Think of a well-established green & leafy suburb, in any city in the world, where people aspire to live. Think Remuera.
It’s a suburb that’s perfect for raising and educating children. Remuera is typically on the radar of discerning and aspirational Kiwi families for a variety of very good reasons. In many parts, large dignified character homes with expansive manicured gardens line wide, tree-lined avenues. The more affluent feature long driveways that meander to grand secluded estates with tennis courts and swimming pools – many enjoy sweeping harbour views. More affordable pockets host a variety of townhouses, units and apartments – all of which enjoy easy access to parks and transport links to motorways and the CBD.
When you live in Remuera, the best schools are a rite of passage. People move here for top private schools – King’s, St Kentigerns, Baradene and easy proximity to Diocesan and St Cuthberts in Epsom. It’s also in the ‘Grammar Zone’ – a huge drawcard for the education-conscious. Children in ‘the zone’ gain entry to sought-after high schools – Auckland Grammar for boys and Epsom Girls Grammar – guaranteeing a high standard of education. High decile primary schools include Remuera Primary, Victoria Ave School and St Michael’s Catholic School; plus Remuera Intermediate as well.
Beautiful parks, reserves and playgrounds for children abound. Poised to the south, the volcanic cone of Mt Hobson shelters Remuera from cold southerly winds and provides great walking tracks for those who like to keep fit. The expansive, panoramic view from the summit is well worth the walk. Between Victoria Avenue and Orakei Road, Waiata Reserve is a beautiful off leash dog park. Pathways wind through majestic trees. With a jungle gym, flying fox and skate bowl, Little Rangitoto Reserve, another dormant volcano, is a favourite with the kids.
Numerous sporting and community clubs spoil you for choice: tennis and badminton at Remuera Rackets, rugby, badminton and netball at College Rifles in Haast Street. Then there’s Bridge, The Lions Club, ballet, art, bows and the beautiful Remuera Golf Club.
Who would guess there’s even a beach in Remuera at the bottom of Victoria Avenue, a street renowned as the suburb’s most exclusive – and expensive. Wilson’s Beach was named after Joseph Liston Wilson who helped to found the New Zealand Herald. Re-sanded in 2014, it is now a pleasant spot to picnic swim or kayak. Take a walk to the beach from the bottom of the valley at Hobson Bay Walkway which leads to Bloodworth Park – popular for club cricket on weekends – and head up Shore Road Reserve.
Splicing through the middle from the Newmarket end, Remuera Road is often referred to as ‘the Medical Mile’ because it has an array of medical practices and private clinics boasting many of New Zealand’s top specialists.
As the city grows up all around, change is afoot. Older residents are downsizing from their gracious homes to a new wave of luxurious modern architect-designed apartments, while the next generation of upwardly mobile professionals take their place and enjoy their space.
At Remuera’s heart, ‘the Village’ between Armadale Road and St Vincent Avenue on Remuera Road is an upbeat shopping strip with banks, real estate agents, travel agents, boutiques, art galleries, restaurants, bars, takeaways, cafes and the Library. The beautiful brick heritage Library thrives with activity, encouraging young and old readers through book clubs and story times. The Village Green behind Ray White Remuera will soon be completely transformed and renamed the “1050 Precint”. It will host new exciting new shops and restaurants (think Ponsonby Central in Remuera).
Notable among the existing eateries are Banque Oyster Bar & Eatery – providing delectable dining and the place to be seen on a Friday night. Remuera has its fair share of ethnic restaurants and the Upland Village enjoys excellent Japanese, Malaysian and Fusion offerings. Don’t forget the Thai Village, where the food & atmosphere is always superb .
In Clonbern Road, opposite the excellent New World supermarket, 4&20 sets a precedent for some of the best hand-made bread and pastries in Auckland. Bakers Delight at the top of Victoria Avenue is always bustling.
The Benson Road Deli has made the pocket of shops in the Benson Road precinct famous. Overflowing with abundance, Simply Flowers is a must before you book into About Face Skin Clinic for a facial or stop by The Bay Tree for gifts. The area is definitely a destination of choice. On the opposite side of the road, the Morell Bistro & Bar is popular with locals.
Remuera is widely regarded as the most genteel suburb of Auckland, yet it continues to evolve adding a vitality that draws a younger generation of locals. It will always be an aspirational choice for those who want the best money can buy – in close proximity to everything that’s worth having.
Remuera’s popularity as a place to live is not just a recent phenomenon. It has been a desirable location since the early 13th century when the Maori selected it as a preferred place to live. Most areas across the isthmus were covered in flax and bush, but patches of woodland across Remuera attracted the birds they trapped for food. The adjacent harbour basins were also good fishing areas. And the volcanic cone of Mt Hobson provided a convenient pa (defended settlement) site. It was later used as a quarry, and water reservoirs were built on the summit to provide a water supply for surrounding areas.
The first shops opened in 1890 at the intersection of Victoria Avenue. And railway stations at Newmarket and Market Road encouraged further development.
In 1915 Remuera was amalgamated into Auckland City after strong opposition from the Remuera Ratepayers Association. Up until then, it was governed by the Remuera Road Board. It was only after the Department of Internal Affairs intervened that the Board gave in. When the 520 acres of Remuera became part of Auckland, it was said Auckland had received “the brightest jewel in her crown today”. A subsequent report by the city engineer pointed out that Remuera had 60 miles of primitive roading and lacked proper stormwater drainage, sewerage and other services.
The Council made a series of improvements including a free public library in 1915 which later replaced by the current building in 1926. In 1919 locals were so incensed by the public toilets built at the Remuera shops that they demanded the Council tear them down. The first mile of Remuera Road was concreted in 1921 and the tram line (since removed) was doubled in 1924, followed by an extension of the service to Meadowbank.
Remuera has a rich historical and architectural heritage. Many fine early homes survive. But a considerable number, such as Coollangata, a large, rambling property on the ridge have been lost to redevelopment to make way for smaller homes & apartments.
Notable characters who have resided in Remuera read like a who’s who of Auckland business and governance. There have been several mayors of Auckland, church ministers, supreme court judges, King’s counsels. The founder of the NZ Herald, William Wilson, lived here and Dame Rosie and Michael Horton (also of NZ Herald fame) live in Victoria Avenue. Jean Batten, the record breaking aviator went to school at 4 Garden Road. Mountaineer and explorer Sir Edmund Hillary lived in Remuera until his death in 2008. Race car driver Bruce McLaren lived above the garage at 586 Remuera Road and broadcaster Paul Holmes was a resident until he died in 2013.
People didn’t start to build houses, as opposed to farmhouses, in Remuera until the 1860s. Many large villas were built for stunning harbour views on big properties as owners needed space for their carriages and riding horses. Some even had secondary houses for their gardeners and estate managers. Many of these early houses still stand, either on large estates or surrounded by other homes. Some like the home of David Graham, brother of the founder of Ellerslie, at 258 Remuera Road, were converted. His home became The Tower at Kings’ College in 1896.
Smaller houses began to spread from the Newmarket end along Remuera Road and the suburb grew outwards from there.
Remuera locals are proud of their heritage. While they mostly accept that growing demand for land means forfeiting some of the spacious feel of the suburb, many fight vehemently to retain their substantial character properties. There has been lively debate as developers step in to take advantage of opportunities to build numerous modern homes on larger sites.
Architectural styles now include an eclectic mix of strikingly minimalist and modern, Italianate, Gothic and Neo-classical. There are large numbers of Victorian and Edwardian styles. Villas and bungalows abound. Those who take the heritage walk can admire the Gothic St Mark’s Anglican Church; the Italian Romanesque St Michael’s Church by Tole and Massey. There are French and Italian influences in the Gummer Ford designed home at 4 Garden Road and the Library, also by Gummer Ford is Neo-Classical. Elmstone, an imposing home with Arts and Crafts influences that has been beautifully updated for modern living is tucked behind new apartments along Remuera Road at number 464.
Nowhere in Auckland does such a vast array of large and beautiful homes on spectacular landscaped gardens exist. Many have been lovingly restored with painstaking attention to detail. No matter how the modern world imposes the practicalities of progress on Auckland, Remuera retains the confident assurance of a long heritage that makes it truly unique and highly sought-after.
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