Symonds Street was for many years the only major route out of Auckland, to the Manukau Harbour, or south to the Waikato.
Before 1900, the majority of traffic on the road would have been horse-drawn drays and carriages, and wagons hauled by bullock teams. Many of the men and material employed in the building Great South Road in preparation for the Waikato War (1863-4), would have travelled up this route.
Military processions also occurred up Symonds Street during the First World War, en route to training camps at Epsom Camp (Alexandra Park) and Avondale Racecourse, and to the Domain.
Both the early and later Grafton Bridges carried significant foot traffic from Auckland to sporting events at the Domain, and to the Auckland Industrial, Agricultural and Mining Exhibition held there in 1913-14, and much of this would also have come up Symonds Street.
Electric trams started running in Auckland in 1902, and went up Symonds Street until 1956. Going through to Onehunga on the Manukau Harbour, Auckland had the world’s only ‘coast to coast’ tramway system.
Symonds Street remains the single biggest public transport road route in and out of the city.
In 2006, there were 1700 bus movements daily up this major thoroughfare.