Central Auckland is the buzzing epicentre of New Zealand’s largest city. Central Auckland extends from the waterfront at Waitemata Harbour southward and is bounded by main motorways on the non-harbour sides: State Highway 1 on the south and west, and State Highway 16 (also known as Grafton Gully) to the east.
Central Auckland is one of the most densely built and densely populated areas of Auckland. An estimated 40,000 people live within its boundaries, a relatively youthful population thanks in part to the high number of domestic and international students studying at the University of Auckland, Auckland University of Technology or one of many English language schools in the area.
Central Auckland is home also to the city’s central business district, widely regarded as the heart of business and economic development in New Zealand. Over 9,000 businesses in the CBD employ nearly 80,000 people, many in office-based sectors including finance, property and business services.
Central Auckland is considered New Zealand’s most urban and cosmopolitan areas, offering shopping, arts, culture and dining on a par with other ‘big name’ international destinations. Many of the area’s attractions are grouped around several notable landmarks – the Viaduct Harbour, Queens Wharf and Princes Wharf at the waterfront; Queen Street, the CBD’s main thoroughfare; and Karangahape Road, known locally as K’Road, a colourful precinct at the CBD’s southern edge.
Auckland’s waterfront was largely industrial and port land until public discussion began in 2006 which led to ongoing revitalisation efforts. The Viaduct, Wynyard Quarter, and Queens Wharf are now bustling public spaces hosting numerous world class restaurants, shops, and events – the most notable of these being the 2011 Rugby World Cup Fanzone & festival, for which a purpose-built temporary structure called The Cloud was erected at Queens Wharf. Viaduct Harbour is home to the New Zealand Maritime Museum, which celebrates New Zealand’s special relationship with the sea. Among the museum’s permanent exhibitions is one titled ‘Blue Water Black Magic’, which is a tribute to Peter Blake, arguably NZ yachting’s greatest exponent, and the remarkable successes achieved by the sport.
Queen Street begins at Queens Wharf on the waterfront and extends south-southwest for around three kilometres. As one of Auckland’s earliest thoroughfares, it’s home to many of the city’s most significant buildings, both architecturally and historically, including the Auckland Ferry Building, St. James Theatre and Auckland Town Hall. Queen Street is the city’s premiere retail precinct also, contributing to an estimated 50,000 pedestrians each day.
A few blocks away from Queen Street is Auckland’s iconic Sky Tower. This landmark tourist attraction towers above the SkyCity casino and events centre and the complex surrounding it, which includes two hotels and the Federal St precinct , home to some of New Zealand’s most famous restaurants.
K’Road predates Queen St as a thoroughfare, having been used as a travel route by pre-European Maori. From Auckland’s busiest shopping street in the first half of the 20th century, K’Road declined during the 1960s and developed a reputation as something of a red-light district. Then, a slow process of gentrification beginning in the 1980s brought nightclubs, off-beat cafes and boutique shops to the precinct. Much of the ‘colour’ of earlier years remains, making K’Road a diverse, eclectic, vibrant area proud of its rich history.