It is home to just over half of the overseas-born population, mainly made up of people from the Pacific Islands and Asian countries. It has the largest Polynesian population in the world. Today, Auckland is New Zealand’s economic capital. It is also New Zealand’s largest and most populated urban area, with about a third of the entire population. Internal migration from other parts of the country to Auckland, plus strong international immigration make the local housing market highly competitive as the population steadily increases.
It’s no surprise the city attracts people wanting to live the good life. Auckland has plenty to boast about – with impressive statistics to back it up. Auckland ranked 3rd in the world in the 2014 Mercer Quality of Living Survey, and 9th place in the Economist Intelligence Unit's World's most liveable cities index of 2015.
The east coast of Auckland has golden sand and gentle waves. Spend a day in Matakana to enjoy boutique vineyards, the local market and specialist stores, or hire a beach house in Omaha. Other beaches include Tawharanui, Goat Island Marine Reserve for snorkelling and diving, and Leigh where you can finish the day with live music and some of the best beer around at the Leigh Sawmill. Whagaparoa and Orewa are the perfect solutions for those wanting a beach lifestyle but an easy commute to the city for work (and world-class golf course). Shakespeare regional park is an extraordinary experience with views for miles, and an accessible wildlife sanctuary amongst recreation activities and farming.
The west coast beaches are a little further off the beaten track but offer unique rugged beauty beyond compare. The dramatic energy along this belt of Auckland is palpable, with isolated stretches of black sand, wild waves, massive rock formations and luscious native rainforest. Piha is the most infamous beach, a favourite spot for surfers throughout the year and swimmers during summer. Other well-known beaches include Muriwai (check out the impressive gannet colony), Bethels and Anawhata, that can only be reached by foot.
The CBD of Auckland is a buzzing little metropolis, where the waterfront continues to play a significant role. Viaduct Harbour was created along the waterfront, a village of high-rise apartments, restaurants, marinas and event venues. The area has been proud home to America’s Cup defences, Louis Vuitton Regattas, a stopover in the Volvo Round the World Race, the Auckland International Boatshow and New Zealand Fashion Week in the Viaduct Events Centre. Down from the Viaduct is Wynard Quarter. Reclaimed land that once served as bulk fuel storage and marine industry, it was closed to the public. It has been transformed to a vibrant community space with a strong focus on sustainability and urban revitalisation. There is a regular (and packed!) open air cinema screened onto the silos, market days, a park, residential and commercial space. Britomart is another area that has seen significant development. Once neglected heritage buildings have been exquisitely refurbished, nestled amongst complementary modern architecture. This waterfront precinct today has (plus or minus) 200 businesses, cafes, bars, shops and restaurants of the highest calibre, plus the CBD bus and train exchange.
The Hauraki Gulf is a marine park covering over 1.2million hectares between Auckland and the Coromandel Peninsula. It consists of over 50 islands, 5 marine reserves and abundant wildlife including fish, dolphins and whales. Many islands are managed by the Department of Conservation, some being sanctuaries for rare plants and animals, especially birds like kiwi, takahe, brown teal and grey-faced petrel.
Ferry transport is available to some of the larger islands and make a great day trip, like the iconic landmark Rangitoto Island. Or head to nearby Waiheke to luxuriate in a longer stay and locally grown wine. As Hauraki’s largest but most remote island, Great Barrier requires more planning and investment than the others to get to. However the endless dive, swim, surf, fish, tramp locations amongst the untouched, pristine landscape promise visitors a once in a lifetime adventure.
Maori settled in the Auckland area around 1350 and named it Tāmaki Makaurau, meaning 'isthmus of one thousand lovers' or “the bride sought by a hundred suitors”. Alongside the name’s romantic sentiment, it also signals the intense desirability of the land and the many battles fought between Maori iwi for it. Auckland’s numerous volcanoes provided richly productive soil, and pā (fortified settlements) were strategically created around their peaks by local tribes. A few pā are still evident now with their terraced formation carved into the hills. Tāmaki Makaurau was prized for its bountiful waters, providing a valuable source of life for local iwi. It’s easy to understand still today, as Aucklanders love to get out and about in the oceans and enjoy the beaches – water is a way of life.
Around the time of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, local iwi Ngāti Whātua gave land to the then Governor of New Zealand, William Hobson. This land is now central Auckland and was given as a sign of goodwill. It was also expected that iwi would benefit from the commercial and political opportunities afforded by a city being built. The Governor declared Auckland as New Zealand’s capital in 1840, made official in 1841.
Auckland has a variety of notable architectural works built since the mid 19th century. Many have been extensively refurbished to their former glory. They span many styles including neo-Classicist (Auckland Museum designed by Grierson, Aimer and Draffin), Gothic Revival (St Patrick's Cathedral by Edward and Thomas Mahoney), Moorish Revival (Civic Theatre designed by Charles Bohringer and William T. Leighton) Italian Renaissance Revival (Auckland Town Hall by JJ and EJ Clarke (also referred to as Imperial Baroque style)), Edwardian (Britomart Transport Centre – originally the General Post Office, by Claude Paton and government architect John Campbell). Many Auckland homes exemplify the villa or bungalow design. Impressive modern buildings include The Cloud on Queen’s Wharf and the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki which was named the World Building of the Year at the World Architecture Festival in 2013. Besides the Auckland Harbour Bridge, the Skytower is Auckland’s most iconic piece of construction - designed by Craig Moller Ltd. and opened in 1997. It is the tallest man-made structure in the Southern Hemisphere, with a casino complex, restaurants, bars, cafes, and vibrant nightlife.
The European population grew rapidly in Auckland, from 1,500 in 1841 to 12,423 by 1864. About 50% were Irish, more than any other settlement, with the most ex-soldiers and the highest proportion of workers to “upper class”. The port played a significant role, as it does today, exporting produce of the region’s industrious workers, including kauri timber. Auckland eventually lost its title as capital to Wellington in 1865, but that never put a damper on its growth and prosperity.
So while everything has changed since Maori first settled in Tāmaki Makaurau, the sentiment remains. Auckland really is still the most desirable place in the land.
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