One of the things that makes Auckland unique is the fact that it is situated on two harbours, and those harbours are ridiculously close to each other – 16 kilometers by foot actually, linked by the urban Coast to Coast walkway which crosses the city through Auckland’s lovely green belt.
On a particularly dreary winter’s day in June I stood on the edge of the Waitemata Harbour outside the Maritime Museum in Auckland’s Viaduct Harbour. I was joined by my Mum who is a keen walker and at the age of 67 is extremely fit and would keep women half her age honest. Mum had noticed a sign advertising the route a couple of months back and was dead keen to say that she had crossed Auckland in a day.
Thankfully the incessant morning rain had finally eased as we set off in the direction of the Ferry building. The main sign describing the Coast to Coast route is located at the bottom of Queen Street opposite Britomart transport centre. It details the route and explains that you need to look out for yellow direction markers placed along the way. It also said walking times would be between 4 and 6 hours, but I was confident that we could knock it off under four.
The first yellow sign we spotted is on the corner of Queen and Custom Streets, pointing in the direction of Emily Place. When I think of how many times I have walked along Customs St, I’m surprised I’ve never noticed one of these signs. The short sharp climb up Emily Place from Customs Street got the blood pumping and led to a little gem of an inner city park. The park has some grand Pohutakawa trees and contains Churton memorial, built to remember the first chaplain of St Paul’s Anglican Church.
Albert Park, one of Auckland’s finest, was next on the route before we headed through Auckland University, down Grafton Road, and into the Auckland Domain. The Domain is one of those places that is full of hidden paths, like the Cherry Grove. Passing the grandstand, we headed uphill onto Mountain Rd, past Auckland Grammar and its imposing main building.
The probable highlight for most walkers along the route would be the rewarding climb to the summit of Mt Eden. The 360 degree panoramas of Auckland are hard to beat. Walking back down the access road and down a track to Cecil Rd, Mum felt it was time for a cup of coffee. Mt Eden village is a worthy diversion and probably only adds another 500 metres to the walk. We ordered a couple of takeaway coffees from Frasers in the heart to the village and returned to the route proper.
From Mt Eden the next section is a little obscure as the directional arrows point you through the vast Auckland Teachers Training College. We crossed Melville Park (reminiscing on past cricket games my sister Deborah had played on the ground), through the leafy streets of Epsom, and crossing busy Manukau Road to admire the Logan Campbell memorial at the entrance to Cornwall Park. The walk takes in Pohutuakawa Drive in Cornwall Park, passing the tea house and the main road to the summit. Although it appears that One Tree Hill summit isn’t actually on the route, we couldn’t resist the temptation to take in another of Auckland’s better bird’s eye views.
Exiting Cornwall Park we headed through the Royal Oak shops and in the direction of Onehunga. After a wrong turn and some poor map reading, we ended up in Onehunga proper. Our trusty yellow marker signs appeared to be a little less frequent at this point on the route.
Back on course, we headed under the War Memorial Arch at Jellicoe Park and past its collection of historical buildings. On the home straight, we wound through Onehunga’s back streets before dropping steeply to Beachcroft Park, the conclusion of the walkway.