I experienced Auckland over the course of three mornings, three evenings and miscellanous parts of the daytime. Nobody actually seems to like it terribly much. My impression is that the city is considered a necessary evil.
The CBD is generally adequately endowed with eateries. On my first night, Hong Yul introduced me to a collection of restaurants on the Viaduct waterfront, and the pizza and pasta we ordered there were great. Outside of this, the closest I managed to come to the classic late-evening yuppy alfresco cafe experience (Starbucks doesn’t count) was one of two small kiosks on Queens Street, which literally occupies all of about 3 square metres, though admittedly their fudge slice was pretty good. Perhaps I wasn’t looking hard enough.
There are a large number of small convenience stores, which don’t quite cut it for shopping expeditions. I stumbled across The Barrow by accident, but it turned out to have a very nice selection of fairly good quality stuff (e.g. ingredients for a decent sandwich).
Going up the Sky Tower is probably worthwhile, and the view is not to be dismissed (nor the experience of standing on a glass panel looking down at the yawning expanse of thin air beneath), but it’s not radically different from being high up on any other tall structure. After five minutes of panoramic photography the entertainment is essentially exhausted. Possibly if there was a guide pro-actively pointing out and explaining sites of interest visible from the observation deck the experience would have been more fulfilling.
Owing to the geography of Auckland, its roads have a distinctly three-dimensional quality (unlike, say, Adelaide and parts of Perth, which are firmly in the 2D camp). The third dimension adds character in places and reminded me of Melbourne a little, but this privilege has possibly been abused in the enormous spaghetti junction where the motorways converge on the CBD. The hills also make it challenging for anyone (e.g. me) who likes to do a bit of exploration on foot. However, exploring Auckland on foot does have at least one thing to commend it: the traffic is absolutely terrible. Oh you may joke about being stuck in a car park while negotiating Perth’s freeways at rush hour. In Auckland it doesn’t apparently matter when it is or where you are; at any moment fifty cars can suddenly ambush you or your bus from every direction, and *poof* you have gridlock.
I’m leaving Auckland behind tomorrow for Mercury Bay, but at some point I’ll have to post an update on my somewhat less-than-successful trip to the Bay of Islands.