Known as the ‘City of Sails’ or the ‘Queen City’, Auckland is the biggest and brightest metropolis in New Zealand. Its population is larger than the whole of the South Island, and everything they could possibly need can be found within the boundaries of the Auckland region. The city is ‘The Big Smoke’ where people are rapt with the three Bs: beaches, boats and barbecues, since Aucklanders are blessed with two beautiful harbors, scores of safe swimming beaches, a coastline dotted with secluded offshore islands, sophisticated city living, and a climate made for outdoor leisure.
Auckland is the world’s biggest Polynesian city, with more than one-quarter of the Maori population and around 100,000 Pacific Islanders dwelling in the urban area. The Chinese population is booming, with many recent immigrants from Hong Kong and Taiwan.
Due to the immense ethnic cultures, Auckland’s restaurant cuisine now ranks for quality and variety among the most cosmopolitan in the world, with specialties from Korea, Japan, India, and Italy. Popular restaurant areas are K-Road, Ponsonby Road, and along Tamaki Drive from Okahu Bay to St. Heliers.
Queen Street, Auckland’s ‘Golden Mile’, offers some of the best shopping in New Zealand. In the past, the intersection of Queen and Fort Street was a beachfront, and Shortland Street in the next block was the main street of early Auckland. During the 1840s, Queen Street was only a bush-covered gully. However, souvenir shops, arcades, antique stores, boutiques, jewelers, rare bookstores, and many other unique traders now dwell the long street that is often bustling with business people by day and party-goers by night.
Past Queen Street, on the edge of the harbor, is Queen Elizabeth II Square. This is a favorite lunch hangout for office workers. The Square is filled with snack stalls, an ice-cream parlor, and a decorated fruit barrow that attracts many who cross the street to the ferry building or embark on cruises of the harbor and the Hauraki Gulf. The Auckland Visitor Centre provides information on bus tours and attractions such as museums, art galleries, historic buildings, beaches and parks.
Adjacent to the Square is the National Maritime Museum that houses a number of historic vessels berthed alongside. Beside the museum is the Viaduct Basin, which is surrounded by busy taverns and restaurants.
The Customhouse lies opposite the Downtown Complex on the corner of Customs and Albert Street. Opened in 1889, this French renaissance-style building was previously the financial heart of Auckland for more than 80 years. The house, which opens daily, comprises gift shops and restaurants.
Among the latest addition to the city’s structures is the Sky City complex, which houses the American Harrah’s Sky City Casino, the Sky City Hotel, and the cloud-piercing Sky Tower, currently the southern hemisphere’s tallest structure. Visitors are allowed to take an elevator ride up to the top of the tower at a cost of NZ$15 to enjoy a remarkable view of the city. The casino is open daily and is hardly ever calm and quiet.
Victoria Park Market
About a ten minutes walk to the west of Sky City is Victoria Park Market, which is located on the disused site of the city’s former rubbish destroyer. The brick-laid market was built in 1905 and inaugurated by Mayor Arthur Myers, who was hauled to the top of the 40-meter (131-ft) chimney in a bo’sun’s chair to lay the final brick. A popular tourist location, the market offers stalls selling fruits and vegetables, antique trinkets, clothing, and more. Craft shops, hawkers’ barrows and food stalls are also available here.
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