New Zealand’s largest city, Auckland, is also one of its most popular. Beloved for its waterside location, volcanic landscapes and vibrant culture, over two million people visit the city every year. But how much do you know about the city beyond its blockbuster sights? Did you know that in Māori-language, Auckland is called Tāmaki Makaurau or “Tāmaki desired by many”, due to its abundant natural resources and strategic location? Piqued your interest? From one of the world’s tallest towers to pigeon post, here are a few interesting facts about Auckland that might surprise you.
1. There are more than 50 volcanoes dotted around the city
The city of Auckland is built on a volcanic field. There are some 50 volcanoes within 1,000 sq. km. Each volcanic core stems from a separate eruption from a pool of magma that still lies beneath the city. Since it’s extremely unlikely that the magma will push through in the same place again, the volcanoes are dormant, despite their active underlying magma. Scientists estimate that there’s a 0.1% chance of an eruption in any one year.
The most recent volcanic eruption took place 600 years ago and formed Rangitoto Island. North Head and Mount Victoria are two of the most famous volcanoes in the city.
2. Auckland is home to the largest Polynesian population in the world
Polynesians account for around 28% of Auckland’s population. Close to 200,000 Pacific Islanders live in the city, with the highest number hailing from Samoa, followed by Tonga, the Cook Islands, Niue and Fiji. In fact, some islands such as Niue and Tokelau now have more of their population living in Auckland than at home. This trend is likely to soar with the threat of climate change too.
3. Auckland is nicknamed “City of Sails”
Auckland is famously also known as the City of Sails due to its waterside location and high density of boats. The city is surrounded by water and boasts two major harbours. It also has the world’s highest boat ownership per capita, with over 135,000 vessels registered in the city.
Every January, Auckland also hosts the Auckland Anniversary Weekend Regatta, which sees thousands of sailboats cruise through the harbours and waters around the city for the weekend.
4. You can walk between a major ocean and sea in less than four hours
Auckland is squeezed between two natural harbours that are connected by the 9.9 mile (16 km) Coast to Coast Walkway. Starting in Waitemata and ending in Manukau, the hike winds across landscapes shaped by 600 years of Maori occupation, panoramic views and one of the city’s most famous parks, The Domain. It also means you can walk from the Pacific Ocean to the Tasman Sea in just under four hours.
5. Auckland is home to one of the Southern Hemisphere’s tallest man-made towers
The Sky Tower is one of Auckland’s most iconic sights – and it’s also the tallest. Soaring 328 metres (1,075 ft) high, it’s the tallest freestanding structure in the Southern Hemisphere and the 28th tallest tower in the world.
The tower is part of the SkyCity Auckland casino complex, built in 1994 for Harrah’s Entertainment. Visitors can explore the upper levels, which include the 220-metre (721 ft) Sky Deck viewing platform, the 186 metre (610 ft) Main Observation Level and the 182 metres (597 ft) Sky Cafe.
6. Pigeon Post was invented in Auckland
The Great Barrier Island in Auckland was the first place in the world to use pigeons to deliver mail using postage stamps. The service started after the sinking of SS Wairarapa in October 1894. News of the disaster didn’t reach Auckland until three days later, so the first pigeongram service was introduced.
Pigeongrams were written on light paper called ‘flimsies’ and most of the letters were asking for supplies, though some personal letters were sent through the service. The service ended in 1908 with the launch of an undersea cable from Port Charles on Coromandel to Port Fitzroy. However, the service was briefly revived in the 1990s, to mark its centennial anniversary.
7. Auckland was once the capital of New Zealand
William Hobson established the Colony of New Zealand in 1840. He became the Lieutenant Governor of New Zealand and chose Auckland as his sparkling new capital city. He named the city Auckland after his patron and friend, George Eden, 1st Earl of Auckland.
Just 25 years later, in 1865, Wellington replaced the capital city.