With its ribbons of greenspace, local bikeways, handy alleyways, and connections to the wider cycle network, Mt Roskill is in the running to be one of Auckland’s most ‘mini-Holland’ neighbourhoods. This guest post by Jon Turner, longtime Mt Roskill resident (and candidate for the Puketapapa Local Board on the Roskill Community Voice ticket), explores some of the local byways and destinations of this increasingly bikeable ‘burb…
When I read Helen King’s Insider’s guide to cycling in Mt Albert, I knew I had to join in the fun. As a long time Mt Roskill resident, I’m lucky enough to get to cycle to work every day, and often I’ll make a diversion on the way home just to enjoy our green spaces.
But before we get on the road, how do you define Mt Roskill as an area? It’s a nebulous beast, lacking a central shopping village a la Mt Albert and Onehunga. Instead, there are commercial pockets scattered throughout. You could start at the mountain – Puketapapa itself – and draw a rough circle outwards, but where does it end? The electorate map isn’t much use, either, encompassing parts of Royal Oak and Onehunga. As the author Mohsin Hamid says, “the lines of borders on maps are artificial constructs, as unnatural to us as they are to birds flying overhead.”
For our sakes, we’ll start at some handy Dominion Rd shops: La Voie Francaise, to be precise. Grab a coffee and something sweet or savoury to start your journey, arriving early to skip the lines. [Editorial note: La Voie is also home to some of Auckland’s crunchiest baguettes, if you’re planning a picnic along the way!]
Leaving here we head up Dominion Road away from town. (Nervous cyclists might want to avoid this part and start from War Memorial Park on May Road.) A swing down Louvain and we are on the “quiet” route, a meandering path that doesn’t see much use. Once you get to Renfrew Avenue, head up to Mt Albert Road where there is a signalised crossing. Cross the road, follow the little alleyway, and we come to the beautiful Hinaki Eel Trap bridge – which has its own Wikipedia page!
Now you are in the War Memorial Park and on the Puketapapa greenway. In summer there is baseball at the newly built diamond, and all other manner of team sports throughout the rest of the year. Turn right and follow the path past Lovelock Track, where world records were set and a mural of Murray Halberg’s gold medal moment has pride of place.
Next stop, beside the stream near the Wesley Community Centre, you’ll find the Wesley Market on Tuesday and Fridays, a great place for fruit and vegetables.
Cross Sandringham Road extension, and you’re in the newly reopened Walmsley Reserve. Take your time through here. What was formerly a concrete channel in a field now has native trees, naturalised stream, an open air fale and a wicked pump track. (Read more about the background of the Te Auaunga Restoration Project here).
Also, a very cool natural playground made of trees, both alive and fallen. Plan to spend some time here if you’re travelling with youngsters (or the young at heart) – this is a popular family ride and destination.
We’ll carry on along the stream and follow it under Richardson Rd, through the new underpass. Some might say we’ve briefly left Mt Roskill here, but the trip over majestic Te Whitinga bridge (which crosses SH20 just south of the Waterview Tunnel entrances) just has to be done.
Swing a hard right once you are off the bridge, and you loop back under Te Whitinga and head southwards along the SH20 bike path beside the motorway. Take care crossing Maioro Road, with its annoying sets of traffic lights.
As you continue, you have a choice: you can head back over the motorway using the Ernie Pinches Bridge, duck back along Stoddard Road (or use a parallel quiet street, like Farrelly Ave) to get some Ethiopian food at Cafe Abyssinia. Or carry on as the path leads you southwards and then up onto the flank of Puketapapa maunga.
Take a detour up to the summit (it’s not far) and check out the views from the top. Look south at the coastline – that’s our next destination.
Back on the SH20 path, you’ll cross Dominion Road and then find yourself alongside Keith Hay Park. Take a right off the cycleway here, and follow the path through the park, past the Tri-Star gymnasium and the Cameron Pool (BYO togs!). As you ride past the playing fields, keep your eyes peeled for Three Kings United in the winter or Eden Roskill Cricket Club in the summer.
(Note: the next section involves some on-road riding and a rather steep hill down to the Manukau Harbour at Waikowhai park, so budding young cyclists and those out for an ‘easy day’ might want to skip this section, and head to Monte Cecilia.)
Keep going straight along the south edge of the park, past the kindergarten, and you’ll emerge from Keith Hay Park onto Richardson Road. Cross Richardson using the pedestrian crossing and then go up McKinnon St, then through Molley Green Reserve, out the other side into Molley Green Place, and up Quona Avenue. (This will eventually be the final link in the Roskill greenways project, but for now, make sure you’ve got your smartphone map up!)
Careful crossing Hillsborough Road; there’s a zebra crossing near the superette. Then head down the hill to Waikowhai Park, which is a hidden gem to many Aucklanders. A great place for a picnic, with fantastic trails and beaches – you could easily spend a whole day here. However, we are on the move! Back up the hill…
We’ll go back through the same back-street way we came, to Keith Hay Park (although you could do this far quicker by cycling along Hillsborough Road, if you’re feeling brave). Once you’re back in Keith Hay Park, follow the path all the way back to the SH20 cycleway. This time, we are going to hang a right and head up to Hillsborough Road. Check out the pukeko and ducks that have settled the wetland beside the motorway on the way.
Once you get to Hillsborough Road, you face a delicious dilemma. You could take a slight detour here and go to Bluebell’s Cakery (Hillsborough branch) for some sweet treats, or carry on with our adventure.
If you choose the latter, swing left onto Hillsborough Road and head along to Monte Cecilia Park. There are some half-hearted cycle lanes here, but inexperienced riders may want to use the pavement to get to Monte Cecilia Park. This is our final stop, featuring the fantastic Pah Homestead. Here you can get a coffee and a bite to eat, explore the world of contemporary art in the TSB Wallace Gallery and then enjoy the huge range of specimen trees that are in the park.
Mt Roskill is known for a range of things, and armed with a bike you can explore the amazing green spaces we have been gifted as well as check out some of our beautiful businesses. Most of this route is pretty easy – barring the trip up the Maunga and down into Waikowhai Park. Of course, you could also split this adventure into multiple little adventures over multiple days.
I didn’t include some of our other great parks – Three Kings Reserve and the Hillsborough Cemetery are also fantastic places to visit. The key is to get out there and enjoy all of the beauty we have in Puketapapa/ Mount Roskill.
— Jon Turner, a longtime Mt Roskill resident, is running for the Puketapapa Local Board on the Roskill Community Voice ticket.
Editorial note, updated 19 August 2019: Also check out this AWESOME Pedal Puketapapa map of routes and great places to stop along the way, created by the visionaries at the EcoMatters Bike Hub.