If Auckland was the body of a woman, South Auckland would be the hands. The maker. The birthplace of some of Aotearoa’s greatest sporting and artistic heroes.
Regardless of what you have been told about South Auckland, the only way to truly understand is to visit.
Read any travel magazine or blog 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.
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 the best way to introduce yourself to a new area is to take a stroll with a local.
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 Ruby Red Café and at night Pars Kebabs, Phnom Penh Restaurant & Café or Coronation Restaurant & Café are all full of satisfied customers.
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.
Spaces and places
Need some alone time? Or a free day out for the family? 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 fishermen off the wharf, which can lead to interesting conversations.
Te Pane-o-Mataoho, known to some as Māngere Mountain, makes for a refreshing, red-cheeked walk that rewards you with one of the best views of the local landscape. 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.
South Auckland is more than just statistics, stereotypes and newspaper headlines. It's a landscape of homes, not houses. Visit, you may be surprised at what you find.