The fascinating history of K-Road

Tuesday, 15 November 2016 by Kiwi International Hotel

Ask anyone in Auckland where the cultural centre of the city is, and they'll all give the same answer - K-Road.

Karangahape Road (to give it its official name) is an area of Auckland like no other. Known for its pumping nightlife, quirky fashion stores and eccentric natives, K-Road is unique and exciting, and rightfully one of Auckland's most famous streets.

K -road Rainbow 650

What's in a name?

There's some uncertainty about the origin of the word Karangahape.

It is thought that Hape was an important Maori Chief who lived over on the Manuka Harbour. The ridge was a pathway to the harbour, and so the name could mean "The path of Karangahape".

However, different local Iwi had different interpretations, ranging from "winding ridge of human activity" to "calling on Hape". Unfortunately, we will never know the true meaning of the name.

When Europeans arrived, they had a hard time with the Maori pronunciation. There's a story about a young police officer, who, having to report a horse which had collapsed and died, couldn't spell Karangahape, and so dragged the horse across to Pitt Street to make it easier for himself.

In the early 20th Century there were several attempts to change the name to something more anglicised. The name survived, but since then it has been widely known simply as K-Road.

Karangahape Window

The heart of the city

K-Road, surprisingly, is the oldest street in Auckland, even older than Queen Street. While Queen Street was built in the 1840s, Karangahape Road was used as a route between harbours by pre-European Maori. The road sits on a ridge, and this ridge was the formal southern edge of Auckland City in the 19th century.

For around 70 years, K-Road was Auckland's busiest shopping district. Most retail chain stores had branches here, along with several major department stores. K-Road's time peaked between the two World Wars, with most of Auckland's main shops located here, selling everything from clothes and food, to furniture and electrical appliances.

After the Second World War, K-Road's popularity started to encompass more than just shopping. People would start coming down at night, and numbers got so high that in 1948 Auckland's first set of traffic lights with pedestrian crossings were installed on the corner of Pitt Street.

It was the place to be, and with so many thousands of people milling about, lines had to be painted in the middle of the footpath in order to regulate crowds.

The end of an era

All good things must come to an end, but the way in which K-Road fell out of favour still upsets many people.

In the 1960s a motorway was added to central Auckland, one which ploughed right through the heart of the city. Around 15,000 homes were forcibly bought by the government and demolished to make way for the new motorway. With the loss of 50,000 residents no longer living nearby, the effect on K-Road was disastrous.


Many businesses closed permanently, while others relocated to different parts of the city.

As a result of this, rents dropped in the area, opening the door for a seedier side of life. Parts of K-Road became known as Auckland's Red Light District, with prostitutes and strip clubs openly advertising. Even though the adult industry played only a very small role on K-Road, the damage had been done, and the image of the area in the public's mind became very disreputable, and has never fully recovered.

The rebirth of K-Road

After the downward spiral of the 70s & 80s, K-Road has started to make a comeback over the past two decades. Newly constructed apartment blocks have gone up, bringing back the pre-1960s population, and with it, business and tourists.

Since the early 90s, it has become the hub for the city's nightlife, LGBT community and Auckland's bohemian art scene. Today it is known for its creative, hip social scene, and is packed with restaurants, bars and cafes. Some of the best op-shops, arts and crafts stores, contemporary galleries and music venues, can be found on Auckland's most notorious street.


The Kiwi Hotel is a two minute walk from K-Road!

You can enjoy the cafes, clothing shops and art galleries by day, and the bars, clubs and restaurants by night, and not even have to pay for a taxi home!

Book now to reserve your room at one of Auckland's most affordable and comfortable hotels.



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