I posted about my love affair with the New Zealand capital of Wellington a few weeks ago and ever since have felt I must do justice to Auckland – New Zealand’s largest city. I have lived in Auckland for only one year – as a student – but I have spent a lifetime visiting the city because the majority of my family live there.
From afternoons wandering through the Botanic Gardens to mornings with my Grandparents at the Avondale Markets to a beautiful blur of wine and song at a Waiheke Island festival, I have happy memories of Auckland. What comes to mind when I think of Auckland? The warm air in summer and the deafening noise of the cicadas; tall stalks of flax flowers reaching up into a blue sky with a sparkling sea behind them.
‘Cos its just been raining
The first thing to know about Auckland is that it rains quite a lot. Don’t get me wrong, Auckland has a very nice climate, temperately mild in winter and warm in summer. You just have to keep an umbrella or light waterproof with you because the subtropical weather means that it could rain any day – probably not for long and then it will clear up and the air will be all steamy.
Or moving north … Auckland is often the starting point for travelling in New Zealand. It is a fun city to relax and get over the jetlag before embarking on a tour of beautiful New Zealand. In the heart of the city you could spend an afternoon lying on the grass in the Botanic Gardens/Domain.
Or there are a plethora of beaches upon which to chill – my favourite city beach is Mission Bay and over the harbour bridge there are Takapuna and Milford beaches. Head out through the Waitakere Ranges to the west coast of New Zealand to find wildly beautiful beaches like Piha and Karekare.
And, for when you are ready to move on, take a look at this post on my favourite places to visit in New Zealand.
He walked the city
Central Auckland is very walkable and winding your way down hill from the University gardens through Aotea Square, through Queen Street to the waterfront will show you the best of Auckland city. I love the Chancery and High Street precincts for their cafes and boutiques. The new Britomart precinct seems to be developing nicely as well with shops and restaurants.
Get a flavour for Auckland’s rich multi-culturalism wandering through the city’s markets – after all Auckland is the world’s largest Polynesian city and 40 per cent of Aucklanders were born overseas! There are over two dozen markets in Auckland and these offer the best of shopping in Auckland for visitors with fresh produce, craftwork by local artisans and flavoursome food. It’s all a bustling glimpse into the cosmopolitan, multi-cultural life of Auckland.
He watches the city
Isn’t there always something great about harbour-side cities? Auckland’s combination of shiny glass and steel towers with sparkling water and green hills are a knockout. There is no doubt where the best view of Auckland is to be found and it should be on every visitor’s list of things go do in Auckland. The 328-metre Skycity tower forms a pleasing pinnacle to Auckland’s central business district and from its viewing deck you can see across the city to both the Waitemata Harbour and the Hauraki Gulf, as well as away to the blue Waitakere Ranges.
Watch the ferries and yachts enjoying another day on the water and plan a trip out to one of the many islands that scatter the gulf – from the imposing Rangitoto to Waiheke and beyond. Of course the viewing tower is just one part of a large entertainment and casino complex, featuring 10 bars and restaurants, two hotels and a theatre.
More like a mountain climber
Did you know Auckland has 48 volcanic mountain cones? This is because New Zealand forms part of the ‘Ring of Fire’ volcanic region around the edge of the Pacific Ocean. Don’t worry, despite New Zealand’s active geothermal activity everyone is pretty sure the Auckland volcanoes are dormant. The city’s lush vegetation grows in the rich volcanic soil and climbing up one or more of Auckland’s volcanoes is highly recommended. Mt Eden is an easy drive/walk in the central city and if you have time spend a day walking to the summit of Rangitoto – the massive island just offshore.
One of my favourite places to go climb some hills is a bit out of central Auckland in the Waitakere Ranges. There are some lovely communities out here – like ‘villagey’ Titirangi and the Arataki Visitor Centre is well worth a visit. There is a boardwalk through the canopy of a stand of magnificent Kauri trees and it is a jumping off point for 250-kilometres of bush walks and hikes.
I’d love to do the new Hillary Trail next time I am in Auckland – this four-day ‘tramp’ through 77 kilometres of native forest and wild coastline is named in honour of Sir Edmund Hillary, Everest summiteer and humanitarian who spent many happy days in the Waitakere Ranges.
That’s another thing I love about Auckland – it is always coming up with new attractions to surprise me.
By Natasha von Geldern
(with reference to Don McGlashan’s ‘Dominion Road’)
What do you love about Auckland?