Waterfront Revival Saves the Day in Auckland

Posted by on Feb 28, 2013 in Featured, New Zealand | 1 comment

We’re city people, but love the outdoors. So when it came to planning New Zealand, we immediately became enthralled with all the chatter about its natural beauty. There is plenty of debate as to how and where to spend your time when visiting New Zealand (this country truly deserves 3-4 weeks or more). Should you split it up evenly between both the North and South Island or just focus all of your time on one? After a little bit of research and a number of recommendations, we ultimately decided on renting a camper van to traverse the South Island for two weeks. Although mostly all of our time would be spent on the South Island, the easiest way for us to get to New Zealand was via Auckland, the biggest city on the North Island (and the entire country). Due to our connection times from Auckland to Christchurch, we ended up spending two nights, with the day in between to explore. To be quite honest, our expectations were low, but we were happily surprised. Insight from friends and online research turned up poor reviews, but “The City of Sails” did not disappoint. We quickly learned why almost 1/3  (1.4 million people) of New Zealanders choose to live here.
Queen's Wharf

Queen’s Wharf

Growing up in a small New England town, I’ve always been drawn to living on (or near) the water. Auckland lies on an isthmus between the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea so there are countless ways to see the city and its waterfront. As we walked down Queens Street, Auckland’s main thoroughfare, and made it to the water, my favorable outlook towards the city began. Queens Street is your typical main street – plenty of shopping and cafes – but it lacks any unique character or charm. Queens Wharf (at the base of Queens Street), and beyond to Viaduct Basin, Market Square and Silo Park is where the city comes to life. In digging deeper into Auckland’s history, I realized that the waterfront wasn’t always such a draw. Before hosting the prestigious America’s Cup in 2000, and more recently, the Rugby World Cup in 2011, huge plans were made to remodel Auckland. And the waterfront was the main focus. Until 2009, Queens Wharf was a private working dock, but now plays host to concerts, exhibits, and multiple lounging spaces to better connect the city to its water. To my delight, they have also added one of my other favorite things. . .street meat. For lunch, we grabbed some gourmet tacos from Mexi Kai, one of many food trucks that set up shop every Wednesday and Friday. As locals lined up on their lunch break, it was here where we could feel the transformation of a once dormant area. Further down, you’ll find Market Square where you can continue to see the city’s revival. People flock to the many bars and restaurants that overlook the hundreds of yachts and sailboats in Viaduct Basin and Freemans Bay. Market Square is a great place to relax and grab a drink. Silo Park, which can best be described as a group of industrial looking silos that have been given a vibrant facelift, rounds out the redeveloped row. Here, after 5:00pm, you’ll see another set of food trucks, some makeshift bars and a few random jam sessions to make for a lively evening atmosphere. Aside from the newly-renovated waterfront, two other must-hits from our day in Auckland include Mt. Eden and Albert Park. After a 25-minute walk from the top of Queens Street and an additional 20-minute ascent, the summit of Mt. Eden offers spectacular views of the city and its surrounding waterways. Albert Park is worth a stroll and some downtime to get off your feet. And if you have some extra time and are willing to spend $28, the top of Sky Tower, Auckland’s dominating skyline structure, will give you another perspective. To most, Auckland isn’t at the top of the list when describing places of interest in New Zealand. In my opinion, it’s wrongfully viewed only as connection or a place to pick up a campervan. If you enjoy cities and appreciate the ocean, Auckland should be included into any New Zealand itinerary. I believe that the ongoing waterfront redevelopment project will only increase this city’s appeal. Any visitor should take a couple days to experience Auckland, its waterfront, and its plethora of islands and beaches. Our one day just wasn’t enough.

One Comment

  1. So excited to hear about the beginnings of your fabulous journey. I am sure you will find time in other cities might not be quite enough also. Soak it all in Mike and keep the relaxed feel to all your upcoming days. I loved being able to Face Time the other night…it’s absolutely amazing that we can see each other so many miles away!!! You & Kat look great. Love & miss you. Keep the posts coming

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