historically, Orewa was where Aucklanders went for their summer holidays. Now that we're all travelling further afield, it's often seen as too close to really escape the city, but it retains its summer holiday feel.
After a swim in the sea, there's also three playgrounds set up on the beachfront - one is perfect for teenagers with practise skateboard gym equipment - or head across the road, next to the estuary entrance, and you'll find a well-maintained skateboard park where children always seem to be a very polite. If you want some exercise, hire a bike in the village and ride around the Orewa Estuary.
Afterwards, visit Captain Kerr's across from the beach for the best fish 'n' chips and friendliest service in town - there are plenty of picnic tables across the road to eat al fresco, if you don't mind sharing your chips with the seagulls.
Walk the talk
There's something about walking that straightens out your thoughts and you don't have to head to the Waitakere Ranges to do it - great urban walks are available in almost every suburb. Search sites such as walksinauckland.co.nz for undiscovered short walks, or aucklandwalks.co.nz for a more historic walking tour selection, then point the kids in the right direction for an adventure.
There are also ways to make a walk around the block more exciting, such as geocaching or urban orienteering. Geocaching is a bit like a treasure hunt and involves working from GPS co-ordinates to uncover treasures placed in a hide 'n' seek game. Urban orienteering can be done through the Auckland Orienteering Club.