Or… the art of doing things when you’re not doing other things…
For the first time in several years, I spent my whole summer break at home in Auckland, writes regular NZ Local Government Magazine columnist Jeremy Elwood.
Previously I’ve either been working at festivals around the country or have taken myself off to the Cook Islands. And every time I have I’m constantly told by my fellow city dwellers that I’ve missed out on the best part of the year. So this time I thought what the heck, let’s see what they’re on about.
Unfortunately, summer itself seemed to be working on severely reduced hours for the first weeks of 2016. It was the sunshine equivalent of those who pop into the office for an hour or two twice a week to clear emails. It was here, it was nice to catch up and say hello, then it disappeared back to presumably watch whatever the weather’s equivalent of Making A Murderer is for the rest of the week.
However, I was determined to try, even if I needed a hint of where to start. Auckland is a lovely city. But as the old cliché has it, when you live somewhere you often end up looking flummoxed when visitors ask “what do you do here?” or demand to visit some local attraction you’ve never heard of.
It took me over a decade of residency before I ever went up the Sky Tower, for example, and if it wasn’t for the sporadic appearances of young nephews and nieces, Kelly Tarlton’s, MOTAT and the zoo may well still be mysteries to me.
So it was with amusement that I found myself driving behind an Auckland Explorer Hop On Hop Off Bus, which proudly announced on its rear panels that you can “See Auckland’s Big 14 Attractions!” 14? Really?
I looked them up, and sure enough (although St Luke’s shopping mall might be a stretch) their website has a list of Auckland’s “must see” attractions. More surprisingly, I’ve been to most of them over the years. In fact, they now list 17 attractions, of which I’ve visited 15. So it turns out, without knowing it, I’ve been a better tourist in my own town than I thought I was.
But what about further afield? One of the great things about any New Zealand town is that within an hour you can be somewhere totally different to where you think you live.
In Auckland’s case, you can get to myriad beaches of various coloured sands, islands, horse breeding country, marine reserves and market towns in that timeframe (unless, like I did, you forget about the Monday-isation of our public holidays and get stuck in a 45 minute tailback trying to reach the Goat Island Marine Reserve. Which was totally worth it, by the way.)
Whilst I won’t be giving up work opportunities or bargain package deals in the future, it is reassuring to know there is plenty to do in my own back yard, and almost all of it is simple to access, especially at this time of year, and well maintained.
If summer decides to get back to work before you have to, I suggest that next time you’re passing an information centre in your home town you grab one of those tourist guides they have on display and read it. You might be pleasantly surprised at your options.
This article was first published in the February 2016 issue of NZ Local Government Magazine.