90km from CBD
On the south-west shores of the Manukau Harbour, Awhitu Regional Park is one of the most peaceful places on Earth. It has tranquil bays, rolling pastures and a rich history. Transformed wetlands lie behind the park's two long, sandy beaches (Kauritutahi and Brook) and provide a wonderful habitat for the rare fernbird (matata) and banded rail (moho pereru). And if you're not up to roughing it, you can take the smooth option by booking the sweet little 1930s bach. Be warned though, you need to plan well ahead for that luxury.
50km from CBD
Shakespear Regional Park nestles on the scenic Whangaparaoa peninsula. The park is a sanctuary from the bustle of modern life, with its magnificent panoramic views. The inner Hauraki Gulf can be admired in all its glory and Auckland City can be seen on the horizon, a distant memory. An ornithologist's paradise, birds from nearby Tiritiri Matangi Island sanctuary have migrated across to the regenerating native forest.
You can also hear bellbirds and see the occasional kakariki. At Te Haruhi Bay the resident peacocks display their finery, white-faced herons, stilts and dotterels frequent the tidal flats of Okoromai Bay, and tui and native kereru flourish.
40km from CBD
On the south side of Waiheke Island, Whakanewha Regional Park is known for its mature coastal forest with taraire, kohekohe and old kanuka trees, cascading streams and sweeping, crescent-shaped beach that is sliced in two by a forested headland. A large wetland is home to some uncommon birds - the bittern, banded rail, spotless crake and the NZ dotterel. At high tide the water is shallow, warm and ideal for children. Whakanewha means "to shade the eyes from the setting sun". It's such a picturesque park, you too may be tempted to wax lyrical.
65km from CBD
The sheltered bays, native bush, open pasture and historic sites of Mahurangi Regional Park make it a popular spot for young and old. The park is divided into three "fingers" - Mahurangi West, Scott Pt and Mahurangi East. Mahurangi West provides a backdrop to three pohutukawa-fringed bays - Sullivan's (Otarawao) Bay, Mita (Otuawao) Bay and Te Muri Bay. Scott Pt includes the historic Scott Homestead, while the remote Mahurangi East is accessible only by sea. The park is a favourite stop for boaties all year round, taking on a festive air at Auckland Anniversary Weekend, when hundreds of classic vessels descend for the Mahurangi Old Time Regatta.
15km from CBD
Nestled on the shores of the Manukau Harbour, Ambury Regional Park is a working farm, an important education centre with a volcanic history and just a hop, skip and jump from the city. The park sits on ash-covered lava flows from Mangere mountain and has views across the harbour to the Manukau Heads and Waitakere Ranges. The farm animals at Ambury are family favourites, with sheep, goats, cows, pigs, pet lambs (in spring), chickens, turkeys, rabbits and peacocks roaming around. Grassy lanes between the animal enclosures allow human visitors to get close to the animals safely.