Today, it is being rediscovered by those looking for a more suburban way of life. Century old fixtures of community living are now complimented by new restaurants and modern housing options. The suburb’s close location to the CBD is the icing on the cake. Though fast-moving traffic isn’t Auckland’s strong point, Mt Albert offers a straightforward commute whether by train or driving via the North-Western Motorway or New North Road.
The largest thing on Mt Albert’s skyline is the literal Mount Albert, whose significance dates back to Pre-European Maori. Like much of Auckland, or Tamaki-makau-rau, the mountain’s favourable characteristics attracted many tribes. Its fertile soil allowed for expansive vegetable gardens and the creation of a terraced pa provided protection from enemies.
Challenging, consolidating and competing, the mountain’s name changed with the dominant tribe at the time. The most well known Maori name for the mountain is Owairaka. It refers to Waikara – a Māori ancestor of considerable folklore. She settled in the area in about 1350, coming from Tahiti. Her father was Toroa, chief of Ngati Awa. The stories of her leadership ability, strength, bravery, care and wisdom are impressive and live on today.
In 1841 Mt Albert was part of the land acquired by the crown from the Ngatiwhatua for a princely sum of 200 pounds, 4 horses, 30 blankets, 10 cloaks, 1 tent and a sealing box.
The mountain and surrounding area were renamed Mt Albert in honour of Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s husband. It was also the name given to the wider borough. 2,500 acres, which more or less consisted of today’s Kingsland, Sandringham, Morningside and Mt Albert.
Now for schools. For primary age children, schools include Marist Primary, Hebron Christian College, Owairaka Primary and Gladstone Primary School - one of the country’s biggest. Intermediate ages often travel to Kingsland for Kowhai Intermediate. Local secondary schools include Marist College and the reputable Mt Albert Grammar, which has been part of the community since 1922.
Mt Albert offers an eclectic range of shops. New North Road has many Chinese and Asian stores, including the 955 Centre and Lim Supermarket Centre.
There are a number of excellent cafes to choose from including, Sprout and The Lodge Cafe with the stand out being L’oeuf. Insiders tip - The Hunter, The Geisha and The Nest prove the most popular dishes. Many takeaway options line New North Road. If a night out is in order, then Chinoiserie comes with the highest commendations. Featured in the top 10 of the Metro Cheap Eats, the restaurant serves up Asian-inspired delights that will make the taste buds sing and the wallet coo with joy.
For retail therapy there is the St Lukes shopping centre, with a food court, supermarket and cinema complex.
Owairaka has plenty of walking tracks and sports fields to enjoy the outdoors. There are countless small reserves in the area for BBQs, picnics and sports. Just some of these are the War Memorial Reserve, Ferndale Park, Fowlds Park and Alan Wood Reserve which will be connected to the Waterview Shared Path for walkers and cyclists. Weekends and school holidays can be spent at the Mount Albert Aquatic Centre, featuring a waterslide and wave pool and the playground at Rocket Park.
Mt Albert is an attractive option for those looking for suburban comforts while maintaining a close connection to the city. Built on a foundation of community and values, this is one suburb where you’ll always be able to ask your neighbours for some sugar and a smile.
Land in the Mt Albert suburb was publically listed for sale in 1842, and sold off mostly for farming by 1847. The most prominent early European settler was Allan Kerr Taylor who bought over 500 acres. Legend has it that he named himself as Mt Albert’s ‘squire’ and ‘father’ of the Anglican Church. His gracious farmhouse, Alberton, still stands today.
Other early farmers included Edward and Elizabeth Allen and the Sadgrove family, duly recognised today with street names. Many who moved into the area in these early years followed non-conformist religions, in-line with our ‘squire’ Allan Kerr Taylor. Shared values created a tight-knit community, which was respectfully interdenominational. This religious presence also explains why Mt Albert was one of the last areas to lift its ‘dry’ restrictions.
Owairaka played a vital role in early development as it was quarried for scoria from the 1840’s. Its main use was for local railroad development. A ‘ballast pit’ was built for this purpose by the Railways Department in 1878. Railroads provided access to new subdivisions and trade routes. Most noteworthy was the 1880 opening of the railway from Auckland to Avondale and Glen Eden, with stations at Mt Eden, Kingsland, Morningside, Mt Albert, New Lynn. The tram came past later in 1912. With so many transport options the suburb’s commercial and residential areas flourished. Many business people working in the CBD settled in the area due it’s close proximity, a convenience that hasn’t been lost on residents today.
However over time the quarrying had tragic consequences. The archaeologically important Maori terracing was destroyed and the mountain’s two cones disfigured. Local residents strongly petitioned for quarrying to end. The pit closed in 1928, but not until the mountain's height was reduced from 148 metres to 135 metres. Today the land mass is half its original size and what were two cones have been levelled to appear as one.
At the sacrifice of Owairaka, the borough’s population doubled in the 1920’s. This spurred extensive housing development between the 1920’s and 1940’s – reportedly at a rate of 1.5 per week. In 1930 the borough had more than 20,000 residents, the largest in New Zealand.
Today there are numerous notable buildings remaining from this period. Most well known is Alberton, at 100 Mt Albert Road. It was built for Allan Kerr Taylor as the family farmhouse in 1863, expanding eventually to an 18 room mansion. It was famous in the 19th century for the balls, hunts, music and garden parties the Kerr Taylors hosted.
The architecture was strongly Indian influenced, with distinctive Anglo-Indian style turrets and wrap around verandahs. Alberton was left to the historic places Trust in 1972. Having been extensively refurbished it is now a popular destination for weddings, corporate events and gatherings looking for the grandeur of the colonial elite.
The Mt Albert Methodist Church, at 831 New North Road, was one of the early churches, built in Gothic style architecture in 1866.
Caughey House at 15 McLean Street was built in 1888 for Andrew Caughey, of Smith & Caughey's Department Store fame. Designed by Arthur White, the spectacular 16 bedroom home is now used by a private school.
The many bungalow style homes have stood the test of time and are a reliable investment or rental. Modern townhouses and apartments fill out the rest of the area, with more apartments scheduled to be built.
Past and present notable residents include Sonny Bill Williams, Lucy Lawless, Helen Clarke, Petra Bagust and Olympian Sir Peter Snell.
The suburb is proud of its education and research facilities. The Mount Albert Research Centre hosts Crown Research Institutes and the Auckland centre of Plant & Food Research. Also, Unitec Institute of Technology's main campus is in Mt Albert.
Famous for its Rocket and a family favourite, Rocket Park is a fun playground for all ages.
Spend time exploring the wide variety of cheeses and indulge in the pastries crafted in the Pyrénées kitchen – enjoy all your favourite foods and be inspired to try something different.
Famous for 'The Nest' (a boiled, crumbed egg resting in a “nest” of Kataifi pastry) this cafe is utterly relaxing and well worth a visit.
A favourite with locals offering a mix of Chinese and Taiwanese inspired street snacks.
Mount Albert Grammar is one of the largest secondary schools in the country. It teaches from year 9 to year 13.
The Mt Albert Rail Station serves schools, Unitec and local residences. More than 2,100 people use it each day.
Famous in the latter part of the 19th century for its balls, hunts, garden parties and musical occasions, Alberton today is renowned as one of the best places to experience authentic, gracious colonial living in New Zealand.