When you’ve spent as long as I have living and working in Christchurch, you can start to develop attitudes or beliefs without even realising it. Thoughts that start out with no factual basis but creep almost imperceptibly into that part of your brain where you store actual facts, facts like you always find a cheaper deal after you’ve paid, insurance premiums are another form of gambling (and the house always wins) and appliances will always fail the day after the warranty expires.
Sometimes it’s only when you’re forced to confront your biases (after they’ve been faking it quite nicely in the fact section of your brain) that you realise they’re not fact at all, and that you need to extract that little belief from your brain, give it a good dusting, rearrange it and re-enter it correctly.
That happened to me after a recent visit to Auckland, and as a loyal Cantabrian it pains me to say this, but the place ain’t half bad.
Auckland vs Christchurch – It’s a thing
Whether it’s a game of rugby or a flower show, we fight with Auckland like demented siblings. And when the fighting has been going on this long, you actually forget what you’re fighting about. Of course, reasons don’t matter when you have time and tradition on your side, just ask a Celts or Rangers fan, you’re on separate sides just because that’s how it has always been and nobody questions it.
Growing up in Christchurch the indoctrination starts early. The Auckland jibes are heard on a regular basis. Always said in jest with a smile and a smirk but the impression lasts. It’s not long before you just start seeing anyone living north of the Bombay Hills as a self-absorbed, latte-sipping, large-SUV-driving (the Remuera tractor) pretentious prat. More recently images of a fallen chair or tipped glass mocked the much more serious earthquakes Christchurch went through. And of course, there’s the well-known moniker for Aucklanders – Jaffas – that I am far too polite to spell out.
So while it’s a ‘thing’ and will no doubt continue that way for the foreseeable future, let’s not use that as an excuse for enjoying some of the good stuff in and around Auckland – no, seriously, it does exist.
Balmy weather just makes everyone feel better
Sure you can pretend to ignore the weather, tell yourself you carry on with your life regardless but in reality it makes a big difference. It’s why people pay a premium to live in areas with the perfect Californian climate (more SoCal than SanFran). It’s also why it’s the #1 topic of conversation in New Zealand, and everyone’s go-to when chatting with strangers; ‘great weather for ducks’, ‘good for the garden’, ‘the ol’ beasterly easterly’, ‘the farmers will be loving this rain’, ‘nice to see the sun’. Agreed it is nice to see the sun but to be fair it’s been pretty reliable to date so I’m confident we can expect it to keep turning up for a bit longer.
Auckland’s weather is, in a word, pleasant. Sure rain will show up on a regular basis but it’s normally over quick enough, it’s not cold and doesn’t have that bite you get down south when the wind kicks in. In fact, you could probably get by through all four seasons wearing nothing more than shorts and jandals. The warm, balmy weather just makes you instantly feel like you’re on holiday and is the perfect segue to start exploring the massive amount of beaches Auckland has, many within walking distance of the suburbs.
A beach for everyone
Just look at a map of Auckland and you quickly realise it is made up of a lot of coastline. In fact, there’s more than 3,700km of coastline, which means there are literally heaps of beaches. Sure some are private, some are unswimmable, some are just jagged rocks or muddy estuary but that still leaves a lot to choose from. We stayed in Bucklands beach and there are some great ones there including Half Moon Bay, Musick Point and of course Bucklands Beach. We also checked out the appropriately named Beachlands and it did not disappoint. There’s something quintessential about beautiful sand, azure waters, a lazy jetty and of course the stunning Pohutukawa trees with their unmissable red flowers. Maybe some photos could describe it better.
Shows, like with famous people
If a show is going to show anywhere it’s going to be Auckland. Makes sense really. Largest concentration of people, easy access, several large venues to choose from and reliable public transport (most of the time). So if you love shows then you’d be spoiled for choice. In the few days we were there, we paid $10 to be groundlings at the Pop Up Globe and watched a first-class performance of A Mid-summer Nights Dream, up close with a bonus dosing of fake blood in some dramatic death scenes. The next night we were treated to Sir Paul McCartney, with the last show of his One on One world tour at Mt Smart (the reason we were in Auckland).
So, for Aucklanders, seeing great concerts is simple, just book a ticket. For everyone else, it’s a mad rush to secure reasonable airfares and nearby accommodation, sometimes even before you’ve bought your concert tickets. It’s madness, and it’s madness you wouldn’t have to endure if you lived in Auckland.
Great day trip options
With a rental car from Apex (a necessity if you visit Auckland, or anywhere in NZ IMO) we had the freedom to go places and with a fairly loose itinerary (aside from seeing an ex-Beatles guy on Saturday night) we wanted to see outside the big little city.
We wanted free, with plenty of natural beauty, which is not too difficult in Auckland. First up, it was up and over the Waitakere Ranges to Piha beach. Stunning views, an easy walk up to the Kitekite Falls, a refreshing swim into the little cave under the falls then down to the beach for some bodysurfing where I got a good tip about the Piha Coffin and then a game of beach soccer with some friendly Filipinos.
Second roadtrip was a bit further. Three hours up to see the mighty (and somewhat endangered) Kauris, particularly the Tane Mahuta in the Waipoua Forest. While it’s a mighty impressive tree I actually preferred the Te Matua Ngahere, which while not as tall, it has a bigger girth, and its girthiness looks pretty damn amazing, especially when, just as you arrive at the tree, the clouds part and the tree is bathed in glorious rays of sunny sunshine, which made its almighty girthiness seem even more girthy. Great girthy gertrude! True it was a long drive to see the trees and the dry pastures of Northland and not as pretty as South Island scenery but there were some fantastic public toilets in Ruawai just off State Highway 12. Definitely worth a stop. Just make sure to fuel up in Dargaville as there’s not a massive amount of garages further north.
Move to Auckland?
So it’s all very well singing the praises as a 4-day visitor (and I didn’t even get to Waiheke island) but it’s a different story to live somewhere. House prices are insane, you could have a massive commute every day and you’re surrounded by a lot of people.
Maybe I’ll just preserve the fantasy of the place as a nice domestic holiday destination and leave the 1.4 million residents of Auckland to keep it to themselves.