Visited on 13 October
An historic Spanish mission style manor house nestles in the lee of Auckland’s only Western volcanic island and it’s accessible by car! (on one day of the year).
When I first decided to visit ALL of Auckland’s volcanoes I was a bit worried about how I was going to get to Puketutu Island (and also Motukorea/Browns Island) as A). It’s an Island & I don’t have a boat and B). It’s not open to the public. Well the first obstacle was easily surmounted as you will see from the satellite image above -there’s a causeway from the mainland out to the Island (called Island Road, no less). Hooray!!
The second obstacle was overcome when I happened to drop into a conversation with a friend of a friend about my “ALL the volcanoes” plan but how disappointed I was to not be able to get onto Puketutu Island. Since she works on the Auckland Historic Council (or some such, my memory’s a bit sketchy) she offered to send me an information brochure on Auckland Heritage Week when, for one day of the year, the exclusive Kelliher Estate opens it’s doors to the public. It was as close as I could get to the centre of the island so I was happy.
I was sceptical that this trip would ever eventuate, but a few months later I held in my hands all the information I needed to plan a Sunday afternoon jaunt to this special place. Somehow I managed to convince 16 friends to also explore this hidden homestead with me.
The whole Island of Puketutu was part of the Auckland purchase by Captain Symonds who sold it in 1842 to Dr Henry Weekes who’d fallen in love with the place. He soon sold it to Sir John Logan Campbell (founding father of Auckland), who after 43 years sold to Mr John Massey who sold to Mrs Bull. Sir Henry Kelliher bought the Island in 1938 an set about restoring the homestead and planting a diverse range of native and exotic trees. The main driveway plantings owe their lushness to a freshwater spring found by Sir Henry.
For afternoon tea refreshments, Dawsons catering had a large and glamorously decked out marque called the Phoenix Room. The deal of the day was “Devonshire” tea consisting of a scone and tea. However, this was no ordinary scone & tea combo, oh, no, this was the most delicious, melt-in-the-mouth, sweetly soft, springy but filling scone I have ever tasted perfectly accompanied by a Harney & Sons Hot Cinnamon Spice tea. I read later that they sold out before 2:30 a fact to which I can personally attest as I was lucky enough to nab the second to last scone.
Time to explore the gardens and if I’m honest, this is much more my thing than the house with it’s impressive collections.
A feature of this garden seems to be red flowers against a backdrop of green leaves planted on volcanic rocks.
After a pleasant afternoon, all too soon it was time to leave. The walk back down the driveway held a few surprises I’d not noticed in my haste to arrive…
Finally, the peak! How did I miss this on the way in? There used to be 8 volcanic cones in the Island but now, from what I can tell, there is just this peak and the cone behind it. That’s better than nothing, right?
The Transactions and Proceedings of the Royal Society of New Zealand volume 61 -1930 describes the Island as “one of the most interesting localities of the district” and that it surely is. Current activities on the Island include quarrying, farming, weddings and functions in the restored homestead and a film location. Dr Bruce Hayward calls Puketutu “the Browns Island of the Manukau”. Read more about the future restoration of the Island as a public park.
I hope to bring my children (or grandchildren, if I have to wait 30 years for the old quarry to fill up with biosolids) here one day in the future when it’s criss-crossed by a cycle path network and we can examine the geological features around the shoreline. It looks like there is a walking track near where Island Road joins up to the Island. I was too tired and improperly shod to explore it this day but I’d love to explore that one day. One day I will be back 🙂 Until then I just dream of this Island paradise.