who are the watsons?
We are a 30-something married couple who decided to leave behind our home, careers and comfortable Silicon Valley lifestyle to try a new course. Join us as we travel the world to learn about other cultures, lifestyles and ways to generate income beyond the traditional 9-5.

Getting to know Auckland

Several of you have asked what we’ve been up to while settled in Auckland these six weeks. Well, we’ve been living in a tiny, shoebox apartment in the heart of Auckland’s central business district (CBD).

Auckland from the Devonport ferry

Like many of you, we take walks around our neighborhood, we buy groceries and cook at home, we do laundry, and we occasionally go out for coffee, drinks or a meal. Brian generally spends several hours each day working on a software project, and I have been exploring some business ideas of my own while also taking art classes.

While we like Auckland overall, central Auckland is a noisy place. Whether from cars zooming by, tourists screaming during their jumps from the nearby Sky Tower or drunken revelers wandering the streets at all hours, there is always noise. In fact, my blogging is accompanied by chanting today — there is a demonstration of some kind at the nearest major intersection. As another example, one weekend morning at 4am, someone drove by our building blaring R&B at such a decibel that it reverberated off the sky-scraping apartment buildings around us for at least a minute both before and after the car’s appearance. Another pre-dawn morning, we heard what sounded like a pack of rapid dogs roaming the streets. When you’re out and about, it’s not uncommon to pass groups of young men (young bucks, as I call them) yelling, barking and otherwise making curious noises en masse. Even though I’ve lived in Washington, DC; Los Angeles, Calif.; and Hampton Roads, Va., which is home to the second largest concentration of Navy installations in the United States, I’ve never experienced anything like this. I think the closest experience I’ve had to living in the CBD was my college dorm, where drunken frat boys roamed the halls and pulled fire alarms at all hours. I don’t know about you, but I find this very strange for a city of more than a million people, the largest city in all of New Zealand.

We perform our day-to-day activities on foot or via public transportation. In addition to the Link bus, a tourist-friendly service that circumnavigates the CBD and innermost suburbs for 1.80 NZD (about 1.33 USD), there is a wider bus, train and ferry network that connects farther flung suburbs. In several dozen times using Maxx.co.nz to plan our routes, it’s only failed us once when the scheduled bus didn’t come. No worries, we just waited for the next one. Sometimes Google Maps has more intuitive routings, so we usually check out both if we’re planning a full day outing with multiple destinations.

Our favorite locales for a walk are the neighborhoods of Ponsonby and Herne Bay. Both have plenty of cafes and window-shopping, and Herne Bay boasts beautiful water views as well. We also enjoy walks to Albert Park near the university and to Auckland Domain, where the Auckland Museum and Wintergardens are located.

Downtown Auckland, viewed from Te Atatu Peninsula

We often stick close to “home” when dining out, so we have limited restaurant recommendations. We’ve found that Auckland generally has good Indian food. We’ve particularly enjoyed Raviz on Hobson and Punjab Palace on Ponsonby Road. We’ve also enjoyed the Turkish Cafe on Ponsonby, the Coffee Club on Victoria and the Ponsonby Belgian Beer Cafe on St Mary’s Rd. For pizza, the Hell chain is fresh and tasty, and even has gluten-free options. While Mexican food in New Zealand has nothing on California offerings, if you need a fix, Mexicali Fresh on Quay St is the only respectable option we’ve found. Beware trying others; our worst Auckland meal was a Mexican joint.

So there you go, that’s our Auckland experience in a nutshell. Next week, we start a three-week stint touring the South Island.

If you’re visiting Auckland for the first time, here are some tips:

  • The Link bus is a great introduction. You can hop on and take a ride around central Auckland, complete with video screens that give you tips on where you are and what to see there.
  • Auckland drivers do not yield to pedestrians unless they are in a protected cross-walk. In fact, we have seen and heard several cars speed up as we’ve crossed the street, even in residential neighborhoods. On a positive note, New Zealand provides accident medical coverage for everyone, including visitors. If you’re hurt while traveling here, simply go to the doctor, explain your situation and receive free care.
  • Gumtree and TradeMe are good sources for apartment rentals and other private-party exchanges.
  • A lot is made of the Sky Tower. We lived right around the corner from it, and I have no idea why anyone would want to ride up it, much less jump off of it. It’s rather expensive even to ride the elevator to the top, and you can get a great view of the city from Mount Eden, Ponsonby or a ferry.
  • Ponsonby and Herne Bay, just west of the CBD, are great areas to live, shop or enjoy a cafe.
  • A dairy is a small, local grocery store where you can pick up a few items. For more comprehensive grocery trips, look for a New World or Countdown. For great produce, check out Fruitworld in Grey Lynn (near Ponsonby).

What’s a surprising thing you’ve discovered while traveling?


  • http://www.prolificliving.com/blog Farnoosh

    Wonderful to hear of your experience in Auckland. It reminds me of our 8 days in New Zealand back in 2005. Reading this, it seems that I would react so similar to yours. Noise especially the kind you describe in a big city is ridiculous -they’d never stand it in Switzerland or Japan or Singapore from my understanding of recent trips – and the Turkish and Indian food are, spot on, very good – and I did not care for Auckland half as much as the quieter and lovelier Wellington..and will not go back to visit. Hope that your next adventures take you to quieter places. By the way, what camera do you use?

  • http://watsons-unleashed.com Brian

    Speaking of the noise in the CBD, it’s teaching me to ignore blood-curdling screams, which is probably not a good thing. Maybe a woman is being assaulted in my building, but it’s far more likely that she’s jumping off of Sky Tower.

  • http://watsons-unleashed.com Kate

    Many New Zealanders also agree. Everywhere else we’ve visited, the common refrain is “Get out of Auckland!” I’m looking forward to the South Island, as I’ve heard it’s the most stunning part and it is significantly less populated. Email sent re camera.