Leonie Freeman writes of the joys of autumn in Auckland.
Now that the joy of the first feijoas, being able to wear clothes that don't stick to your back, the excess of new stuff on Netflix, and the other initial thrills of autumn have worn off and we're into shorter, chillier days, here's how to have a great autumn Auckland weekend in this golden, melancholic-in-a-good-way, in-between season.
Autumn is the best season for walking - it's not too hot, usually dry, and pretty to boot. And with a lovely autumnal walk, there's often some bonus leaf-spotting thrown in.
The Auckland Domain is beautiful any time of year for a wander. Take in the view of the harbour from up near the museum then head down Lovers Walk or Centennial Walkway off Domain Drive on the Grafton side of the domain for some pleasant native bush. The Winter Gardens always require a visit too.
At Western Springs, the willow trees hanging over the lake are a lovely sight as you wander, and near the playground area there are some groves of huge deciduous trees with a beautiful blanket of golden leaves underneath to crunch through.
Auckland's stunning West Coast beaches are a great spot for a bracing walk. You might not end up in the surf, but a brisk stroll at Karekare or on the dunes at Te Henga is good for the body and the mind.
Head to the Botanic Gardens in Manurewa for some serious foliage fancying. The gardens are home to more than 10,000 plants from around the world. The Perennials garden claims to have fiery golds and intense purples on display in autumn. Take a picnic and make a day of it.
Ayrlies Garden and Wetlands in Whitford is four hectares of carefully maintained garden, with large lawns, ponds and waterfalls. It's open Monday to Friday, there are no kids allowed, and if you time your visit right, the many large trees in the property will put on a good autumn colour display. Eden Garden on the side of Maungawhau Mt Eden is another beautiful spot for an autumnal stroll and exploration (kids too), though really it's beautiful any time of year and I'm always surprised how many central Aucklanders haven't heard of it. The last two are private gardens with entry fees.
Clothing waste from fast fashion comes at a huge cost to the environment. Do your part for the planet and your wallet and buy some new threads for autumn from some of Auckland's best second-hand shops. Digging through the racks is half the fun, and a great indoor activity when the weather outside is grim.
The Recycle Boutique, with stores in Newmarket, the city and Takapuna is consistently one of the best - its racks are updated constantly and prices are good (unlike some second-hand shops where the prices seems to contradict the point of buying second-hand). Two other goodies are within walking distance of each other in Ponsonby - Encore Designer Fashion Recycle and Sempre Label Resale. It's almost as if there are women in Ponsonby who wear these things once then hand 'em over for resale, everything is in such good nick.
SaveMart in New Lynn is an enormous warehouse of bargains and if you've got the energy, you will turn up treasure. While you're in New Lynn check out local secret Go Jo Recycled Clothing - she has a beautiful range of carefully selected retro gear.
The Recycle Boutique: recycleboutique.co.nz
Encore Designer Fashion Recycle: 305 Ponsonby Rd, Ponsonby
Sempre Label Resale: 299 Ponsonby Rd, Ponsonby
Savemart New Lynn: 21 Veronica St, New Lynn
Go Jo Recycled Clothing: 1/1 Riverbank Rd, New Lynn
Autumn is great for hot pool-ing. It's cold enough to enjoy them, but not so cold that you'll freeze getting into your togs. Miranda Hot Springs is a great spot for soaking within an hour's drive of the city. There are facilities for kids and picnic areas, but also an adults-only spa and private hot pools for hire. Go on a Sunday and take a wee detour via the Clevedon Village farmers' market on the way for pastries and coffee, and buy a delicious assortment of kai for lunch too.
If you feel like going off the beaten track, buy or borrow a copy of Hot Springs of New Zealand by Sally Jackson and go on an adventure and find hot springs in the wild. She includes over 100 hot springs in the North and South Islands, both commercial and non-commercial, and it's a great resource for serious soakers to keep in the car.
Though any time of year is good for noodles, autumn is the first chance to relish a bowl without the sweat from your forehead dripping into the bowl.
Laksa is always my first choice, and Selera on Khyber Pass in Newmarket, Mamak in Chancery, and Pappa Rich near Aotea Centre in central Auckland or Sylvia Park remain the best places for laksa in Auckland in my humble-but-expert-when-it-comes-to-laksa opinion.
If you want something a bit lighter, go for ramen. At Ramen Takara in Ponsonby get the tan tan ramen (don't fail to get a side of daikon chips) or at Ramen Do in Symonds St order the classic soybase ramen (meat eaters, add the extra pork and count three types of pork in one dish). Genzui Ramen in the unlikely location of the lobby of the Crowne Plaza Hotel in the city is a good cheap option, and their egg katsudon is great if you're not in the mood for noodles (and a huge feed for $10!)
Another guaranteed hit - go to Shaolin Kung Fu Noodles in Balmoral and get a bowl of their cleaver sliced lamb noodle soup. This will not only fill the stomach but will leave you feeling wise - for making such a good lunch decision.
Selera: 487 Khyber Pass Rd
Mamak: 50 Kitchener St, Chancery St
Pappa Rich: papparichnz.co.nz
Ramen Takara: 272 Ponsonby Rd
Ramen Do: 167 Symonds St, Eden Tce
Genzui: Atrium on Elliott, 21-25 Elliott St
Shaolin Kung Fu: 636 Dominion Rd, Mt Eden
Autumn in Auckland is full of festivals to get your culture fix at while spending time indoors. Listen, learn and be solidly entertained. The Auckland Writers Festival from May 15-20 has an exciting line-up of local and international authors. Just a few of the great author sessions are Robert Webb, Jenny Zhang, Damon Salesa, and Choman Hardi, and often it's the panel discussions that are the most enlightening. I think the Best Best Showcase, Writing the Suffrage Past and Out of Empire all sound fascinating. Go to the website for details.
The Comedy Festival runs from April 26 to May 20 and always seems to come at just the right time of year for a laugh. I never really know many of the names and have to rely on friends' recommendations and seeing what's on when I'm free, but it's one of those events you never regret heading out to.
Another festival at which no ticket feels wasted is the International Documentary Film Festival which runs from May 23 to June 4. Whether you're seeing a film about protests in Cambodia, the Manus Island Detention Centre, leukaemia in China, Pakistani elections, or even George Michael, you'll learn something new.