The scheduling of major World Cup matches in at Eden Park in Auckland is no accident. In New Zealand, Eden Park is the biggest possible stage. Events that would pack any stadium in New Zealand inevitably end up being hosted here. The infrastructure that has developed around this simple fact is also unrivalled in New Zealand. Kingsland, the suburb that has thrived in part because of Eden Park, can handle the crowds.
The district that lines New North Road, with the Kingsland Railway Station at the centre, has become much more than simply the place people pass through on their way to (or from) sports events. It is now a destination suburb, one of the first places Aucklanders will go for a great meal, coffee or beer.
Kingsland as a locality has changed dramatically in the past decade, though its roots are still reflected in its architecture. Many of the buildings in the New North Road area were constructed between 1900 and 1920. Look above the shopfronts and you can see the bones of the suburb: brick and stone facades embossed with the names of institutions that have relocated or, in some cases, don't exist anymore. Tucked away between these grand former warehouses, small houses and low-slung buildings have been converted into thriving small businesses, particularly caf s.
While some of the shops and eateries have incorporated the historic architecture into their design and style, the content is thoroughly modern and international. A ruthless Darwinian logic applies to the businesses that line New North Road: find a niche and reap the rewards; or fail to make an impact and be rapidly replaced.
Your ticket may say the match is starting in the afternoon. Strictly speaking, that is true, but Kingsland has always been a suburb that rewards those who get in early. Take advantage of the chance to eat some of the best brunches in Auckland. No matter when you decide to go to the stadium, the journey there will be quick and easy if you follow a few simple maxims:
Don't drive. Theoretically, there is parking available in the streets around Kingsland. On a normal day, there might be the case. On game day? Not a chance. You will spend hours navigating the warren of streets that stretch out from the stadium, only to park a long walk away, probably in an area where you will be towed if you stay more than two hours. Auckland may be a city built around the idea that everyone has a car, but cars become encumbrances when events are on at Eden Park.
If you can, walk. In the hours leading up to a match, small tributaries of people swell into a river of humanity as you get closer to the stadium. If you are concerned about getting lost, simply ask for directions from someone wearing shorts, jandals and a singlet - they are most likely be a local and very happy to show you the way. New North Road, Sandringham Road and other streets around Eden Park are heavily pedestrian-oriented on game days, so you will be safe from traffic.
Trust the train schedule. Extra trains will be used to shuttle crowds in and out of Kingsland Railway station, the midpoint between Eden Park and the many shops, caf s and restaurants of New North Road. And if the train promises to depart and arrive at a certain time, you know it will, barring major problems. In general, Auckland's trains are comfortable, efficient and easy. The trains will get more and more crowded, but also more frequent, closer to the start of the game. (Another reason to arrive early.) Navigating the railway system is easy enough. The most convenient place to start is at the Britomart train station, which is the hub of all Auckland public transport. From there, ride the Western Line for a quick and easy trip to Kingsland. Remember, you must pay for the train before getting on.
You can always get a ride. If you're willing to pay more to be driven door to door, there are two options. Taxis are very easy to hire by phone, but you will have to pay more than if you opt for Uber.
Let's assume that you've arrived early for the game. Kingsland knows how to accommodate visitors at any time of the day. All morning, the caf s will be running a steady trade, from regular places that serve up simple, effective shots of caffeine, to the highbrow Atomic, which roasts its beans on site. For those that need a fix to get themselves going, this should be the first stop before entering the stadium. For once you are inside Eden Park, you should not set your sights any higher than a mediocre coffee. This applies to the food inside the stadium too.
Sporting success is dependent on the right intake of vitamins and nutrients. Similarly, watching sport successfully is dependent on having a full and satisfied stomach. Take the opportunity to sample Kingsland's brunch delights. Auckland as a city is obsessed with Eggs Benedict, a poached egg on bread, smothered in hollandaise sauce and garnished with bacon, spinach or salmon. Almost every caf will have some variation of the dish on their menu. Many of the best examples can be found on New North Road, with the absolute pinnacle being the offering served up by The Fridge. Rather than using bread, they serve their the eggs on a potato hash cake. It's heavy, thick, and immensely satisfying.
Options vary widely on New North Road to suit different tastes. Be it style, menu, content or ambience, everyone will be able to find a place where they feel comfortable. Alas, with the game getting underway soon, it will be time to head to the stadium.
A few important points to remember:
Don't try and take alcohol or food into the ground.
Try to print your tickets before getting to the ground, to avoid lines.
Lastly, smile at the security guards, and you will get a smile back from the friendly, courteous professionals who man the gates.
Two problems will emerge as the afternoon wears on. Firstly, hunger will begin to set in at about the 35-over mark. Second, half-time entertainment in New Zealand stadiums is traditionally dreadfully dull - the best-case scenario is that you will be subjected to some mad ranting from Danny Morrison. Fortunately, there is one solution to both of these problems. Duck outside the stadium, back to New North Road, for a quick spot of dinner.
The caf s will have closed but the takeaway stores and restaurants will be firing up for a busy evening. There are plenty of options for a quick snack in between innings, but a few stand out above the rest. Handmade Burgers were pioneers in a gourmet burger craze that has swept across Auckland, and are still among the best at their trade. Petra Shawarma is a hidden gem of Auckland, serving up delicately spiced Jordanian food.
Apart from those two, you can eat takeaways inspired by Thai, Vietnamese, Mexican, Chinese, Indian and Greek cuisines, to name but a few. One word of advice: take down the phone number of the place you want to eat at, and call them to order while walking out of the stadium. It will save you a few minutes at a time when they will probably be very busy, and not just with stadium patrons.
At the end of the match, you'll have three options for the rest of the night: celebrate a win, drown your sorrows, or make your way back home straightaway. If it's the third option, then any of the methods used to get to the game will still be operational. However, why leave so soon? The bars and pubs of Kingsland will be heaving with life and noise long into the night.
And when you finally drag yourself away from it all, you will hopefully have had the complete experience offered by this vibrant area of Auckland. Many stadiums exist in bland, dead zones, but that could not be further from the truth for Eden Park. Those who watch cricket matches live know that the experience is not just about what is happening on the field. For those who travel the world, looking for adventures around the cricket that they follow, there will be few places more intriguing and engaging than Kingsland.