Although Auckland is not the capital of New Zealand, it is the largest of the countries cities with almost a third of the total population of New Zealand residing in the cbd and its surroundings. Most tourists visit Auckland at some point, largely owing to its international airport. Strangely though it sits on a volcanic field and is surrounded by volcanoes, including Rangitoto, Mt Eden, and One Tree Hill among others, scientists are sure that one day there will be another eruption but with the last being hundreds of years ago hopefully that will not be for some time! On the scale of things Auckland centre is actually quite small so makes for an easily walk able visit. Starting at Aotea Square we walked down through Queens Street to Queens Wharf and the Viaduct Harbour, home to cruise ships, tankers and high end yachts respectively. Here we visited the Maritime museum which was a really great and diverse showcase of all things maritime in New Zealand. From the Moari beginnings, Captain Cook and the first Europeans and the influx of immigrants that followed to create this diverse country. There was all manner of exhibits impressively staged and culminating in a huge warehouse-like room full of sailing and America’s cup memorabilia. It was pretty interesting to see just how big the America’s cup boats are and with whisperings of this year’s competition already creeping into the news it was a good way to add to the excitement.
Heading through the city and over the harbour bridge takes you north to Takapuna and Devonport where we decided some more in depth visiting was required. First stop was Takapuna a fairly large city suburb town set along the wide sandy Takapuna Beach. The beach is fairly sheltered and is a mecca for families enjoying the water on paddleboards and kayaks as well as larger boats. We paddled our way along the sand with Rangitoto volcano rising out of Hauraki Gulf in the distance. After lunch in town we headed to the southern pinnacle of the North Shore and northern side of the Waitemata Harbour, Devonport.
Devonport is largely famous in New Zealand as the home of the singer Lorde, who is something of a national treasure. We didn’t see her around, unsurprisingly she is rarely in NZ anymore while chasing her music career around the globe. What we did see was the North Head Barracks, the old gun turrets and fortifications from the world wars were designed to protect the entrance to the harbour, and thus Auckland itself. Now, set upon the hill, they provide a stunning panorama of Auckland. From this perspective it was easy to see why the city has grown around its marine position, a great spot to watch the night fall and the city lights rise.