There's nothing like the prospect of a day-trip to Mangere to get me off the couch. Unlike many, I view Mangere as much more than somewhere I pass through on the way to the airport.
The modest suburb is packed full of adventures ranging from animal petting at Ambury Regional Park, to excellent Pacific art exhibitions at the Mangere Arts Centre and even one of Auckland's best wineries, Villa Maria. Much of the suburb is semi-rural and offers many peaceful oases and scenic walks.
But Mangere in our household is synonymous with volcanoes. It's home to more than 10 volcanic craters and cones, which we've scrambled up and over many times. What brought me back for a new day trip was the "discovery" by volcanologists of a new volcano at Boggust Park.
Having an overseas visitor in tow gave the family the opportunity to revisit some of our favourite spots. The first port of call was the Otuataua Stonefields, not far from Auckland Airport. It's worth taking a look at an aerial map or Google Earth before visiting this 100-hectare park. It sports three volcanic cones, lava flows, and evidence of pre-European settlement.
There's always something amusing about "climbing" Mt Pukeiti - Auckland's smallest volcano, which can be seen from the Stonefields car park. It takes all of five minutes to climb to 30 metres above sea level.
Pukeiti is one of four volcanoes in the immediate vicinity. The others are Maungataketake, Otuataua, and Waitomokia.
Across the causeway is Puketutu Island with its double cratered volcano. It isn't yet open to the public, but in the next couple of years, Auckland Council is turning it into a new regional park, which will be larger than Cornwall Park.
From Otuataua we headed northeast to Mangere Mountain, one of Auckland's more scenic cones. Anyone with a bit of time up their sleeves can walk or cycle there - along the Watercare Coastal Walkway, which runs along the foreshore from Otuataua to Ambury Regional Park. The route passes the site of Auckland's former sewage ponds, but you'd hardly know it today. Watercare has erased most of the less-than-scenic aspects of its old operation, planting more than 270,000 native trees and restoring 13 kilometres of white-shell beaches.
At Mangere Mountain we head for the crater rim. It has panoramic views towards One Tree Hill and Sky Tower, across the Manukau, over Ambury Park. Below you is the Mangere Lagoon, an even larger explosion crater than the mountain itself. The lagoon, once used for sewage treatment has been lovingly restored and sports a public walkway around its perimeter.
After all this exercise it was time for some food. Mangere has eateries for all budgets. If you really must do fast food, then McDonald's KFC, St Pierre's Sushi and Carl's Junior all have branches there. At the other end of the scale, Villa Maria's Vineyard Cafe - in the Waitomokia Crater, if you're still volcano-spotting - offers fine food and matched wines. There's even a healthier-than-usual kids' menu for the little people.
Ruby Red cafe in Mangere Bridge village is a local institution with better-than-standard cafe fare. Families with children might want to head on to Auckland Airport for the critters and cafe at Butterfly Creek.
Wherever we eat, we have to leave room for an ice cream. No visit to Mangere with children should end without a strawberry icecream - the only flavour available - at the Mangere Strawberry Farm. The farm's calorific cones are to die for, and well worth the lengthy wait (but be prepared, this is a cash-only operation). After tanking up on carbs we hit the road again to head southeast to two even larger craters. The Pukaki Lagoon, on Pukaki Rd, is a huge 600 metre- wide explosion crater. The best view is from an empty section between 40 and 42 Pukaki Rd. We ambled down to the fence and marvelled at the perfect crater. Although little known today, the crater was drained in the 1930s and the natural amphitheatre used as a speedway.
Information about Mangere's volcanoes is often hard to come by. It was several years after first visiting Pukaki Lagoon that I realised it had a twin. Just a few hundred metres away, but accessed from Portage Rd just before it passes over the South Western Motorway, is Crater Hill. The sheer size of this massive hole in the ground is impressive.
Finally, and for the record, only volcano nerds need visit the Boggust Park crater at Lenore Rd - one of our newly-discovered volcanoes. It took a fair bit of imagination to see that the drab park had a faint crater rim on one side.