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Mooching around the Auckland Waterfront

August 30, 2011
Wynyard Quarter Road-Train

Our Wynyard Quarter Road-Train.

I took the younger members of the family to Wynyard Quarter on Sunday to see what all the fuss was about. The ferry from the Shore was an option but (unfortunately) it was much quicker and cheaper to drive to Ponsonby, park for free and ride our bikes around the foreshore past Westhaven Marina. This was actually a very pleasant ride, but a little far for five-year-old legs so I packed the trailer and taxied The Midget Assassin to the action with her bike lashed on the back.

Wynyard Quarter Cycle-Style

A slice of Seaside Cycle-Style.

Many moons ago I used to ride my motorbike through Tank Farm on a daily basis and I remember fondly the motorcycle racing that was also held there. Back then a café meal on the waterfront was a hot pie & chips – times have changed.

The designers have really done a great job on the development, it’s very cool. Any city can do “slick & shiny” public-spaces, you know, the stainless-steel and sandstone variety, but Wynyard Quarter is much more interesting. Bits & bobs from the area’s toxic-substance-storage and nautical backgrounds have been retained but it’s the variety of surfaces and textures that grabbed me. Huge chunks of rough concrete with oysters still attached, big slabs of wood, steel girders for Africa, fencing and structures mimicking shipping containers and real live containers to boot. It’s impressive urban design and quite brave. I don’t know how they got some of this past the committees that must have been involved in the planning.

Wynyard Quarter Cyclists

The young and the cool.

It’s a bike-friendly place in it’s own way but not really a cycling “destination” as such. There were a lot of people about on Sunday afternoon and much of the time we were riding at walking speeds. I thought my children would struggle with that concept but they surprised me, both quite happy to cruise along at a dignified pace.

Wynyard Quarter Bike-Lockers

Another family arriving under their own steam.

I spotted some “loops” for locking bikes somewhere but they were absent from all the places we wanted to stop. One area that would definitely benefit from bike-parking was the childrens playground. This was really busy and there were several families on bicycles but nowhere to lock them. Some improvised like in the photo above and others like myself just propped them against walls and locked them to each-other.

H-Man on Wynyard

Negotiating train tracks outside the restaurants.

The playground is quite simply stunning. Large sculptural play equipment has been purpose built for this seaside setting and they are truly works-of-art. There is a basketball half-court for the older kids and the watery base of a nearby sculpture doubles as a paddling pool.

In these safety-mad times it was also refreshing to see lots of stuff my kids could really hurt themselves on. Concrete terraces to tumble down, big metal objects to smash teeth out with, real water to drown in and a distinct lack of safety-fencing – I was hugely impressed!

Wynyard Quarter Views

Fantastic harbour views at the Northern end.

As we were riding around I kept thinking to myself “is this really Auckland?” It just didn’t feel right. The public-spaces of my youth like the old Aotea Square were unwelcoming concrete jungles. Wynyard Quarter is not like that, it’s a people-place and something we can be really proud of.

Wynyard Quarter Dead-End

H-Man takes a wrong turn.

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