Walks

St Heliers is named after a town in Jersey in the Channel Islands. The first farmer in the area was Auckland's first military commander Major Thomas Bunbury. He welcomed new arrivals to his "model" farm and invited them to contribute seeds. The bay's natural beauty was a big attraction and boatloads of eager picnickers would arrive each weekend.

Early photos show hundreds of people lining the beach. One old timer recalls cycling for miles over rough tracks to fish off the jetty and then swapping fish with a farmer's wife in exchange for food and drink. For many years a long wooden jetty stretched out into the bay. At low tide the remains of the wooden piles can still be seen at the end of St Heliers Bay Road.

The walk leads you past Ladies Bay, which was named after Lady Grey, the wife of George Grey, an early Governor of New Zealand. Further along is Achilles Point - Te Pane o Horoiwi. The headland known as Te Pane o Horoiwi was named after Horoiwi who arrived on the Tainui waka (canoe). He remained here while the waka continued on to Kawhia.

Today this is known as Achilles Point, which commemorates the 1939 battle of the River Plate where the New Zealand crewed HMS Achilles engaged with other allied vessels to defeat legendary German cruiser Graf Spee.

The view from the headland stretches from Auckland city in the west to the distant peaks of Coromandel Peninsula in the east. The distinctive cone shape of Rangitoto Island lies just across the water. This is the most recent and the largest of Auckland's volcanoes, emerging from the sea just 600 to 700 years ago in a series of fiery explosions. This was the only eruption witnessed by humans - footprints were found in ash deposits on the neighbouring island Motutapu. Rangitoto is now a reserve with the largest remaining Pohutukawa forest in New Zealand.

As you stroll down Glover Park you are entering the crater of an ancient volcano. Also known as Whakahumu, the St Heliers volcano erupted about 50,000 years ago. The surrounding houses and concrete water tower are built on a high "tuff" ring formed from ejected materials and ash. The seaward side eroded to form high cliffs that was once the site of a Maori pa. In human times the crater was a shallow lake but it was drained and filled in the 1950s to form sports fields.

Nearby Brown's Island - Motukorea is said to be the prettiest of Auckland's volcanic cones. When it erupted about 10,000 years ago, the area was in the grip of an ice age and the sea had receded far out into the Hauraki Gulf, thus the lava flowed out over dry land. When the sea rose again it covered much of the lava field and isolated the cone from the mainland. The island has a rich history of both Maori and European occupation and is an important archaeological site.