I grew up in Auckland, the largest city in New Zealand. It’s located on the North Island and one of the main international landing points for those venturing to New Zealand’s humble shores.
Before I go on you’re probably thinking “What on earth is a JAFA?” Well technically I am, and anyone else who grew up or lives in Auckland. A lot of Aucklanders think New Zealand revolves around the city, that the Auckland Harbour Bridge is the best bridge you’ll ever see and that their sports teams are the best too. However the rest of New Zealand doesn’t necessarily see Auckland through the same rose coloured glasses and as the Auckland population is so large in proportion to other cities Aucklanders are often referred to as JAFA’s – Just another F****N Aucklander.
In fact, when another Kiwi (New Zealander) asks where I am from I often introduce myself as a JAFA. I’m not sure how Aucklanders feel about the term but I don’t mind it and most other kiwis get a great laugh out of the fact I can joke about where I grew up.
I laugh when fellow Aucklanders tell me how “global” Auckland is. I’m sorry but the city isn’t a big deal in the global scheme of things – visit London, New York, Tokyo or Hong Kong and you’ll see global hit you at 200 km/hr! One of the things I enjoy about visiting Auckland is how slow life runs there compared to the fast pace of cities like Hong Kong.
I almost fall over in hysterics when I get told the Auckland Harbour Bridge is the most amazing bridge in the world. The Sydney Harbour Bridge makes it look like some cheap knock off.. oh wait… 😉 and as for landmarks in other parts of the world – the old “Nippon Clip-on” that spans Auckland’s harbour doesn’t even get a look in.
Auckland sports teams used to be dominant when I was younger but I’m not entirely sure that’s true these days. There are so many good teams in New Zealand I’m pretty proud of all of them.
Auckland is a place of mixed memories for me but one thing that never changes is the beauty of the numerous volcanic cones that scatter themselves within the Auckland city region. I don’t miss the city much but having grown up in the shadow of a majestic grassy volcano the one thing I truly miss is the geology and vulcanology which IS distinctly unique to the city I once called home. There are few places in the world you can go for a morning walk up and around a grass covered volcanic crater. Nor are there many places you can stroll a beach or sit at a cafe and watch the sun set behind a giant symmetric volcanic island made almost entirely of lava.
A lot of people ask me “What is there to do in Auckland?” and my answer will always be “Enjoy the volcanoes”.
Don’t freak out. These volcanoes aren’t active like their fire fountaining cousins in Hawaii. Nor are they likely to erupt like their pyroclastic big brothers and sisters further down the North Island. They’re safe to explore and preserved for everyone to enjoy.
If you’re physically able and want to explore a truly unique environment take a ferry out to Rangitoto and walk (or tractor) to the summit. If you’re not that adventurous take a harbour cruise to see the islands like Rangitoto and Browns Island from the comfort of a boat. You can even enjoy them by simply visiting one of the beaches like Mission Bay or St Heliers where you can appreciate Rangitoto from afar.
If you don’t like boats then go to One Tree Hill and enjoy diverse beauty of gardens, farms and a volcano all wrapped up in one. Or if you don’t mind the commercial tourist route go on one of the many tours that take in Mount Eden.
Want to add some history in with your volcanic experience? Head over to the Auckland Museum in the Domain. Believe it or not the museum sits on the side of an old volcanic crater too! Alternatively catch a ferry or drive to Devonport and walk to North Head where you can see how the military took advantage of a volcano to create an impressive coastal defensive network for world war II.
They all offer sensational views. They are all unique and they are all distinctly Auckland.
Have you visited any of Auckland’s volcanoes? Which is your favourite?