Auckland is a city best seen from a distance. From the air you can see both harbours and how far the city sprawls in all directions. From the sea you can see some of the cities volcanoes standing tall above the rest of the city, with the exception of the sky tower which appears to pierce the clouds. Whereas Hong Kong was overwhelming to begin with, Auckland was slightly underwhelming. I’m aware that I’m not really selling the city so far, but bear with me.
Coming straight from a city as tall and built up as Hong Kong, Auckland is surprisingly low. A central section of buildings are tall, including the sky tower which is the tallest structure in the southern hemisphere, but most is rather low and sprawling. Rather than high rise apartment blocks, people live in detached houses with gardens so I imagine the quality of life is pretty good compared to most cities, and apparently Auckland is regularly counted as one of the best cities to live in in the world. However, like most cities it is also a good place to go if you have money and a bit more difficult to enjoy without it.
As our first stop in New Zealand and one of the few places we would be returning to we were determined not to blow our budget. Unfortunately a lot of the main attractions were quite expensive so we were selective about what we did and tried to choose things we knew we would enjoy as well as giving us an opportunity to see round the city.
Mount Eden was one of our first stops and is one of the 50 volcanoes that Auckland has been built on. From the top you can get a fantastic 360° view of the city and it was the first time I appreciated just how far from home I was. We really were the opposite side of the world! Another green space and viewpoint that we went to see was Auckland Domain.
The Domain is home to the Auckland Museum (which we decided not to visit as we heard the one in Wellington is better and that one is free!), a war memorial, and some lovely gardens. We spent a surprising amount of time in the tropical house admiring the different plants. The view from the museum was pretty interesting on the day we visited – towards the sky tower was very grey and looked quite stormy, whereas out towards the islands was bright sunshine and the sea was a beautiful colour. The two sides made a great contrast!
After The Domain we walked through the university campus and a park (getting a surprise to see a tree laden with blossom only to remember that it is spring here) in order to reach the Auckland Art Gallery. I’m not usually one to visit an art gallery over a museum or zoo but it was free and was meant to have a large collection of New Zealand art which I thought would very really interesting. It turns out New Zealand art is not Maori art, and that most of the gallery was exhibiting contemporary pieces which I didn’t understand and wasn’t particularly interested in. There was one very interesting exhibit based around brand perceptions and swapping label styles on well known products but beyond that I wouldn’t say it was a must see.
We also went for a walk around Waitematā Harbour which looks as though the wharf is being developed into quite a trendy area with different bars and restaurants and some harbourside apartments. There were also some pretty fancy yachts including one particularly gorgeous boat which was attracting quite a lot of attention.
Another notable thing that we saw was a community garden which we walked past each day. As well as growing plants to encourage bees, there was a “community fridge” (take what you need and leave things you don’t) and a board giving information about different events and classes running. One evening there was an open evening style event on with live entertainment, free banana cake and the opportunity to admire some wood carving which had been done as part of a homeless project for Auckland Art week. It was a really nice event and left me feeling like I need to look into some volunteering opportunities once I return home.
We didn’t come to New Zealand to see the cities so I wasn’t expecting to fall in love with Auckland. But as cities go it isn’t bad and I imagine it would be quite a vibrant place to live.