Leonie Freeman lines up her best weekend expedition combos.
At the weekend we're often looking for the following combo to do as a family - a train somewhere (I hate the car) a walk or bike or bit of exercise, then a place to have a beer (or a coffee/cup of tea and cake) before getting the train home.
So with this in mind, here are five of my best train/walk/bike/beer/coffee combos in Auckland.
ONEHUNGA - MANGERE BRIDGE - ONEHUNGA CAFE/THE GOOD HOME
Catch the train to Onehunga station, the end of the Onehunga line, with bikes on board. From there, follow Onehunga Mall south until you can go under the Southwestern Motorway and get on the bike path to reach the old Mangere Bridge, now pedestrian and cycles only.
Cross here, then take Kiwi Esplanade right along the waterfront of the Mangere Bridge suburb - it's a flat and easy ride with a small playgound, parks and other scenic spots along the way.
If you keep cycling, you'll reach Ambury Regional Park - a working farm run by Auckland City Council. It's a great for city kids to see a farm in action - there are cows, sheep, horses, pigs (and currently babies of most of the above!) and there are regular feeding and milking shows in the sheds and an information centre. The loveliest thing about it is that it's completely free - just cycle in, lock up your bike and have a wander around.
When you're done, cycle back along the same path into Onehunga - in Princes St is the Good Home - a cosy gastro pub in the old library building with a decent selection of beers on tap. Otherwise head to the Onehunga Cafe for coffee and cake, before a slow ride back to the station and home.
BRITOMART - WYNYARD/SILO/WESTHAVEN - SWASHBUCKLERS/WYNYARD WHARF
First get the train to Britomart ready for a trip that can take the best part of a day, with plenty of entertainment en route. This is a good route for biking or walking - it's mostly flat and on cycle paths so is a good one for kids (though there is a small part of it that is un-cyclable).
Walk or bike along the waterfront from Britomart past the Viaduct Harbour and on to Te Wero Island where you can head over Wynyard Crossing Bridge to Wynyard Quarter.
Once you're past Silo Park, turn down Beaumont St and wind your way along until you find yourself alongside the motorway. Once you reach Swashbucklers, go up and over the motorway via a footbridge - there's the Jacob's Ladder elevator for getting bikes up and a ramp on the other side to get you down again. It's fun for kids being above the traffic whooshing underfoot, so make sure to stop in the middle.
Over the bridge, turn right and head down the ramp to the path that goes alongside the motorway, but is blocked off from the traffic by an enormous wall. This takes you along to a point where you can only go up to Point Erin Reserve.
Warning, if you are on bikes you will need to dismount and carry bikes up a few step, but it's not that bad and really worth it for the loop it provides. Head up to the small park and reserve next to Point Erin pools (which open only over the summer months and are situated on one of the finest pieces of Auckland real estate). From here carefully head down Curran St and get on the walking/cycling path that goes down the on-ramp of the motorway until you find yourself heading towards the underneath of the Harbour Bridge. Going under the Harbour Bridge is a thrill, no matter your age. Then take Westhaven Drive, with its excellent new bike path and bridges, past the yachts and boats back towards the city - there are plenty of nice little spots to stop and rest and discover along the way.
By the time you get as far as Swashbucklers you've earned a beer, and maybe a plate of deep-fried seafood. Their platters of mussels, calamari and oysters are great to share and if it's a nice day you can sit on the deck right on the edge of the marina.
If you don't fancy Swashbucklers (what is wrong with you?) then head back to Silo Park - there are often foodtrucks here and special events and festivals going on. The park is good for kids and they'll inevitably end up in the water feature here if it's hotter than 10 degrees.
There are numerous food and drink options on Wynyard Wharf - Miss Clawdy's, Baduzzi and 16 Tun are my picks. If you're with kids the Seafood Central Courtyard is good for fish and chips - kids' meals are free with every adult's meal and they can play in the sandpit while you have a drink from the bar. Go back the way you came to Britomart and congratulate yourself on a well-spent day.
ORAKEI - ORAKEI BASIN - BROTHERS BEER
From Britomart, Orakei is the first stop on the Eastern line. You cross a track-width-only narrow causeway to get there and it's good fun for kids and adults alike to have water directly out both sides of the train.
At Orakei station get off and head up the hill. Cross the busy Orakei Rd and head into the Orakei Basin West Reserve. You can follow the path around the whole reserve, which takes anywhere between 45 minutes and an hour and a half with little people.
There is a small area when you reach the Auckland Waterski Club on the far side of the basin where you have to go up a series of steep steps and walk on the streets for a short time before coming down again and back on to the walking track, which crosses a footbridge and heads back towards the railway line. We took the kids' bikes but ended up carrying them up and down a few sets of steps, so this one is probably better suited as a walk. And it's a great walk - there are areas of bush, mangroves, grassy areas ... and lots of very fancy houses. Near the end of your walk the path goes along a boardwalk directly next to the railway for a while; stay on this path, go under the Orakei Rd overpass and head to Bird on a Wire for your beer or coffee with a side of their excellent baguette and butter. Or head up to the fancy new development at Orakei Bay Village, which has the most recent Brothers Beer brewery and restaurant - you have to fight past Farro and a smoothie bowl shop to get there, so you will have earned your pint.
BRITOMART/DEVONPORT - NORTH HEAD/TORPEDO BAY - DEVON ON THE WHARF
You're getting off the train at Britomart and going on the water this time - catch the ferry to Devonport and after leaving the wharf turn right and head through the park and get on King Edward Parade. This is an easy walk or bike ride right on the water's edge with great views of the harbour looking across to Bastion Point and Tamaki Drive. Walk until you reach Maungauika/North Head. Either head off Cheltenham Rd then Takarunga Rd to get on to the mountain by road, or just keep following the path by foot past the Torpedo Bay Navy Museum and attack the mountain from sea level.
Its prime position at the head of the harbour means North Head has spectacular views over Auckland, and also meant it was used by the military as a coastal defence installation - in 1885 batteries, bunkers and tunnels were built to deter the Russians (who never came). The armaments were never used in fighting but are now a major attraction and running through the tunnels and finding new little rooms and batteries and caves is a lot of fun. Take a torch and a map of the tunnels if you haven't visited before. There are walking tracks around the mountain and you can go down on to Cheltenham Beach and explore around the rocks at the bottom of the mountain too. Hours of fun.
When you are tired out from exploring the natural environment, the Navy Museum is free and good for a look, then head back the way you came to Devon on the Wharf - get an icecream and a coffee from the kiosk, or settle down on the deck on the water for a drink and their Turkish style bar snacks.
MT ALBERT - SOUTHWESTERN SHARED PATH - CHINOISERIE/L'OEUF
Much of this walk or bike is new - the cycle path and bridges built as part of the Waterview tunnel construction - and is not yet on Google maps, but there's a map on the NZTA site that will help. From the Mt Albert train station you want to go out on to New North Rd and head south. When you get to the big Pak'n'Save go past it and past Hendon Ave until you get to the entrance to Alan Wood Reserve. Head in here and you'll soon find yourself walking alongside the new Southwestern Motorway Waterview connection - you'll see the enormous new white Tuna Roa bridge curving over the motorway from Valonia Reserve to Kukuwai Park.
Visit Valonia skate park (one of the best, those in the know say) or head over the sparkling new addition to Auckland's cycling infrastructure to the other side.
Come out on Hendon Ave or Richardson Rd and follow the latter until you get to Owairaka Ave. At the end you'll find the excellent L'Oeuf for coffee and food, or Chinoiserie if it's after 4pm and you're ready for a beer, bao and some of the best skinny fries in Auckland (they come with with wasabi mayo). After this it's about 2km back to Mt Albert station via Mt Albert Rd.