Auckland: Winter in the City of Sails

Posted by in Music, Travel

When the blog began in 2013 its main focus was travel and I hastily posted everything I had from my unpaid writings for the Travel Editor. Since then the blog has evolved into a culture blog as so many are doing travel. I give a personal yet – I hope – educative perspective on a city with a playlist at the end. I hope this update engages with the reader much more so than a generic top 10 things to do in Auckland.


The city of sails first appeared before me sometime in the late seventies or early eighties. With Yellow Mercedes buses and deep green water, it offered a glimpse of a different New Zealand to the one I encountered living in its capital Wellington for many years.

One day I vowed to return. This could have and should have been 2002 but would eventually take place another eight years down the track in 2010 until January 2011. Here’s a brief description of my findings. Most of my writing about Auckland is best documented in my book Year Amid Winter.


Firstly the music. It doesn’t take long to ascertain what’s happening. In 2001 it was all Stellar, Stellar, Stellar who in 2010 were on the wane. The band gaining all the hype and attention this time round were The Naked and Famous who were young, ambitious and like many before them burning from the inside with personal tensions, not least between its male/female singers who were also in a relationship.

None of which is relevant here but Young Blood was getting a lot of people very excited! Aside music is the task of getting to grips with Auckland’s geography, and you can’t really navigate that without a visit to Britomart transport hub – as hipster as NZ gets in terms of inner city travel.

But what of the city? The first thing I’m wanting to see in a new destination is a tourist attraction of some sort and that means the Skytower – also a casino (not to be confused with the nearby Skycity mall). Going sky high is a great way to greet Auckland, get your bearings and map out what to do and where to go next. Besides the obligatory coffee, you can go for a skywalk in a bright orange jump suit and if need be jump off it courtesy of the Skytower’s own bungy!


Other cultural icons needing to be seen are the zoo. Ever wondered what a Bleeding Heart Dove looks like? The zoo has many animal encounters (see their website for days and times of specific animals). I wouldn’t recommend the Kiwi house as all you’re likely to see is a darkened blob in infra red.

How about the museum? Although named the city of Sails, Auckland is in fact a city of volcanoes! And of course home to many Maori and Pacific Island peoples. Learn about their histories and see artefacts like the Pare before heading upstairs for the rather unnerving show about the next potential big bang – stay clear of Mission Bay if it begins to steam during your visit.


Speaking of volcanoes, here’s one the Gulf prepared 600 years earlier. The latest addition to the volcanic landscape around Auckland was spewed up from 125kms below the earths crust! Meaning bloody sky, Rangitoto is a unique island visit in that its greenery grows directly from the cooled black lava rock. The summit has breath taking vistas of both Auckland city and neighbouring islands.


For bird lovers, catch a ferry to the wonderful Tiri Tiri Matangi island tucked away about an hour to the north east. Many rare species such as the Takahe, the north island Robin, Saddlebacks and White Heads reside here as well as the more common Tui. Pre-booking essential! If it rains, you can re-schedule free of charge.

Need a break in a typically Kiwi pub? Don’t just want a pint? Well test your IQ at a Pub Quiz. Many pubs in Auckland run these and they are compered with an earthy Kiwi humour and banter. If they’re still doing it I’d recommend The Horse and Trap in Mt Eden or check out another general knowledge quiz at Sammy’s Place (a bar in the Skytower casino complex). And speaking of pubs…

Regrettably, neither a gypsy nor a tearoom but a pub set in the underrated suburb of Grey Lynn. While the suburb next door, the uber-cool Ponsonby runs away with all the glossy merits with nearly its entire main road devoted to eateries, Grey Lynn is its quieter sibling nestling just behind it. The Gypsy Tearoom does however have an ornately cosy feel with a backroom comprising dark wood panels and amber lamps.


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Need a change of scene out of the main city? Although express is stretching it considerably, it is a train of sorts. Crawling through the dense and often wet greenery of the Waitakere ranges; if you’re from Ireland or Wales (or indeed any part of Britain), you’ll be familiar with the weather in this part of Auckland.

You can see glow worms through the glass roof and cave Weta’s – though why you’d want to see the latter (gruesome insect like creatures) is anyone’s guess. You will need a car to get there and there’s an optional walk up the face of a dam too. *not for the claustrophobic or excessively tall as the train carriages are pokey and the tunnels are like potholing in a train!

Titirangi village really does remind me of Sintra in Portugal but with an unmistakable Kiwi flavour. There are many cafes to choose from and a theatre too.

OK I’m cheating a little here as it’s part of the Skytower again but the Deck has its own feel with big windows – it’s like an airport departure lounge come disco! Friday and Saturday’s are best. If possible try and catch the husky voiced Leza Corban who fronted Strawpeople on their singles Sweet Disorder and Scared of Flying – both are worth a listen. *check Skytower website for schedule.

Well, the age old adage that the best view of Auckland is it fading away behind you is strangely relevant and you can’t have too much of a rain imbued thing.


Thanks for reading here, should you be interested in my work; principally writing, photography, and teaching, check out the MEDIA page, and/or the UNIVERSITY page for my teaching ethos. 

Meanwhile, stay tuned with things here at Kulture Kiosk via THE ATLAS or on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram where you can see some of my photos from around the world.

So Alive (from the Best of) – Stellar
Young Blood (from Passive Me, Aggressive You) – The Naked and Famous
Apart of You (from Sugarpills) – Kids of 88
Scared of Flying (from Best of 1990-2000) – Strawpeople ft Leza Corban
Why Does Love Do This to Me (from Sex and Agriculture) – The Exponents

More Than This (from Avalon) – Roxy Music
Emerald and Lime (from Small Craft on a Milk Sea) – Brian Eno

Photo Credits:
Train at Britomart by James Pole, the rest KH.