Western Springs Lake

New to Mt Albert and not sure how to fill in a day or an afternoon? Of course, you could soak up a few hours in the shops or cinemas at St Lukes mall or the town centre, but if you have kids in tow you might find greater rewards elsewhere.

Bruce Morris suggests a range of local attractions – many of them costing nothing more than a slightly accelerated heart rate.

Mt Albert's Rocket ParkRocket Park, at the corner of New North Rd and Wairere Ave, is a favourite for young children and the rocket itself has become a beacon for kids all over the district. The playground is fenced in, so the youngies can’t escape.

And if they aren’t tired out by all that rocket-climbing, swinging and sliding, take that picnic basket and walk 250m up New North Rd towards the village.

Alice Wylie Reserve in Mt AlbertThere you’ll find  tranquil little Alice Wylie Reserve – a beautiful little park with plenty of room for youngsters to romp, named after Alice Wylie, a former deputy mayor of Mt Albert.

Ferndale House, Mt AlbertFerndale Park is just 100m further away up New North Rd – another lovely picnic spot on the lawns in front of grand Ferndale House..

Owairaka ParkIf the kids are older and looking for a little more adventure, head for Owairaka Park (56-60 Owairaka Avc) where you’ll find everything from skate park, basketball and volleyball courts and flying fox to mini-circuit for bikes (with speed humps and road markings), climbing block with rock holds and a wide range of play equipment. Along with all the room you could possibly need to kick around a ball or fly a kite.

Auckland ZooAuckland Zoo is one of the city’s finest assets – a great little zoo by any international standards and on the fringes of Mt Albert in Motions Rd.

If you don’t have a car (there’s plenty of parking) and you’re not within walking distance, a bus might be possible (closest stop is 8124 on Great North Road, opposite Motions Road – and then a five or six-minute walk), or the MOTAT tram (free for Gold Card holders and those under five) from the museum front gate in Great North Rd.
Download website or phone 09 360 3805

Opening hours: The zoo is open every day except for Christmas Day, from 9.30am to 5.30pm for most of the year, and from 9.30am to 5pm between May 12 and August 31. Last admission all year is at 4.15pm.
Prices: Adults (15 years and over), $28; seniors (65 and over, with ID), $23; children (aged 4-14), $12 (under 4 free); students (with ID), $23; family pass (one adult, two children), $47; family pass 2 (two adults, two children), $72 (additional children at $10 each).

MOTAT old steam machineMOTAT (the Museum of Transport and Technology) is a wonderful grouping of exhibitions on two sites – the main museum and display in Great North Rd on the edge of Western Springs Lake, and the aviation hall in Meola Rd, with a tram (free with your museum entry) connecting the two (and also stopping at the zoo).

It’s a great value precinct and, unless you’re in control of very young children, a pleasant four or five hour exercise, perhaps with picnic lunch inbetween the two sites at adjacent Western Springs lake to make a full day of it.
Download website  or phone 09 815 5800

Opening hours: Every day except for Christmas Day, from 10am to 5pm. Last entry to the museum is 4.30pm.
Prices: Adults, $16; children (5-16 years), $8; students (with ID), $8; family pass, $40; Gold Card holders and children under five are free.
Tram rides: Free with museum entry, and free for Gold Card holders and children under five

The tram runs from the museum to the zoo and on to the Meola Rd aviation exhibition (and return). Fares for casual users (those who don’t pay for museum entry) are $2 return for adults ($1 one way) and $1 return for children (50c one way). A family pass for two adults and up to four children is $5. See website for schedule.

Western Springs Park in Mt AlbertWestern Springs Park: Is there a nicer reserve in Auckland? Fifty years ago it was something of a wasteland; today it is a city gem, on the edge of Mt Albert, barely a brisk 15-minute walk from St Lukes mall.

Western Springs is a wildlife sanctuary in the heart of the city fringe surrounding a natural spring-fed lake, one of Auckland’s early water supplies.

The lake is a refuge for the native orea (eel), and they can be seen trailing the swans and ducks. Along with the birds, the orea are tame and can be coaxed to take food.

The eels are an original part of the cultural and ecological heritage of Western Springs Lake – a fact that is reflected in the lake’s Māori name Te Wai Orea, which means ‘waters of the eel’

A flat sealed track (excellent for pushchairs) around the lake’s shores will lead you to wild fowl including native pukeko, teal, Australian coot and shovelers wandering the wide open green spaces.

If the sun is out, pack a picnic and, if you need the diversion, there’s a great little children’s playground to really wear them out.

Mt Albert Library (84 St Lukes Rd, next to the CAB, tucked alongside St Lukes mall) is a warm, friendly place (with plenty of activities) to find peace and quiet.

Fukuoka Garden in Western Sp;rings Lake ReserveWhile you’re at Western Springs Park or the zoo, have a look at the Fukuoka Garden, a lovely, tranquil spot on the edge of the park, 100m from the zoo main entrance. Entry is free and it’s a great spot for a 15 or 20-minute rest before charging on.

Alberton HouseAlberton House is Mt Albert’s premier historic attraction – our most iconic symbol beyond the mountain itself. It stands in the northern shadow of the mountain, at the intersection of Mt Albert Rd and Kerr Taylor Ave.

The homestead of pioneering Scot Allan Kerr Taylor was once the centre-piece of a 500-acre country estate and ($10 adults; $3.50 children) you can now wander the 18-room mansion and lovely grounds of a beautiful property bequeathed to the people in 1972. In summer, the monthly market days have become a great attraction, drawing visitors from all over the city. For more details, phone 09 846 7367 or download website

Mt Albert mountain roadOwairaka, the Maori name for the mountain that watches over Mt Albert, lost its peak to the demands for railway line ballast over a century ago. But it remains today a peaceful place giving great views across the city.

Take a walk up Summit Drive (a mildly challenging trek for the unfit or elderly, but plenty of opportunity to stop, swivel around and enjoy the vista) and then the ring road around the top. Heaps of space for the kids (and dogs) to burn up their energy and the outlook is fantastic.

Parking at the top of Summit Drive for those who don’t want to bust a gut. At the moment you can drive around the ring road, but not for much longer.

Oakley Creek in Mt AlbertOakley Creek is a lovely oasis in a bustling city, nurtured and protected by Friends of Oakley Creek Te Auaunga and home to a wide variety of flora and fauna, both native and exotic, including heron, weta and eels. It is the longest urban stream on the Auckland isthmus (extending around 15km) and surrounded by 50 hectares of almost continuous green space.

The creek flows from Mt Roskill through Wesley, Owairaka, Mt Albert, Avondale and Waterview before entering the Motu Manawa Marine Reserve in the Waitemata Harbour.
In its lower reaches, it incorporates the beautiful Oakley Creek Walkway, with the only waterfall on the Auckland isthmus , and is an easy tranquil walk from Phyllis St Reserve.

Roy Clements Treeway Mt AlbertThe Roy Clements Treeway (starting at Alberton Ave, on the edge of the northern boundary of the MAGS property) runs through to the retail area opposite St Lukes off Wagener Pl – and then on to Kerr-Taylor Reserve and Haverstock Rd. It follows the stream most of its way and is a pleasant, short amble (or shortcut) along a raised timber trail through trees and shrubs.

Mt Albert Aquatic Centre (in the grounds of Mt Albert Grammar School in Alberton Ave). Think wave pool and hydro slide, along with a standard 25m pool that is open every day from early to late. Download website or phone (09) 815 7001 for details and fees.

Golfer at Chamberlain ParkChamberlain Park Golf Course is an Auckland institution – one of just two 18-hole public courses across the supercity. Entry is off Linwood Ave and you can play a round here for $28 midweek ($25 if you turn up after 12 noon) or $30 at weekends and on public holidays. Juniors (16 and under with ID) are $15 midweek and $20 at weekends. Full details on 09 815 4999.

You won’t find a championship course (though in earlier guises it did host some big tournaments), but it is a decent enough test for a public course and relatively flat. Certainly, even if you duff your drive, you’ll be in a good frame of mind as you watch all those cars zipping past along the motorway towards a clogged city. Download website for full details.

If walking is your thing and you’re interested in history, pop down to the Citizens Advice Bureau (next to the library alongside St Lukes mall) for a copy of Auckland Council’s Owairaka-Mt Albert Heritage Walks. Alternatively, download website

You’ll find full details on these great local walks:

Farms and the Ballast Pit:
This walk traces the Allen, Sadgrove and Kerr Taylor farms, where walkers can visit the Kerr Taylor farmhouse ‘Alberton’. The walk notes the destruction of Owairaka through quarrying. There is a cycle way along Mt Albert Road for cyclists who wish to omit the cone from the trail. Walkers including the cone can either circle it by road or follow the tracks. Please note, the tracks are suited for agile walkers only.

Genteel Mt Albert:
Starts at the Methodist Church and shows the influences of the non-conformist religions on the development of the area. You will visit grand villas, Edwardian homes, Arts and Crafts houses and other bungalows. Mt Albert Grammar School and the Croquet Club are also included.

The People’s Walk:
Begins at Mt Albert Community Centre and loops round Wairere Avenue,Asquith Avenue, Malvern Road and Jesmond Terrace. These streets epitomize the housing boom of the 1920s. Fowlds Park can be included and St Lukes Church is visited at the end of the walk.

Mt Albert Shopping Centre:
Takes in the 1920s shopping centre and some of its historic plaques. It also notes the site of the King George’s Hall and the removal of the Presbyterian Church. Caughey House – ‘Rahiri’, The Kelly House by Chapman Taylor, Woodward Home and Farm. These buildings are not included in any of the walks but are briefly described at the end.

Alice Wylie Reserve in New North Rd is a great place for a summer picnic. Picture: Bruce Morris