Short stories, Travel and Health Information
Home to over a third of New Zealand’s population, her largest city of Auckland has over the years been rated among the top cities of the world for lifestyle. In 2014 the Mercer Quality of Living Survey rated the city 3rd in the world, while the Economist Intelligence Unit‘s World’s Most Liveable Cities index ranked Auckland in 9th place last year.
Visit here – and you will soon learn just why this cosmopolitan city (where last week, sad to say, my favoured cricket team Sri Lanka played a forgettable cricket match of the ANZ Twenty-20 series against New Zealand at at Eden Park) has achieved such an enviable reputation with its Polynesian, Asian and European heritage has achieved such an enviable reputation
It gets its ‘City of Sails’ name because of the many yacht marinas and sailboats anchored in the harbour – Auckland has more boats per capita than any other city in the world.
The city has some very attractive heritage buildings, the result of 150 years of British settlement. It also has beautiful beaches, impressive volcanoes and pretty gardens – like the picture perfect Parnell Rose Garden and the oldest park in the city called the Auckland Domain, which is based around an extinct volcano and is home to the formal Wintergardens. These are all situated in or within a short drive from the city centre.
For those who would like to take things easy, a leisurely walk through the CBD or a stroll down to Prince’s Wharf for a view of the Waitemata harbour is the way to go. You can shop for beautiful merino or possum wool sweaters in Queen Street – or board one of the hop on/hop off buses to take in the city’s many attractions.
Auckland Museum, founded in 1852, has probably the best collection of Pacific Island exhibits anywhere in the world – in addition to a very good natural history section and a whole floor devoted to New Zealand’s war history. Here you can explore the diversity of Pacific peoples and also learn about the culture of the Maori, who were the original inhabitants of this country before European colonization. A highlight for visitors like us from overseas is the Maori cultural performance that takes place regularly each day.
For those visitors to Auckland who are more adventurous, you can walk to one of Auckland’s best known landmarks, the sandstone and granite Edwardian baroque Ferry Building on Quay Street and take a ferry ride across the picturesque harbour. Or you may decide to take a sightseeing tour of the Hauraki Gulf, a spectacular marine park, to observe whales and dolphins at play. You may even choose to do a day trip to the many nearby islands. One of the most popular destinations is Waiheke Island, a half hour ferry ride away, which has some pretty beaches as well as olive groves and vineyards (with some excellent vineyard restaurants!).
Another Auckland experience is a trip out to Rangitoto Island which not only boasts, growing out of the volcanic rock, a large forest of Pohutukawa trees that become a colourful sea of red flowers in summer, but also Auckland’s most photographed dormant volcano. This has a cone so symmetrical you could imagine it having been fashioned by a giant potter on his wheel! You can walk to the top (the hike takes about an hour) for some breathtaking views across the water.
New Zealand is the land where they invented bungee jumping – and if you want to be really adventurous, you can try taking a Skywalk or a Skyjump. With a safety harness strapped on, you can take a walk on the platform that surrounds the top of the 328 metre tall Skytower – and if you are so inclined, you can even perform a bungy jump off the platform.
We of course were not so adventurous as to try bungee- jumping. We simply took the high speed lift to the top of the Skytower, ordered a meal in the revolving restaurant at the top and enjoyed some fine dining while savouring 360 degree views over the city.