Hobsonville: Feelin' blown away

By Danielle Wright

Danielle Wright is swept off her feet by Hobsonville's contrasts of modern and historical - as well as by some unexpected gusts.

The farmers market at Hobsonville Point. Photo / Danielle Wright
The farmers market at Hobsonville Point. Photo / Danielle Wright

I've never liked a new housing development, but there's something of the quintessential shady lane about Buckley Ave in Hobsonville Point that makes you forget you're driving through one.

The first stop for us, with two small children, is the nature-inspired playground. It's like an oasis in an otherwise bleak landscape of flat earth, with a background of the Sky Tower and glimpses of the Upper Waitemata Harbour.

And although a flat landscape may make a perfect airfield, it can also be a wind trap. We are surprised at the force of the wind as we head out of the car and to the playground, which has been built with a botanical theme.

Games of hide and seek are played in the over-sized native seedpods and an elevated giant fantail nest is a favourite spot to climb inside for a bird's-eye view of the area. Later, the kids run along the wooden boards snaking the playground.

Though it looks stunning and our children love it, they come away with a few cuts and grazes on their hands - either from the metal much of the playground art is made of or the sharp plants they explore in the surrounding bushes. After venturing across the airfield to find the coastal walkway and cycle path, we give up, not sure if we are even on the right track. I have since been told that if you keep walking towards the water from the playground, you will get there. We finally tear our children away from the park, to walk a few minutes to Catalina Cafe and the lure of a cupcake and fluffy. There are more healthy options, too, like enticingly presented fruit skewers, which the kids like just as much as the sugary treats.

Pastel-candy-striped wooden boards line the wall behind the counter and a long table in the corner is host to a 20-somethings' brunch gathering. Outside, a couple huddle in the wild wind, smoking cigarettes. I pity the woman trying in vain to keep her hair out of her face as she listens to the man's amusing stories.

We take a walk around the grounds of the Sunderland Lounge, the community hall off Marine Parade on the former Hobsonville Air Base. It used to be the base's cinema and you can imagine the pilots looking forward to a film after a day on the Sunderland seaplanes, which were based here in the 1940s and 50s. It provides a nice sense of history against the modern home developments.

We drive to the tip of the peninsula and are stopped by air force cadets in a youth development programme doing army-style training in unison. It opens up an interesting discussion as our son asks why people have wars. We hope he will never have to go to one.

The yacht club here is closed to non-member cars, but you can walk or bike around and see the landing where seaplanes used to take off.

We head to the Hobsonville Point Farmers Market and pick up supplies. It's crammed full of organic produce, farm-fresh meats, eggs and cheese, as well as artisan breads, olive oil, jams and mustards.

We head back along Buckley Avenue for a slow drive out of Hobsonville and back across the Upper Harbour Motorway.

There's enough of a contrast between the modern housing developments and the established buildings, the community hall and the farmers' market, as well as the beautiful design of the playground and tree-lined roads to make it feel like an established community, just don't forget to pack a few extra jumpers to keep the wind from ruining your walk.

- Herald on Sunday

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