3 things to do in East Auckland this weekend

Trying to make sense of South and East Auckland is like peering into a kaleidoscope. Every twist reveals a new scene – there’s the colour of Otahuhu, the calm of Clevedon, the mana of Mangere, the solitude and beauty of the regional parks and the history of Howick.

Here are three things to discover in East Auckland.

Words: Cheree Morrison Photos: Jane Ussher

Swinhoe’s pheasant


It’s not rare to see a common pheasant wandering through the fields of Whitford, the golden feathers of the males catching the sun. While they are content with their reputation as one of the more beautiful birds in the area, they do give 100 Trig Road a wide berth. Should they step foot in the grounds of this address, their feathers will suddenly seem to dull and fade. After all, who could compete with the rainbow plumage of the Himalayan monal, or the grand make-up of the Lady Amhurst pheasant?
The Whitford Bird Garden is home to 80-100 birds of various exotic and unusual varieties. Many look as if they’ve been used as an artist’s palette during a particularly bright mood, their feathers like brushes dipped in paint. They were pet and muse to the garden’s founder, artist Blake Twigden. A celebrated painter with an affinity for birds both on canvas and off, Twigden established the gardens and aviaries in the late 1980s after returning from overseas. He bred and imported birds, including the rare Swinhoe’s pheasant from Taiwan.

These days the caretakers of these bold birds are Wayne Huang, Fiona Ji and son Jonathan. The family purchased the bird gardens four years ago as both a hobby and another feather in the cap for their business as education providers for international students. Businessman Wayne works with several Chinese universities to offer opportunities to come and study in New Zealand, and when not entertaining avian experts, the Bird Garden is part education centre, part introduction to Aotearoa. Many of their guests have never stepped foot on a lifestyle block, so Wayne and Fiona’s rural menagerie – including alpacas, miniature horses, turtles and a pair of Sulphur-crested cockatoos who like to loudly remind guests that their names are Charlie and Queenie – is met with sheer delight.

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Winter is the ideal time to visit as the birds have their best plumage, but walk with care as the path can be slippery. The bird garden is open Thursday and Saturday, or by appointment.

100 Trig Road, Howick. (09) 530 8807, whitfordbirdgarden.co.nz


During summer, the Pohutukawa Coast is riotous with the colour of its namesake, the New Zealand Christmas tree, or pohutukawa. Red threads fall gently from above, accompanied by the smell of sunscreen and the feel of sand between toes. The coastline shines in summer; the beaches at Omana and Maraetai are great for sitting or swimming, and the wharf at Magazine Bay is often shoulder to shoulder with fisherman and junior casters. Pack a lunch or pop into Maraetai Lucky Takeaway for fish and chips to enjoy on the beach.
When the sun is shining, the views across the Firth of Thames towards the Coromandel Peninsula, or over to Waiheke and the islands of the Hauraki Gulf, are worth pulling over for. The coastline is also home to several regional parks (Omana and Duder being two of the larger ones) with walks and picnic spots. Explore the O-Manawatere pa at Omana, which was the home of Ngai Tai.

The Pohutukawa Coast runs from Umupuia Beach (Duder Beach) to Whitford; about a 20-minute drive, or 16km. The road can be narrow along the coastline so take care.


“You never know what’ll walk through the door next,” says The Antique Shop manager Linda Clifton, and she’s right. Up there in the corner? That’s an elephant’s foot. Under the glass countertop? A Colombian emerald ring lying next to an art deco five-carat emerald and diamond bracelet. Opening the stack of courier parcels that pile up on the counter is better than any birthday, and Linda’s learnt to expect the unexpected, even in Howick, a suburb that many wouldn’t pick as an antiques mecca. The Antique Shop is owned by Apothecary owner and avid lover of all things weird, wonderful and hard to find, Ted Waters. Exploring the little store is like opening the jewellery box that Nan had hidden beneath her bed – some of it’s costume, some caters to a very specific taste, but tucked within the dust and hidden next to the clip-on earrings is a love story waiting to happen. Don’t leave without asking Linda about Tony the giraffe.

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31 Picton Street, Howick. (09) 533 4665.

This is an extract from the 2018 edition of the Insider’s Guide to New Zealand. For more on interesting and unusual things to do around the country, pick up a copy of the Insider’s Guide,  available online here.

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