Auckland: A dip into nature

By Sarah Lawrence

Sarah Lawrence and son leave the Xbox behind for the great outdoors, with a rewarding soak at day's end.

Waiwera Thermal Resort's hydroslides. Photo / APN
Waiwera Thermal Resort's hydroslides. Photo / APN

Any attempt to coax my 12-year-old son Jack away from his Xbox and outside into fresh air is generally met with incredulous stares and a generous amount of moaning.

Despite his protests, I joyfully declare that today we will be setting off on an adventure through Wenderholm Regional Park. Having never explored the tracks that spread around the Maungatauhoro headland, which sits alongside Wenderholm beach, I decide this would be a good spot for a day of outdoor activity.

The incentive for Jack is the promise of visiting Waiwera Thermal Resort after our walk, a short drive south from Wenderholm.

Wenderholm is tucked away off to the side of busy State Highway 1 and its beauty is evident from the moment you drive into its grounds.

Before heading off through the bush, we take a stroll through the grounds of Couldrey House, a Victorian-Edwardian homestead complete with a pristine cottage garden. The house, built in 1857, was relocated twice before its final resting place at the foot of the headland.

Complete with nine rooms, and plenty of information about the area, the homestead is open to the public and well worth a look.

We decide to start our walk at the Couldrey House Track, go on to the Puhoi Track and back home along the Perimeter Track. The tracks are well developed and cared for, with boardwalks and stairs over the muddy or steep bits.

Before too long we emerge on the north side of the headland to see stunning views across the Puhoi River and Hauraki Gulf. After a quick lunch we head off across sprawling paddocks and then down into the cool damp bush back to the carpark.

There are a number of different tracks that can be explored over the headland, all are easy and adaptable depending on how much time you want to spend there.

For Jack, the call of the hot pools proves too strong so we hop in the car and head back over the hill to the Waiwera Thermal Resort.

Waiwera has been famous since the mid-1800s for the therapeutic properties of the water sourced 1500 metres below the resort.

Each naturally heated pool is controlled at differing temperatures. There's the toasty movie pool, where kids and adults alike can relax while watching the movie of the moment. I prefer the seal pool, which is a tiny bit cooler so I can soak comfortably while keeping an eye on Jack while he plays with his mate in the main pool.

We give the hottest spa pool a try, but it is 48C and we can't stay in long. The boys decide to give the hydroslides a go. No surprises, these are by far the highlight for Jack and his mate. There's also a lazy river and plenty of smaller slides and water features for the younger ones to enjoy.

There is certainly something for everyone at Waiwera, whether you are a thrillseeker, a soaker, or a family out for some quality time together. There's even a day spa in case mums want to leave the kids with Dad (or vice versa) while they pop in for a quick facial.

The facilities are very well maintained and the staff are friendly and helpful. Even the cafe is a step above what you'd normally expect, complete with pizza oven.

On this cool winter afternoon, we hardly notice the chill in the air as we tiptoe from one pool to the other. That's the beauty of the resort - it can be enjoyed all year round. And as we head for home, the tips of our fingers crinkled like prunes from hours spent in the water, I realise Jack hasn't mentioned his Xbox once.

Mission accomplished.

IF YOU GO

Wenderholm Regional Park: Gate opening hours during daylight saving (summer) are 6am-9pm; non-daylight saving (winter) hours are 6am-7pm.

Waiwera Thermal Resort and Spa: 21 Waiwera Rd, Waiwera. Phone (09) 427 8800 / 0800 WAIWERA. Open Sunday to Thursday, 10am-8pm; Friday and Saturday 10am-9pm.

Winter prices (until August 31, 2012): adults $20; kids $10; family pass (2 adults, 3 children) $50. Usual prices are: adults $26, kids $15, family pass $65, spa treatments from $50.

- NZ Herald

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