Difference between revisions of "Auckland"
Revision as of 11:15, 13 September 2011
Auckland  is the largest metropolitan area in New Zealand, with a population of over one million. It is in the northern half of the North Island, on a narrow isthmus of land that joins the Northland peninsula to the rest of the North Island. In November 2010, four formerly separate cities were amalgamated. The four were Manukau City in the south, Waitakere City in the west, North Shore City in the north and Auckland City itself, on and around the isthmus. The four cities are now combined with the wider local government area, which includes rural areas, small towns and the islands of the Hauraki Gulf, of Auckland Region.
See the Auckland Region article for the greater Auckland area.
Auckland is often known as the "City of Sails" for the large number of yachts that grace the Waitemata Harbour and the Hauraki Gulf. It could also be known as the "City of Volcanoes". Much of its natural character comes from the fact that it is built on the Auckland Volcanic Field which consists of about 48 volcanoes. All of the volcanoes are individually extinct but the volcanic field as a whole is not.
Auckland is the largest city in Polynesia. For some Polynesian island nations there are more expatriates living in Auckland than in their homeland. Auckland's rich Pacific cultural mix is celebrated at festivals  and sporting matches.
Auckland often rates well in international quality-of-life polls; consistently rating in the top five. Culturally, the city is an interesting mix. As New Zealand itself is only 103 years old, an immigrant culture is prominent - many ex-pats from England and Ireland and their immediate children populate the city. The city has also attracted a sizable population of Asians and Pacific Islanders in recent years.
The indigenous peoples of New Zealand are the Māori, a large portion of whom have emigrated from their tribal villages in the last 60 years to cities such as Auckland. Representing about 11% of the city, most of these Māori are fully integrated into the urban culture and many are estranged from their tribal roots. Intermarriage rates have been substantial, so rather than appearing only as a prominently distinct ethnicity, an entire spectrum from European white to Māori has emerged. Like many indigenous peoples, the Māori suffered historical injustice at the hands of the colonizing British, though since the 1960s a revival of the Māori culture and language has emerged with New Zealand now celebrating the distinctness of its native inhabitants. Though most Māori speak far better English, New Zealand has added native Māori as an official language in 1987, which will most prominently manifest in the form of bilingual public signage.
Auckland International Airport (IATA: AKL) , New Zealand's largest airport, is in the southern suburb of Mangere on the shores of the Manukau Harbour. There are frequent services to Australia, and to other New Zealand destinations. There are also direct connections to many locations in the South Pacific, to the United States, Asia and to Buenos Aires and Santiago in South America.
Ground transportation to and from the airport
Transport from the airport to central Auckland and suburbs includes buses, shuttles and taxis.
The bus to central Auckland is called Airbus  and runs 24 h at 15 min intervals during the day and 30 min at night. The one way fare for adults is $16, backpackers with ID $14, children $6. When returning to the airport by Airbus, allow for the service to run late: often the '15 min' schedule is more like 30 min.
Use the $1 discount card available on the website and get a discount from the driver.
Other bus services run to the suburbs. For the city centre, a convenient option is bus 380 to Puhinui from where suburban trains connect to Britomart station in the city centre. This method will cost $3.40 + $5 = $8.40 to the city centre. Total time approx 12+33=45 min. Ask for the bus stop at the infocentre. It is very close to the exit from International, the same stop that the airbus uses.
Approximate prices for one person in a shuttle to various destinations:
Taxi fares may be $50-100 from the airport to a city location, about the same as it costs to hire a car per day.
There are separate domestic and international terminals. A free bus runs between the terminals every 20 min and takes a few minutes. The walk is around 800 m and takes about 10 min. It is indicated by signposts and a blue line to follow. The path is level, and you are permitted to take luggage trolleys between the terminals. The walk is uncovered and exposed to the weather.
The international terminal has ATMs on both sides of security. There is a typical food court in the departures area before security, a McDonalds and a coffee shop in the arrivals area, and some more cafe-style food after security. There is the usual collection of expensive shops and souvenirs on both sides of immigration.
If you have time to kill, there is miniature golf about 1 km (15 min walk) from the terminal. It is complete with a hole on a pirate ship, which beats hanging around in the terminal for hours. 
Lockers are available in the terminal for $15 per day.
The InterCity Sky City Coach Terminal (located at 102 Hobson St, behind Sky City Plaza) is the main hub for national carriers InterCity Coachlines  and GreatSights New Zealand . Regional Northland operator Northliner  also departs from this location. Facilities include an InterCity Coachlines ticketing office, free wifi, cafe and luggage lockers.
The Overlander train runs from central Wellington to Britomart Transport Centre at the north end of Queen St in central Auckland. The 681 km (423 mi) journey takes about 12 h. The trip runs much of the length of the North Island with stopping-off opportunity at Tongariro National Park. In a single day you will pass every kind of scenery: coastline, volcanoes and mountains, green farm pastures and dense New Zealand bush from $119.
There are a variety of ways to get around including bus, train, ferry, taxi, shuttle and hiring your own car. You can use the MAXX website  to find ways to get round Auckland using public transport. MAXX also has a text messaging service which can be used to find out the time of the next bus, ferry or train or to find the quickest way to get to your destination using public transport.
Auckland is a very car-dependent city and for most tourists used to extensive public transport systems, frustrations can mount. It may be more prudent to hire a car if you wish to do a lot of cross city travel, particularly if you plan on leaving to see the nearby natural beauty, though roads frequently become heavily congested and driving standards can be poor. New Zealand law allows you to drive for up to a year if you have a licence in your home country or an International Driving Licence. Beware that New Zealand drives on the left.
The Britomart Transport Centre on the corner of Queen Street and Customs Street is the main information centre for public transportation in Auckland. You will be able to find free bus, train or ferry schedules in this centre - something that is very handy since the frequency of some public transportation services is low and sometimes irregular. These timetables are also downloadable from the MAXX website.
The Auckland Discovery Pass can be purchased for $14, and provides travel on all forms of public transportation in Auckland, except the Fullers ferries and the Airbus that runs from the CBD to the airport.
Bus is the most-used method of public transport in Auckland, carrying over 40 million passenger trips a year. Buses to popular destinations usually run every 5-15mins. For example Kelly Tarltons and Mission Bay have buses (numbers 745-769) running at least every 15 mins Monday to Saturdays though much less frequently Sundays.
If you don't mind a 5 to 10 min walk to a bus stop you can get by without a car in Auckland. However buses are not always reliable, especially during peak hours. Delays of up to 15 min are common on certain routes. Buses are also a slow way to travel long distances, and travel is remarkably more difficult going across town than on a main north-south route. If possible consider taking a train or ferry instead. If you are travelling to less frequented areas or outer suburbs be prepared for long travel times and long wait periods (30+mins) between services.
Auckland's bus services are not integrated - there are different bus companies serving different parts of Auckland. The largest operator,NZ Bus, has relabelled their own brand with different names indicating parts of Auckland that it serves. The following are buses that run to different parts of Auckland:
There is a new integrated bus system in Auckland, the Hop card which allows transport on all NZbus services and will soon allow transport with train, ferry and other bus providers.
Bus passes in Auckland are troublesome since there is a lack of an integrated bus system - each bus service uses its own card system and they are mutually incompatible. All NZbus(i.e. Metrolink, North Star, Go West, Urban Express, Waka Pacific) buses use a snapper based contactless smart card system, Ritchies uses a touch sensor, and Howick and Eastern uses a wayfarer chip system.Buy bus cards (they can be bought from different locations in Auckland, Britomart being one of them) if, and only if you are certain about where you'd be travelling to - otherwise you'll find yourself paying cash.
One exception to this is bus travel on the North Shore. They have recently introduced a Northern Pass system whereby travellers (and commuters) can purchase a day- or week-long pass which covers inter-operator travel on the North Shore. You can buy day passes on the buses heading to and in the North Shore - just keep the ticket and show it to the next bus driver, and you will be let on the bus.
Most bus services run to and from the CBD, and so there are relatively few "cross-town" buses. It might sometimes be faster (and more convenient) to take buses into the city to take another bus out! If you want to get around the same area easily, it is also possible to take the bus to a "hub" where lots of buses run through, to connect to another bus. The bigger bus hubs are (but are not limited to):
Most bus stops that are frequently used have displays showing the times the next buses arrive. These are fairly reliable but do not place all your faith in them - sometimes the signs display that a bus has come and gone, and then several minutes later the bus arrives.
Travel by train is a good option if you are near a train line, but there are only three lines so many suburbs are not served. While the train service has had a bad history due to under-investment, it has been improving in recent years due to increased investment in train carriages and the upgrading of many of the 36 train stations. An annual patronage increase of 30% was achieved in 2005, bringing total patronage to over 5 million passengers a year for the first time since the 1960s.
There are three lines: the Eastern, Southern and Western Lines. Services on the Southern line run from Britomart station in downtown Auckland south to Papakura, with a few services on to Pukekohe. The Southern Line runs roughly parallel to the Southern Motorway and indeed runs right beside the motorway through part of Auckland. The Eastern Line is a short line that runs from Britomart through four stations in the east of central Auckland before joining the Southern line just before Westfield station. Services on the Eastern line also continue to Papakura and Pukekohe. The Western line runs from Britomart west to Waitakere Station. There are no train services on the North Shore or in the eastern suburbs of Manukau City.
The Southern and Eastern Lines have the most frequent and reliable services. Trains on these lines combined run every 10 mins on-peak, 15 minutes off-peak and 30 minutes evenings and weekends. Approximately 80-90% of these services run on-time. The Western Line suffers from somewhat unreliable and less frequent services, and is currently undergoing development to improve frequencies and reliability. Trains on this line runs every 15-20 mins on-peak, every 37 mins off-peak and every 30 mins weekends. Approximately 60-70% of these trains run on-time.
The road network experiences severe congestion at rush hour. The geography of Auckland constrains the network to a limited number of routes. Auckland has a comprehensive road networks for a city its size, but lack of investment in public transport means the city is largely dependent on the private automobile.
It is often easier and cheaper to hire a car instead of using taxis, simply because the city is so large and spread out.
Auckland city is well covered by the main global car rental companies, such as Avis, Budget, Hertz, Thrifty & Europcar. All car rental companies offer competitive pricing for economy class vehicles and unlimited mileage options. Local car rental companies like Apex & Jucy may also offer competitive pricing. New Zealand based car rental comparison  websites are also a good way of saving time and money.
The three main motorway systems running through Auckland are the Northern Motorway (from Orewa to the Central Motorway Junction (CMJ) a.k.a. Spaghetti Junction), the Southern Motorway (from the CMJ past Bombay Hills, where it merges to the Waikato Expressway), and the Northwestern Motorway (from Auckland Port through CMJ to Westgate). These motorways clog up during the morning rush in the CBD-bound direction, and the same thing happens in the opposite direction during the evening rush. The Harbour Bridge has a method of mitigating this traffic load - it changes the lane system from 4-4 to 5-3 favouring the side which has the heavier traffic load, so be careful when crossing the bridge during different times, some lanes might not be there at some times!
Some motorway on-ramps have traffic lights operating in busy periods - they allow one car to proceed every three seconds to ease the merging onto the motorway. Cameras are operating to catch red-light runners.
The High Street/Vulcan Lane is the Fashion centre of Auckland Central and has local designer stores as well as international brands. Look out for womenswear in Kate Sylvester, Ruby, Moochi, Ricochet, World Luxury Store, Karen Walker and Agatha Paris French Fashion Jewelley as well as many other international brands. For menswear, visit Little Brother, Crane Brothers, and World Man. For New Zealand and international brands, see Workshop, Brave, Browns and Fabric, along with Ashley Ardrey for shoes.
Mala Brajkovic - rock and roll womenswear - is found on Vulcan Lane (off High St), along with the World Beauty Store.
Made on Customs St West (parallel to Quay St, near to the Britomart transport centre). Stocking international and New Zealand labels. The Aotea Square markets (Queen Street) are held on Fridays and Saturdays and often feature original designers in addition to the usual market fare.
On Ponsonby Rd, find womenswear in Sera Lily, Miss Crabb, Hepburn, Jaimie Stocking local and international brands (Vivienne Westwood), IsaKelle, and various other stores, including Sybella for shoes.
K' Rd (short for Karangahape Rd) has cultural stores such as Third Eye (Indian), Buana Satu (Polynesian), vintage stores like Fast and Loose and Vixen (St Kevin's Arcade), designer stores like Girl and Vicky Sudarath (both St Kevin's Arcade) and Adrian Hailwood. Across the road from St Kevin's, find Illicit and Miss Illicit. Tattoos from Dermographic, also in Ponsonby.
Newmarket has outposts of the many stores listed above, as well as a few others. Nuffield St is home to Lucy Boshier (a local designer), Trelise Cooper Kids (upscale kids clothing from the New Zealand designer), and Superette (predominantly Australian designers). Look to Teed St for Drop Dead Gorgeous - offering brands such as Stella McCartney, Chloe and 3.1 Phillip Lim and Muse offering international labels such as Diane von Furstenburg, James Perse, and Rebecca Taylor. stenbeck&morse stocks directional New Zealand & Australian labels such as Jimmy D, Cybele, Deborah Sweeney and Josh Goot.
For kosher food, the Auckland Jewish Community Centre, which includes the Auckland Hebrew Congregation, has a kosher shop located on Greys Avenue, Auckland CBD (right next door to the Duxton Hotel) and is open every day except Mondays, Saturdays and Jewish festivals. It includes a large range of kosher products.
There are some good cheap food courts (food halls) offering a variety of usually Asian foods. For downtown food halls, try next to the Queens' Arcade at the bottom of Queen St (slightly hidden entrance), or the Metro award winning one at the bottom of Albert St. The Ponsonby International food court  has the cheapest eats in this somewhat pricey neighbourhood with the Mexican stall a standout among the Asian stalls.
Bed & breakfast
Auckland is generally a fairly safe place to visit. Be vigilant as you would in any other cities in the world, and with a little bit of common sense you will be safe. Being part of a group is obviously safer than walking about alone, particularly for women. Try to stay in lit areas and avoid dark side streets. Consider carefully where you leave your car especially if you park it in daylight and will have to relocate it after nightfall. Theft from cars is a common problem in New Zealand, so don't leave valuables in your vehicle, or at least make sure that they are hidden from sight.
The local emergency contact number is 111 for police, fire and ambulances.
You will generally find police to be quite trustworthy and helpful, and never try to bribe them, unlike in many other cities around the world.
Friday and Saturday nights can be dangerous on the road due to the high rate of drunk driving and "boy racer" culture. Excessive speed, poor vehicle maintenance and bad driving attitudes can result in fatal crashes and care should be exercised.
Be careful in theese areas:
Karangahape Road (K Rd): A large number of pubs and clubs are located here, but care should be taken late at night as assaults and theft can occur.
Queen Street: During the day, this is a repectable shopping area, and after dark, there are usually still a large number of pedestrians and traffic until the early hours of the morning so the area it is relatively safe. On Friday and Saturday nights, there is typically a large number of heavily intoxicated people wandering up and down the street. Some may seem intimidating, but they are usually more interested in getting to their next drinking destination than anything else. An increasing number of homeless people sleep around this area, but they are unlikely to bother you except a plea for loose change.
Fort Street: Once the centre of Auckland's red light district. Fort St is now considered backpackers street with 3 major backpackers calling it home. During the day you can drink at one of Fort Streets many cafes and dance the night away in one of Fort Streets many bars.
High Street/Vulcan Lane: During the day, this is an elegant and upmarket shopping area. At night, it gets quieter, but on weekends, there will be a large young crowd at the various bars and clubs along the street, and is usually quite safe. Police regularly patrol this street on weekends for disorderly drunk youths.
Viaduct Harbour: Many bars are located here, and care should be taken late at night as intoxication levels rise.
There are many internet cafes around the CBD area with prices ranging from $1 per half an hour to $5 per hour, however free internet is available from the public library (limited 100MB per IP address per day).Furthermore there are also free wifi internet in the skycity foodcourts. There are 40 HotSpots that offer WiFi connectivity, most notably Esquires cafe (inside Skycity Queen Street, Middle Queen Street, Lower Queen Street, Nelson Street), Starbucks (Victoria Street, K' Road, Lower Queen Street) and various other cafes around Auckland.
See the New Zealand article for information about mobile phone and associated data networks.
Go wine tasting on Waiheke Island. Waiheke is home to some fantastic wines and has some of the best beaches in the area. Can get crowded during the weekends, but very quiet during the week. It seems a world away from Auckland, but is only 35 minutes by ferry.