I call Auckland my home at the moment. I live here, in my own room, in flat in the centre of the city, it’s official, there is no hiding from this fact – I mean I’ve got some ‘personal possessions’ tagged to my bedroom wall – it feels like home now.
I would never have envisioned this was where I would end up. I wouldn’t describe myself as a city person to anyone, and those who know me, know and understand my need for escape. For wide open spaces and countryside allowing my imagination to breath and my dreams to run wild. To this day whenever I meet people I tell them how much I am not a city person.
So why am I still here?
Other than the fact I ran out of money pretty fast when arriving in New Zealand, I actually enjoy living in Auckland – yes I am swallowing my words here – it is an incredible city and as long as you make the most of your free time, it can’t be a pretty awesome city for people who don’t like cities.
The City Itself is Actually Really Small…
When I first arrived in Auckland and was told how big it was, I was only concerned about getting out of the city as quickly as possible. As a backpacker, for the first week, I didn’t see much more of Auckland outside Queen Street and my hostel – you may think this naive but all backpackers are guilty of this – and once I returned, it was only then I started to fully explore and appreciate the city.
The city centre of Auckland is more like a small town, so although when I class it as ‘too busy’ – which is normally when the cruise ships come into town – it is still quieter on the streets of Auckland than the streets of Glasgow back home.
If the City Centre gets a little too much there is always somewhere else to escape to, whether it is one of Auckland’s many cute Suburbs, beautiful beaches or Islands. There is a lot more here than meets the eye.
You have SO many Beach destinations at your doorstep
Whether it’s 10 minutes on a Ferry, 20 Minutes on a bus or 30 Minutes by car Auckland offers a HUGE selection of beach getaways.
The ferries run frequently to multiple volcanic islands off the coast. My personal favourite, Waiheke Island. This is the second largest island off the coast of Auckland and takes about 40 minutes to get to on the ferry.
The island itself isn’t just beautiful, it is almost as if you have been transported to the Caribbean. The sea is a beautiful turquoise blue, the sand is beautifully white, there’s shrubbery and mountains, cliffs and waterfalls and to top it all off, a great selection of secluded beaches and vineyards to explore – free wine and a beautiful beach? Count me in.
Mission Bay is probably one of Auckland’s most popular beaches. The little town here and the beach is awesome but on a nice day, prepare for it to be busy.
I recommend taking the bus instead to North shore and exploring one of the MANY beaches across the bridge from central Auckland. Much more quiet, slightly more beautiful and on your way back over you’ll get a wicked view of the city and Skytower.
If you have a car – if you don’t make friends with someone who has one, now! – head to the incredible Piha.
Not only famous for the TV Show – Piha Rescue – It’s a popular surfing spot (experienced only) and has some incredible day hikes to waterfalls in the surrounding national park.
Piha is pretty much, impossible to get to without a car. If you want to experience some awesome scenery, wicked waves and lifeguards on duty, this is the place for you.
The City offers Adrenaline Whenever You Want It…
Queenstown is of course famous as being the adrenaline capital of the world (pretty much) and so the other areas of New Zealand are often completely overlooked, including Auckland.
Did you know that the Skytower in Auckland is the tallest building in the Southern Hemisphere (at the moment)? No, well of course in New Zealand the tallest building means possibility. Head to the top of the Skytower and take in the breathtaking views, take it one step further and get your heart pumping and sign up to the ‘SkyWalk’.
Walking on a think railed grating secured only by two ropes, no bars, take on the challenges set by the (evil) guides and take in the incredible view – while hoping your legs don’t give way and you fall off the side..
SkyWalk isn’t enough for you? Why not try jumping off the SkyTower – I Mean, if Beyoncé can do it, we can do it, right? – Unlike a bungee jump this is a controlled free fall. It still feels kind of like a bungee jump but you’re not going to ping back up and fly into the side of the tower…
But if a bungee Jump is what you were after and can’t wait till Queenstown, the Auckland bridge is the perfect spot to throw yourself off – attached to bungee cord, might I add! – it is also the only bungee jump in New Zealand where you can be ‘dunked’ into the Ocean.
Still not enough? Well did you know that Auckland has New Zealand’s North Island’s highest commercial tandem Skydive? YES. 16,500 Feet. Go hard or go home right?!
Don’t like heights? Well there are plenty of water sports to enjoy. Pretty much everything from Jet Ski-ing to Kayaking, Scuba Diving to Snorkelling and Sailing to Jet Boating is available just short drives away or a small walk!
The kayak from Mission Bay to Rangitoto Island was incredible! Not easy but so fun!
A ‘Get Away’ Is Never Far Away…
When long weekends come around – or you know, weekends – EVERYONE escapes the city. Aucklanders’ escape the city. No one stays put if they can get away and why would you?
With just a couple of hours drive you have numerous possibilities Raglan, Bay of Islands, Coromandel – We took a weekend away and did the Tongariro Crossing!
So while you may feel ‘stuck’ here to save money (as it is one of the best and easiest places to find work) you are never really stuck. I have never lived in a City and spent so much time outside of it with so little effort and planning.
Everyone Is Really Friendly..
Yes it’s a city, but out of all the cities in the world I’ve travelled Auckland has to be one of the friendliest.
I put it down to the fact that it is a hub for backpackers, it’s the entry point of New Zealand and it is such a melting pot. But it is not an anonymous city, sure you have the days where you feel you are, but everyone is friendly, they all ask how you are, where you’re from, what your up to etc.
The Kiwi Charm is still here.
There is an Endless Stream of Events on In Auckland…
Auckland constantly has something on, whether that is a show at one of the many theatres (I’ve been to see Phantom of the Opera here and it was incredible) or open aired cinemas (for free) down in Silo Park with beautiful craft markets and food trucks selling all kinds of delicacies.
Comedy, Film, Fashion and Art is popular event themes in Auckland. Every month something different will be on to keep you occupied.
The summer is filled with open aired cinemas, cute markets and live music (mini festivals) in the parks.
Autumn/Winter has Comedy weeks and indoor exhibitions as it starts to cool down.
There will always be something interesting going on or at least something you haven’t tried before.
When I had to come back to Auckland for a Job I hated it. I thought this was the exact opposite to what I wanted to do, I didn’t want to be based in a big city, working a meaningless boring job just to head off and do it again.
I wanted to be a ‘real’ backpacker. Experience fruit picking and WOOFing. But I needed money. I need money to save enough to enjoy my adventures around New Zealand and not just budget the whole way round. I quickly realised I didn’t want to be struggling and living off of packaged noodles like the other backpackers.
I realised I wasn’t happy to work hard in a shitty job for shitty pay to than budget and worry the rest of my way around before having to stop and work again.
Instead I went back to the office Job, I earn more than most backpackers and when I take off out of Auckland – for good this time – I will have the padding to fall on to enjoy my cruise down to Queenstown.
So for everyone who says Auckland is Shit. Well yes, it is if you are only here a few days and not prepared to travel. It is not shit if you make the effort and do things out with the comfort of Queen Street.