“Last, loneliest, loveliest, exquisite, apart –
On us, on us the unswerving season smiles.”
~Rudyard Kipling, The Song of the Cities: Auckland
Masts of sailing boats and ships lined Auckland Harbour in elegant rows against a powder blue sky. Billowy clouds reflected in the water, the sun already strong and warm in the early morning light. The only interruptions to the solitude of the moment were the crowds – travelers embarking and disembarking cruise ships, checking in and signing out of hotels, people on the move with plans and destinations.
Auckland was the final stop of our voyage that had begun sixteen days earlier in Sydney, Australia. Like bookends holding up a row of short adventure stories, these were the places where we could spend a little extra time, cities that were too big for just one chapter. Auckland is New Zealand’s largest city, sitting at the north end of the North Island. And although it spreads out quickly from the harbor and city center, I had put together a walking route that seemed feasible, even at the end of a long journey.
Herb and I dropped our bags at our hotel and met our friends Shelly and Chuck, who – in one of those wonderful moments of travel serendipity – were getting ready to board the ship we had just disembarked, traveling the route in reverse to Sydney. After catching up and trading sightseeing recommendations over a much-too-quick coffee, we wished them bon voyage and began our walk.
For visitors to Auckland, the days seem to start and end on the waterfront. The abundance of hotels, restaurants and cafés is overwhelming, and the water views along the wonderfully walkable Viaduct Harbour Avenue are simply beautiful. The crown jewel of the area is the Auckland Ferry Building. Built in 1912 in the Edwardian Baroque style, the historic landmark houses several restaurants and serves as the hub of the city’s ferry network.
It’s about a half-hour walk from the waterfront to Auckland Domain, Auckland’s oldest park in the Grafton neighborhood. Created in the 1840s and covering over 185 acres, the Domain is a beautiful place to walk or take a break. We spent most of our time there at the Wintergardens, where two Victorian-style glass houses – one heated and tropical, the other temperate – sit opposite a pond in a central courtyard. The Domain is also home to the Wintergarden Café, several duck ponds, a band rotunda and the Auckland War Memorial Museum.
The Central Business District and Aotea Square
We headed back to the Central Business District, passing through the University of Auckland campus before reaching Aotea Square. Built in 1979, Aotea Square serves as a venue for public gatherings, concerts and political rallies. A Māori gate called a Waharoa marks the entrance, with the Town Hall and clock tower anchoring the other end of the Square.
About that Sky Tower…
Everywhere you look in Auckland, there it is. The observation and telecommunications Sky Tower, a quick identifier for name that skyline and a fixture in photos from every part of the city. At 1,076 feet, it’s the tallest man-made structure in the Southern Hemisphere. Although we took a pass on the 40-second elevator ride to the observation deck as well as the not-for-the-faint-of-heart SkyWalk and SkyJump, it’s such an integral part of this city that I thought it was important to include here.