To get to grips with these parallel, intertwined histories that now form a single shared identity, you need to go to another park, this one in the historic heart of Auckland. To Parnell, in the lush green setting of the Auckland Domain, where you can marvel at the Neo-Classical architecture of the Auckland Museum. As at One Tree Hill, the view over the city showcases the diversity of the city in all its glory. In the background are the glass and steel skyscrapers of the most populated city centre in New Zealand. The tallest of them towers up into a sky that is always blue: Sky Tower, the highest in the Southern Hemisphere, seems to defy gravity and modernity.
But before that, Parnell, the oldest residential neighbourhood in Auckland, is ready to reveal the secrets of the city’s beginnings. Gothic buildings and wooden verandas, chapels, houses made of volcanic stone, Victorian churches, art galleries and elegant cafes spread out along the architectural promenade, imbued with two centuries of history dating back to the city’s earliest days. They are inextricably linked to the ocean spray and the call of new lands. In the port, the New Zealand Maritime Museum tells the story of the representatives of Old Europe who first set foot on dry land here. The nearby St Patrick's Cathedral offers a delightful contrast to the contemporary lines of Auckland’s city centre.
This clever mix of modern touches, memories of the past, authenticity and Maori chants sums up the Kiwi lifestyle. So you don’t have to choose which aspect of Auckland to explore, you can wander through Sylvia Park, a huge shopping centre, or browse the tempting stalls of the city’s iconic markets, the Auckland Night Market or Otara Market to soak up the eclectic atmospheres.
The huge number of great restaurants, combining traditional European food, fusion dishes and Maori influences, are bound to win over the most demanding foodies. Plus there is a packed calendar of sporting and cultural events, including the Auckland Lantern Festival, the Auckland Arts Festival, the New Zealand International Film Festival and the Auckland Marathon, epitomising the city’s vibrancy.
Auckland actually extends beyond its port, from where you should just be able to make out Rangitoto on the horizon, a nature reserve that looks like an idyllic Garden of Eden. The nearby islands offer an exquisite getaway. The most popular with in-the-know Kiwis is Waiheke Island, a haven of peace with beaches, vineyards, luxury restaurants and the contemporary sculptures of Connells Bay Sculpture Park. Heaven on earth.