“I can’t wait to leave Auckland!“
This is a phrase often heard from other backpackers during the numerous times I was in Auckland. At first, they would be head-over-heels for the City of Sails, but after a week of two partying their faces off on Queen Street, they were “over it“.
The City of Sails seems to always get a bad reputation for being all sorts of things except delightful. I know exactly why this is — and I’ll even admit that I thought Auckland was kinda crappy after just a few days there.
But I was very wrong to judge it based on what most other people do mentioned above: Queen Street.
When I first got to New Zealand, I spent my first week after arrival strolling up and down Queen Street with a rad backpacker I met at the airport.
After the dazzle of the ever-present Skytower sighting fizzled, it seemed a little dirty, extremely busy, and horribly expensive.
We did a LOT of walking, but no genuine exploration of the city, and we couldn’t wait to leave based on what we saw.
Just up and down, and up and down Queen Street some more.
And a couple wicked hangovers.
Then, I returned from the Northland of New Zealand after doing a tad bit of guerrilla camping in my hammock, I figured I would come back to Auckland for a couple of days to reconnect with the world. And I might as well give Auckland another try.
I’m happy I didn’t write off Auckland.
Once you step off of Queen Street and see the harbor, the numerous parks dotting the city, the old reconditioned factories in the Britomart, and everything else, Auckland becomes quite a charming place.
But Queen Street isn’t to be written off either. Queen Street is one of the main places in Auckland that have some of the finest retail stores and restaurants around. While visiting the city it’s always best to stay in one of the Auckland hotels near Queen Street. With so many great tourist attractions there is to experience, it’s always nice to be able to go back to a great and relaxing hotel that is stress free. This should leave one only thinking about what the next experience will be while visiting Auckland.
I started by trying to find some greenery, and no, not that kind. After spending two weeks living in the wild all I wanted was to chill out under a tree some more. I wanted to walk in a park, and I wanted to get away from the noise.
Turns out, Auckland has tons of parks all over; Parks large and small, usual and unusual, and some of the most interesting parks I have ever seen.
I was walking back to downtown Auckland with a new friend and we stumbled upon Western Park. This park was fascinating, and popped up out of nowhere while we were passing through Posonby.
Chunks of buildings are strewn across the green grass, a beautiful ode to nature and chaos. A travel guide told me it was the old Auckland museum that sunk into the ground, and I gullible ole’ me believed him completely, but it is just an awesome art project.
Another park to soak up some sun and chill out is Albert park, smack dab in the middle of the city if you stray just a block or two from Queen Street.
Talking about escaping the city, Waiheke Island is just a short ferry ride and an amazing place to spend a sunny day.
I went to Waiheke Island for a day, known as being the Island of Vineyards, to look for a job. But a half an hour in, my friend Pirmin and I ended up wandering all over and getting lost on the Island. It is a place to easily get sidetracked with the beauty.
We walked everywhere! The island has such a crazy diversity when it comes to the beaches and geography. White sand beaches, rocky beaches, and beaches made completely out of shells.
Every place we went to was unique. The highlight was a small cove right outside of Oneroa with star fish dotting the rocks all over, and natural rock arches climbing out of the sand. Unfortunately I didn’t get to go on any wine tours which Waiheke is really known for, but I’ll be back to check those out.
We took the cheap Island bus to explore, about $5 all day, but wait times are long per stop. Seems like a perfect place to rent a scooter as well, especially if you want to go vineyard hopping.
TIP: Make sure to talk to your hostel or go to the ferry website, you will most likely save money on a ferry ticket that way.
Back in mainland Auckland, you have another hidden beach escape just a 30 minute drive the city, Piha Beach,
After a snaking drive through rolling hills lined with trees, golden reeds swaying in the breeze and the crisp ocean air greets you as you pull up to the sparkling black sand beach.
Hike up “Lion Rock” to get a bird’s eye view, chillax on the beach, or walk along the outskirts and explore the unique cliff-lined shore with pools of vibrant ocean life.
High up above Auckland’s cityscape it Mount Eden, topped with long grass, an interesting crater, and some of the most stellar panoramic views in all of the region.
Bus or walk up there, bring a picnic, and spend the day on the mount relaxing or reading a book. It’ll be a good way to see Auckland in all it’s glory.
Back in the Central Business District of Auckland, or CBD, I noticed a pattern that was happening. I was naturally gravitating to the harbor. The white flapping sails of the boats coming in and out of the harbor, the seagulls soaring on a light breeze, and the bright green water.
They do call it the city of sails after all…
Every time I was in Auckland at some point during the 10 months I was in New Zealand, I would always end up here sometime during my day whether it was to grab a pint or just walk around.
There are some awesome, and sometimes expensive places to grab a bite to eat. Sitting there staring out at the green glass colored water and watching the action while enjoying fresh seafood — simply amazing.
What about the city though? Inside the business district of Auckland there is sill plenty to be seen. I was walking around one morning trying to find a unique coffee shop to feed my caffeine addiction when I stumbled unto an old warehouse district. Every inch of concrete in this place was covered by sponsored graffiti, and the artwork was gnarly.
Each section was divided up for different graffiti artists. The art on the walls were stunning and intricate, colorful and explosive. I have always found a fascination in legitimate graffiti art, but I had never seen anything like this.
The city is one of the most colorful places I’ve seen, promoting artwork and imagination all over. So cool.
Put it simply, Auckland is an awesome city.
The couple of weeks I was there were a blast, and I’m so glad I gave it another shot. If you are staying at any hostels inside central Auckland, don’t judge the City of Sails by Queen Street.
Auckland is so much bigger than you think, you just have to wander. If you are looking for what to do in Auckland, take my advice – get the hell off Queen Street!
Have you been to Auckland? What were your first impressions?