Michelle Langstone: Exploring Auckland’s Te Henga/Bethells Beach walkway

There is something a bit magical about a picnic at this time of year. You know it’s the wrong season for al fresco dining, and you’re hesitant to go out into the biting cold, but you’re seduced by the promise of delicious food, and by the child in you, who’s excited. You wrap up, and you warm up, and suddenly it feels exhilarating to be out and free.

The requirements of a good picnic are simple: a Thermos flask of something hot to drink, the more sandwiches the better, an orange, a bar of chocolate, and something to store your rubbish in. Make sure you have a thick blanket in your bag, and layer your thermals like you’re a Kathmandu model. Grab a book on your way out the door, just in case.

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We head out to Te Henga/Bethells Beach, and join the Te Henga Walkway, part of the Hillary trail, where the track takes you from a car park across a bridge, through some farmland, and finally up above the sprawling, dark stretch of beach itself, which is almost deserted, and where the waves roar and mist the shoreline.

Though occasionally steep, it’s not a challenging walk — there are many places to stop and take in the view, and to watch the tui tumbling in the trees. It’s a track I’ve walked most often in the summer, trailing a beach towel, barefoot and ready for a swim at the neighbouring O’Neill’s Bay. In winter the bright cold air and salt gusts coming off the sea wake you up and shake out the dust accumulated from spending so much time indoors. The rain has finally arrived out West, bringing much needed green to the landscape, and the native bush we walk through is lush and luminous. New Zealand in wintertime is a green beauty.

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