News and Views

Insider's guide to Auckland Art Gallery

Posted by Website Admin on October 23, 2017

Insider's guide to Auckland Art Gallery

A recent rainy day was well spent on a guided tour of the Auckland Art Gallery or Toi O Tamaki which means ‘our treasure house’. 

The Auckland Art Gallery is regarded as the world home or wharenui of New Zealand art. This superbly designed gallery views itself as custodians or kaitiaki of the art in their care.  Works of famous New Zealand artists like Charles Goldie, Ralph Hotere and Colin McCahon are on public display instead of hidden away in private homes or personal vaults. The 100-strong staff at the Gallery also include highly-skilled conservators who care for precious collections and undertake pain-staking repairs to valuable artwork and papers.
   
The Gallery runs one hour tours daily (except Xmas Day) at 11.30am and 1.30pm at a very reasonable charge of $10. After checking in bags and brollies, we met our knowledgeable guide Catherine who showcased the Gallery from top to bottom to our small party of six.  After the tour we did some snooping of our own to expand on Catherine's fascinating facts. Here's seven gems which stole our interest:

  • The Gallery is home to around 20,000 pieces of art going back around 700 years but only 800 pieces are normally displayed. When we asked Catherine where the bulk of the art is stored, she couldn’t tell us. It’s housed offsite in secure storage, the location of which is a closely guarded secret. Even most of the staff don’t know.
  • One of only two Picassos in New Zealand resides on the walls of the Auckland Art Gallery. The other Picasso is in Dunedin. Painted during the Nazi occupation of Paris in 1944, ‘Verre et Pichet’, a still-life of a table setting (sans food) isn’t regarded as one of Picasso’s best works but it does symbolize the dark years of deprivation experienced during the Second World War.
  • Outreach workshops in the community like ‘Art in a Suitcase’ are just some of the services the Gallery provides. So it’s not only a display gallery but an activation of arts in the suburbs of Auckland. This makes art accessible to everyone. The Gallery conservators are also available to undertake restoration or consultations on private collections. 
  • The Gallery has a members-only lounge which looks flashier than the Koru Club!  For just $50 annually, you get access to this plus a whole range of benefits like unlimited entry to paid exhibitions, invitations to behind-the-scenes tours and Rialto movie ticket discounts.(For city meetings, the Art Gallery members’ lounge sure beats a noisy cafe.) 
  • The stunning addition of the new wing in 2011 with its Nikau-canopied roof doubled the size of the gallery and was recognized with a world-architecture design award.
  • The recent ‘Nudes’ exhibition on loan from the Tate London featured 100 revealing masterpieces from the likes of Rodin, Picasso and Bonnard’s ‘the bath’. ‘Nudes’ had to be renamed for New Zealand audiences because focus-group research prior to its Auckland launch revealed Kiwi’s still have a prudish streak. So the exhibition was rebranded as ‘The Body Laid Bare’ to hopefully appeal to a broader audience.
  • The Corsini Collection on display until January 2018 features renaissance paintings by Botticelli, Caravaggio and a painting of a Pope with a Nazi bullet hole through his head (you’ll have to visit the exhibition to find out why). This is the first time that the collection has been allowed out of Italy by the Florence-based family. Such is the high regard that the Corsinis hold for the New Zealand Maori Battalion who protected their family estate during World War Two. (Quite proud to hear that!)

The hour we spent with our friendly guide Catherine flew by and we parted ways in the gracious high-vaulted MacKenzie Gallery with a greater appreciation for the diversity and range of art on display.  

But the absolute best thing about the Auckland Art Gallery?  This small but world-class arthouse has FREE entry for both locals and visitors. Plus it's wheelchair-friendly too. There are not many cities around the world which can boast this.

Join us on a private Aucky Walky tour and we’ll include a short visit to the Auckland Art Gallery.  We know where the best art and culture can be found and enjoyed in the central city.  

Find out more about the Auckland Art Gallery here 

Auckland with kids in tow

Posted by Website Admin on September 21, 2017

Visting Auckland with kids? 

If you’re coming to Auckland with your family then we’re the best place to start. Our Hello Auckland tour reveals the legends of Auckland, the local laneways, the kid-friendly parks and we only walk in small-groups at a relaxed pace.  We’ve shown heaps of kids around town on our boredom-free, laugh-filled tours and always provide local advice on what to do next.

We’re parents too so here’s a handful of other suggestions, both free and paid, which we as Aucklanders enjoy doing with our children.   
Disclaimer:  The author is not responsible for any whinging of “I’m bored” or “can we go now?” at any of the following activities.   

Picnic in Myers Park.  Auckland’s CBD, access off 381 Queen Street.
If Charlie and the Chocolate Factory had a playground it would look like this. Nestled in the green valley of Myers Park, this recently upgraded funky-coloured kids’ space features fantail sculptures, climbing frames and a giant swing.  Hard to believe it’s in the heart of Auckland’s business district. Avoid park during lunch hour if you want the place to yourself as the nearby school uses it on sunny days and you’ll have to stand in line for a swing. Grab a pizza or kebabs from Queen Street and picnic in the park while the kids play. 

Velvet Burger 
With lunchtime queues out the door this Kiwi burger joint, with outlets in both Fort Street and Federal Lane, is really popular with the locals. Its Big Bird Burger is not made out of the long-extinct Moa bird, but delicious grilled chicken breast, salad, bacon, brie cheese with aioli and lashings of apricot or cranberry sauce. What’s more the adults can choose from a range of New Zealand beers, something refreshingly different and more wholesome than the Golden Arches. 

The Escape Masters
Wet day in Auckland?  No problemo. Unless you get into a heated argument over indeciperable clues with your teenager.  The Escape Masters in Queen Street offers a range of fun-themed cells like the Gangsters or Alien Abduction rooms to break out of.  In order to ‘escape’, you are required to problem solve and crack a series of puzzles as well as logical mind games while utilizing a wide array of technology to decipher codes and locks, all the while racing against the clock!  Whew, who knew family game time could be so challenging?

The Volcano House at the Auckland Museum
If your kids are interested in  volcanoes, shakes and quakes then head for the excellent volcano exhibit at the Auckland Museum. Sit in the living room of a purpose- built house as a TV newsreader reports the imminent build-up to a volcanic eruption. Watch the action unfold across the harbour as the ash and debris heads towards your home. Feel the impact of the earth shaking. This simulation will captivate budding geologists and anyone interested in New Zealand’s unique geology.    

Fishing under the Harbour Bridge
To view fish, penguins and sharks in spectacular underwater viewing tanks, you could visit Kelly Tarlton’s Aquarium along the waterfront, east of the city. Or you could head 10 minutes west, pick up a couple of cheap handlines and bait at a local marine store and try catching a fish or two for yourself.  Park up under the Harbour Bridge alongside the local recreational fisherman and cast a line while admiring the channel views and listening to the terrified yells of the Bridge bungy jumpers.  And yes, there’s a good chance you’ll catch a good-sized keeper, although it needs to be longer than 27cm under New Zealand fishing regulations.

Rainbow’s End
Auckland’s not known for its theme parks, but Rainbows End is popular with families and kids aged under 15.  Based down the Southern Motorway, you can race, swoop, crash and splash on rides like the Log Fume, Stratosphere and the Corkscrew Coaster. Afterwards If your stomach can handle it, pop across the road to the Manukau mall to eat at the local foodcourt.    

Still looking for ideas?  Then check out Auckland for Kids or send us an email with questions. 

Five best day hikes near Auckland

Posted by Website Admin on September 06, 2017

Five best day hikes near Auckland     

We often get asked ‘which walks would you recommend close to Auckland?” We’re so blessed to live surrounded by breathtaking walking tracks that it’s kind of like being asked to choose your favourite child. But if you’ve only got a few days based in the city then here’s some tracks and trails we love like our own.

Auckland’s Coast to Coast (18 km, 5 hours, Difficulty: Moderate)  Where else can you walk across a country in a morning?  This metropolitan walk spans two oceans, volcanoes, views and reveals life in Auckland’s quiet suburban streets. Best of all around two thirds of the walk winds through parks and green spaces. We recommend starting at the least scenic end of industrial Onehunga. Take the train west from downtown’s Britomart station then start walking east towards the city for the stunning harbour views. You’ll earn them! At walk’s end you can reward yourself with a brew beside the Waitemata Harbour, one of the most beautiful harbours in the world. Just a warning, there aren’t many cafes en-route (Cornwall Park) and it’s not well sign posted either so plug the Ferry Building into your phone map or drop into the city iSITE for a trail map.

Te Henga Walkway (12 km, 4 hours, Difficulty: Moderate)  Forming part of the spectacular Hillary Trail, the Te Henga Walkway is a West Auckland walk which crosses the cliff-tops from Bethells to Muriwai.  It’s possibly the most interesting and varied track in the Waitakere Ranges. You’ll need to take two cars and leave a car at each end so you can begin the track from Bethells Road crossing the Waitakere River footbridge where you'll quickly rise to stunning coastal view. Take in Bethells, O'Neill Bay and phenomenal coastal vistas before tackling the staircase exit to Constable Road.  Local’s tip: Pack a picnic and linger for the views.  

Rangitoto Island to Home Bay (15 km, 6 hours, Difficulty: Moderate)  Yes you can walk up the summit but this is where the local’s go for a picturesque blend of volcanic, coastal and farm scenery. Take the inland route from the Rangitoto Wharf to the Islington Bay Wharf, crossing the causeway to Motutapu Island and over farmland to reveal the idyllic Home Bay. Follow the same track back after a much needed break at the campsite or take the Coastal Track back to the Rangitoto Wharf from the Islington Bay Wharf (note this detour will add an hour to your trip). Offering beautiful views and a really unique perspective of the Gulf, plenty of water is required as there's none on either island and careful planning to work with the ferry timetables.

Rotoroa Island  (Allow the whole day)  Another island walk, Rotoroa Island east of Waiheke has recently been reopened to the public after 100 years as a rehab centre. Now thriving with wildlife, visitors can explore the island sanctuary and idyllic bays from Cable Bay on the northern side to Ladies Bay on the east. Catch the once-a-day ferry from downtown in the morning which returns to pick you up later in the day. Take adequate food and supplies. Local’s Tip: Visit Kiwi environmental artist Chris Booth's sculpture on the southern tip of Rotoroa.  

Wenderholm Regional Park (5 km, 1.5 hours, Difficulty: Low)  We’ve left the easiest to last. Drive north some 45 minutes towards Wenderholm Regional Park. Nestled between the inlets of the Waiwera and Puhoi Rivers, the park offers sprawling grass for picnics, plenty of trees to climb, a beautiful white sandy beach and best of all, a lovely loop track suitable for all ages. The Perimeter Track is aptly named as it follows the boundary of the park beginning from the carpark through native bush where Tui and Kereru are abundant. Winding upward there's a great mix of sights, sounds and well-formed steps as you make your way to the top of the track toward spectacular views of the park, Sullivans Bay and Motuora Island. Descending along the cliff edge and back into bush past the old water reservoir catch a glimpse of the historic Couldrey House homestead before spilling out to any number of idyllic picnic spots. On the return journey,  stop at the Waiwera Thermal Pools for a relaxing drip and some hot chips.

Of course, if you’ve only got a day in Auckland then join us on a guided walk for the city’s laneways, legends and loads of local advice.  

For more Auckland walking tracks click here 

Content reproduced in part from Concrete Jungle

 

Auckland's Style Mile

Posted by Website Admin on August 28, 2017

Auckland’s Style Mile

It’s New Zealand Fashion Week so here’s eight spots where Aucklanders shop for fashion all-year-round, all within easy walking distance.  From vintage to avant-garde, and downtown to uptown the locals know where to go.  

1. Start downtown at Britomart for the strip of Kiwi designers.  From Karen Walker and Trelise Cooper, to Kathryn Wilson for shoes. World and Kate Sylvester are also located alongside in nearby Tyler Street. 

2. Pop into MADE on Customs Street for French labels like A.P.C, AMI Paris, and Maison Kitsune, alongside New Zealand designers such as Penny Sage, C'est Moi and M Label. Fondle the knitwear by New Zealand’s own Standard Issue. Along the street is RJB Menswear, for custom tailored suits and classic smart casual wear, perfect if you’re looking to smarten up your look. 

3. If money’s no problem, discover the recent addition of high-end luxury labels on Queen Street, including Gucci, Prada, Louis Vuitton, Dior and Hugo Boss. Both Chanel and Tiffiny add a touch of glamour to Takutai Square. 

4. For bright colours and fabulous tailoring wander up High Street to designer Andrea Moore. Right next door is Pauanesia,  perfect for crafty Kiwi souvenirs if you’re heading offshore. Duck into upper Vulcan Lane to marvel at Gorman’s bright colour palettes and whimsical prints, inspired by Australian nature, culture and tribal history. 

5. Save the earth (and your wallet) at the Recyle Boutique on Darby Street. Once- owned designer threads makes this a popular shopping haunt amongst both city professionals and students. Delight in the discovery of high-end fashion for close to nix.

6. Get your bling at Fingers on Kitchener Street. Bespoke jewellery designed and made by Kiwi artisans, it’s a treasure trove of shimmery shine including pounamu or greenstone inspired Maori art. 

7. Cross the road to the beautiful heritage building of Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki. Take a stroll through more than 15,000 traditional and contemporary artworks and marvel at the fashions of generations past.  Best of all the entry is free!

8. Jump on the CityLink Bus and head uptown to Saint Kevins, one of the last old grand arcades remaining in central Auckland. Admire the rockabilly vintage gowns at Rita Sue or the classic shoes at Pat Menzies, an Auckland insitution. Take in the latest tattoo fashions in the design studios which line K’ Road. 

Whatever your tastes - champagne or not, Auckland is a haven for shoppers both young and youthful. So take a walk and hop around the city shops for a fun day out. 
 

Auckland's Top Attraction Revealed

Posted by Website Admin on August 16, 2017

Auckland's Top Attraction Revealed

If you asked an Aucklander what the city’s top visitor attraction is, the answers would likely range from SkyTower (for the views), Kelly Tarlton’s Aquarium (for the penguins) or possibly Waiheke Island (for its vineyard and beaches). And yes the top attraction is an island. But it’s not Waiheke or Rangitoto, the volcanic wonderland in Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf.

Auckland’s top tourist attraction, according to Trip Advisor, is actually the island of Tiri Tiri Matangi. This wildlife sanctuary ranks as number one of 270 things to do in Auckland and attracts thousands of visitors each year.

Thirty years ago it was a different story. The 220-hectare island had been stripped of 94% of its native bush, a result of over-intensive farming. Bird life had disappeared. In 1984, volunteers took action planting around 300,000 trees over a ten year period and introducing a pest trapping programme. Today Tiri Tiri Matangi is now 60% forested with the remaining 40% left as grassland for species preferring open habitat.

A number of threatened and endangered species have been successfully introduced, including the flightless takahe and the tuatara. There are few places in New Zealand where you can readily see and walk amongst so many rare species.

On a summer morning, the queue to catch the Tiri ferry snakes its way down Quay Street.  Situated in the Hauraki Gulf, the island is a 75 minute ferry ride away from downtown Auckland (via Gulf Harbour).

The island is a protected haven for native endangered species and is a nature lover’s paradise, particularly for avid birdwatchers. From the moment you step onto the island to the moment you leave, you’ll be serenaded by bird songs while exploring walking tracks through native bush and coastal forests.

But don’t take our word for it, here’s what Jeanne from San Diego wrote on Trip Advisor.

“This is an absolute must visit, a beautiful nature reserve. Once on the island, you are divided into a group of 8-10 people with a volunteer guide who tells about the history of the island, and takes you on a guided hike on several paths, while pointing out the species of birds & plants. Many species can only be found in New Zealand. Several are endangered. The island is a regrown rain forest, full of life and beauty. The excursion takes most of the day. But worth every minute!”

As well as wonderful wildlife, Tiritiri Matangi has a 150 year old lighthouse, a Visitor Centre, some great walks, views and beaches.  Most visitors start with a guided walk which finishes at the Tiritiri Visitor Centre where there are informative displays and a great gift shop with complimentary tea and coffee. All profits from the shop go back to supporting the conservation and education programmes on the island.

The Tiritiri Matangi Island sanctuary is a partnership between the Department of Conservation (DOC) and the community, through the Supporters of Tiritiri Matangi (Inc), a non-profit community conservation organisation.

So if you feel like a walk in the wild, head over to Tiri Tiri Matangi for birds, bush and beautiful bays. A jewel of an island in Auckland’s crown.