Cultured Charm

The colourful and diverse South Auckland township of Ōtara is known as the cultural capital of the Pacific. It’s also home to the most popular market in Auckland – not to mention some of the tastiest Pasifika food in the country.

In the heart of southern Auckland, 18km from the CBD, Ōtara sits at the mouth of the Tamaki River, which leads into the Manukau Harbour. Spend some time in this vibrant suburb and you’ll find it welcoming, progressive, and with a strong community at its heart. With around 75 per cent of its population coming to the area from the Pacific Islands, Ōtara is a melting pot of cultures, traditions, and flavours. In Māori, Ō-Tara means ‘the place of Tara’, or ‘Territory belonging to Tara’, who was a rangatira (Māori chief) of the area. Ōtara is the shortened form of Te Puke o Tara (literally meaning ‘The Hill of Tara’).  While there’s plenty going on on any given day in this vibrant suburb, it’s particularly famous for its Saturday morning flea market.

Head to the markets to stock up on fresh produce, plants, flowers, and clothing

Ōtara markets

Bursting with colour and activity, the Ōtara Markets have been an integral part of Ōtara’s landscape since 1976. It’s now the biggest and most popular market of its kind in Auckland.

The market is held behind the Ōtara Town Centre every Saturday. It’s up and running by 6am, with crowds pouring in soon after. The locals know it’s the best place for miles to stock up on fresh produce, plants, flowers, and clothing. You can also get a bargain on new and used clothing and check out the range of Pacific Island crafts including tapa, head pieces, lava lava, bone carvings, kete (flax baskets), and more. There’s often live entertainment from Pacific Island performers too.

Secretive St Arnaud

Of course, you can’t visit the markets without being tempted to try some of the delicious flavours of the Pacific (and beyond) that are always on offer. From island doughnuts and coconut bread to chop suey and pork buns, there’s plenty to choose from. Be sure to come along with a good appetite.

Ōtara walkway follows the route of the Ōtara Creek

Ōtara walkway

After filling up on pork buns and churros from the market, take a walk along Ōtara Walkway. The 5.5 km walkway passes through 220 hectares of open space in Ōtara and follows the route of the Ōtara Creek. The walk starts at the end of Kaitawa Crescent. You can access the walkway from the Ōtara Town Centre through Lovegrove Crescent along the banks of the Ōtara Creek. The walk also links with the Ngati Ōtara Park, which has a great playground for kids. And if you’re feeling like a bit of extra exercise, the park has a great outdoor workout circuit.

This bustling area is friendly and vibrant

Fresh Gallery Ōtara

Step inside the Fresh Gallery Ōtara and you’ll be immediately immersed in a colourful, culturally diverse, and incredibly creative space. The main mission of the gallery is to provide a platform for local artists to have a profile. You’ll often see exhibitions of incredible artworks from local college students. The gallery also occasionally holds markets for local creatives to sell their artwork.

Ōtara is a melting pot of cultures, traditions, and flavours

Ōtara Kai Village

One of the exciting new initiatives in Ōtara is the Ōtara Kai Village. The village describes itself as an “eco, multi-functional sustainable space based around kai (food), connection, and creation.” The village crowd sources kai by working with retailers, manufacturers, and local growers to sustainably put surpluses to good use. The village also has its own community garden, café, and store with any profits made going directly back into the village. One of the future plans of the village is to create a pathway for marginalized entrepreneurs and newcomers to start a business. It’s a great example of how this community is creating opportunities that benefit individuals, families, and the wider community itself.
Auckland Botanical Gardens

More cool stuff nearby:

If you’ve still got a bit of time left up your sleeve after checking out all the great Ōtara offerings, you may like to head seven minutes up the road to the Auckland Botanic Gardens. Spanning 64 hectares, the gardens are a great spot to explore at any time of the year. They’re free and open every day except Christmas Day. About five minutes from Ōtara, heading north on the Southern Motorway, is Rainbow’s End. This fun theme park is a must-do if you’ve got kids on board. Afterwards, take in a spot of shopping at the Manukau City Centre just across the road.

Exploring Bell Rock

For those keen on some adrenalin-inducing activity, make a splash at Vector Wero Whitewater Park at 770 Great South Road. Have a go at whitewater rafting, kayaking, or paddleboarding. You can even experience the thrill of rafting or kayaking over a 4.5 metre waterfall.

Where to stay

• Ambury Park Campground 43 Ambury Road, Mangere Bridge. Book online at
• Bruce Pulman Park 90 Walters Road, Takanini. Bookings are essential. For rules and booking details, visit
• NZMCA Ardmore Airfield (Members only) Hamlin Road Ardmore Airfield.
• Hingaia Reserve (Freedom camping) 370 Hingaia Road, Karaka. Limited to five vehicles per night. Vehicles must be certified self-contained. Maximum stay of two consecutive nights.

Rainbow’s End is great for the kids, and grown ups!
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