1) Visit the lookout platform on the top of Mount Kaukau.
Mt Kaukau with its radio tower stands above the Northern Suburbs like a geological epiphany. It influences the suburbs’ weather and provides a sense of drama to the landscape in which the housing suburbs nestle.
There are a number of tracks working their way up Kaukau (Two Cows or Double Cow as some call it – kau means cow in Maori). For those wanting to really strain their lungs, you can also access the summit on bike by starting at Old Coach Rd in Johnsonville or for the truly adventurous, you can ride the Skyline trail from Makara Peak affording magnificent views of both Wellington and Makara Valley along the way. Make sure you take a jumper, even on the warmest and stillest days there is often a cool breeze blowing on the summit.
2) Swim at Khandallah pool in the height of summer.
After a lusty climb to the top of Kaukau, there is nothing better than refreshing yourself with a dip in the brisk waters of Khandallah Pool (an alternate Maori meaning of kaukau is to bathe). This pool was free to use until recently and is one of the only public unheated outdoor pools in Wellington. It is open from late November till the end of March every year and costs a gold coin to enter. You have to be very brave to enter the water before 10am as the sun hasn’t had the opportunity to take the chill off the pool for the day. Khandallah park is a real hit with the younger children and is one of the most sheltered outdoor spots to go in a Norwesterly. If you are needing caffeine, Cafe du Parc will serve you up something adequate in a takeaway cup, though it isn’t the place to go if you are a coffee snob.
3) Take the Train. For those who don’t use public transport, the Johnsonville Line offers a fun outing and a unique view of the suburb with seven tunnels and eight stations. My five and seven year old love this 20 minute train journey and look forward to it as a regular school and kindy holiday activity. Once you reach the end of the line in town, a short walk to Astoria for a well earned coffee and a bowl of fries for the kids gives you the energy for a browse and play at Toyworld in Ballance St before hopping on the train again to return to Johnsonville.
4) Enjoy Coffee at Rosa’s – Rosa Cafe in the Khandallah Village is a coffee lovers delight. Victor really knows how to press a great espresso. Rosa also twilights as a deli, catering company, and wood fired pizza place so the food selection is always fresh, homemade, and delicious. In recent times, Rosa’s has expanded into the shop next door and now features a small outdoor courtyard that catches the sun late morning to early arvo.
5) Spice your life with a Beef Madras and garlic naan from Currytogo in Newlands. If you like your food spicy, then a friday night takeaway curry from Curry2go cannot be overlooked. I have been a regular here since I discovered them. Having worked my way through the whole menu and back again, I can truly say that I have never had a meal that I haven’t enjoyed. My favs include the beef madras, chicken tikka masala, lamb saag, and lamb rogan josh. The hard working owners make their food fresh and cook the breads to order in their tandoor oven. They also deliver for a nominal charge to anywhere in North Wellington.
6) Picnic in Seton Nossiter Park. Located in a valley between Paparangi and Grenada Village, this park offers a picturesque spot for a picnic, to ride your segway, or walk the dog. A stream meanders through the valley, and stands of native bush are complemented by the landscaping work and plantings undertaken by the Council and the local community. My kids love to play in the stream and build a dam.
7) Quench your thirst at Monteiths Ale House. On summer Sunday afternoons, Monteiths (formerly the Posties Whistle) in the Khandallah Village has live music and cheap Summer Ale. It is a great destination when the weather lets you sit in their outside bar area in the sunshine. If you sign up for a loyalty card, you can also get a free pint on thursdays and fridays just by walking in the door. $10 curry night is also well patronised, as are the regular quiz nights.
8 ) Gorge yourself on Easter buns from Nada Bakery. Around Easter each year, the smells that begin to waft from Nada (can I have a nada one please…) on the main road of Johnsonville take on heavenly qualities. The locals working in the area, know to put their order in for two or three dozen of the fruitiest, tastiest buns available in the city. The previous owner, a local personality who has since passed away, added to the scents wafting from the ovens at the back of the shop by liberally sprinkling cinnamon onto the red carpet that was rolled out of the shop door and onto the footpath to catch passersby in his honeytrap.
9) Take the kids for a runaround at a play park. Nairnville, Churton Park, and Khandallah Park are all highlights. The majority of the play parks in the area have been revamped in the last few years. The slide at Nairnville, the flying fox at Khandallah, and the climbing net and swings at Churton are my kids top picks.
10) Ride a horse in Ohariu Valley. As an adventure off the beaten track, horse tracking with the Country Club Riding Academy in Ohariu Valley is a fun activity. Horse trekking gives you a bit of an appetite, so fill your tummy afterwards at the Saddleback cafe
11) Taste in Khandallah – David and Gary have created a fine dining experience in the heart of the burbs after time spent running a deli cafe in the boutique vineyard town of Martinborough. You must try the lambs fry and bacon and the chicken liver pate is fantastic.
12) Watch the Johnsonville Christmas Parade - once a year the suburb comes to a standstill with the parade running a loop around the CBD of Johnsonville. A highlight in the annual Northern Festival that also includes a fair and live entertainment.
13) Get your hair cut in a caravan – for the men in the household only. The $15 haircut Darrel and the team at “The Caravan” offer is value for money in temporary premises that have stood the test of time.
14) Explore Kaiwharawhara stream – The Kaiwharawhara stream that begins its life in the Otari Native Plant Reserve flows its way quietly North East and eventually empties itself into the harbour at the bottom of Ngaio gorge. There are plenty of walks in and around the valley that holds the stream but my favourite walk is the journey following the stream bed itself from the carpark at the north end of Otari. Tunnels, waterfalls, glowworms, swimming holes, and juicy black berries are all covered in this fun off trail adventure. An old pair of shoes is imperative as much of the journey is in the stream itself starting with the tunnel under Black Bridge road at the very start of the walk. A towel, a small packed lunch, a water bottle, some sunscreen, and a small torch are a good idea too (though the tunnels are much more fun negotiating in the dark – don’t worry, there aren’t any large pools to fall into in the blackness, though there may be some wetas!). This is a journey only handfuls of people have undertaken, and most inhabitants of the surrounding suburbs have no idea of the natural delights that are hidden in the valleys in their own neighbourhood. Small trout can also be caught in this stream if you have the skill.
15) Fly a kite at Alex Moore park – every year the Lions Club puts on a kite day as part of the Northern Wellington Festival. This is usually some time in early December. The spectacle of myriads of kites all shaking and shuddering in the wind is something to behold. Everyone is encouraged to participate with prizes given out during the day. The biggest kites have to be anchored to the ground or tied to car bumpers in case