Thursday 27 September 2018

An Open Sanctuary- Part 1; Shakespear Park

Real Time

To try and keep up to date, I'm going to do a few more short posts rather than wait until I have a stack of photos to process and then have to spend a couple of days writing up a long post. We'll see, but you know how it is, it's very hard to change a habit of a lifetime (well 6 years of blog writing anyway).

From Ardmore we carried on heading north towards our next destination...

...timing the drive through Auckland just right as there wasn't too much traffic on the motorways. It's been five years since we last saw the Sky Tower loom up ahead of us. 

Once across the Harbour Bridge and through the northern suburbs we headed out along the Whangaparaoa Peninsula where the locals have this flash (fairly new) control system to ease congestion during rush hour traffic. The middle lane changes direction depending on the traffic flow. Outside rush hour it becomes, as the sign says, a flush median. 

You might wonder why this was of interest to me; we used to have this over the causeway on Chapel Street in Tauranga for a number of years (before the expressway was built). We didn't have flash lights and signs though; ours were just road cones that were moved from one lane to the other during rush hour- it fixed the problem though! 

Twenty kilometres later we arrived at the tip of the peninsula; our next camp is through that pest proof fence. The automatic gates open as we approach; of course we have checked we have no stowaways onboard- you know us and our mouse traps; they are permanently set in the rig.

This is the stunning Shakespear Open Sanctuary, a 500ha Auckland Regional Park that was once a large farm at the end of the peninsula.

This is a ideal site for a sanctuary, a relatively short 1.7km predator proof fence runs across the narrow isthmus between Army Bay on the north side and Okoromai Bay on the south side while water borders the remaining three sides of the sanctuary. You can see the fence snaking down through the gully here on it's way to Okoromai Bay. Gulf Harbour houses overlook the bay.

Mr WH Shakespear purchased the farm in 1883 and built the family homestead overlooking Te Haruhi Bay in 1910, it's now a YMCA Lodge. The farm was purchased from the Shakespear family by the Auckland Regional Authority in 1967. The end of the peninsula was also an important defense site during WWII and the army acquired (and still has) 130ha at the northeastern tip which is fenced off.

The farm woolshed used to sit right in the middle and to the front of Te Haruhi Bay; obviously for ease of shipping sheep and wool from the farm.

The historic woolshed has now been shifted back from the water and sited below the homestead, you can see it mid right in this photo (click to enlarge), the homestead is higher up to the left. Our camping area is on the right side of the road above the cars you can see, You can just see the end of a caravan below one of the trees.

The Auckland Council run a website booking system for all of their 26 regional parks; bookings for camp sites and camping grounds, for accommodation in houses & baches within the parks, for functions inside buildings (such as the woolshed) and outside for picnics & parties at the numerous BBQs that are dotted around the park.

It's quite a long-winded and often confusing website to use but once you get the hang of it, it does work. It just takes a bit of time to organise things, and to get your bearings if you're unfamiliar with the parks and their layout.

We initially wanted to book at the campground (basic) in the park where you can stay for 7 nights, but it was closed because of the ground conditions. This only left us with the CSC (certified self-contained) camping area, which was fine except that there was a maximum of 3 nights only.

Once the booking is confirmed ($15pp per night here) the combination number to the gate into the camping area is sent via email- so you do need to be organised before hand if you're wanting to stay (or risk sitting outside a gate for a couple of hours waiting for confirmations and emails).

There are 4 hard stand areas to park on the side of the drive in the CSC area or you can park on the grass if the ground allows it. We had the place to ourselves the first night and then 2-3 vans for the next two nights. In the end I decided that I liked this area probably better than the other camp which was at the end of the bay.

It wasn't too far to walk across the grass, pass under the large pohutukawa trees lining the sand dunes, to reach the beach.

Where another world can be seen far across the water...

Sky Tower & Auckland CBD
... and Rangitoto Island in another direction. 

The bird life throughout the park is amazing....but more on that in the next blog.

To be continued....

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