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My favourite places: Karen Walker

Fashion designer Karen Walker shares a few of her favourite Auckland spots.

I’ve always loved a good city park and, either at home or while travelling, it’s the lungs of a city that I find myself drawn to. Having recently welcomed a dog into our family my local parks have become even more important to me and it turns out that Auckland has some pretty darn good ones.

GREY LYNN PARK is a perfect example of a great public space being made out of the bits that the property developers of the 1880s didn’t want because they were too steep and wet. At first glance, the park’s dominated by playing fields but look around the edges and there’s plenty to charm in this park including a slightly overgrown, wild and magical walkway from the Dickens Street / Rose Road corner, three very generous fig trees in the Elgin Street corner as part of the lovely community orchard, a great bike track that leads the full length of the park and continues effortlessly to Cox’s Bay and a rather sweet kids’ paddling pool for those with toddlers. Its two off-leash dog areas are quite the scene morning and evening with a great community feel and its open fields are popular at any time for sports teams and those enduring personal training. 

WESTHAVEN PROMENADE through to WYNYARD QUARTER is a spot I use a lot whether biking or walking, with or without dog. They really have done a fantastic job with this area making one of Auckland’s greatest assets, its fantastic waterfront, so available. I tend to start from the bridge end of Curran St and work my way right around to the Viaduct  Harbour to admire the classic yachts berthed there – a refreshing antidote to the adjacent superyachts at the Silo Marina. If I’ve still got energy, or battery in my Kalkhoff e-bike, I carry on around to Wynyard Quarter where the Tidal Steps in Karanga Plaza are a lovely full stop to this excellent city, waterfront experience.

For a seaside promenade of a different sort it’s very hard to beat the TAKAPUNA to MILFORD walk. Sensible shoes and a good sense of etiquette around giving way to those heading in the other direction are essential as is plenty of time to stop and gaze at our beautiful Hauraki Gulf. It’s a perfect example of a public space that’s very light handed and authentic. Ice cream at the TAKAPUNA BEACH CAFE a midway treat. 

The HERNE BAY walks are one of the great joys of living in Auckland’s inner West. The beaches may not be the most pristine (why so many empty RTD bottles always?) but there’s something so charming about coming down all those steep, tree-lined stairs to discover a Pōhutukawa lined wee bay with lovely views across the Harbour to the Chelsea Sugar Refinery or the Harbour Bridge, and then, turn around and run back up the 100 or so steps you just came down. Start at HERNE BAY BEACH and work your way around to HAMILTON ROAD BEACH and just think how good all those steps are for the butt!

The traditional sightseeing spots for an elevated view of Auckland are MAUNGAWHAU / MT EDEN or MAUNGAKIEKIE / ONE TREE HILL but my favourite of our great volcanoes is ŌHINERAU/ MT HOBSON. Its position gives it stunning views of the city and Gulf and its gentle, winding pathways, planting and lack of traffic help to keep its under-the-radar vibe. Best time of year is when its commemorative spring flowers are in bloom. 

DOVE-MYER ROBINSON PARK and MARTYN FIELDS RESERVE are such a treasure for Aucklanders. The walk from Gladstone Road down to JUDGES BAY and then up again to ST STEPHEN’S CHAPEL is a joy and the development on Judges Bay a great addition to our waterfront – still don’t know if a fancy a swim in the water, but it’s a great place to sit and breathe. For a post-walk indulgence it’s very hard to beat the salted caramel hot chocolate at ROSIE nearby.

EDEN GARDEN is a slightly under-rated, under-utilised gem. Especially lovely during tulip season but great at any time of year it’s well worth the small admission price to find this haven in the city. And, as with all parks, it’s a true cross-generational gift, with the garden being the result of a big vision and a lot of hard work starting in 1964 when 16 generous Aucklanders began the journey to convert an old, abandoned, rubbish-filled quarry on the side of MAUNGAWHAU / MT EDEN into the tranquil oasis it is today.

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