Less than 45-minutes south of Auckland on the other side of the Bombay Hills is the little township of Pokeno. For years it has been the stopping off point for travellers, having a break in the drive south and east and having an ice-cream at the Original Pokeno Ice Cream.
Of course, there is more than ice-cream here as it is a takeaway as well, but it is well known for its cheap ice-cream. With many delicious flavours, you’ll be spoilt for choice.
If you visit on a Sunday between 8am-2pm you can also visit the Farmers Markets held on the other side and just down the road from the Original Ice Cream Shop.
An hour-and-a-half South East from Auckland is the Karangahake Gorge, steeped in history, walks and waterfalls.
A good large carpark is on the right-hand side of the road, coming from Auckland, and is where you start your walks in the Karangahake Gorge.
There are tracks taking you to places of interest, taking from 5-minutes to nearly 3-hours, seeing historic sites and nature at her best.
The very long and dark tunnel that has lighting from the roof every 20 metres or so. You can just see the light at the end of the tunnel
I did the tunnel loop track which starts just after you cross the bridge. You can use either track once you're on the other side. I chose to go up first instead of over the second bridge, which then followed the river downstream. After crossing another bridge over the main highway, it takes you to the entrance to the tunnel which is just over a kilometre long at 1100 metres.
Although it is lit, (the flash on my camera has lit it more than it is) it is still pretty dark in here and a torch is recommended
Once you have passed through to the other side you can either turn right, which takes you back to the car park via the other track you could have used, or you can carry on for another 3km to Owharoa Falls.
The road on the left-hand side and the track and the right-hand side with the Ohinemuri River flowing in-between
The beautiful Owharoa Falls are only one minute walk off the road and two minutes from the carpark. All you need to do is turn off the main road through the Karangahake Gorge, and cross the one-way bridge then turn left just after into the carpark. Just 100m up the road is the entrance to the track and a minute down is the falls.
With such an easy walk, it's hard to believe that these falls can be so beautiful but they are. You can swim in the pool in the summer but care needs to be taken as strong currents, deep holes, snags and slippery rocks can be fatal.
If you're after lunch or dinner on your trip there or back to Auckland, the L & P Café is the place to stop and refresh.
Only about 10 minutes back toward Auckland from Karangahake Gorge, Paeroa is a great little town with plenty of places to eat as well as the L & P Café where you can have your photo taken with the big L & P bottle.