News and Views

Albert Park - Auckland's next Tunnel?

Posted by Website Admin on June 22, 2017

Could Albert Park be Auckland's next Tunnel?

Hundreds of Auckland university students stroll down the steps of Albert Park each day unaware of the exciting opportunity beneath their feet.

Aucky Walky tour takers are fascinated to learn that the city’s air raid shelters lie under the tranquil city park. And they’re excited by one man’s vision to create a new underground cycle and walkway linking Victoria Street to Parnell and the Auckland Domain. So while the opening of the new Waterview Tunnel is a major breakthrough, there's potentially another city tunnel project which could help move people, both physically and emotionally.

When World War 2 broke out in the Pacific, a real threat existed that Auckland would be bombed by the Japanese. It was considered a major risk for the city’s population of 400,000 at the time.

So a plan was actioned to tunnel 3.5 km of rock out of Albert Park to create air raid shelters, reaching from Constitution Hill to Wellesley Street. The tunnels, completed in 1942 were mainly hand-dug by council workers, most of whom were middle-aged men deemed unfit for war.

The shelters included sanitation facilities, kitchens and first aid stations all ventilated by air shafts substantial enough to accommodate 20,000 city workers.

The war passed and Auckland was fortunate enough to escape attack.Unfortunately the timber supports in the unused tunnels then began to rot and collapse so the shelters were backfilled with 8.8 million bricks.  All nine entrances were sealed and buried by 1946. Three of the blocked entrances are located behind the scoria wall at the Park's Victoria Street entry.

Since then, a number of schemes have been proposed to reopen the tunnels.

Over twenty years ago tourism promoter Bill Reid gained permission to unseal the tunnels and perform an inspection, with a view to developing a tourist attraction.  Various changes in Council and priorities stalled Bill’s progress, however the intrepid advocate persevered and has recently conducted promising tunnel talks with both ATEED and Auckland Transport.

The prospect of a dual walk-cycle way linking Victoria Street east to Parnell is an exciting prospect.The strong belief that glow worms caves exist in the volcanic rock would be a tourism bonanza.   

This week the Tunnel Team are meeting with Auckland Mayor Phil Goff.

Successful tourism operator Waitomo Adventures are lending their support to the plan.

Auckland needs innovative attractions downtown and this seems like a venture worthy of full Council and ATEED backing. If we can fund a national cycleway with variable usage then this project, potentially benefiting thousands of people per day, is overdue a feasibility study.

You can follow Bill’s progress here on the Albert Tunnels Facebook page  

photo credit: Albert Tunnels Facebook Page - Nicolas Reid, Transport Planning Consultant

 

The guide who ate Auckland

Posted by Website Admin on June 22, 2017

The guide who ate Auckland

One question we frequently get asked by visitors and locals is "where's a good place for lunch?"  At the end of each walking tour we like to treat ourselves to a little sticky or a savory and always with coffee. Hey it’s a tour guide’s job to know where to go right? Let’s just say we like flavorsome food, plenty of it and the personalities who prepare it for us.

The following cafes and bistros often feature on our radar for their tasty treats, ambiance and friendly service so hopefully, there’s something here to whet your appetite too. This is our independent opinion with no free perks, commission or backhanders coming our way!

1. Oaken 130 Quay St, Downtown

A special occasion lunch with an old friend brought us here. Sitting in the sunny front room with the Waitemata sparkling across the way, we could’ve been anywhere but wintery Auckland.  The coffee was exemplary, you can choose between Supreme and Allpress, and it's the first time we’ve been asked by a waiter to choose our preferred blend!  The chicken roulade salad was light, fresh and flavorsome with its salty anchovies and flaky croutons. The waiter personally addressed us by our names on each approach and was courtesy personified.  And the total bill?  It came to $45 which, for its premium location and satiation factor, we judged good value. Five star service too.

2. Misters  12 Wyndham St, Central City

A vegan ‘Sister’ first revealed this ‘Mister” to us.  A no-dairy, gluten-free cafe which serves up delicious multinational cuisine - mainly bowl food. Think Japanese, Turkish, Thai, Chilean dishes each featuring a different base - be it potato, rice or quinoa.  Shared trestle tables make for a buzzy boho vibe and the coffee’s very good too.  Love that it’s tucked away off Queen Street up the mysterious Wyndham way.

3. Major Sprout  21 Graham Street, Central City

One of the few eateries on the ‘lower westside”, Major Sprout is a light-filled, spacious cafe just down from the new flash NZME headquarters.  It’s so good - it’s obviously drawing up the city workers from the Viaduct office park who bravely cross Fanshawe Street for the uphill traipse. Their classic eggs bene (pictured) is a regular favorite as are their light and dreamy cakes on display. Well worth hunting out.

4. Chuffed   43 High Street, Central City

For some of the friendliest service and tastiest slices in town, check out this hidden-deck delight.  It’s small and a bit cosy with other diners in close proximity but hey it's winter, so that’s ka pai!  The pocket terrace seating area provides a delightful contrast to busy High Street and it’s a secret little spot worth sharing.  Love the poached chicken salad - try it!

5. Mezze Bar - Durham Lane, Central City

Sisters Sally and Clare are celebrating the 25th anniversary of this locally-loved Middle Eastern inspired bistro. It's always humming and particularly popular with the city workers keen for their specialty kofte meatballs or hummus and za’atar spiced falafels. Their woodfired pide bread leaves you wanting more of its soft and doughy deliciousness. A great midtown stop which has proven its stripes time and again.

Auckland is blessed to have so many great cafes and we're constantly unearthing more.  Walk with us to discover even more decadent delights - chocolateries, cocktail bars, ice creameries and cake shops.  We’ll show you how to eat your way around town and walk it off!

 

Auckland pub trail for Lions and Locals

Posted by Website Admin on May 29, 2017

The British & Irish Lions are returning to New Zealand for the first time in 12 years, bringing the best players from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales.  Around 35,000 ‘barmy army’ supporters are expected to arrive en-masse with many following the ten-match series around the country in a convoy of camper vans.

The DHL New Zealand Lions Series includes three fixtures in Auckland on the following dates:

  • 7 June - Lions vs Blues
  • 24 June and 8 July - Lions vs All Blacks

Central Auckland will be abuzz with the lilting accents of excited international rugby fans and we're hoping to walk them around on foot.  Like bangers and mash, mushy peas and perchers, the British and Irish also love their pubs. So it’s likely that sampling a brew or two will be on the itinerary of Lion’s rugby supporters when they arrive in Auckland.

Aucky Walky, being hospitable souls, have developed a self-guided crawl of Auckland’s classic city pubs and brew bars, some dating back to the 1860’s when Auckland’s population was a mere 13,000 hearty souls. 

All of these classic pubs promise warm Kiwi hospitality, free-flowing ale, and hearty pub fare even New Zealand specialties like kumara chips, home-made saussies and spare ribs. So before the games, here’s an enjoyable way for rugby fans, both local and Lions alike, to mix and mingle in the pubs and streets of Auckland.  

Start in the mid-city at historic Vulcan Lane - once home to Auckland’s blacksmiths and their stoking-hot furnaces (how else would one slake their thirst than with a cool refreshing ale?)  There’s three classic bars to choose from here. The Vultures Bar for craft beer brews, The Lobby  (originally the Queens Ferry 1865) and The Occidental (where once the law-makers drank).

Then stroll across Queen Street to The Bluestone Room (1861) in quaint Durham Lane. One of Auckland’s oldest buildings, it still houses Auckland’s first deep- pure water well, a visible feature inside.  This gastro pub serves up great food and modern craft beer.   

Wander uphill to the Shakespeare Hotel and Brewery on 61 Albert Street - home to the country’s first ever brewery in a pub.  It offers eight available beers on tap, three of which are brewed in house, a range of pizzas and a sausage of the week made on site.

Amble over to The Albion of Auckland built in 1873 for a classic Kiwi experience.  It’s how men of old used to drink - with the pub serving up big bottles of Lion Red and Waikato Draught with no fuss or frills.  Their BBQ ribs are the star attraction - cooked for three hours then smothered in a Jack Daniels sauce.  Lip-smacking goodness.     

By now you’re probably feeling quite happy. So bounce down to The Empire Tavern, a pretty Victorian styled pub (1875) on the corner of  Victoria and Nelson Streets, with one of the best city outdoor courtyards. For $10 ( and a drink purchase) you can buy a scotch fillet (dressed with a peppercorn sauce) with fries and slaw.  For $5 enjoy a meringue-filled creamy Eton Mess (if you can fit it in). Now that’s great host responsibility.

But wait it’s nearly game-time!  Get to the park and soak up the crazy atmosphere with the world’s most passionate rugby fans. Even if you block your ears, you'll still hear those Lions roar!

Auckland's arcade secrets

Posted by Website Admin on May 21, 2017

Once upon a time, it was the seat of New Zealand government. Now one of Auckland’s last grand old arcades, Saint Kevins is up for sale by an ex-Shortland Street star. While its future is unclear, its past reveals a treasure trove of city secrets.  

Here’s five little-known facts about Saint Kevins Arcade, one of Auckland’s most loved heritage buildings.

1. The current owner is a property development company associated with former Shortland Street star and Rubicon musician, Paul Reid, who played troubled teen Marshall Heywood on Shortland Street from 2001 to 2004.  

2. The site was once  home to the Nathan family, who went onto create a retail and brewing dynasty in New Zealand - remember LD Nathan, owners of DDDDeka and Woolworths?  Scoria House was built in 1845 on the site of Saint Kevins for Jewish merchant David Nathan.  Nathan chose the site for its sea views and peaceful solitude from the new Auckland  settlement.  The house was constructed of local volcanic stone or scoria when most buildings were made of wood.

3. Saint Kevins was once the seat of New Zealand's’ government from 1848 to 1851.   Sir George Grey commandeered the homestead as Government House when Auckland was under threat from Nga Puhi Maori in the North. Grey suspected that Nga Puhi would attack from the harbour so wanted to ensure a good vantage point if the threat eventuated.

4. During the period of the New Zealand Wars, 1857-65, the site  was occupied by General Sir Duncan Cameron, Commander of the British Forces in New Zealand. Later when used as the officers’ mess of the Royal Irish Regiment it became known as St Kevens.

5. Saint Keven was an Irish saint in the 6th century who had a spiritual connection with nature.  It’s fitting that the current arcade built in 1924 overlooks Myers Park, one of central Auckland’s prettiest spaces which still bursts with birdsong over the surrounding construction noise.   

Today a newly renovated Saint Kevins is a quirky mix of eateries, boutiques, bookstores and a creative magnet for artists and musicians. It plays host to sketch clubs, pre-dawn dance classes and city commuters. Aucky Walky’s Hello Auckland Tour includes a walk through this special Karangahape Road spot.

Let’s hope the new owner will preserve the historic legacy and looks of Saint Kevins so Aucklanders and visitors alike can enjoy its charms for many years to come. Perhaps the last word is best left to local historian Edward Bennett.  

“Saint Kevins Arcade is an unusual space – it has developed a cultural following which few other places can claim. Certainly no other building in central Auckland has the resonance which is a feature of this place”

 

Auckland's high life for less

Posted by Website Admin on May 15, 2017

Everyone loves a bargain right?  It’s something both locals and visitors to Auckland share in common.

Visitors especially want to make their dollar stretch further as the cost of getting here can set them back thousands of dollars. New Zealand is marketed internationally as a high-end destination.  It’s about quality not quantity, wide open spaces over rat races and even our newly anointed Minister of Tourism, the honorable Paula Bennett was recently quoted as saying “ we don’t mind being seen as expensive, just as long as we’re not a rip-off.”  

Well here’s eight local tip-offs to avoid the rip-offs.  Ideas on how to get more bang for your buck in the city of sails (and sales). Not that we’re cheapskates or anything!

1. Free WIFI.  The bane of any traveler’s life is the fickleness of WIFI in hotels and the prices they charge for staying connected. Luckily central Auckland has free WIFI hotspots so head for North Wharf, Queens Wharf, Britomart,  Aotea Square or McDonald's to get your data fix.  

2. Grab One and Groupon.  This discount site has special deals ranging from 40-50% off with a big emphasis on food and leisure activities.  It’s the first post of call for Kiwi’s looking for a bargain. You’ll find three-course meals, dolphin excursions, zip lining on Waiheke, even white water rafting deals all at heavy discounted prices off original retail. Groupon’s  deals stay up longer so no need to worry about run-out or expiry dates. It’s the number one deal site in Australia and growing here in NZ

3. Lunch like a local.  Many of Auckland’s top restaurants are heavily booked at night but slash prices to encourage lunch-time trade. Award winning Cibo offer three courses for $49, Merediths has a great lunch time deal with a Friday four course degustation for just $65. They even throw in a glass of Tattingers Champagne as a sweetener. If lunch on the go is your thing, then head for Amano’s bakery in Tyler Street for upmarket tartine and great coffee. Or the Dumplings Store on the corner of Lorne and Wellesley Street - look for the locals’ queuing.

4. Art in the heart.  Unlike many other major cities, the Auckland Art Gallery is free. That’s right, you can delve into Toi E Tamaki, Auckland’s Treasure house for nix. Even the architecture of the building itself is a wonder to behold. Lose yourself here on a wet Auckland day.  

5. Grab the locals' bus. For a mere $1 coin, you can jump on the CityLink loop bus and get from Wynyard Quarter up Queen Street to vibrant K’Road, Auckland’s vintage and retro shopping capital. Great views and no static tour bus commentary in your ear.

6. Haircut anyone?  Even visitors need a pamper and trim while traveling. So the Servilles Training Academy on Queen Street is a great local secret. Just $15 for a wash and blow dry. Or ban those greys with a cheeky colour from just $41. All the trainees are fully supervised.

7. Exercise classes.  If you feel like a stretch without breaking the bank,  drop into the free yoga or running classes at Lululemon stores - downtown Auckland or Ponsonby Road.  Or download Nike’s free fitness app Nike+Training Club for a mix of workout routines. Or grab your trainers and head down to Britomart’s Nike Store to join their free run club every  Wednesday at 5.30pm. Sweat with the locals plus you won’t get lost!

8. Free Coffee Fridays.  According to Auckland’s Heart of the City, streetwear label  Huffer serves up free piping hot Allpress coffees every Friday morning from 7.30am - 10.30am at their store on 12 Custom Street, Britomart. Now that sounds like the ultimate way to start your Auckland day.