Auckland: sophisticated but wild


Auckland’s modern skyline is bracketed by the always busy harbor and the Waitakere mountain range in this view from Mount Victoria. Everything pictured is part of Auckland.


One of the Maori carvings, called a tiki, on display in the Arataki Visitor Centre in the Waitakere Ranges park.

I found a place that has a sophisticated urban landscape with gleaming towers and glittering harbor. But wait, there’s more. It has black sand beaches, a verdant rain forest, 53 (!) volcanoes and an island dotted with vineyards and wineries. And that’s all I was able to discover in a day!

This fascinating city is Auckland, stretching out across the peninsula near the north end of  New Zealand’s North Island. It was here that I was introduced to the land of the Kiwi. What a lovely place to start.


The lacy bell tower of the University of Auckland peeks out from the trees of Albert Park.

My husband and I took a day long bus trip to get the lay of the land. Actually, we combined two tours, a whirlwind city tour of this home to 1.4 million people and an afternoon “Bush and Beach” tour that took us to a black sand beach, the Arataki Visitor Center, and into the rain forest, home of the majestic, and endangered, kauri tree.


Auckland’s rainforest stretches out over the mountains to the west of the central business district.

Our tours took us through a number of historic and charming  city neighborhoods where we got a good look of how Aucklanders view volcanos — they build playing fields on them. We were assured they are all extinct, or at least dormant. We also went atop Mount Victoria for a view of the Auckland skyline. Our afternoon tour took us a little farther afield, into the rain forest and onto beaches on both coasts of New Zealand, including the black sand beach by the Tasman Sea.

Auckland is rich in beauty. Whether you like vibrant city streets or the cool of a forest or the crashing waves of a beach, you have to like this grand city. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it.


Yes, this is part of Auckland. A view over the black sand beach.

Ⓒ Text and photos, Mary K. Tilghman
Tiki photo by Raymond G. Truitt


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