I haven’t personally ever heard Auckland referred to as “The Big Smoke”. But over the course of last summer, traveling around the South Island, I got to hear a lot of what kiwis outside of Auckland think about New Zealand‘s largest city.
A while back I was having drinks with a native Aucklander who was having endless fun with all of the many easily ridiculed aspects of the USA – easier than usual after the 2016 elections. Eventually I reminded him that the term “JAFA” is used in the rest of New Zealand to mean both “Just Another F*cking American” and “Just Another F*cking Aucklander” …that for the rest of New Zealand, Aucklanders and Americans are kind of in the same category. His response was a surprised “You get that!”
Guide books more or less advise tourists to sleep off the jet lag, buy any needed supplies, and head out of Auckland. But Auckland is part of New Zealand, and it is highly underrated.
In Defense of Auckland
I don’t really want to get into the list of negatives attributed to Auckland, or even to defend Auckland from those claims. Fortunately, I’m able to link to a blog post that does that beautifully. It is better in many ways than anything I could have written. It offers a native’s perspective* on the debate, and offers insight on how taboo it is to say anything positive about Auckland, among kiwis outside of Auckland. Consensus is enforced by browbeating on a number of topics in New Zealand, and this article offers some insight into this aspect of kiwi culture.
Most importantly, the link above tells us in detail what non-Aucklanders think of Auckland, and does a good job of setting the record straight.
I couldn’t have said it better. But maybe I can add something to it.
More Than Just a City
It is important to point out that Auckland is the name for both a city with a population of 1,454,300, which constitutes 32 percent of New Zealand’s population, and one of the sixteen regions of New Zealand, with by far the biggest population and economy of any region of New Zealand, but the second-smallest land area.
I have never heard anyone mention this distinction though. For Aucklanders, other kiwis, tourists… for everyone I’ve ever met… Auckland is Auckland.
Both city and region are governed by the Auckland Council, which began operating on 1 November 2010, combining the functions of the previous regional council and the region’s seven city and district councils into one “super council” governing a “super city”. This is probably the most important blurring of any remaining distinctions between city and region.
Auckland is about the size of The Greater Los Angeles Area, with fewer than 2 million people.
What Else Is Auckland?
Auckland is New Zealand – a place of awesome natural beauty.
Auckland is Piha.
Auckland is also Whatipu.
Auckland is all of the other great west coast Tasman Sea beaches well.
Auckland is Tawharanui.
Auckland is all of the east coast, Pacific Ocean and Hauraki Gulf beaches, like Pakiri Beach in the north.
Auckland is Tawhitokino Beach on the southeast coast.
Auckland is the forests and mountains of the Waitakere Ranges in the west.
Auckland is the mountains and bush of the Hunua Ranges in the east.
In the past 2 years I’ve taken you to almost all of Auckland’s 34 Regional Parks, and I’ve recently created a page to help you navigate my many posts about those parks. Follow the link above for 34 beautiful things that Auckland is.
There are few things I’ve enjoyed more than the North Shore Coastal Walk, with its rock shelves and tree-lined cliffs and constant changing views of Rangitoto Island.
Rangitoto Island is not just a nice bit of scenery visible from Auckland, Rangitoto Island is Auckland! Rangitoto is a beautiful place to visit, and returns the favor by offering fantastic views of the city.
Auckland is Waiheke Island.
Because Auckland is also a large city you get interesting cultural events in beautiful natural settings, like Sculpture on the Gulf on Waiheke Island.
Because Auckland is a very diverse city it offers events like the Lantern Festival, one of many opportunities to enjoy Chinese culture in New Zealand.
Many ethnic groups from all corners of the world have a presence in Auckland, making it by far the country’s most cosmopolitan city. Europeans make up the majority of Auckland’s population, however substantial numbers of Māori, Pacific Islander and Asian peoples exist as well. Auckland has the largest Polynesian population of any city in the world.
I haven’t been to Auckland’s Pasifika Festival. I’ll try to remedy that in 2017.
Auckland has the spectacular Auckland Civic Theatre. I’ll have to remember to post about this awesome place.
Auckland may not have the wildlife that the South Island has. But it does have a great array of New Zealand’s native birds.
And naturalized birds as well.
I did meet a young seal on the coast below JFK Park.
There is a lone leopard seal that has moved into Auckland’s harbor. She’s been here since at least June of 2015.
I’ve been trying to get a look at this seal, but haven’t had any luck so far.
It Gets Better
I can’t really finish what I set out to do with this post, at this time – because it is possible, even likely, that I haven’t yet seen the best that Auckland has to offer. I plan to remedy that in 2017.
I’ve booked 2 nights on Tiritiri Matangi Island, with its abundance of threatened and endangered birds and reptiles. I look forward to the dawn chorus of native birds, and with a little luck I might get to meet little spotted kiwi, little blue penguins, tuatara, and other rare wildlife.
I hope to visit Kawau Island, with its four species of wallaby.
Wallaby are tenacious pests that do extensive damage to Kawau Island, but before they are eradicated, I want to see kangaroos in Auckland. Of course Kawau Island offers a lot of native, less destructive reasons to visit as well.
I’ll post soon about my recent visit to Rangitoto Island. Rangitoto is one huge pohutukawa forest, so I may decide to go back very soon to see them all in bloom.
I want to make it out to Great Barrier Island and ideally spend a couple of weeks there.
Whakanewha is the only regional park I haven’t posted about, and it is located on Waiheke Island. Sculpture on the Gulf is coming up, from January 26 through February 19. There are many other places I need to visit on Waiheke as well.
The Hauraki Gulf has over 50 islands, and I plan to visit a number of others that I haven’t mentioned above.
By the middle of 2017 I hope to be a much greater authority on Auckland, and in a greatly improved position to show you what is really great about The Big Smoke!