The last time I wrote we had just left the wonderful Coromandel and going from very few people back into a city was undoubtedly going to be a culture shock. Seriously, it had been months since we'd been anywhere with lots of people, Auckland has lots of people and traffic! 
We had decided while in the Coromandel that the next main base would be in Muriwai, but that is quite a trek from Thames with a caravan so we opted to break the journey up with a short stay just south of Auckland at Ardmore. This was a great base to check out the first of the Auckland Regional Parks we would visit at Waitara. Like the other regional parks it is amazing to be such a short drive from the city and find yourself in solitude in 188 hectares of coastal walkways, native bush and cycleways. All of the regional parks are a hive of activity over the weekend as busy city dwellers try to find some space in which to breath.......during the week though they are generally deserted, bliss.
After Ardmore we navigated Auckland's motorways out to the west coast for our destination of Muriwai where we would spend the next six weeks. The west coast of New Zealand has a reputation for being a little bit rugged and ever so slightly windy ;-). It didn't disappoint in winter with days of wind and rain a regular companion on our stay here. Those same weather systems, did though, make for some stunning sunrises and very bracing walks along the beach. Winds in excess of 140km/h made standing up on the cliff top where we were a little interesting to!
Muriwai is primarily famous for its Gannet Colony which you can see easily from a coastal walkway. Slightly bad planning on our part though as they make their way over to Australia for the worst of our winter so the normally busy colonies where empty.....oh well, will have to go back later in the year to photograph these magnificent birds. The rugged weather conditions coupled with a fantastic beach also make the area a magnet for surfers, blokarts and kite surfers who can be seen in large numbers every weekend. 
It took a bit of getting used to but we did brave the city on a few occasions. Highlights being a trip to the Art Gallery, Silo 6 exhibition space and, of course, various trips to craft breweries. No doubt about it, New Zealand craft brewing capability continues to get better and better!
Personally I find the whole area sprawls far too much with the CBD not being attractive and like any other city in the world. However, as as skyline it is stunning at night and best seen from across the water in Devenport which is just a 15 minute and cheap ferry ride away. As a bonus Devenport also happens to have a number of great cafe's, restaurants and lovely areas to walk in making for a perfect starting point if you don't fancy navigating the city traffic.
Next stop for us is the top of the North Island as we make our way around the Bay of Islands. Until then, here are just a few of my favourite images and memories from our stay in the Auckland area.
From Browns Bay we could see Rangitoto Island in the distance.
All good seaside locations need someone feeding the seagulls. This old boy with his bag of bread was very popular.
Kite surfers getting ready to brave the wind and waves at Muriwai.
At high tide the waves crash in and over these rocks leaving lots of pools of water when the tide goes out.
Another storm front makes its way towards us. High winds and rain not far away!
Piha Beach is one of the most famous beaches in the area and New Zealand courtesy of lots of surf rescues required all year around. Over the summer and weekends Piha Beach is a very busy spot to while away a few hours, however, just a little further down the coast lies Karekare Beach which, in my opinion, is even more stunning to walk on and has a lot less people.
Piha Beach at low tide and sunset.....magical
As we made our way from Piha back to Muriwai we turned a corner to be greeted by this view of Auckland that's where all the light pollution comes from!
A door open in the art gallery led me to this spiral staircase, too good an opportunity to miss even if I should't have been there!
The Auckland Art Gallery is a fantastic mix of old and new art from a variety of disciplines all housed in a building which is an equally stunning mix of new and old architecture. Well worth a visit to while away a few hours in the city and, if it's raining, also has a great cafe. 
Every weekend bus loads of Asian tourists arrive at Muriwai Beach and they all attempt this same photo. We also noticed that everyday at sunset a bunch of photographers would arrive with brides to photograph by the water and rocks.....not quite sure where they keep finding them.
These brightly coloured birds are called Rosella and incredibly vibrant. They visited regularly at the spot we were located in Muriwai.
It may have been a very wet walk along Muriwai Beach but the constantly changing cloud did lend itself beautifully to this dramatic image.
Groups of tourists waited patiently for the footbridge to be lowered again once this boat had slowly made its way through.
A water trough in a paddock up on the cliff tops of Muriwai made for a great foreground reflection of another stunning sky.
If you fancy walking in the Waitakere Ranges and Muriwai then you will get used to going up steps.....lots of steps!
The visitors to Muriwai Beach do love to leave their mark on how much they love New Zealand, even on a cold and cloudy winters day.
These cliffs and rock stack on the rugged west coast at Muriwai would normally be full of Gannet's but not at this time of year.
We were lucky enough to have a pair of Kingfishers regularly visit the spot where we had set up home in Muriwai.
The west coast may be more suited to stunning sunsets, but just occasionally would put on a very nice sunrise to.
The start of a rare, calm and stunning day on the west coast.
That is one very large cruise ship just leaving Auckland Harbour!
Thankfully the cruise ship was long gone by the time I wanted to capture this image of the Auckland Skyline. Definitely the best place to see the city from.
A local in Devenport doing his regular round of feeding the pigeons. Fascinating to watch as they had no fear of him and he was so absorbed didn't notice me taking photos.
This colourful character was brightening up one of the towns on Waiheke idea what the music was supposed to be ;-)
I spent many happy hours photographing on and around these rocks at Muriwai. Saw more than just the one hapless tourist misjudge the waves and get wet, very wet!
Disused silos in Auckland have been turned into galleries and make for some great photo opportunities both inside and out.
Reflective surfaces abound in the CBD so looking up reveals some great lines to photograph.
I used to walk around Shakespeare Regional Park in Whangaparoa regularly when I first came to New Zealand in 2003 and loved the trees right by the coast. It was great to go back and found that they have now put a predator proof fence in the reserve and have been able to re-introduce the New Zealand Robin which are now breeding, fantastic.
My first three months in New Zealand back in 2003 were at Tindalls Bay, Whangaparoa. It was fantastic to revisit this spot and find that, despite the influx of shops and people to the area, this little spot has retained its charm and does not seem to have changed at all. A fantastic trip down memory lane and a very fitting image to finish up the trip to this area.
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