• Approx 1.5 hours.
• Several flights of stairs, uneven in areas so not pushchair or wheelchair friendly.
• Sausalito Cafe, 124 Queen St, Northcote Point.
Few areas in Auckland are as diverse in all sorts of ways as Northcote. From the established tree-lined streets of Northcote Point, where themany villas of all sizes and descriptions indicate this is one of the city's oldest suburbs, to the architecturally interesting but un-centred 1970s subdivision between Onewa Rd and Onepoto Domain, to the altogether grittier surrounding of Northcote Central, this is a suburb of many faces.
So is the walk I embark on as the weather is still a little crisp. From where we park alongside the Sausalito Cafe and adjoining Bridgeway Theatre, we set off at a fair clip down Queen St towards Onewa Rd. Before the Harbour Bridge was built, this now quiet suburban road was one of the primary arterial routes linking the CBD to the then outer suburbs of Takapuna and Birkenhead. My father recalls how a family visit from his home in the newly emerging suburb of Ellerslie to his grandparents' home in Takapuna was an all-day trek on which foot, train, bus, ferry and tram links were all part of what seemed a never-ending journey to a small boy.
Not so for us. In under 15 minutes we have crossed Onewa Rd on to the Onepoto Cycleway and are walking to the most beautiful representation of a breaking wave in solid form I have seen. This bridge, for that is what it is, is easy to see from Onewa Rd, but if you're not a local it's worth a detour to visit. Long live the bureaucrat who signed off on the extra public funds required to build a bridge as beautiful as this.
Immediately left after a few steps on Sylvan Ave, we turn up Tarahanga St, climbing uphill with the playing fields and water features of Onepoto Domain on our right and the all but obscured wetlands of Onepoto Stream on our left. Onepoto Domain, an offshoot of the explosions that formed Rangitoto, is the first of the volcanic craters we will circle today.
Before 1970 this would have been open land. Because development never happened beyond about 1975, the passerby is left with the slightly dazed impression that here is a movie set of a suburban development rather than the real thing. Echoes of Pleasantville spring to mind.
Continuing uphill through Rotary Reserve and into Dudding Ave, we reach Exmouth Rd at the crestof the hill almost where we want to cross and turn down College Rd. A few minutes along this admittedly not very scenic thoroughfare we pass the Northcote Shopping Centre on our left and, a few minutes further, turn right down the well-signposted footpath to the Tuff Crater Walkway. This almost encircles the second of the craters we will visit today, although we will only use about half of it.
Turning right and keeping the lagoon on our left, we return south past banks of plantings put in place in recent years by volunteers, but wonder how they will be able to quell the morning glory that in places threatens once again to take control. The lagoon is largely mangrove-filled but grey heron, pukeko and the odd kingfisher still lend it a watery feel.
We leave the walkway after crossing the Heath Reserve with the motorway roaring away on our left and trudge up Heath St to Sylvan Ave. Crossing this we almost immediately find the steep stairs down the side of the Onepoto Crater that lead to the Onepoto Domain playground area. Here we let the children run wild and despite the wide age range there is something for everyone. But the grown-ups are hanging out for caffeine and with the kids we head off round the top of the car park and the little lake, which is all that remains of this crater's lagoon. Heading back to Tarahanga St, we cross the lovely bridge again and retrace our steps to Sausalito and the day's first coffee.