Outdoors: Bella vista

By Alan Perrott

Alan Perrott ferrets out a handful of trips to allow you to get out and about but stay within reach of home.

Whatipu Beach, Waitakere, Auckland. Photo / Richard Robinson
Whatipu Beach, Waitakere, Auckland. Photo / Richard Robinson

Some of Auckland's best views are also our least talked about. Possibly because they're in a particularly unfashionable direction: south.

Which this makes them ideal if you're after a top day trip destination without the traffic or the crowds.

Take Clevedon. Long a favourite for hordes of cyclists, it's mostly known as home to the polo set, cockies, and commuters keen to leave the city behind once they clock off work. But it also provides some of the region's most beautifully bucolic vistas.

Or Mangere, a suburb known more for its airport than its scenic attractions. But don't believe the hype, the demolition of the old poo ponds has been the making of the place.

So, pack some lunch, grab an icecream, and let Canvas do the driving as we take in a few spots the tourist buses don't.

Kohekohe Church

If you like your landscapes dotted with poignantly abandoned churches, then Awhitu Peninsula is your ideal day trip.

Get yourself to Waiuku, marking the southernmost point of the Manukau Harbour, then turn right on to Kings Rd and follow the twisting lane that divides the peninsula in half.

Apart from the picturesque Kohekohe Church - and a hint for less attentive travellers: don't take the signposted turnoff to Kohekohe, it's just around the next bend - the beaches, bird park and ocean-framing cuttings, your ultimate destination should be the well-signposted Awhitu Lighthouse, which once guarded the treacherous southern side of the Manukau Heads.

Clever landscaping hides the best views until the last possible moment. Do be aware though, disabled access is limited at best, unless you have thighs like steel and can push a wheelchair up a steep, grass and gravel driveway.

Mt Donald McLean

It's a beautiful thing to be somewhere remote enough to have patchy radio reception yet still be close to a decent cup of coffee.

Oh Auckland, sometimes we don't deserve your charms.

Although a windy route, at least it's easy to follow. From Titirangi you take the Huia Rd turn-off and follow your nose to the roundabout, then head left to adventure. Many likely spots will offer themselves as you journey - Huia township has to be one of the region's true gems, even if the view from the local cafe is obscured by a horribly clad house - but we suggest you leave them for the return trip.

And yes, it's out west, but we reckon the best view faces south. Note, the last 5km are narrow, winding and strictly gravel. The right-hand-turn up to the mount's summit is signposted.

Clevedon

All too often we're in such a rush to get to the beach and we fail to consider the beauty of the bits we pass on the way.

So, next time you're off on a Sunday drive to the Pohutukawa Coast, why not take five in Clevedon?

The best vantage points are up high and while there are few designated look-out points, the rural valley is quite something to behold.

Locals suggest Otau Mountain Rd, which can be found by turning off Clevedon-Kawakawa Rd at McNicol Rd, only a few hundred metres from the Clevedon roundabout. But be nice, it's a narrow, residential road.

Mangere Mountain

Who needs a double rainbows when you've got a double crater? And all within 100m of the carpark ...

Just get yourself to Mangere Bridge, stopping in the village for a pork bun or two from the Hong Kong Bakery, then follow the signs guiding you to what may be New Zealand's only sports ground perched atop a volcano.

From there the gravel goat track leads left or right from the gate above the carpark - going left is easier - with suggested stops marked by information plaques or the odd cattle beast.

If gazing down upon suburban bliss isn't to your taste, the mountain offers unrivalled views of the Manukau Harbour and Puketutu Island.

Whatipu

If you've made the effort to reach the Mt Donald McLean summit, you'd be silly not to finish the job and carry on to Whatipu.

With more drama than a Shortland Street season closer, this black sand shore is a gobsmacker. Swimming may be rather perilous but there's wildlife, greenery, headlands and the crumbling wharves that once serviced intrepid lumberjacks. It's also one of those rare locations that only seems to become more beautiful the worse the weather gets.

The carpark is a reasonable walk from the beach, so pack your walking shoes.

Oh, and there are some rough-and-ready toilet facilities as well.

- NZ Herald

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