Auckland is New Zealand’s largest and most urban city. While it is not the capital, it is the financial centre of the country. In fact, almost a third of New Zealand’s population reside in Auckland an its it suburbs. Auckland’s geographic position is quite rare. It is one of only a handful of cities around the world to be bound by two major bodies of water. Situated between the Hauraki Gulf of the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea, Auckland is situated upon a narrow isthmus, stretching from one side to the other, and is one of the few cities in the world to have two major city harbours each in a different body of water.
Mountain ranges are also a predominant feature of Auckland’s landscape, the region being born from geothermal activity.
Since New Zealand is part of the Commonwealth, the majority of residents are predominantly white European, with strong British ties, however, due to Auckland’s location in the Pacific, there are also many Asians and Polynesians who also call Auckland their home. In fact, Auckland is home to the largest number of people of Polynesian descent.
While a modern and cosmopolitan city, Auckland still retains that laid-back attitude that New Zealand has become known for. It’s one of the safest cities in the world and many residents have migrated to the city because of its high quality of living. Wherever you live in Auckland you are never more than half an hour away from the beach, or a hike through some of the most visually stunning natural surroundings that the world has to offer.
New Zealanders, fondly called Kiwis, are sport-mad and this is quite apparent in Auckland. Leisure time is sent outdoors doing all sorts of physical activity. They also love their spectator sports such as rugby and cricket.
The Sky Tower is an enormous structure that is one of the most popular landmarks in Auckland. At 328 metres in height, it is the tallest manmade structure in the country. The Sky Tower is known for its observation deck, from this lofty vantage point you’ll be able to take in some of the beautiful views that New Zealand is known for.
Museum lovers will definitely enjoy spending a few hours at the Auckland War Memorial Museum. The museum is actually a misnomer because it does not just house war or military related artefacts, it is also a national museum where the history and culture of the Kiwis and the Maoris are chronicled and exhibited.
Tourists who appreciate local art whenever they are travelling should visit the Auckland Art Gallery. This is where New Zealand’s largest collection of various artworks can be found. The museum boasts about 15,000 pieces of art that range from European masters to aborigine and Polynesian paintings and sculptures. The gallery building itself is a point of interest, one half having been built in the 19th Century using a classic Victorian style and the other half being built in a very modern 21st Century style.
While Auckland is primarily known as the City of Sails, it can also be referred to as the City of Volcanoes. New Zealand was built from extensive geothermal activity and Auckland has many inactive volcanoes around the area. A popular activity is to hike up one of the many volcanic cones within the city limits and see the picturesque views of Auckland from down below. You might be able to see some sheep wandering around too! The most popular cones would be One Tree Hill and Mount Eden. Budding astronomers would also enjoy a visit to the Stardome Observatory and Planetarium and look at the southern sky.
- Getting around
Auckland is a fairly large city and there are many ways to get around the city. Tourists can take a look at the MAXX website and find more about Auckland’s public transport system. One handy-dandy feature of MAXX is that it allows you to send a text message to find which public transport you need to take to get to your destination.
If your destination is on a train line, then you may opt to travel by train. However, it is not the most efficient and comprehensive mode of travel. There are only 3 train lines so many of the suburbs are not served by the rail system.
Riding the bus is by far the most popular mode of public transportation. There are many buses that pass though most of the tourist attractions. In fact, expect these buses to pass by every 5-15 minutes during peak hours. Tourists who are on a tight schedule and only have one day to explore Auckland might find the hop-on-hop-off tour bus to be the better option as it passes through fourteen of Auckland’s top attraction.
For those looking to spend several days in Auckland and have plans to explore the other parts of the North Island, renting a car is the best option. Traffic can be congested within Auckland Central Business District but nothing beats the mobility of having your own transportation. Don’t forget New Zealanders drive on the left side of the road too.
- Beyond Auckland
Auckland is located in the North Island of New Zealand. Driving from one city to another is popular way to tour the island. Located less than 20 miles off the coast of New Zealand, Waiheke Island is a great place for a day trip. It is only 35 minutes away by ferry. The island has several award-winning wineries. Go on a wine-tasting tour and enjoy trying out the different vintages on offer.
Hamilton is an inland city on the North Island. It is quite close to Auckland. Journeys by train from Auckland to Hamilton will only take you an hour and a half. Hamilton has an abundance of flora and fauna. Guests will enjoy a visit to Hamilton Gardens and Hamilton Zoo.
If you drive on a a southwardly direction, you will be able to stop at some of New Zealand’s famous sights. Waitomo is known for its underground cave system. The glowworm cave is probably the most famous cave in New Zealand, thousands of tiny glowworms have made this place their home and light up the caves interior. Visitors can also go Black Water Rafting through the caves, a thrilling experience as you twist, jump and dive through the glowworm illuminated subterranean world.
The next, and very popular stop would be “Hobbiton”, the filming location for the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Tourists are able to experience life how it would have been in Middle Earth with a tour around the Shire Village.
Last on the list would be Roturua, which is the center of geothermal activity in New Zealand. Mud pools, geysers and hot springs are a popular attracton in the area.
If you do want to go further and explore the South Island of New Zealand, flying to Christchurch is the best option. From then on, you can rent a car and explore the island in the same manner. Queenstown is one of the more popular alpine resort towns in the South Island.
- Local activities
Sail Auckland’s Waitemata Harbour
Auckland is known as the “City of Sails” because it has one of the highest concentrations of sailboats in its harbour. One of the best ways to enjoy a day in Auckland is to take a sailboat out and enjoy the cool mountain breeze as you observe views of the city from the water. One of the best experiences is sailing on an America’s Cup yacht. Alternatively, you can rent a sea-kayak and enjoy a more physical challenge of paddling across the sea.
Jump from the Sky Tower
New Zealand is known for its adrenaline-pumping adventure activities and Auckland is no different when it comes to daring escapades. The Sky Tower is home to several adventures geared for thrill-seeking individuals. Brave-hearted tourists can choose to walk the outer perimeter of the tower or do a jump from one of the highest floors to the bottom. If that is not enough for you, you can always climb the Auckland Harbour Bridge.
Fun Day at Kelly Tarlton’s
Kelly Tarlton’s is a wildlife theme park that the whole family can enjoy. Visitors can choose between the underwater world where large aquariums contain thousands of species of marine life that can be found in New Zealands waters. The Antarctic adventure offers the chance to observe penguins looking comical and if you are gutsy enough, Kelly Tarlton’s do offer extreme packages whereby you can dive with sharks in a cage free environment. There are 23 species of sharks to see on the dive and they all do have extremely sharp teeth!
- Local cuisine and drinks
New Zealand’s cuisine is a blend of traditional British mixed with Polynesian influences as well as Mediterranean touches. It’s the ultimate in fusion dining. With an abundance of marine life as well as top notch agricultural produce, expect the dishes to have the freshest of ingredients. Lamb, on of New Zealand’s top exports, features heavily into their cuisine. Barbecue is a favourite among Kiwis, who love casual dining in the outdoors.
Auckland is New Zealand’s most cosmopolitan city and there is a plethora of restaurants to try. Travellers will never go hungry as the explore Auckland and it surrounding neighbours. A notable dining experience would be the revolving restaurant at the Sky Tower.
If you get the chance, experience a Hangi, the traditional Polynesian way of cooking. Food is wrapped in leaves and cooked on top of rocks heated from the geothermal activity.
New Zealand is starting to gain a good reputation to have some of the best wineries in the world so try a glass or two from the local vineyards with your meal. Waiheke Island, which is just near Auckland is a popular wine growing region and is particularly known for its cabernet sauvignon.
Tipping is voluntary. It is not expected but very appreciated if you receive excellent service from the staff. There are no set percentages on how much you should tip.
- Where you are docked
The cruise port is run by Ports of Auckland, which is billed as New Zealand’s largest port company. Auckland is known to be to only cruise port available for docking in New Zealand during winter time. Auckland is designated as a key exchange port. This means that most cruises plying this route either start or end in Auckland. Since Auckland is located by the city, Ports of Auckland is just within the city. Cruise vessels primarily dock at Princes Wharf. In the event that more than one cruise ship is docking in port, the adjacent Queens Wharf may also be used. As of the moment Shed 10 of Queens Wharf is undergoing facility upgrades. In 2013, it will be designated as the primary cruise terminal. The cruise port is very accessible to tourists. A point of interest is the Maritime Museum, which is located right in the port area. There are hotels right across from the wharf. Taxis constantly ply the route.
- Regional weather
Auckland experiences a warm temperate climate with two distinct seasons. Summer, spanning from december to April brings hot humid temperatures, with Auckland’s coastal location, cool winds bring some respite from the heat of the day. Winter, spanning from May to November is by contrast is much cooler, with most of the years rainfall occuring during these months.