Auckland City Limits (ACL) has gracefully slammed into the gaping hole left by the Big Day Out. With a range of music genres – from rock, indie, blues and even jazz, it pulls in a big crowd. The grassy Western Springs Park was a smart decision giving it a relaxed vibe with a chance to get close to the wildness in the mosh pit or hang back on the hilly areas and take in a bigger view.
Here’s some suggestions using Roadtrippers from the Bay of Islands.
If you’re leaving on Friday the 2nd, to get to ACL then stock up on goodness the day before at the Keri Keri farmers market in Paihia (open 1 – 4.30pm). Grab an Ikarus coffee or Blue Orchard smoothie, French crepes or go full noise for a cheese-krainer, Bratwurst, or Weisswurst in a fresh baguette while you purchase your locally made roadie treats: cheeses, fruit, fudge and Limoncello (the driver can have some once they get you safely to Auckland).
It’s twelve minutes up the Hatea River but go to Whangarei Falls. Go on. They are spectacular at 26 metres high and free to gawp at with plenty of room for everyone. And if you’re hot you can jump into the pool at the bottom of the mighty curtain of water. There’s also Abbey Caves to explore underneath if you're really up for adventure and cool on time.
While you’re eating your burger drive across Te Matau a Pohe, a spectacular, architect-designed bascule bridge which lifts for boats up the Hatea River. It only takes six minutes from Burger Bank, so even better, cruise to Te Matau a Pohe, get out and enjoy the burger and the bridge at the same time.
Step back into the Jurassic era and freak yourself out (kidding). Waipu Caves are 45 minutes down SH1 and while it’s easy to blast on through they are the largest cave passage in Northland, are not commercial, unguided and absolutely free. Bones of bats, birds, and reptiles lurk and fossil invertebrates with some good Stalactite action. The third chamber has glow-worms but you’ll get wet getting to that one so put your togs on. Entry is at your own risk and you’ll all need your own torch.
If you’re hungry or thirsty or none of the above you must stop at McLeods Pizza Barn, in the old Waipu post office, and grab a locally brewed, excellent brew. The pizzas are lip smackingly different (try the Gumdigger) and award winning beers range from pale ale, IPA to the ‘wee heavy’ Scotch Ale. For the driver there’s coffee or a ‘booch or plenty of fizz.
The Sculptureum might be hard to say but it’s a magical place that will have your imagination well lit for ACL. There are hundreds of pieces from local and international artists including an original Picasso and a huge Rhino from Normandy made of old sacks all artfully placed around three sculpture-filled gardens and six galleries. The giant pink snails make the perfect backdrop for a unique selfie.
20 minutes back on the road and you’ll feel elated from the giant rhino but it’s March, when the heat’s turned up and you’re likely to be hot. Stop in the Old Cement Works for a dip (or save it for the trip home). Surrounded by abandoned works, disused chimneys and old wells lie a deep lake that is great for bombing into. Google old photos of the works as you drive down the gravel road to get there so you can imagine them in their huffing glory when they ran nearly a century ago.
PLEASE CHECK THE ALGAE REPORT FIRST!