Nau mai haere mai ki Tāmaki Makaurau, Auckland
Aotearoa New Zealand’s largest city, Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland, is bursting with natural heritage landscapes, historic architecture, incredible taonga (treasures) and stories of amazing trailblazers, all a vibrant part of this thriving metropolis.
Arts, Transport and Technology, Food
Inhabited since the early 1000s AD, Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland’s volcanic landscape reflects a rich and diverse history. Now an urban oasis, where sparkling waters and lush landscapes meet the city, heritage can be seen woven throughout its natural features, eateries, retail precincts, business districts and suburban sprawls.
Day One | Downtown
Enjoy a bite to eat or retail therapy at St Kevin's Arcade, the beautiful heritage shopping mecca in Karangahape Road.
Auckland gem, the Category 1-listed Civic Theatre
Start with an early breakfast at one of a score of hospo and other enterprises populating the terrific 1920s St Kevin’s Arcade on K Road. Then head downtown via Myers Park, a formerly overgrown gully that in 1915 got the full urban beautification treatment. In the park, check out the Arts & Craft-style Myers Free Kindergarten Building.
Aucklanders’ civic pride arguably has no single natural home. But the baroque town hall on Queen St once filled that role admirably. Walk on to the mighty Civic Theatre. This red-carpeted, Indian-inspired monument to 1920s excess is an Auckland gem. If you’re visiting on a Thursday or Saturday, sign up for the one-hour ‘insiders’ tour.
Duck over the road to the Roy Lippincott-designed Smith & Caugheys, sole survivor of Auckland’s golden age of department stores. Further along at 187 Queen St, Landmark House was the height of modernity when finished in 1930, a “miniature skyscraper” now dwarfed by contemporary neighbours. Pop up to Albert St and check out some of the historic pubs in the area. The Shakespeare Tavern, built in 1898, is New Zealand’s original brew pub and a Category 2 historic place.
Explore Britomart at the end of Queen St. As part of the revitalisation of this historic waterfront precinct, a raft of heritage dockside warehouses and offices have been regenerated as boutiques, bars and restaurants.
Day Two | Inner East and Central
The boys dormitory at Highwic with its Spartan finish was intended to build character
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki has art a plenty
Walk up Maungawhau/Mt Eden, where signs of terraces clue you in to its historic role as a fortified pā, part of a network of citadels on the ancient cones of Tamaki Makaurau. The deep crater is called Te Ipu-a-Mataaho, or ‘the Bowl of Mataaho’, referring to the legendary Māori deity who lives on the mountain.
Highwic is the 1860s Newmarket mansion that launched a thousand children – well, 21, though they didn’t all live there at the same time. The home of self-made immigrant and indefatigable progenitor, Alfred Buckland, this was an early Auckland status home, complete with stables, tennis court and ballroom.
From Highwic, it’s a 20-minute walk to the 1929 neo-classicist Auckland War Memorial Museum, among New Zealand’s most important because of its collections, and most sombre thanks to its other role. The Halls of Memory, whose walls list all the Auckland men killed in 20th Century conflicts, are especially poignant. Visit the nearby 1913 Wintergardens. Exotic plants, vaulted glasshouses, classical statuary – someone really should shoot a music video here.
Speaking of sombre, head next to Symonds St Cemetery, Auckland’s principal burial ground from 1842 to 1886. The first burial took place here in 1841, and nine-year-old William Mason was subsequently joined by a further 10,000 souls – including Governor Hobson – before Waikumete Cemetery opened in 1886.
Walk to the university border of Albert Park to contemplate the Lippincott-designed Old Arts Building. Critics of the day savaged it as “un-British” and “out of harmony with our character”. Naturally, it became an Auckland icon.
Cross the park to the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki. The gallery re-emerged in 2011 after a $120 million redevelopment that brilliantly integrated contemporary extensions with newly restored heritage components. Take a bow, Auckland.
Day Three | West
A slice of Victorian life at Alberton in Mt Albert
Get hands on at the Museum of Transport and Technology (MOTAT)
Sunday is the day to go west, heritage lovers, and there is a lot to see, so take your pick of two below or try and spend another day out this way.
But first, some unfinished business. Ewelme Cottage, in Parnell, is your ultimate ‘dear little cottage’. Built for the fantastically named Reverend Vicesimus Lush, it’s full of the family’s books, art and everyday objects. Only open Sundays.
From Parnell, it’s a 15-minute drive to MOTAT. Opened in 1964, the Museum of Transport and Technology is now two hubs linked by a vintage tram. Motat 1, at Western Springs, has your trains, buses, and so on. M2, on Meola Rd, is home to the magnificent Aviation Display Hall. With so much to see allow three hours to explore.
Alberton showcases a majestic colonial property and the lives that made it a much-loved and admired home. A sumptuous treat on the slopes of Mt Albert, it started life as a conventional timber farmhouse, transformed into a truly grand Raj-themed mansion. Highlight: the grand Victorian ballroom.
Point your jalopy in the direction of Titirangi, where you’ll find the 1920s Spanish Mission-style Lopdell House. Dubbed a “Castle on the Fringe of Heaven” in its original incarnation as the Hotel Titirangi, it’s now part of a three-building arts precinct. Check out the galleries and the views from the rooftop terrace and the Deco eatery at this Category 1-listed gem.
Art lovers, proceed immediately to French Bay and McCahon House, the little bach that nurtured a huge talent. The Category 2 1950s home of Colin McCahon is now a museum and artist residence. Open Wednesday to Sunday afternoons.