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Auckland's arcade secrets

Posted by Website Admin on May 21, 2017

Once upon a time, it was the seat of New Zealand government. Now one of Auckland’s last grand old arcades, Saint Kevins is up for sale by an ex-Shortland Street star. While its future is unclear, its past reveals a treasure trove of city secrets.  

Here’s five little-known facts about Saint Kevins Arcade, one of Auckland’s most loved heritage buildings.

1. The current owner is a property development company associated with former Shortland Street star and Rubicon musician, Paul Reid, who played troubled teen Marshall Heywood on Shortland Street from 2001 to 2004.  

2. The site was once  home to the Nathan family, who went onto create a retail and brewing dynasty in New Zealand - remember LD Nathan, owners of DDDDeka and Woolworths?  Scoria House was built in 1845 on the site of Saint Kevins for Jewish merchant David Nathan.  Nathan chose the site for its sea views and peaceful solitude from the new Auckland  settlement.  The house was constructed of local volcanic stone or scoria when most buildings were made of wood.

3. Saint Kevins was once the seat of New Zealand's’ government from 1848 to 1851.   Sir George Grey commandeered the homestead as Government House when Auckland was under threat from Nga Puhi Maori in the North. Grey suspected that Nga Puhi would attack from the harbour so wanted to ensure a good vantage point if the threat eventuated.

4. During the period of the New Zealand Wars, 1857-65, the site  was occupied by General Sir Duncan Cameron, Commander of the British Forces in New Zealand. Later when used as the officers’ mess of the Royal Irish Regiment it became known as St Kevens.

5. Saint Keven was an Irish saint in the 6th century who had a spiritual connection with nature.  It’s fitting that the current arcade built in 1924 overlooks Myers Park, one of central Auckland’s prettiest spaces which still bursts with birdsong over the surrounding construction noise.   

Today a newly renovated Saint Kevins is a quirky mix of eateries, boutiques, bookstores and a creative magnet for artists and musicians. It plays host to sketch clubs, pre-dawn dance classes and city commuters. Aucky Walky’s Hello Auckland Tour includes a walk through this special Karangahape Road spot.

Let’s hope the new owner will preserve the historic legacy and looks of Saint Kevins so Aucklanders and visitors alike can enjoy its charms for many years to come. Perhaps the last word is best left to local historian Edward Bennett.  

“Saint Kevins Arcade is an unusual space – it has developed a cultural following which few other places can claim. Certainly no other building in central Auckland has the resonance which is a feature of this place”

 

Auckland's high life for less

Posted by Website Admin on May 15, 2017

Everyone loves a bargain right?  It’s something both locals and visitors to Auckland share in common.

Visitors especially want to make their dollar stretch further as the cost of getting here can set them back thousands of dollars. New Zealand is marketed internationally as a high-end destination.  It’s about quality not quantity, wide open spaces over rat races and even our newly anointed Minister of Tourism, the honorable Paula Bennett was recently quoted as saying “ we don’t mind being seen as expensive, just as long as we’re not a rip-off.”  

Well here’s eight local tip-offs to avoid the rip-offs.  Ideas on how to get more bang for your buck in the city of sails (and sales). Not that we’re cheapskates or anything!

1. Free WIFI.  The bane of any traveler’s life is the fickleness of WIFI in hotels and the prices they charge for staying connected. Luckily central Auckland has free WIFI hotspots so head for North Wharf, Queens Wharf, Britomart,  Aotea Square or McDonald's to get your data fix.  

2. Grab One and Groupon.  This discount site has special deals ranging from 40-50% off with a big emphasis on food and leisure activities.  It’s the first post of call for Kiwi’s looking for a bargain. You’ll find three-course meals, dolphin excursions, zip lining on Waiheke, even white water rafting deals all at heavy discounted prices off original retail. Groupon’s  deals stay up longer so no need to worry about run-out or expiry dates. It’s the number one deal site in Australia and growing here in NZ

3. Lunch like a local.  Many of Auckland’s top restaurants are heavily booked at night but slash prices to encourage lunch-time trade. Award winning Cibo offer three courses for $49, Merediths has a great lunch time deal with a Friday four course degustation for just $65. They even throw in a glass of Tattingers Champagne as a sweetener. If lunch on the go is your thing, then head for Amano’s bakery in Tyler Street for upmarket tartine and great coffee. Or the Dumplings Store on the corner of Lorne and Wellesley Street - look for the locals’ queuing.

4. Art in the heart.  Unlike many other major cities, the Auckland Art Gallery is free. That’s right, you can delve into Toi E Tamaki, Auckland’s Treasure house for nix. Even the architecture of the building itself is a wonder to behold. Lose yourself here on a wet Auckland day.  

5. Grab the locals' bus. For a mere $1 coin, you can jump on the CityLink loop bus and get from Wynyard Quarter up Queen Street to vibrant K’Road, Auckland’s vintage and retro shopping capital. Great views and no static tour bus commentary in your ear.

6. Haircut anyone?  Even visitors need a pamper and trim while traveling. So the Servilles Training Academy on Queen Street is a great local secret. Just $15 for a wash and blow dry. Or ban those greys with a cheeky colour from just $41. All the trainees are fully supervised.

7. Exercise classes.  If you feel like a stretch without breaking the bank,  drop into the free yoga or running classes at Lululemon stores - downtown Auckland or Ponsonby Road.  Or download Nike’s free fitness app Nike+Training Club for a mix of workout routines. Or grab your trainers and head down to Britomart’s Nike Store to join their free run club every  Wednesday at 5.30pm. Sweat with the locals plus you won’t get lost!

8. Free Coffee Fridays.  According to Auckland’s Heart of the City, streetwear label  Huffer serves up free piping hot Allpress coffees every Friday morning from 7.30am - 10.30am at their store on 12 Custom Street, Britomart. Now that sounds like the ultimate way to start your Auckland day.

Auckland's secret shortcuts and rooftop views

Posted by Website Admin on May 07, 2017

Here’s what Auckland’s property developers don’t want you to know.  

The city is full of hidden shortcuts, rooftop gardens and viewing platforms which are required to be accessible to the public. In the past, property developers made public space concessions with Auckland Council in return for bonus floor space.  But very few records of these concessions have been kept and a lack of policing meant some developers were not meeting their end of the bargain.  Some of the publicly required walk ways and short cuts are not clearly signed meaning most Aucklanders are blind to their existence.

So at Aucky Walky we’ve snooped and scoped out what we believe are five little-known hidden gems - selected for their views or time-saving shortcuts, when walking from A to B.   

1. Most secret alleyway?  Cruise Lane - connecting Shortland Street with Chancery Plaza.  Who knew this little through-lane existed?  We didn’t and found it one day by happy accident.  It’s a narrow ‘suck-in-your-tummy’ passageway  which links Shortland Street to Chancery Street and the serene shopping Plaza beyond. It looks a bit dodgy even in daylight but once you’re in it, you realise it also connects with the O’Connell Street laneway and the lobby of a major office block.  Maybe one to avoid at night.

2. Best city views?  Rooftop Garden at 56 Wakefield Street.  Previously Oracle House, now home to AUT School of Tourism.  Just enter the lobby and take the lift to the 17th floor (Monday to Friday) for some of the best ‘free’ views of downtown Auckland.  It’s a great place to snooze, sunbake, have a picnic and take selfies. When we visited, we had the place to ourselves. Surprise and delight your mates or family next time you’re in town as it’s just up the hill from the Aotea Centre.

3. Best harbour views? The public viewing platform at the Hilton Hotel.  Yes that’s right. This five star international hotel agreed, as part of its planning consent,  to provide  public access to the end of the wharf.  So the Hilton built us lucky Aucklanders a public sundeck.  

4. Best uphill avoidance?  The Lumley Centre - from Fort Street to Shortland Street.No need to walk uphill from the flat terrain of Fort Street, especially if you’re enjoying a mega icecream from Giapo.  This is a huge time saver for university students and avoids a detour up a steep hill.  Also keeps you dry in the rain.  Nice one!

5. Best  art?  The lobby at the Vero Centre is required to be  open to the public as  the developer was granted “CBD Bonus space’ when building the property.  The lobby is decorated with artworks including a hugely impressive ‘living legends’ wall  that not many know about.  Just be mindful that no photography is allowed and the security, while polite, were quick to ask our intentions!  But you have every right to stand in the lobby and take in the creative surrounds.

So among the hustle and bustle of Auckland, there’s a wealth of hidden treasures that reside down the lane ways and on rooftops of our spectacular city.  Book a guided walking tour with Aucky Walky to find out more.  

 

Auckland's Tour de Funny

Posted by Website Admin on April 30, 2017

New Zealand Comedy Festival is a Tour de Funny                                                                       

There's nothing as uplifting as a good laugh. So don't be depressed that the Masters Games is over because the 25th annual New Zealand International Comedy Festival is here now!  During May you can laugh yourself silly.

The Festival first had us in stitches back in 1993. You might recognise some of these Kiwi names from the early years; The Topp Twins; Corbett Brothers (Jeremy & Nigel); Jon Bridges, Paul Horan, Alan Brough; Kevin Smith Brendhan Lovegrove, Te Radar, Cal Wilson and Ewen Gilmour. 

Sadly some of these New Zealand artists are no longer around to make us laugh but Kiwi comedy is in good health buoyed by the addition of some major international acts for the 2017 Comedy Fest. Namely Ed Byrne, Chris Martin, Hal Cruttenden, Lou Sanders and Ed Gamble to name a few.

May is shaping up to be a bundle of live laughs.  From send-ups of Gloriavale and Broods, to a masterclass on housewifery for the modern age, there’ll be something to tickle your fancy and get you chuckling this Festival. No laugh yoga or mindfulness training necessary.

On reviewing the line-up, here’s six gigs which tickle my fancy. 

The Bitches' Box.  Described as 'fall off the chair funny" this is well overdue to hit Auckland. This act has toured provincial New Zealand to great acclaim.  Can't wait! 

Two Hearts: Auckland World Tour starring 7-days Laura Daniel  and Joseph Moore. Appears to be a send up of Roxette, Broods and any other good-looking pop spectacle.  Love these two – should be a hoot.  

The Best of Lou Sanders.  Named one of the top 10 comics in Vogue and The Guardian and described by critics as “a breathless adventure”.  This is one UK wahine on the rise.

The Classic Festival Debate – The World vs NZ . Our homegrown comedians take on their international rivals to debate New Zealand’s place in the world.  Lucky we don’t take ourselves too seriously – should be comedy carnage.

Ed Byrne – Outside Looking In.  Just the fact that this is Ed’s fourth trip down under makes me want to see this guy.  Always gets rave reviews so sending my money his way. So he can fund a longhaul upgrade. 

Angella Dravid – Down the Rabbit Hole.   A former legal secretary, rising Kiwi star and Billy T nominee for 2017. Direct reputation, long pauses ……sounds awkwardly funny.  

For more information, dates and bookings visit www.comedyfestival.co.nz 

The new jewel in Auckland's crown

Posted by Website Admin on April 28, 2017

K’ Road – the jewel in Auckland's crown?

Karangahape or K'Road – once a strategic ridge Maori traveled to cross from the Waitemata to Manukau Harbours -  will undergo a major transformation over next six years.

The street is named after the Tainui ancestor Hape, who  was left behind when the Tanui set out from Hawaiiki in search of new lands. Hape was excluded from the canoe due to his ‘clubfoot’ but legend has it he made the journey to Aotearoa, New Zealand on the back of a stingray, preceding the arrival of his tribe by several weeks. On their arrival they saw him standing on a hill (Karangahape Road) and he welcomed them with a Karanga, or greeting call, and the event became known as Te Karanga a Hape, meaning The Call of Hape.

The area has gone through many changes in its history – once a distant ridgeline to early settlers – which the horse-drawn trams would struggle to reach, to a busy retail strip of department stores, tea shops and photography studios in the 1960’s. The street’s fortunes changed in the 1970’s however with the advent of shiny new suburban shopping malls which meant dwindling visitors to the city.  With empty tenancies and an array of ‘mixed bag’ retailers, Karangahape Road then gained an illicit reputation as Auckland’s red light district with its jumble of clubs, strip joints and pubs.   

With the recent growth in apartment options, international students, and upbeat eateries the once seedy street has undergone a renaissance.  Today, Auckland’s grand old arcade Saint Kevin’s is fully tenanted and a showcase for what sympathetic and classy renovation can achieve. The people have returned to K’ Road (as the local’s fondly refer to it) and it’s now the vintage, retro and tattoo shopping capital of New Zealand – a vibrant and creative city hub in the inner city.

Key changes planned include a new train station, better links through Myers Park into the city, and the re-development of Beresford Square as the entrance to the future City Rail Link station. Native tree planting along Karangahape Road together with a new cycle path to link with the Grafton and Newton Gully cycle ways will all add to the locale.

The City Rail Link project will establish a new train station at the top of Beresford Square, near the Pitt Street and Karangahape Road junction. The new train station platform will be approximately 33 metres below ground.  The City Rail Link is due for completion in 2021 and will essentially extend the Western Line into Britomart doubling the capacity of people the system can carry.

The ‘Hello Auckland’ tour includes a walk down K’Road because it’s a historic and local spot that most visitors miss (and locals avoid)  - yet it really is the beating heart of uptown. Come see for yourself!

 

Reference: THE KARANGAHAPE ROAD PLAN 2014-2044  Waitemata Local Board