I spent today roaming around downtown Auckland. In order to combat the jet lag incurred from 32 hours of flying, I slept 10 hours last night and woke up at a leisurely 930am. From there, I took a train from Papakura (the village where I’m staying) into Auckland Central Station, called the Britomart – a very neat train station that reminds me a bit of Grand Central Station in New York City. Auckland, despite still being a very car-dependent city, is still quite easy (and fun!) to get around by foot. The town is built well for pedestrians, and there’s lots of public space dedicated to creative walkways. I spent most of the morning exploring the Viaduct Harbour, which is Auckland’s main waterfront. Auckland is internationally known as the “City of Sails”, and for good reason! There are more sailboats per person here than anywhere else on Earth. The Viaduct is home to the America’s Cup (the World Cup equivalent of sailing), and some of the yachts used in the competition were docked in the harbor. I had a great time in this area; seeing all of the sailboats and yachts was a real highlight. I also visited the New Zealand maritime museum, which was a great way to learn more about the history of the area.
From there, I walked up to Albert Park, which is a beautiful public park just adjacent to the University of Auckland main campus. Covered in beautiful palm trees and landscaping, this had a great view of downtown and made for a nice place to eat lunch. After eating, I headed down the street to Sky Tower. Reminiscent of the CN Tower in Toronto, this landmark is the most prominent feature of Auckland’s skyline. From the top, amazing views of the city were had. Every major landmark in town could be spotted, even the extinct volcano Rangitoto across the harbor. The Queen Mary II was docked in Auckland today, and I met some of the passengers on that ship – they were making a quick stop in Auckland before heading onto Sydney and then Johannesburg. After looking at the scenery and watching a few people bungee jump from the top, I decided to head down and explore some more.
In the afternoon, I still had a few hours to kill before getting on my 8pm InterCity bus to Rotorua, so I serendipitously decided to go for a walk down the Viaduct Basin again. There is a lot more than just boats here – the City of Auckland has transformed this place into somewhere that is both a world-class harbor and an incredible public commons. There are also a lot of neat sculptures, parks, and cafes along here. In my mind, it’s definitely one of the contributing factors to the winning formula that consistently places Auckland high up in the rankings on Quality of Life surveys around the world. On my walk, I ran across a basketball court and met two South Korean guys playing. I joined in on their pickup game and before long, a Kiwi and an Australian joined in as well. Played for about an hour, and head a great time! Everyone is really friendly here; from what I’ve seen so far, the Kiwis are really welcoming and kind-hearted people. Now I’m getting on an overnight bus to Rotorua, where I’ll be checking out some really unique geothermal sites. Photos and more soon!