Hidden Auckland: A secret walking tour of the city

Have you ever found yourself in a foreign city, guidebook in hand, searching for an unusual carving on the facade of a church, or peering through the shutters of a house where some dead famous person once supposedly did something important?

Just because we’re limited to domestic travel, for the time being, doesn’t mean we should be deprived of the pleasure of seeking out the obscure, colourful or just plain weird in our own backyard. This central-city walking tour has been designed with precisely that in mind.

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The history of Myers Park

Did you know that Auckland has its own Michelangelo statue? You don’t have to go all the way to the Church of San Pietro in Vincoli in Rome to admire the Renaissance genius’ marble Moses. You’ll find him in all his buff beauty, Ten Commandments tucked under one muscular arm, to the right of the stairs heading down through Myers Park. Of course, it’s a reproduction – but it’s a fairly accurate, life-sized one.

The location is fitting, given that he’s gazing towards the city’s main synagogue from land gifted by the Nathans, one of early Auckland’s most prominent Jewish families. And, yes, those are horns – Moses is occasionally depicted with horns due to a wonky translation of the Hebrew Bible into Latin by St Jerome in the 4th century.

The reason for Myers Park’s steep, narrow shape is that it holds another secret. As you walk down its grand avenue of immense phoenix palms you’re actually walking on water. The Waihorotiu Stream once gurgled down this gully but has long since been relegated to a subterranean existence, confined to culverts until it empties into the harbour below the Ferry Building.

Follow its path through the park and into Aotea Square. As you continue down Queen St, look for the paving stones etched with zigzag patterns – an artistic echo of the lost waterway.

An ancient well and a Rolling Stones gig

Head down as far as narrow Durham St West and then turn right into Durham Lane. Here, hemmed in by high rises, you’ll find the most Dickensian streetscape in the inner city, framed by the venerable Bluestone Room and the brick backsides of the Wyndham St shops.

Built as a warehouse in 1861, the Bluestone Room is the oldest stone commercial building in Auckland. Only adding to its mystique is the fact that the Rolling Stones played here in the 1960s. If you do find the bar open, check out the well displayed under glass in the floor; it’s thought to be Auckland’s oldest.

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