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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 64

Chapter V. — Auckland

page 32

Chapter V.


From the moment of entering Hauraki Gulf the stranger is charged with the picturesque beauties of scenery that greet his view right up to the wharves of Auckland city. The city itself, with its main suburbs, Ponsonby, Parnell, and Remuera, is a very garden of beautiful plantations. Viewed from whatever point you choose, Auckland is altogether lovely. The South Island idea of it, as expressed to me before I came, is of 'a one-street place, slow-going and behind the times." Personal experience, after one has had that impression conveyed to one, comes as a revelation; for there is a look of active though established prosperity about the place that surprises. There is but one main street, certainly—Queen Street; but it is a street to be proud of, both as regards length, width, and buildings. And there are other handsome thoroughfares crossing Queen-street at right angles that should quite redeem Auckland from the imputation of "one-streetedness."

The suburbs are charming, but it is hardly necessary to go to them for suburban residence. Within five minutes of Queen Street in any direction it is possible to live a perfect rus in urbe existence, for nearly all the side streets are beautifully planted with pine and other trees. And, of course, wherever you locate yourself, you behold the sea in Waitemata harbour, which indents the shore all round the city with delightful little bays.

There are some very fine buildings in Auckland, notably the Hospital, the site and design of which are perfect. And fine architecture here has every chance of showing to best advantage, because of the hilly nature of the land. The city is built upon a series of extinct volcanoes, and the streets mostly afford very good page 33 climbing exercise. A friend of mine, discussing with me the "lights and shades" of Auckland, remarks that the "shades" are one's being unable to go outdoors anywhere without tumbling either down a hill or up one. It is well enough, he says, if you happen to live at the bottom of a hill and go out to dine with a friend at the top, getting home is the easiest thing in the world then, for rolling is a facile mode of transit. But if you live at the top, and go out to dine at the bottom—why then the difference between uphill and down becomes cruelly apparent.

Mount Eden, an extinct volcano, is a very prominent feature of Auckland. It is steep and lofty, yet not very difficult to climb; and were it three times as difficult, the view from the summit would more than compensate for the effort made in attaining it. Description fails to convey a fair impression of the magnificence of the panorama lying below and around Mount Eden. An equally good view of isle-gemmed Hauraki Gulf on the northeast, and the sheltered basin of Manakau Harbour on the southwest, is obtainable from this lofty point; while the bold outline of the mountain range on the distant Coromandel Peninsula is plainly risible. The vision by day from Eden's pinnacle is only to be surpassed by the same vision by night, when the moon lends her light to soften and enhance the bewildering loveliness of the picture.

It is said that no fewer than eighty extinct volcanoes may be counted from the summit of Mount Eden. When all these were in their active prime what a lively district this must have been. Warm, too, I guess. In a locality like that, one would occasionally feel like the man Colonel Ingersoll met down a hot mine, who, when asked whither bound, said he was "going to Hades to cool off."

The Domain is a very pretty and favourite promenade in Auckland. It is a charming reserve, beautified with an almost trophical wealth and luxuriance of botanical growth; and it affords, from different points, lovely views of the city, suburbs, and bay.

A very popular suburb of Auckland is North Shore; accessible by steamers every half-hour. It is distinguished by two page 34 extinct volcanoes, Takapuna, or North Head; and Takarunga, or Mount Victoria, which is the Flagstaff Hill. From these a splendid view is obtained of Rangitoto, a three-cornered volcanic mountain island of most imposing aspect. There is a Maori tradition to the effect that Rangitoto once filled the hollow that is now Lake Pupuke on the North Shore; but was, in obedience to some Divine whim, lifted bodily out of its place and planted where it is now.

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