It’s rumoured that one in three Auckland households owns a boat; almost certainly true given that the ‘City of Sails’ is home to two harbours. The Auckland region is at the northern end of New Zealand’s North Island and the city itself bridges the divide between the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea.
Depending on who you talk to, New Zealand is said to stop (or start) at the Bombay Hills, a small mountain range about 40 kilometres south-east of Auckland which forms a natural barrier between Auckland’s urban area and the Waikato River basin. Home to one-third of the country’s population, Auckland is very different to the rural areas south of the hills, and with 1.3 million residents the city provides plenty of attractions and entertainment for visitors.
The largest city in New Zealand, Auckland is a great base from which to explore the North and South Islands, and (proportionately to the rest of the world) Australia is only a short flight away.
Auckland – and for that matter, most of New Zealand – is all about the great outdoors. There are plenty of museums, cafés and shops, but for a true taste of Auckland you need to get outside. Fortunately the city’s temperate climate is well suited to fresh air activities with the average low rarely reaching single figures.
With two harbours – Waitemata and Manukau – Auckland is where you’ll find your sea legs. Take your pick from an adrenaline-fuelled race in an America’s Cup yacht, or a leisurely catamaran cruise to Rangitoto Island, scanning the Hauraki Gulf for whales and dolphins. If you prefer solid ground then hike up the grassy slopes of Mount Eden; from its 196 metre peak you can peer into its gaping crater or simply gaze at the Auckland skyline.
If bricks and mortar are more your thing, visit the Auckland War Memorial Museum where New Zealand’s military past is flanked by an impressive natural history section. Or ascend the 328 metre Sky Tower – the country’s tallest man-made structure delivers breathtaking 360 degree views for up to 80kms. The brave can even bungee-jump from Sky Tower, although this is by no means compulsory.
New Zealand's Pacific Rim cuisine draws inspiration from Europe then imparts an Asian and Polynesian kick, resulting in a mouth-watering blend of ingredients. However, the real characteristics of the Kiwi cuisine are evident in the way that New Zealanders eat, generally avoiding formality in favour of laidback dining.
Auckland’s seafaring nature ensures its two harbours deliver a bounty of freshly-caught fish and shellfish every day, including lobster, abalone and oyster. Enjoy a typically Kiwi dining experience: fish and chips wrapped in paper, accompanied by a world-class Sauvignon Blanc from one of the country’s 400 wineries.
Nightlife in Auckland can be just as casual, although formal entertainment is well represented at The Edge, a central feature of Auckland’s cultural Aotea Quarter and home to the landmark Aotea Centre, The Civic, Auckland Town Hall and Aotea Square.
In fact, Auckland has something for everyone, from theatre, cinema and art exhibitions to pubs, clubs and live music. For current listings pick up a free copy of The Tourist Times or What’s On guide.
Stay north of the Bombay Hills to be overwhelmed by historical and natural attractions. Three hours drive from Auckland is the Bay of Islands – 144 picturesque islands with arguably the best climate in New Zealand. The area is also called ‘Birthplace of the Nation’ as the founding Treaty of Waitangi was signed here.
At the tip of the North Auckland Peninsula is Cape Reinga, where the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean meet. Many believe this place to be the most northerly point of New Zealand; a title actually held by Surville Cliffs, 30kms to the east. Reinga means ‘departing place of spirits’ in the Māori language and the area was believed to be where the spirits of the dead finally left for the afterlife.
Alternatively, visit the western coastline of the peninsula and the erroneously-named Ninety Mile Beach. Its 55-mile stretch of isolated, sandy wilderness can be used as a highway at low tide and is bordered by a 100m² belt of dunes.