After hopping between pretty towns and villages in New Zealand’s North Island for about two weeks, we were excited for some big city culture in our final destination of the country; Auckland. Being the largest city in New Zealand, we assumed there would be numerous landmarks and attractions worth our time and money – based on what we’d experienced in Wellington. Unfortunately, we were disappointed. Actually at first we pretty much despised it. We left with a slightly better impression than that after the 3 days we had here, but still, we were confused as to why the city gets so much hype.
One of the main reasons we didn’t like Auckland was because it felt exactly like the cities in Australia. Just not as good. It has no landmarks to speak of (the Sky Tower hardly counts), wasn’t pedestrian friendly at all, was absurdly expensive, the city centre was decidedly bland and the place had nothing to do or see for the budget traveller. Coupled with our hostel being a depressing hole with graffiti covered toilets, rude staff, no free WiFi and freaking weird guests (like the mental old lady and the numerous bearded tattooed hipsters), we were not thrilled to be stuck here for 3 days.
There was a silver lining however; Cristian my old roommate and work colleague from Sydney was in the city at the same time for pretty much no reason in particular. He had a lot of spare time so took it upon himself to show us round. It was great to catch up and even better to have a guide to this seemingly boring city. Through his efforts, he redeemed the place in our eyes somewhat, by telling us the stories from when he lived and worked here for 10 months. He showed us some cool spots, including Mt. Eden one day (and the cemetery), Ponsonby another, and also nightspots he frequented on K’ Road.
Through our own explorations, we discovered the neighbourhood of Parnell, explored Viaduct, checked out the Auckland Art Gallery, Auckland Domain and the University, and got ourselves out to the Zoo. The latter being the highlight of our stay probably, because we saw the adorable and elusive Kiwi bird, as well as several other species indigenous to New Zealand. The red pandas, meerkats, serval and elephants were also awesome.
It might sound like we did a lot, and you might wonder how we have any right to complain about Auckland having nothing worth seeing, but really a lot of these destinations were quite disappointing. Especially Parnell (the oldest neighbourhood with “beautiful architecture and shops”) and K’ Road (the best nightlife destination in town). They took 15 minutes each to see and weren’t so great. We were frustrated to learn the War Memorial Museum charged foreign tourists an entry fee but not New Zealanders, which is something I’ve not seen in any English speaking country before. We couldn’t get free WiFi anywhere or find any cheap food – all the restaurants were characterless and expensive. Oh and the city is really hilly so it was exhausting and tedious just wandering around aimlessly!
Inevitably our 3 days came to an end and we headed to the airport to catch our flight to Malaysia. And so our time in New Zealand came to a close. Overall, the two of us weren’t that impressed with the country as a whole (although of course we only saw the North Island). It’s definitely scenic and very beautiful, but with so few cities, the only thing to do is spend oodles on fleetingly short extreme activities or hike yourself silly. We also found New Zealanders to be unwelcoming, intimidating and worryingly overweight. I simply don’t understand why NZ is lauded as being a backpacker haven because it is waaay too expensive. If I were to visit again, I would make sure I could afford the winery visits, day trips, skydives, hire cars and nice hotels. 200NZD a day is doable for two people but you won’t have the time of your life with it!