City Guide – Auckland
For a great blend of the beauty of nature, and a buzzing city, look no further than Auckland. In Māori, its name is Tāmaki or Tāmaki-makau-rau, meaning ‘Tāmaki
with a hundred lovers’, referring to the fertile land and many streams of water that run through it. Located in the northern part of the North Island, it contains around a third of New Zealand’s whole population, so is quite the contrast from the other sparsely populated areas of the country, and has the feel of a large western city.
A visit to the suburb of Parnell and its shops & restaurants is well worth the time, and will give you a look at one of Auckland’s oldest areas. You will find the bustle of cafes and restaurants, and you can also discover several heritage buildings. Another sight worth the time is Tamaki Drive, which offers a great location for a summertime stroll along the waterfront that are lined with Pohutukawa, bright red native trees that are associated with Christmas. A drive down this road will also allow you to find Mission Bay, Kohimarama and St Heliers, and to (perhaps) enjoy a peaceful swim.
Further along heading East from St Helliers Bay you will find Achilles Point lookout, where you can capture panoramic scenes, and discover Māori carvings. Auckland is actually built on 50 volcanos, and you can explore the Volcanic Field with highlights being Mount Eden, North Head, and Rangitoto. North Head to Long Bay contains a stretch of beautiful beaches suitable for supervised children, but they can be very shallow at low tide.
A short ferry trip away, you can find Devonport, which is filled with historic buildings, as well as two volcanic cones.
Then there is One Tree Hill – a 182-metre (597 ft) volcanic peak in Auckland and an important memorial place for both Māori and other New Zealanders. The suburb around the base of the hill is also called One Tree Hill. It is surrounded by the suburbs of Royal Oak to the west, and clockwise, Epsom, Greenlane, and Onehunga, and it is located to the immediate south of the central city. The summit of the hill provides views across the Auckland area, and allows visitors to see both of Auckland’s harbours. The area contains two parks, One Tree Hill Domain and Cornwall Park, which are next to each other and is open to the public.
One Tree Hill has a complicated history involving British colonisers chopping down a sacred Totara tree, and replacing it with a Monterey pine. Today it doesn’t have a tree on top as you may expect – but instead there is now a monument where a tree used to stand. The Monterey Pine was irreversibly damaged by Māori activists and eventually brought down in 2000. Relations improved later, and a grove of pohutukawa, totara, and other natives, were planted at the site in 2015. To find out more about Māori culture, the Auckland Museum is a great place to start, and also includes a cultural show.
The fertile land and plentiful waters that surround the city have resulted in the avaiolability of world-class food and wine in Auckland. Also around 40% of the city’s population are born overseas, reflecting a diverse and multicultural community, from which there are a wide range of cuisines available – in particular; Japanese, Chinese, and Korean eateries. Ponsonby Road, Grey Lynn, and Newton all offer a bustling congregation of restaurants. It’s also worth trying car park markets, with food from all over the world, including delicacies from Argentina, Hungary, and Turkey.
Within the city, you will find the Viaduct Harbour, where you can enjoy a fancy meal and a drink, whilst admiring the historical plaques, sculptures and expensive
yachts. Towards the western side, you can catch a movie, or visit a market at Silo Park. The city is also a great base to explore further out, with west coast beaches offering black sand beaches, and rainforests full with tumbling waterfalls, with nature providing the entertainment. Within the city limits, you can also bungee jump from the Sky Tower, or walk around its edges, from 192 metres above the ground. For sports fans, you can also catch the New Zealand Warriors or Auckland Blues play a game of rugby.
Central Auckland hosts a variety of different shopping experiences, including local and international contemporary designers, as well as retro and vintage stores. Queen Street is the place to go, whether you’re after a typical souvenir, or hope to browse its luxury boutiques. On Karangahape Road, there’s a strong community feel, as artists, musicians, and writers come together, making it the perfect place for locally-made products, vinyl collections, and vintage items. On Ponsonby Rad you will find New Zealand gifts, jewellery, and crafts, with an upmarket feel.
In the city centre, you are spoilt for choice with the range of luxury hotels, including international chains. Suburbs can also be good choices, as you will find a unique feel to wherever you stay, from Ponsonby to Freemans Bay. If you venture to Devonport, you can stay in lovely Edwardian B&Bs, and enter into the city on a tranquil ferry ride.
Auckland is a great place to start your journey in New Zealand, and a spring board to other destinations, such as the islands of the Hauraki Gulf, perfect for catching some surf, or swimming in its shores. It’s worth spending some time here, even if it is just one or two days, to learn about the country’s culture, and discover its blend of cityscapes and natural beauty.