"Between Rainforest and Traffic Jam" Top 5 Page for this destination Auckland by Kakapo2

Auckland Travel Guide: 1,100 reviews and 2,462 photos

Why do New Zealanders not like the Big City?

In New Zealand we have eternal discussions about envy and arrogance when Auckland is the topic. Aucklanders are said to be self-centred latte-sippers, nightlife-bar-hoppers, arrogant snobs, superficial ignorants, thinking they are the greatest because they live in the country's biggest city. More than one million people live in the wider Auckland region, a quarter of the country's population. Travelling Aucklanders sometimes must bear the grunt of others, a snappish comment or at least a pitiful smile. Now Auckland has even become a "Super City" - because several regional districts are now under the umbrella of one big "super" city council.

I do not think it is real envy that drives New Zealanders from other places to have such a bad opinion about Aucklanders. It is more the unwillingness to pay for more roads and more congestion in Auckland while not enough money is invested in public transport (although it is getting better and now - we write August 2011 - perhaps even good with the new mayor Len Brown's push for light rail). They just do not get a grip on their transportation problems (but we are hopeful now...), and many commuters continue thinking they must drive down Queen Street. What the hell is global warming?!

Legions of journalists have researched and written about this phenonemon of complaining about Aucklanders and Aucklanders ridiculing others. The elegant Auckland ladies in narrow business skirts and high heels and the Christchurch women who prefer sneakers and fleece vests. Aucklanders still talking bla-bla-bla while Cantabrians are long acting. Aucklanders call the bad talk about them a tall poppy syndrom - but I as a bystander wonder what other people should envy them for? The congestion, the high heels, the unaffordable housing prices, astronomic parking fees or the one or two lattes more they can afford?

As I am just an immigrant I am not involved in all this, and although I live near Christchurch I am quite fond of Auckland. But I also have to admit that the longer I live in the Christchurch region and the more often I visit Wellington the less appealing Auckland becomes to me. Those cities are compact and rather easy to explore, and have attractive buildings and attractions around every corner in the city centre, whereas getting from A to B in Auckland can be very time-consuming, even without traffic jam.

Auckland's location on a narrow stretch of land, surrounded by water, has made it the City of Sails, and this is very appealing - although exactly this contributes to this traffic chaos. And sure, it would not be nice to be surrounded by water in case of a tsnunami...

I also love the many beautiful parks and hills, which in fact are the remains of many volcanic eruptions. Rangitoto Island is the youngest volcano of the Hauraki Gulf, and only 600 years old - and if the Aucklanders are lucky the next eruption will keep to this system and create a new cone in line with Rangitoto Island, and not an exisiting crater, like for example Mt. Eden, suddenly starts rumbling again, covering the city in rubble and ashes.

I love to walk down Queen Street, and the other streets in the CBD. In general, the shops were much nicer than in Christchurch already before the devastating earthquakes down there, the selection is much larger - as is the whole city.

As Auckland is built on those scary 48 craters walking is more exhausting - but on the other hand you have beautiful views from many places and not just from the Sky Tower. Somehow Auckland still feels like an agglomeration of many - and some even very charming - suburbs and not like one big metropolis. It feels much bigger because apart from the centre low-rise family homes with gardens cover big spaces, and because difficult roading leads to those endless traffic jams.

Diverse Islands - Lush Rainforest - Lovely Parnell

Whereas we only have Lyttelton Harbour (as the Port of Christchurch) which is unaccessible for people not working there, Auckland Harbour is fantastic, and not just the Viaduct which was built for the America's Cup, and now (August 2011) the new development of the Wynyard Quarter. I could sit there for hours, just on a bench beside the Ferry Building, and watch the water, the boats, the tourists and the Aucklanders who come here during their lunch break.

I love all those islands dotted in the waters of the Hauraki Gulf. I have visited a lot of them but not all - and as I am a nature and bird lover my favourite island trip is to Tiritiri Matangi which is a predator-free paradise where all kinds of birds are thriving.

On one of my more recent visits I finally went to Motuihe Islands where the German Count Felix Luckner was imprisoned at the end of World War I. It shot to the top attractions on my Auckland list as there are some gorgeous white sandy beaches, and Kimi the Bear and I met only three or four other visitors on the island.

All islands are so different, so you cannot say you know them all by visiting just one.

Another amazing thing about Auckland is how close it is to the rainforest - which explains why it needs its 1230 millimetres of rain per year ;-) Drive to the outpost of Titirangi, and within minutes you are on the Scenic Drive of the Waitakere Ranges where you are surrounded by tree ferns and nikau palms, and down towards the west you have spectacular views to fine black sandy beaches and their furious surf. Piha is the most famous one, Bethell's is bigger and - to me - it has a more magic touch. Navigate your way down on the winding roads, it is just fantastic. (However, you need a car for all beaches except Piha - and Piha has only a shuttle link in summer.)

North-west of Auckland you can watch the gannet colony at Muriwai Beach fighting, bonding and starting nest-building from late August, then the chicks hatching from November and looking like coming fresh out of a foam bath..., and staying at the colonies until February/March.

Just lately I had a nice chat with a lady from Waiheke Island. She complained that many people claim that Auckland has no soul. We both agreed that there is a soul - but it does not lie in the city centre but in the Hauraki Gulf. The water, the islands, the beaches - that is what makes Auckland a special place.

But sure, there are also great places within the city itself. From the city centre you can walk to the Auckland Domain and the Museum, Albert Park, Parnell, the lovliest historic precint, and even up to Newmarket with its many shops on a street called Broadway. From there it is not far to Mt. Eden and its impressive crater, and to Cornwall Park which is at the foot of the famous One Tree Hill which has lost its tree... I also love the colourful main street of Ponsonby and Victoria Park Market.

There are also some fantastic weekend markets - with the French Market in Parnell a highlight for starving Europeans who long for good bread - and so much more...

If you are tired of walking you can take the bus. Sometimes the drivers do not know where they are going, and cannot tell you when you have to get off if you tell them where you want to go... But at least you can sit a while... or longer, if the bus is stuck in a traffic jam ;-) And there are even some trains operating from Britomart which is the central city train and bus station at the harbour end of Queen Street.

Aucklanders walk faster - right from a traffic jam

I have spent many weeks in Auckland, so know the city quite well. My husband even worked a year there but did not want to live there, so he flew in every Monday and out every Friday. He got too much because his 15 minute trip to the office took 45 to 60 minutes during the rush hour.

It is really true: People in Auckland walk faster through the city than in Christchurch, even in very high heels - perhaps because they come from a traffic jam most times LOL But that is not the reason why I would not want to live in Auckland. I just would not want to spend so much time in traffic jams and on the road, just by getting from A to B. A and B are just closer in Christchurch or Wellington ;-) I had already had this feeling as a student in Munich where it was totally normal to spend an hour (or more) to get to a friend's house in the same city, and an hour back home. In that time I could drive the 100 kilometres from my next home in Ulm to a football game or pop concert in Stuttgart!

In winter it does not get as cold in Auckland as in Christchurch where we even have smog at this time of the year. But when it is hot the heat is much better bearable in Christchurch as the air is not as humid as up there. And what I also love in Christchurch is that real mountains are rather close to the city.

The Auckland - Christchurch discussions bemuse me. And you know what the funniest - and in reality not funny at all - thing is? Many people on the South Island learn very quickly from the Aucklanders if it is to their advantage. Go to the remote West Coast - and especially to Hokitika - where people earn a fraction of what Aucklanders earn, and pay as much for a coffee or a decent meal as in an upmarket restaurant in Auckland... Then you know what the real spirit is all about.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Sea, islands, charming suburbs, many parks, great shops
  • Cons:Too many traffic jams, bad public transport, too humid
  • In a nutshell:Despite its Size rather a Charming City in Places
  • Last visit to Auckland: Aug 2011
  • Intro Updated Dec 19, 2011
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Reviews (39)

Comments (5)

  • TooTallFinn24's Profile Photo
    Jun 4, 2013 at 10:47 AM

    Sissi- I read with great fascination your take on Aucklanders. I have a brother in law from N. California who in middle age is about to become a student at the University of Auckland after a successful career as a mechanical engineer. Indeed interesting reading. Now will check your Auckland tips in case my wife or I come to visit him.

  • Proud_Aucklander's Profile Photo
    Aug 2, 2011 at 5:16 PM

    You seem to have a very ignorant view about Auckland.

  • Jim_Eliason's Profile Photo
    Jul 20, 2008 at 8:54 PM

    Great tips!

  • allikat's Profile Photo
    Feb 24, 2008 at 2:36 PM

    I am so looking forward to being a visitor to Auckland again as opposed to a resident! I'm starting to forget the good points. Nice tips as always.

  • Trekki's Profile Photo
    Jul 2, 2007 at 11:16 PM

    Ah, at least, there is a lot to see and do around Auckland :-) I think, the city is not really my cup of tea, too big maybe. But the Hot Rocks sounds lovely - haha, I make sure to have some breadcrumbs :-)

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