Auckland has got to be the most random, visited, but misunderstood city I have ever been to. Not a day goes by that I do not hear “you only need a couple of days to see Auckland” or “ah I can’t wait to get out of Auckland” but what is most baffling is why people do not think there is much to do in Auckland or that somewhere else in New Zealand that they haven’t yet visited will automatically be better?
Before I arrived in New Zealand when people asked me whereabouts I was going to be based, every single response to ‘Auckland’ was a slightly disappointed “oh right”. The majority of those people had never even considered going to New Zealand yet Auckland’s reputation carries a long way.
Please don’t get me wrong, Auckland is never going to offer its visitors the big city experience like Sydney, London or Los Angeles will, but has it ever really promised its visitors this experience or do we assume that as a city Auckland will compete with the rest of the world? Straight up, you can walk around the CBD of Auckland in roughly an hour if you walk fast and the shopping is mediocre if you ever visited another major city. However, it could be argued that Auckland offers its visitors a city that reflects the rest of New Zealand. As the main gateway to New Zealand, Auckland gives people a sneak peek in to what to expect from the rest of a fresh, relaxed, scenic country.
The Hauraki Gulf appears to be invisible to most backpackers in Auckland. Is it that special? Well, you can hike up a volcano on Rangitoto Island, you can visit endemic, native, protected birds on Tiritiri Matangi Island, you can taste the finest wine and see World War II bunkers on Waiheke Island and you can become completely isolated on your very own beach at Great Barrier Island. If that isn’t enough, in the Hauraki Gulf itself you can kayak, sail, and spot dolphins, whales and plenty of other diverse marine life. So why, I ask, do people seem intent on leaving so quickly? You are only missing out on some of the world’s most stunning volcanic islands!
If anything should we not encourage praise of a city on the water? I come from the coast and haven’t really ever strayed from the coast so I may be biased but is there really anything better than fresh seafood and a glass of local wine whilst watching the boats and birds? Not to mention the amazing fresh air that kindly comes with living by the water. Arguably, certain places in Auckland (some of the bars on the Viaduct!) could make the experience a little more affordable for backpackers but still, doesn’t it sound lovely?
Apart from the Hauraki Gulf, Auckland and its surrounds offers backpackers some great things to do including bungy jumping, skydiving, canyoning, Segway tours, the awesome Auckland Zoo, Kelly Tarltons Underwater World, Auckland Museum, some fantastic parks and gardens and the worlds only SkyJump (yes you really can jump off the tallest building in the Southern Hemisphere!)
What about the outskirts of Auckland as well? Within an hour of Auckland city are some of New Zealand’s most beautiful places to visit. How many cities do you know where you can reach both rainforest and coastline within half an hour. The Waitakere Ranges National Park is one of New Zealand’s most popular with the options of swimming, surfing, kayaking, fishing, horseriding, walking and general all round relaxation. Piha and the Kitekite falls are two of the popular spots within the Waitakere Ranges National Park and can offer you some adrenaline pumping canyoning through waterfalls and then relaxation on one of New Zealand’s stunning beaches.
After all that fresh air, you can return to the city for some good food and a glass of wine. And just a short (and very cheap) bus ride from Auckland City is Mission Bay which offers amazing views of Rangitoto Island as well as award winning Fish and Chips and Ice-creams! In short, Auckland is a great base in order to visit New Zealand’s other top destinations. A little bit like going home to your mum’s for a bit of comfort.
I’m not suggesting that all visitors to New Zealand remain in Auckland for the entire duration of their stay but just to consider the opportunity of spending a little extra time to experience the Hauraki Gulf and some of those extra special places Auckland keeps hidden.
Relaxed, attractive, modest and full of surprises. If you met a guy or a girl with those qualities you would most definitely give them a second glance, so why not do the same for Auckland, New Zealands, and the world’s, most misunderstood city to date.
Main image: Auckland by night across water Credit – Sky City Auckland