Viaduct Harbour Auckland is a hub for more than 30 bars and restaurants, hotels and water-based tourism activities attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors annually.
Today - amidst the buzz on the café terraces - it’s hard to credit that the Viaduct Harbour has not always been a jewel in the crown of New Zealand’s biggest city.
In the decades leading up to the late 1990s, the downtown waterfront area had witnessed the development and demise of a range of commercial and industrial uses including timber milling, boat building and fishing.
Then, in 1995, the New Zealand-based challenger syndicate Black Magic won the America’s Cup in San Diego and brought the Louis Vuitton challenger series and the America’s Cup defence to New Zealand for the first time.
Along with a renewed Kiwi euphoria for everything that sails on the water - hosting the America’s Cup became the catalyst for a rejuvenation of the rundown Viaduct Harbour area.
Viaduct Harbour transformed
In just a few years, the Viaduct was transformed from a dilapidated area that Auckland citizens mostly avoided to a buzzing social and cultural hub.
The Viaduct Harbour became the focal point for off-the-water activity during the 1999 Louis Vuitton challenger series and 2000 America's Cup, and the newly rejuvenated area was a hit with visitors and locals alike.
The long-term benefits of the redevelopment in the late 90s are evident in the number of major international events that have since been held in Auckland and based at the Viaduct Harbour. It has played host to a subsequent America’s Cup defence in 2003, Louis Vuitton regattas, a stopover in the Volvo Ocean Race, the Millennium Cup, and Vendee Globe round-the-world race.
The Viaduct is part of a wider waterfront area that extends from the commercial Ports of Auckland through to the Westhaven Marina at the approach to the Auckland Harbour Bridge. It includes two waterside hotels - the Hilton on Princes Wharf and Sofitel Auckland Viaduct Harbour with more in the planning.
In 2011, Queen’s Wharf - just beyond the Viaduct area - was spruced up and revealed to the world as the epicentre for the Rugby World Cup tournament.
The iconic flowing Cloud events hub was built on the wharf to accommodate throngs of international rugby fans. At the same time, Shed 10 - a heritage building on Queen’s Wharf - was renovated to work in tandem with the Cloud. This unique double venue now regularly hosts major and community events, and serves as the passenger terminal for the growing fleet of international cruise liners sailing in and out of Auckland during New Zealand’s busy cruise season.
Across the road from Queen’s Wharf, Britomart - a vibrant collection of designer boutiques, cafés, restaurants and bars in 17 refurbished heritage buildings - extends the waterfront attractions into the main Britomart transport hub.
The Emirates Team New Zealand base was only a short walk from the Viaduct Harbour in the newly redeveloped Wynyard Quarter area which also opened in time for the 2011 Rugby World Cup.
This area boasts another distinctive new building - the Viaduct Events Centre with its wavy roofline inspired by the sea. This is the home to major events such as New Zealand Fashion Week, the Auckland International Boat Show and serves as the New Zealand hub for international events such as the Volvo Ocean Race.
At the far end of Auckland’s Waterfront sits Silo Marina and Silo Park - a popular gathering place for super yachts cruising the South Pacific.The marina offers a convenient base for exploring the nearby waters of the wildlife-filled Hauraki Gulf, the Bay of Islands and New Zealand’s unending coastal landscape, or for provisioning before venturing out into the Pacific.
Silo Marina is on the doorstep of Auckland’s major marine retail centre, commercial refit facilities, central city restaurants and bars.
The Viaduct Harbour today
The Viaduct Harbour is on the must-do list of many visitors as well as a favourite local haunt. World-class restaurants and bars line the water’s edge offering a range of food including unique Kiwi cuisine as well as tasty international flavours.
Visitors can explore New Zealand’s rich maritime history at Voyager New Zealand Maritime Museum, cruise the harbour on a charter yacht, or view the luxury pleasure craft and super yachts berthed in the 150 berth marina located in the harbour.
Sail NZ offers a large range of on-the-water activities for tourists including sailing an ex-America’s Cup boat, whale and dolphin safaris in the Hauraki Gulf, as well as the Pride of Auckland cruises that offer a waterside view of some of Auckland’s iconic landmarks.
The Voyager New Zealand Maritime Museum has a series of exhibitions telling stories of New Zealanders and the sea including the Blue Water Black Magic tribute to Kiwi sailing legend Sir Peter Blake.
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