News and Views

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.


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”