Mt Albert isn’t exactly known as a cyclist’s paradise, but it has some good rides if you know where to look. Local rider Helen King shares her secrets to cycling in the suburb.
Being a bike enthusiast in Mt Albert can feel like being a Labour voter in Epsom: you know you’re in the minority and that the place isn’t really designed for you. To survive, you learn to avoid the majority of the population, navigating backroads and avoiding busy arterial routes.
A recent $6.5 million village upgrade was meant to help the situation by adding a cycle path through the town centre. But the improvements haven’t fixed all the challenges facing casual riders. The new cycle path cuts through the sidewalk like an unwelcome guest, stopping abruptly just before the tennis club at the centre’s western end. Riding its short length through the Mt Albert shops can be a defensive driving exercise, weaving between the rubbish bins and avoiding pedestrians who have veered into your way, only to spill out again onto the road.
Despite those issues, there are still adventures to be had through the golden triangle and beyond on two wheels, provided you know where to look. These are my top picks.
This path only has a three-star rating on Google based on two reviews. One of the reviewers took points off because they couldn’t get access to take pictures of the Waterview Tunnel. Three stars is less than what Pt Chev McDonalds has on Uber Eats. That feels unfair. Riding this path is easily better than the remorse of eating a Big Mac and being hungry an hour later.
I like to start at the Avondale end and head west. You’ll end up on the grounds of the Unitec campus, where you can pay homage to the former Whau Lunatic Asylum. As you cycle past the building’s imposing brick facade, check for ghosts in the windows. I haven’t seen one yet but a friend who went to design school at Unitec says they saw a ghost during a late night painting session. I still hold out hope for an encounter with the supernatural.
From here you can venture further west by taking the rainbow bridge, ride to town on the North Western cycle path or carry on into Pt Chev.
Waterview Path toward Mt Roskill
It’s technically the same path as the first suggestion but in a different direction. The path running along SH20A connects west and south. If you were feeling really enthusiastic you could ride most of the way to the airport from west Auckland on protected cycle path.
I’ve only gone as far as the top of the hill that heads toward Onehunga but you can ride out to Ambury Farm. The hill coming back is quite a beast so if you’re feeling tired, there’s always the option of catching a train back to Mt Albert.
Secret path to St Luke’s
Described as ‘like walking through the wardrobe and entering Narnia’, the secret path to St Luke’s mall is an adventure. As a child of the 80s, I was slightly traumatised by Mr Tumnus and his furry pants in the BBC version of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I’m pleased to report you are unlikely to come across strange creatures in furry pants playing the flute when you take this path. But you will avoid car park hell by riding your bike to the mall.
The entrance to the path is on Alberton Rd, a little bit up from the Fresh Collective supermarket and Pyrénées Cafe. Both are good locations to have a coffee and pastry after your shopping trip. This route is quite narrow so be careful of walkers.
Ōwairaka is the forgotten little sister to Mt Albert. It’s tucked behind the splendour of the mountain, but it holds its own charms. The paths around the area remind me of childhood adventures zipping around the neighbourhood’s cycle paths pretending to be the BMX bandits. They’re tucked away and not immediately obvious, but linked together they’re a good adventure route for confident children.
The route is complicated, so pay attention. Start on the path leading from Hendon Ave to Hargest Terrace. From Hargest, ride to Casino Terrace, where at the end of the road you’ll find another path tucked between two houses (beware: this one looks like a driveway). It will take you up to another path that connects you to Murray Halberg Park.
There are two options when you get to the top. The first is to cycle a few hundred meters up the road until you come across the Plunket Path. A word of warning though: whoever designed this route wasn’t thinking about how it will fare during wet Auckland winters, when the concrete track suddenly opens up into boggy grass.
The second option is to turn right and carry on through the park. If you have kids there’s a fantastic playground here. Otherwise, carry on out the carpark to Range View Rd and keep riding across the road to another path that will connect you to Stewart Rd (watch out for cars, especially on the weekends during rugby season). Turning left takes you toward Alan Wood Reserve.
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The newest addition to the Owairaka bike map is the connection from Ōwairaka Park to Walmsley Park. The route is part of the Te Auaunga restoration project, which has extended bike paths along Te Auaunga/Oakley Creek and the surrounding area. The results are spectacular. The path enables you to ride to Sandringham Rd or cycle under Richardson Rd and into Alan Wood reserve.
It’s a beautiful route and shows expansive, people-friendly cycle paths are already available in Mt Albert. Just don’t look to the town centre.
The Spinoff and Auckland Council is hosting In My Backyard: The City of Mt Albert on June 26 from 6-8pm at Ferndale House off New North Rd. If you’re interested in attending please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the first in a new event series looking at the future of Auckland, The Spinoff and Auckland Council hosted In My Backyard: The City of Mt Albert, examining the role of the suburb in the city’s development.