I sometimes forget how vast Auckland is. On a sunny spring day, we set out to explore East Auckland, and found the Pōhutukawa coast glistening in afternoon sun, families playing on the beach, boating and collecting kaimoana, and stunning vistas at every turn. Maraetai Beach and Ōmana Regional Park are only 45 minutes away from our house, but have many of the charms and benefits of the coastal beach towns in Coromandel and Northland. If you're after a holiday feeling without leaving town, this is your spot, right down to huge helpings of cone icecreams at the local dairy.
We started our exploration at the Clevedon Village Farmers' Markets, and although I was worried an early Sunday morning start may have been slightly ambitious, our three kids, including teenagers, were won over. The market has everything from fresh baking and coffee to honey, organic fruit and vegetables, as well as hot food made on the spot. After an eclectic breakfast of Thai food, churros and smoothies, we hit the stalls, enjoying the ambience and cheery chat from the vendors. The rustic setting suits the farm-to-table feeling of the crop, but we revealed ourselves as rookies by not bringing a basket to fill. So, we left juggling candles, flowers, eggs, olive oil, dog treats,chemical-free toothpaste and moisturiser. I admit the kids were pulling me away at that point!
It was time to walk off our breakfast – and build up more of an appetite for lunch – so we drove 10 minutes to Duder Regional Park. There are four walking trails from 30 minutes and 2.5 hours in length over the 148 hectare park. Next time I'll pack scroggin and tramping shoes, but on this occasion the shorter version still ensured we enjoyed 360-degree views, from the Hunua Ranges to the Hauraki Gulf islands, the coastal vistas, with few houses in sight, giving the feeling of really being away from it all.
Yet we were just a few minutes away from craft beer garden and restaurant Hallertau Clevedon. There was live music, outdoor games for the kids, and a very good menu and drinks, all the elements that upgrade a mere lunch to a great weekend outing.
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We returned home via the coast of Maraetai and Ōmana, weaving past Umupuia Marae, where our kids had stayed on a noho Marae with their school. The sun was shining, the air was fresh, and I was reminded of what I had longed to do during the Level 4 Covid lockdown - to get out of town just a little bit, by the sea, soak in uplifting views and eat good food - this day trip east hit the spot perfectly, and I didn't take one moment for granted.