Auckland, New Zealand – City Of Sails
I like Auckland. This has come as somewhat of a surprise to me, because everything I read about this city said not to waste time on it. From the members of Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree Forum to the residents of the city itself, the consensus is that there is nothing to do in Auckland, no sites of interest, and no history. Granted, I haven’t spent a lot of time here (a day and a half), but I found plenty to do in a city that is easy to navigate, clean as a whistle, safe at all hours of the the day and night, and eminently walkable. I love to walk – I can stroll for hours when I am investigating a new place. In Auckland I’ve found no lacks of places to walk, including the waterfront and surrounding downtown; the campus of Auckland University; lots of cute little neighborhoods; and dozens of parks that have been created from the numerous volcano cones that litter the landscape as a result of 48 separate eruptions that have occurred throughout the history of Auckland.
Once the sites of Auckland proper have been seen, the city remains a very good base for traveling to the outlying islands, with their exquisite scenery, hiking trails, artists colonies, whale watching, dolphin swimming, beach bumming, etc. So, in honor of the city that everyone said to skip, I am dedicating the rest of this post to photos of the things I have seen and done in Auckland.
On my second day in the City Of Sails I returned to the Auckland Domain Park and the War Memorial Museum. From its steps I put my new telephoto lens to good use, shooting the harbor below with its scores of billowing sails – which is, of course, how Auckland got its nickname. I had come to the museum to attend a performance of traditional Maori dancing. The Maori became the original inhabitants of New Zealand when they rowed their long, intricately carved canoes all the way from Polynesia to settle here. The Maori culture is being preserved by the Museum through these daily performances that showcase not only the renowned Maori war dance, but also dances that illustrate their use of native tools, weapons, toys and musical instruments.
I had seen the Sky Tower from afar but wanted to experience it up close and personal. From the bottom I watched as one crazy person after another dove off the top and plummeted to earth, their fall broken only by the thin wires of their harness as they approached the ground. Fascinated, I paid my $25 to go to the top of the tower, not only for the fabulous views it afforded, but also to watch from above as these headstrong fools stepped off an aluminum gangplank perched atop the tower. The following photos show the progress of one such jumper.
I got a taste of what it must be like to take the leap when, at the top, I stood over one of the clear glass panes embedded in the walkway and looked down – nothing but space between me and the ground. And that’s as close as I ever want to be to bungee jumping!
When I finally tired of watching the adrenaline junkies at the Sky Tower I walked the few blocks to the waterfront, shown in the following three photos:
I walked back to the hotel after sunset and took this night shot of the downtown buildings and lights, with the Sky Tower in the background seeming to hover above the skyscrapers without being attached to anything. Finally, just up the hill from downtown is the posh little neighborhood of Parnell, where people stroll each evening along bricked streets and sidewalks, browsing its myriad shops or enjoying a leisurely dinner in one of its many fine restaurants.
Tomorrow I plan to take the fast ferry to Waiheke Island for a day of hiking. I simply don’t understand how anyone can insist there’s nothing to do in Auckland!