I grew up in Gisborne, spending a number of years living in the South Island before the gravitational pull that is Auckland dragged me in.
Since then I've had two distinctly different Auckland experiences, which I define as "pre-boat" and "post-boat". I now freely admit to once being a bit naive to the incredible marine scape that is on Auckland's doorstep. At every opportunity I would make my excuses and scuttle home to Gisborne and Mahia to get my fix. But then I inherited a trusty little 14ft 1970s beige fibreglass boat, I named it Brown Thunder, and my world improved immeasurably.
I still remember catching my first few legal snapper just off Rangitoto Island and proudly bringing them home to the flat to eat, incredulous that this was all possible butted hard up against the country's most populous city.
After that, I found islands to explore, places to dive, birds and whales to see, water-accessible pubs to visit, sharks to fend off, secret pipi beds, scallops, mussels and once even a few legal pāua out from Takapuna. I started making the odd video of my experience, which set me on a path to developing an international fishing show now showing off the very best of New Zealand and the Pacific to more than 83 countries. I have the Hauraki Gulf to thank for that, and every day, more and more people like me are discovering it for themselves.
In fact, with a long hot summer forecast, boat sales at all-time highs, closed borders and America's Cup races to watch, it's a safe assumption that this could be the busiest summer the Gulf has ever seen. But don't worry, there is plenty of room out there and a heap of opportunities to pick your own path. From the micro adventure, which could be a kayak trip paddling a rocky shoreline, to the macro experience, making friends with a launch owner and heading to the Barrier and beyond.
Should luck find you on the water you will have access to a place whose name means "obsidian waters" complete with a volcano that translates as "blood sky".
Now anyone who has spent any time at a public Auckland boat ramp, particularly on a weekend, will know that there is a whole range of skill bases attempting to get out on the water. Sadly, the size and how new your craft is doesn't necessarily translate to competence either. In just the last week I watched a wee fizz boat run over some divers below, with a clear dive flag on display, and heard of a couple in possession of a fancy new launch, who honestly didn't know that the ocean has tides.
A bit of patience and lending a hand with boat launches goes a long way to helping those trying to develop a bit of confidence. There are also some great day-skipper courses anyone can sign up to do with Coastguard, no questions considered too stupid, not even about tides.
Described as the jewels in the crown of Auckland, the Gulf has everything from the highest ranges on Little Barrier Island to 70 different types of seabirds representing over 20 per cent of all the world's seabird species. Five of these birds breed nowhere else on Earth, so treating the Gulf like you are a visitor to their home is essential.
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In the coming months - as waters warm and snapper spawn - all manner of life is about to flood in. You might get to see one of the 40 resident Brydes' whales attempting to round up some pilchards, orca chasing stingrays in the shallows, or the "super-pods" of dolphins that can form at this time. I've even seen a huge oceanic manta ray off Channel Island and been shown pictures of a marlin swimming off Waiheke.
So if it's a picnic on Motihue, a ferry to Rangitoto, a walk past the nudists at St Leonards Bay or spearing a kingfish at "the Mokes", such is the range of fun available that there really is something for everyone.
All you need to do is get out there and enjoy.
Clarke Gayford is the host of Fish of the Day tonight at 5.25pm on Three.