Some people call Auckland “Sydney's little sister” or “little Sydney” because of the many similarities between the two. Both are quite large, both have harbours and both were established as English colonies. And like all the English colonies there is a lot of “Victoria” stuff. Victoria Mount, Victoria streets, Victoria monuments; colonial times were times of some major brown-nosing. It was almost a race between who dedicates most discoveries to the Queen. This case was also quite interesting compared to the other colonies. The Maoris discovered New Zealand in the 14th century and began to settle in tribal communities. Tribes usually don’t like other tribes all that much, so they started fighting. They fought with the proverbial sticks and stones until the English came around. “That’s a nice boom stick you guys got there…” the Maoris said, “…I don’t think the other tribes have boom sticks”. And thus, a kindling of friendship was lit. The area where Auckland currently stands had a population of around 20 000 back then. That was a lot of people that the English could trade, negotiate and sign treaties with. The Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1840, officially adding New Zealand to the British Empire and granting equal rights to the Maori. Those “equal rights” gave them English citizenship and stripped them of the right to their lands. All this resulted in the Maori (New Zealand) Wars which, according to some, last to this day. The armed conflict has, in fact, ended but lawyers in courtrooms now wage battles over lost property. 1840 was also when Auckland was established as the colony’s capital city. Wellington took over as the capital in 1865 but Auckland remains the most populous city in NZ. Pay a visit to the Auckland War Memorial Museum (http://www.aucklandmuseum.com/) where you can learn more about that history.
While it is a stunning city by itself, I believe that its surrounding areas are what make it really special. The land around Auckland and the city sits on top of over 50 volcanoes. Scientists say they’re inactive, but that’s probably what they thought in Pompei too. You’ll notice all the volcanic rock that formed from magma over millions of years if you keep an eye open. That’s what made this land so fertile and desirable. Mount Victoria. Just outside of town. Best view of Auckland. Yup, also a volcano. Remains of eruptions are clearly visible on many beaches around the city. Don’t expect golden sands and palm trees though, Auckland beaches are grim and dark like Game of Thrones. That doesn’t mean they lack charm; they might not be pretty but they’re very interesting. You’re very likely to come across surfer communities, as beaches west of Auckland are very popular spots for professional wave-riders. Not for the faint of heart, Piha beach is known for having its own emergency medical camp. Spots east of the city are more suitable for beginners. New Zealand’s landscapes are one of a kind. That’s one reason why Peter Jackson chose these islands as the background to his renowned trilogy. Lord of the Rings business is still booming, with Auckland being somewhat of a Mecca for Tolkien fans. Companies offer everything from Hobbiton weekend retreats to two-week-long LOTR tours (https://www.redcarpet-tours.com/).
Auckland itself is fresh and colourful, just without much substance. Relatively young cities often lack that elusive “something”. It’s vibrant, fun and multicultural but there is no identity. It’s like a canvas that someone just started painting on. There is nothing more picturesque than the harbour with hundreds of yachts and couples watching the sunset. It’s also where Auckland’s food scene is at. World-renowned restaurants, wine from local wineries and plenty of street food. There is also a huge Asian population, which had an impact on a variety of cuisine. Try Mekong Baby (https://www.mekongbaby.com/) at 262 Ponsonby Rd, for great food and an amazing atmosphere. Tanuki (https://tanuki.co.nz/) at 319 Queen Street is my cup of tea, proper izakayas are hard to find and this one is legit. There are tapas bars around the North Wharf and ad hoc night markets on random parking lots. Auckland isn’t lacking when it comes to nightlife either, most of the action happens around Queen Street.