In a city where at any given moment you're no more than 25 minutes from a lapping shoreline, dining al fresco is more religion than entertainment afterthought. Now with summer off to a screaming start, we're sharing some of our best loved picnic spots so you can supplement the wine and cheese with a healthy dose of Vitamin D.
NORTH HEAD, DEVONPORT
Steeped in military history, North Head on Auckland's North Shore prevails as one of the best places in the city to enjoy a sunset. Offering the perfect blend of adventure and romance, visitors can explore gun emplacements, old war-time tunnels or simply revel in the 360 degree vista spanning city to sea. City-slickers have their choice of ferry links to the Victorian suburb — bonus points for picking up some fish 'n' chips at Riba on the way through.
TAWHARANUI REGIONAL PARK
Undisputedly my favourite park in the Auckland area, Tawharanui boasts a bodacious beach, adventure-filled rock pools, golden sand as far as the eye can see, and no shortage of lush grassy knolls for your next al fresco jaunt. Found on a remote peninsula an hour north of the CBD, Tawharanui is dotted with ancient pohutakawa trees and its proximity to Matakana means the weekend markets are an excellent pit-stop for artisan goodies.
ONE TREE HILL/CORNWALL PARK
Technically these are two different places. But they're joined and they're both awesome so they can count as one. One Tree Hill is a volcano. So if you're up for a little mountain climb then this is the perfect picnic spot for you. Surrounded by livestock that follow you as you ascend, you can stop on the way for a bite to eat amongst some sheep friends, or clamber your way to the top for lunch with a view. Cornwall Park surrounds the base of the volcano. It is beautifully landscaped with flowers and monuments and the grass is so green that it may be spray painted that way, although we are yet to find proof of this. In fact, the park is so beautiful that people get married there. Every weekend. So if you're into a bit of wedding voyeurism — spread out the picnic rug and enjoy the show.
Department of Conservation
HOME BAY, MOTUTAPU
Sheltered behind big sister Rangitoto, the gorgeous Motutapu Island hides one of the city's best picnic spots — an idyllic DOC managed campsite called Home Bay. Remote, basic and beautiful — what the site lacks in picnic tables and barbeque facilities it makes up for in breath-taking simplicity. Accessible by private charter or limited public passenger ferry, those with the day to spare can walk the hour and a half track from the Islington Bay Wharf.
LAKE WAINAMU, WAITAKERE
Easily one of the west's most underrated attractions, park the car on Bethells Road before setting off on the well-defined, four kilometre trek (will take an hour or so) to discover the gorgeous Lake Wainamu. You'll deserve a dip in the sparkling waters after filling your exercise quota, before dining the day away with friends and loved ones lakeside.
No list containing outdoor activities in the city would be complete without a nod to our iconic grand dame, Auckland Domain. Spanning some 75 hectares, those seeking solace are always able to find a private spot, and from the impressive Wintergarden to the Museum herself, there's plenty to keep all ages occupied. Meander along tree-lined paths, throw a frisbee in wide open spaces or just marvel at how lucky we are to have a space so beautiful smack bang in the city.
ANAWHATA BEACH, WAITAKERE
Another jewel in Auckland's western crown, only respectful picnickers need apply here. Recently identified as an area in need of natural regeneration, a number of local walking tracks have recently been closed to the public, but lucky for us, the pedestrian access only Anawhata Beach is still reachable via the Anawhata Beach Track. Pass down the steep gravel track and sand dunes from the end of Anawhata Road and you'll be treated to spectacular west coast beauty, with nearby Keyhole Rock one of the most ruggedly serene photo ops. Sheltered yet wild, swimmers are warned to take care when venturing into the powerful west coast waters.
AWHITU REGIONAL PARK
The perfect spot for a leisurely Sunday drive, find the Awhitu Peninsula on the south west shores of the Manukau Harbour — a stunning one and a half hour drive from Auckland's CBD. The park boasts access to both Brook and Kauritutahi Beach, with access to camping, wood-burning barbeques and a host of small walking trails suitable for the whole family.
TAWHITOKINO BEACH, ORERE
For a secluded picnic spot to impress, look no further than the foot access only Tawhitokino Beach, 20 minutes east of Clevedon. Enjoy the scenic drive around to Kawakawa Bay before parking at Cashmore Bay and beginning the short climb over Papanui Point to the sprawling golden sands of Tawhitokino. Private and gorgeous with nor-westerly views to the Coromandel and Chamberlins Island, check the tides before you go to ensure a smooth descent.
PARNELL ROSE GARDENS
Also known as Dove Myer Robinson Park, the Parnell Rose Gardens are a favourite haunt of the Instagram-crowd, and for good reason. Boasting more than 5,000 roses, the place is bloomin' beautiful. The perfect setting for a stroll with your significant other or even Grandma. Be sure to stop in at nearby Rosie and add their awesome kiwifruit, lime and mint soda to your picnic haul.
KENDALL BAY, BIRKENHEAD
Sandy, sheltered and harbour bridge adjacent, day-trippers can discover Kendall Bay tucked along Kauri Point Centennial Park. Hidden by native bush, it's the perfect, private beach for a dip, but be sure to bring a blanket for maximum picnic authenticity. The nearby Chelsea Sugar Refinery provides plenty of entertainment for families with kiddies in tow, with a swathe of short walking tracks in all directions.