Kiwi Jack: Chapter Thirteen

Auckland is an interesting city. Not so much because there’s a ton here for tourists to do (there isn’t), but as a city planner (or someone like me who takes an interest), it’d be very interesting to take a look at its development over the last 10 years and try to predict where it’s going in the next 10.

In short, this is a city which has recently been discovered and is growing by leaps and bounds. In sheer numbers, the city has grown by somewhere in the neighborhood of 40% in the last 15 years, and you can tell. The downtown core is very nice but fairly condensed; really, it’s focused on about 3-4 streets from the mid-center of the city north until you hit the harbor.

The harbor (which is sometimes called the America’s Cup village) is very well developed with a lot of restaurants, hotels and of course the boats, which include the privately owned jobs as well. We saw one from as far away as Florida…that’s a long way on even a big yacht (which this wasn’t).

Anyway, we got the chance to drive through a lot of the city and we’ve discovered that Auckland seems to have absorbed a lot of little towns and villages around it, giving it a chance to build a series of smaller downtowns in and around the city. You can see this developing already, and I love the fact that these little towns have pretty much maintained their own individual identities.

Check out the sprawl from the top of Auckland signature building, The Sky Tower (15 years old):

While this does have the big city feel downtown, it’s a very clean city with little pollution, crisp, clean air and a generally livable feeling.

I do agree with what I’ve read though: there’s Auckland, and then there’s the rest of New Zealand…not uncharacteristic of areas with one overarching major city and a relatively rural population besides (ever been to New Orleans? How about Louisiana?). This is a very international city which seems to be finding its identity, and in the meantime has adopted something relatively generic. It’s nice, but it doesn’t feel like there’s a prevailing culture here, unlike the rest of New Zealand which is simply one of a kind.

I would love to come back here in 10 years and see what Auckland has become then. Given what I’ve learned about the Kiwis and their conservationism, I fully expect this city to become something truly great.

With this in mind, we spent Sunday night and all of Monday exploring inner Auckland before venturing further out on Tuesday, our final day in this terrific country. Today we headed out to Waiheke island, a fairly large island about 35 minutes by ferry from the Auckland docks.

I can say with all honesty that I could see myself living here. The island is green, lush and a bit more wild than the typical North Island setting; much more like the pristine beauty of the southern island. And yet…very close to Auckland, a city that is still developing character, but has all the conveniences of a metropolis.

So you can see how close it is. But yet…

That was taken from the exact same spot (different angle obviously). Side note before I continue: see those white blobs in a circle in the middle of the field? Those are sheep, and LOUD sheep at that. You’d think they were eating, right? See for yourself.

As loud as they were, what we have here is a sheep conference. Yes, the sheep are plotting against us. Be warned.

But anyway, this island is filled with small towns and villages throughout and about 30 different small wineries. We found some excellent wine we’ve never heard of (Mudbrick and Jurassic Ridge were the best), but that seems to be typical of the rest of the country. Did you know New Zealand has over 600 wineries? Me either.

Sat here for a while tasting wine. Didn’t particularly want to leave.

Then the sun kissed the top of the hills, and we headed back into Auckland one last time for dinner before we get up for our wonderful 6am flight tomorrow morning. Auckland – Sydney – LAX – Dulles in just under 27 hours.

But…cost of doing business.

A great city, a great country. If you haven’t been, you really need to find some time to come. There’s something to do for just about anyone, and I have felt as home here as I have ever felt while traveling.

Thanks once again for taking the time to read these blogs. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed writing them; honestly feel that it did add something to my trip.

Kia Ora.

August 14, 10:13pm
Auckland, New Zealand