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Parnell is a quaint and curious suburb which has retained many old houses and shops. Auckland's oldest neighbourhood is now a great place to shop for arts and crafts from local talents to imports from Australia and India. Parnell Village, located on Parnell Road is a delightfully restored Victorian area complete with wooden buildings, courtyards and cobbled walkways. Its an exclusive zone with trendy people and expensive restaurants and products. However, it's worth dropping in to have a look even if you find the items too expensive to buy.
It's also worth taking a stroll to see the historic buildings in the vicinity. The Cathedral Church of Saint Mary (1886) is a Gothic timber building with ancient Kauri interiors. At Ayr Street No.2, Kinder House (1857) was hewn out of the volcanic rock from Rangitoto. There's more beautiful kauri at No. 14. Ewelme Cottage is a step back into a Victorian Interior. This kauri building was once home to Vicesimus Lush who was actually a clergyman although his name suggests quite the contrary. If you're visiting between November and March you'll find the Parnell Rose Gardens with some 5,000 rose bushes are all abloom on Gladstone Road.
This is 'trendy' Auckland and the place to be for cafés, restaurants which are open till late at night. It's a good place to check out the local scene. Continue down Ponsonby Road for 2kms till you get to Karangahape Rd. It's a notorious area which has been affectionately dubbed 'K Road'. It is a Maori, Polynesian and Indian stronghold with a mixture of South Pacific Clubs, Pacific Foodstuffs, crafts and a range of seedy strip/sex/massage parlours. K Road is also the place to be for the liveliest gay & lesbian scene in Auckland. Try these bars and nightclubs which are all on K RD, Legend No. 335, Staircase No. 340, K Bar No. 373.
Getting to Devonport is a fun 15 min ferry ride crossing the Waitemata Harbour. Located on Auckland's North Shore Peninsula, Devonport is one of the city's oldest suburbs. The ambiance retains a 19th century feel to it as you walk past old villas made from kauri. Its a touristy place with plenty of cafés, restaurants and arts & crafts.
There are two volcanic cones at Devonport which were once pas or fortified cities. At Mt Victoria or Taka-a-ranga
you'll see the remains of protective terraces and great views with a map and signs pointing out the islands so you can get your bearings. North Head or Takapuna, the city's artillery battery from 1885, is a maze of tunnels and chambers. Initially, tunnels were built here amidst fears of an attack by the Russians. WWI & II brought more fear and fortifications until peace led to the artillery's dismantling in 1959. It makes great walking with some superb views over the Hauraki Gulf.
Cornwall Park: One Tree Hill & Mount Eden
Cornwall Park was a gift to the city from Sir John Logan Campbell. These 120 hectares are home to city born and bred sheep and cattle who live amongst the plantations of native trees such as the kauri, rimu, phutukawa and nikau palms. Acacia Cottage (1841) which was built by Campbell and William Brown, his business partner, is Auckland's oldest building. You'll find this tiny cottage at the foot of One Tree Hill. Huia Lodge (1903) is an information centre which details life as it happened on a daily basis 100 years ago in Auckland. For the stargazers out there , the Auckland Observatory lies off Manukau Road in the One Tree Hill domain. A multi-media presentation takes you on a star journey of the southern hemisphere and its constellations. It's open Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday nights from 7.30pm ($3/adults, $1/kids). If you're visiting the park during the afternoon, the,Stardome Show is on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, showtimes;3pm, 4pm, 6.30pm, 7.30pm and 8.30pm.
Lying within Cornwall Park, One Tree Hill (183m) is the most impressive of all the volcanic cones in Auckland. The Maori built a pa or fortified village called the Maungakiekie or the mountain where kiekie grows abundantly. Estimates place the number of people based here between 2 and 4 thousand. Today, the terraces of the pa are still evident. This main area was further strengthened by ditches, ramparts made from earth and wooden palisades. The last great noble Maori to rule here was the almost indomitable Tamaki. in the 1700s. He eventually lost to Ngati Whatua from the Kaipara tribe but at such a great cost that they had to wait for a generation of children to come to maturity before they could wage war again.
One Tree Hill or Te Totara-i-ahua was named after the single totara which once grew at its summit and had ancestral connections for the Maori. The sacred site became a bone of contention when the totara was chopped down by vandals in 1852. It took 28 years before Sir John Campbell planted a replacement. If his intentions were good, his choice of an exotic pine was not. The eyesore simmered within Maori blood until 1994 when one local took a chainsaw to it in order to hasten its already close end. At the summit lies the final resting place of Sir John Campbell and an obelisk (21m) intended to show his respect and admiration for the Maori.
The view from Mount Eden (196m) is spectacular. From the top you'll be able to see 50m deep down into the volcano's crater as well as all of Auckland's bay and the isthmus. Please be respectful here or the taniwha will come and get you. The crater is sacred Maori land who call it the Te Ipu a Mataaho or the bowl of Mataaho, the god of volcanoes. It dates back further into the Maori past than settlers have been in the land. The pa or fortified city built at the cone once housed some 3,000 Maori. By 1500, betrayal led to the total demise of the tribe. When a visiting Hauraki tribe chief was slain during a friendly visit, his death was avenged with an attack on the pa. Eventually, the Hauraki won the battle, torching the pa and slaying its occupants.
Auckland's largest park, the Domain's grounds encompass some 200acres/80 hectares. Within its borders lie the Auckland Museum, sportsfields, and woodland walking tracks. The Winter Gardens has a courtyard, statuary and is surrounded by glasshouses. The Auckland Museum should be considered a must. The collection is housed within the Greek Revival War Memorial which looks down over the Domain from the hill. With a recent injection of $43 million, the museum now boasts one of the largest Pacific art collections in the world. It's a colourful and spectacular collection of Polynesian, Melanesian, Micronesian, Maori and Pacific arts and treasures. The Maori collection reveals tribal variation and styles. The displays includes elaborate carvings on Marae exteriors, ancestral statues or entire buildings such as storehouses which have been removed from 18th and 19th century pas or fortified cities.
The splendour of Maori traditions and culture is brought together in a range of treasures such as Korowhai or ceremonial cloaks, greenstone mere or clubs and the moko patterns which were used to adorn the body by tattooing with bone chisels and the black soot extracted from kauri gum, (ouch). The earliest piece of Maori art is also housed here. The Kaitaia Carving dates to circa 1300 or 1400 AD. The carving is a ceremonial gateway made from totara and decorated with ornate carvings. The Te Toki a Tapiri or the Tapiri's Axe is a 25m war canoe which once sailed the Manukau Harbour that dates to circa 1836. The canoe, hewn out of a massive totara tree, was built to seat 80 warriors. There are daily performances which bring the displays to life at 11.15a.m. and 1.30p.m..