If you’re coming for a holiday in New Zealand, chances are you’ll be landing in Auckland. It’s New Zealand’s biggest city, but not the capital – that’s Wellington. Auckland is where I live – where I chose to come for university – and I’ve spent a lot of time exploring it.
The free parts, of course.
Where to start? Well, you could take a walk down Queen Street – the main street, named after Queen Victoria – but you won’t find much that differs from any other city in world. It’s the narrow side streets I like, such as Vulcan Lane and High Street. They’re enchanting. I always have to resist the temptation to spend money in the posh boutiques and cafes, but there are pretty fountains to see as well.
Down one of these side streets is the Auckland Art Gallery. It’s free to enter, but even if you find art galleries boring, it’s interesting to walk past. The building itself is a work of art, and there’s usually something weird on display outside it.
The Art Gallery backs onto Albert Park, which is typically full of university students. It’s a nice place, with art, statues, a bandstand, weirdly awesome trees, flowers and yet another fountain.
If you like parks, though, you have to go to the Auckland Domain.
It’s a large area, incorporating beautiful gardens, duck ponds, a restaurant and a place that does nice ice-cream, miniature bush walks, splendid views across the sea to a volcano, and the Auckland War Memorial Museum. The volcano’s called Rangitoto, and it’s nearly as much a symbol of Auckland as the Sky Tower.
The Sky Tower is certainly not free to visit. It’s the tallest building in the Southern Hemisphere and pretty much visible wherever you are in the city, so it’s impossible to get lost in Auckland, which is why I feel so safe exploring it.
A brilliant area to explore is the Waterfront.
At the bottom of Queen Street stands the grand, old Ferry Building. Walk through this and you’re at the sea. It’s busy with ferries and restaurants, but somehow peaceful at the same time.
The Viaduct Harbour is a great place to have a drink, but go through a psychedelic carpark and over a bridge, and suddenly you’re in what I think is a very strange part of the city. It’s like it’s trying to be all futuristic, with modern, artistically designed buildings, all interesting shapes and blocks of colour. There are screens around, pictures on the ground, bizarre benches, new restaurants and bars, and twisted, metallic things. Then there’s the silos.
It’s called Silo Park; they’ve taken an old industrial site and turned it into a playground. The silos are painted and have poems on them. It’s a wonderful idea, but I find the whole place a little eerie. There’s a raised, metal walkway that doesn’t lead anywhere – it’s just so you can look out over the tops of the silos, and at all the yachts on the water.
There’s also vintage trams around there, but the tracks don’t go very far. The whole area’s still being worked on, though, so no doubt there’ll be more to explore soon.
So there you have it. Auckland’s a fantastic city to wander round, even if you don’t have any money to spend, and I’ve only talked about the very centre of the city. There’s a lot more to Auckland, for example a whole array of regional parks that have picturesque walks, stunning beaches and places where you can park a self contained campervan for the night, so you don’t have to stay in the city itself, which is expensive.
Even so, I like living in Auckland because I always seem to stumble across something new. When I was out taking photos for this article, for example, I found something a little bit amazing down at the Viaduct Harbour.
A piece of Astroturf had been laid down, with unusual chairs arranged randomly upon it, in front of an old shipping crate that had been painted a cheerful colour. Inside this crate was an almost perfect living room, complete with an armchair, coffee table, wooden floor with a Persian rug, pictures on the walls and pot plants in the corners, and lots and lots of book cases. I reeled with confusion and crept closer. Who would leave all this – all these books! – unattended?
I stepped into the crate and saw that there was bunting across the back wall, which read ‘B OK SWAP’ – one of the Os was missing. Oh! How lovely.
No one was around. I must admit I felt tempted to take one of the books, with no intention of bringing back another to put in its place.