If Auckland was the body of a women, South Auckland would be the hands. The maker. The birth place of some of Aotearoa’s greatest sporting and artistic heroes.
While others view these hands negatively, as bloody fists and desperate thieves. But regardless of what you have been told about South Auckland, the only way to truly understand is to visit.
the gate way to the Pacific
the hands of Auckland
and trembling farewells.
one of her daughters
the whitest of the brown and brownest of the white
I found my Samoa here
learnt my place in this world by
but wherever I go
she just won’t leave me alone
there is no denying
South Auckland is written on my feet.
Read any travel magazines or blogs and they will most likely tell you three things about South Auckland: the ‘cultural melting pot’ of Auckland, the socio-economically disadvantaged population of Auckland and the home of the best flea markets. All of which are correct, but each of these descriptions will vary in shade depending on the lens or window you are looking through.
Now, as a daughter of South Auckland, I could tell you about the usual suspect hot spots to visit for food, culture and vast, open green spaces in which to play. But I will leave that for those travel magazines and blogs... The best way to introduce yourself to a new area is to take a stroll with a local. The places you will visit and tips on how to move through each place will depend on that local’s personal experience. So, what follows is my personal stroll through South Auckland over the last 33 years of my life.
Where to find the best food?
The clichéd answer would be the golden oldies, Ōtara and Māngere flea markets on a Saturday, where a feast of Pacific and Asian food is ready for hungry eyes to flirt with before devouring. Or, in more recent years, Hunters Corner night market on Fridays... But that would be too easy.
During the summer months The Strawberry Farm in Māngere is a no-fail treat with their fresh strawberry ice creams and waffles, but lately, Māngere Bridge has been leading the charge with their developing trendy village area and delicious food spots. Head down during the day to Ros Bakery and Ruby Red Café and at night Pars Kebabs, Phnom Penh Restaurant & Café or Coronation Restaurant & Café are both full of the satisfied tummies of families, friends and workmates.
Nah, if you really want to experience the best food of South Auckland it exists within the homes. Home-cooked meals by generations of women cackling in kitchens, or by the men brewing up a BBQ, hāngī or umu (underground oven) out the back of the house (with their Auckland Council resource consent, of course, *cough cough).
The best food is always cooked over conversation and celebration in many of the cultures that tickle South Auckland. But to get true a taste of this food, of course, would require one to be invited into a home. Which would mean connecting with the real people of South Auckland – the families.
So creative! So talented...
No doubt, South Auckland is the birthplace to some of Aotearoa’s best creative talent.
If you want a taste of our amazing local artists and performers check out Fresh Gallery Ōtara and Māngere Arts Centre & Gallery. Both spaces provide a platform for established and emerging artists to showcase their work, be it an exhibition, theatre show or performance. These venues also focus on community engagement so, more likely than not, during a visit you will be able to engage in some sort of free activity in the space.
The Black Friars present Shakespeare's, Macbeth. A theatrical performance beautifully summarised by @s.tanielu in his Coconet review "I've always been a fan of recontextualising old narratives with our (Pasifika) music, our customs & our voices and I feel the Black Friars execute that beautifully without a hint of cheesiness. Special mention to the choir/chorus who I thought were just as much the protagonists as Macbeth & Lady Macbeth." 👏 📷Photo credit: The beautiful and talented @peninajoy #TheBlackFriars #macbeth #pacific #theatre #islandstyle
Spaces and places
Need some alone time? Or a free day out for the family? Had a rough day at work? Finally, you have that first date with your crush? Why not do it with a lush view? South Auckland is bursting with them.
Māngere Bridge Wharf and seafront do a gorgeous job of catching and harnessing the sunset. It's also a good spot for local fisherman off the wharf, which can lead to interesting conversations.
Te Pane-o-Mataoho, known to some as Māngere Mountain, makes for a refreshing, red-cheek walk that rewards you with one of the best views of the local landscape. While the Auckland Airport lookout is always a goodie, too, with planes flying so close children may think they could touch them (but note that gates do close around 8pm).
Maraetai is still going strong as a close-enough-but-far-enough beach to walk along at dusk or dawn.
The all-time favourite Auckland Botanical Gardens and Tōtara Park in Manurewa is always pregnant with families, church youth group picnics and wedding parties taking photos. A mix of lush gardens, ponds, playgrounds and, in the right season, glowworms all provide a good and free day out.
One of my favourite things about the gardens is how well they cater for children. However, try to avoid the ice-cream cart near the café and instead pop just down the road from the garden entrance to the local block of shops for cheaper treats and snacks.
One of South Auckland’s other luxuries are our public swimming pools. Three words: They. Are. Free. And don’t we all love something free!
South Auckland is more than just statistics, stereotypes and newspaper headlines. It's a landscape of homes, not houses.
One thing we are is straight up. We lay it all out there, the ugly and beautiful. But don’t pity us, or be scared of us... visit us, you may be surprised at what you find.