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An adrenaline junkie’s dream, Auckland is full of things to throw yourself off or out of, activities to raise your heart rate and natural marvels that just beg to be conquered in a hair-raising way. Parasailing, skydiving, white-water rafting and bungee jumping are all available in the city’s lush surrounds.
For those who love to experience nature without being upside-down, there are still plenty of ways to take in the outdoors. Rangitoto Island is one of Auckland’s most prized attractions, rising in verdant majesty outside of the city. Or head a little further afield to explore Great Barrier Island to take in more dazzling scenery, or relax in the Hot Springs near Maungawhau Volcano.
Auckland serves as a microcosm not only of New Zealand, but of the wider South Pacific as well. Far more culturally representative of its geography than any of its Australian counterparts, Auckland has a thriving Asian community and is home to the largest Polynesian population anywhere in the world.
So once you’ve had your fill of the outdoors, explore the natural beauty of the city set around Waitemata Harbour, or educate yourself on New Zealand’s rich heritage at the Auckland Museum, the biggest collection of Maori culture and artefacts in the world.
At the end of a big day of sightseeing, thrill-seeking and culture-gazing, kick back at one of Auckland’s many fine dining establishments to find out why Auckland is fast-becoming one of the top gourmand destinations in the world.
Auckland’s Top 10
10. Kelly Tarlton’s Antarctic Encounter & Underwater World OK, so it’s just an aquarium, but it’s inside an old stormwater and sewage tank! No need to hold your nose for this unique underwater experience.
5. Auckland’s Whale and Dolphin Safari
The Hauraki Gulf is home to 22 species of dolphins and whales, so you’ve got a good chance of seeing at least one. Don’t fall overboard!
9. Great Barrier Island Explore native forests, hot pools, birds and marine life and get some adventuring out of the way while you’re at it!
4. Auckland Domain The city’s oldest park, sculpted around an old volcano! Explore the formal gardens, weave through the bush or just relax for a picnic.
8. Coast to Coast Walk Explore the volcanic slopes, fishing regions, Maori history and the Waikato River.
3. Auckland Bridge Climb Climb over or under Auckland Harbour Bridge for the best views of the city and the harbour.
7. Cornwall Park Get out of the city and explore the countryside and livestock.
2. Auckland Art Gallery (Toi o Tamaki) Over 14,000 works – everything from early Maori art to modern Kiwi landscapes.
6. Auckland Zoo Hang out with all the little birdies and monkeys during the ZOOM tour. Native New Zealand animals are the highlight.
1. Auckland Bridge Bungee The world’s first bridge bungee. Glide headfirst over Waitemata Harbour for this classic Kiwi experience. Daredevils go for the ‘water touch’ jump!
- Ōmana Pā – The Maori built these earthwork fortifications during conflicts between tribal groups.
- Pou Whenua – These carved posts represent the relationship between the people of the land.
- Shakespeare WWII Defences – Built during WW II to defend the city against Japanese invasion.
- Ewelme Cottage – Take a trip back to the 1800s with this cottage built of kauri wood.
- Administrative Centre of Auckland – Originally purchased from the Maoris in the mid-1800s.
Auckland Art & Culture
- Howick Historical Village – A living museum that offers a peek into another time in history.
- Alberton – This incredible colonial mansion was built little by little over the years.
- Auckland Art Gallery – The biggest collection in New Zealand with national and international art.
- Auckland Festival – A biennial event with dancing, local and international music and theatre.
- Auckland Town Hall – Home to the Auckland Philharmonic Orchestra, with concerts, opera and ballet.
- Parnell – A historic area with a wide assortment of trendy shops, cafes, restaurants and pubs.
- Otara Flea Market – Open all day Saturday, it has a large Maori and Polynesian population.
- Queen Street – The main street of Auckland, with many shops, entertainment and eateries.
- Mangere Town Centre – This flea market is open Saturday, a great place to find Polynesian food.
- High Street Vulvan Lane – The centre of fashion in Auckland, with many designer shops.
Gay & Lesbian Auckland
- Family Bar – A rocking place in Auckland, open seven days a week with regular karaoke.
- Naval and Family – A GLBT pub open every day of the week from 10 am until the late hours.
- Urge – Offers a friendly atmosphere and you’ll find grooving DJs every night.
- Caluzzi Cabaret – A prize-winning restaurant/drag cabaret great for a fun night out or to celebrate.
- Dorothy’s Sister – A cafe and bar where you can enjoy a cup of coffee, drinks, a snack, lunch or dinner.
- Sky Tower – This tower is the highest structure in the Southern Hemisphere.
- One Tree Hill – Drive or walk up this volcano to the lookout area that features a wonderful view.
- Auckland Regional Botanic Gardens – With more than 10,000 exotic and native plants to explore.
- Waitakere Tanges – A beautiful sight with amazing waterfalls and beautiful rocky beaches.
- Auckland Harbour Bridge – With pedestrian walkways, an exciting bridge and climbing activity.
- For sailboat cruises and experiences, check out the Waitemate Harbour.
- Eden Park offers great rugby and cricket matches.
- For soccer games, check out the North Harbour Stadium.
- The ASB Tennis Centre hosts the Heineken Open for men and the ASB Classic for women.
- You’ll find netball matches in Auckland at the Vector Arena.
Auckland LocalCity Centre
Auckland city centre is a typically antipodean mix of high-rises and hidden architectural gems like the Dilworth Building that remind the visitor of the city’s colonial past – and its place as the first European settlement. Similar in size to Sydney’s Central Business District, it still retains a ‘quaint’ reputation that alternately amuses and annoys New Zealanders.
Dominating the skyline is the 328-metre tall, space age-looking Sky Tower – New Zealand’s tallest building. The views from the top are spectacular. The ride up to the pinnacle takes place in glass lifts, which is no fun for vertigo-sufferers. The tower is part of SKYCITY Auckland, with its casino, bars, restaurants and other entertainment attractions. It’s a fun place for a night out, but this tiny taste of Vegas in the Pacific doesn’t really encapsulate the essence of Auckland.
Big Little City
In downtown Auckland you’ll find BIG Little City,Auckland’s answer to Sydney’s Paddington. Trendy and chic, this is the place to max out your credit card… twice.
Talk a stroll down Canterbury Arcade, High Street, Lorne Street and Queen Street until your feet (and possibly your spouse) are complaining, you’ve spent all your money and it’s time to sit down for a glass of wine in one of the many hotspots dappled around this area. Viaduct Harbouris home to not only beautiful views, but many of Auckland’s top restaurants too, while the Auckland Waterfront is rapidly being redeveloped to turn it into a trendsetter’s paradise.
Speaking of food, discover Elliott Stables, Auckland’s gourmet food village, and indulge your tastebuds.
As Auckland is a collection of villages, each district is made up of smaller villages to explore. Auckland’s City Fringe is a case in point. Ponsonby, which isnow home to trendy restaurants and retail strips, also contains remnants of the past in the form of heritage buildings, while Parnell– an exclusive boutique suburb – is where you’ll find Auckland Domain as well as Auckland Museum.
Perhaps the most beautiful part of the City Fringe is Mount Eden. Climb the extinct volcano, Maungawhau, for spectacular 360° views of the city. Close by, in Kingsland, is Eden Park, New Zealand's largest stadium, where you can grab a beer and – if you’re there during the rugby season – settle in to see New Zealand’s sporting pride and joy, the All Blacks, in action.
Auckland Eat & Drink
Wildfire Loosen your pants for this all-you-can-eat meat experience. The waiters will bring you more and more meat sliced straight onto your plate until you beg for them to stop!
Logos We have to give you one for the vegetarians. This does have some meat available but is very veggie friendly, and even the staunchest meat-lover will be sure to find something to delight the palate.
Café Melba Wake up! It’s breakfast time in Auckland. Eggs three ways or stay in bed and catch a curry for lunch.
SPQR If you’re in the mood for sharing a few big pizzas and a nice bottle of wine, look no further. Cosy and dark, this is romantic for couples or good fun for a group.
Rocco Clear your schedule – it’s cocktail o’clock. Dress to impress and make a night of it at this funky Spanish-inspired hotspot.
Soul Bar and Bistro Seafood by the water – it almost sells itself! Add to that the extensive list of local wines and you’ve got a winner.
Sheinkin Israeli-inspired joint that’s good for a quick takeaway or a lazy lunch. Get the tasting plate between two.
Murder Burger Definitely not for vegetarians! Try your hand at eye fillet, Angus sirloin, chicken, wild boar, venison, ostrich and fish!
Canton Café Be prepared to queue, this is super popular, but totally worth it. Asian dishes and the always-popular bonus of being able to bring your own booze. You’ll be in and out in no time, so perfect if you’re seeing a show.
Auckland Lantern Festival is a unique summer event marking Chinese New Year in January/February. You’ll find entertainment as well as crafts, fortune-telling, fireworks, martial arts displays, and the ever-popular food street.
January brings around Auckland’s biggest day with the Auckland Anniversary Day Regatta, a celebration of maritime history. Waitemata Harbour springs to life with hundreds of vessels to gawk at.
Auckland Seafood Festival is a three-day celebration coinciding with Auckland Anniversary Day at the end of January. Amazing fresh seafood as well as entertainment.
Auckland Festival of Photography comes by each June with free access to events across the city to celebrate New Zealand’s up-and-coming photographers.
It’s lights, camera, action in July when the Auckland International Film Festival comes to town. The festival shows the best in international and local documentaries, experimental films, animations, shorts and archival programmes.
Augustsees the Auckland Art Fair come to town with daily lectures and displays livening up the city and Viaduct Harbour.
Auckland Heritage Festival offers the chance to discover Auckland’s social history with displays of art, architecture, fashion, music, ecology and sociology in September.
September also bring the Auckland International Boat Show, which takes place on Halsey Street and Quay Street, surrounded by popular bars and restaurants.
When To Go
NZ seasons are fairly predictable. Auckland is not too tourist-heavy, so if you like the warmer months, head over between December and March. October is possibly your best bet, with fewer crowds but nice weather for adventuring.
Winter (June to August) – 7-15°C (45-59°F)
Spring (September to November) – 9-20°C (48-68°F)
Summer (December to March) – 14-24°C (57-75°F)
Autumn (April to May) – 10-20°C (50-68°F)
What To Miss
The South Auckland suburbs have a bit of a reputation for being rough and violent, so don’t get caught there late at night.
Most popular tourist attractions are all above board, although there have been a few reports of some whale-watching companies ripping tourists off! Stay with the big companies and you should be fine.
Eden Park and any bar when the All Blacks are playing (during the winter months). Kiwis are wonderful, welcoming hosts, but appallingly cocky winners. And on the rare occasions the team loses, the country goes into mourning. And no-one likes gatecrashing a funeral.
Bus: It’s not the most efficient public transport system, but the buses are nice and cheap at around NZ50c to NZ$1 for a single trip.
Train: A NZ$14 Discovery Pass will buy you a ride on most bus, train and North Shore ferry services. Don’t assume it will cover all services, however, because due to privatisation Auckland’s public transport system is not standardised.
Bike: Like most big cities there are bikes for hire and it’s a great way to explore the city. Expect to pay around NZ$20-30 a day.
Seasoned travelers all over the world consistently rave about New Zealand. Clearly, the love affair that for many began with native son Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings trilogy, endures. A favourite destination with wine lovers, gourmets, ecotourists and outdoor adventurers, the country packs a dizzying array of options into one small, manageable package. The city of Auckland, at just over 1.4 million residents, provides a wonderful introduction to New Zealand and serves as a quasi-microcosm for the country as a whole. With all the comforts of modern urban life and plenty of rugged recreational pursuits on tap, Auckland is totally complete as a vacation destination.
The most perceptible landmark around Auckland is without a doubt, Rangitoto Island. The volcano island is the most impressive of many in the region and serves as a wonderful destination for a scenic trek outside of the city. From unique plant and animal life to decrepit WWII installations, Rangitoto makes a great day trip.
Although many refer to it as Auckland Harbour, Waitemata Harbour is the ideal spot from which to explore many areas of the city. The large harbour is the main connection to the main port of Auckland, the waterfront, Hauraki Gulf and the Pacific Ocean.
The immense natural harbour of Manukau is a branch of the Tasman Sea and offers endless recreational pursuits. Southwest of Auckland proper, the harbour is a favourite spot for boaters, aquatic life lovers and those who just want to work on their tan.
If you love boats, Auckland is the place for you. Known as the “City of Sails”, yachts and the culture around the luxury vessels, make up a vital part of the city fabric. The marina of record south of the equator, Westhaven is the best place to explore and admire these super boats.
For a taste of New Zealand culture, the Auckland Art Gallery is a prime spot. Housed in a historic building that overlooks central Auckland from Albany Park, a walk through the gallery is a virtual education in New Zealand art.
A massive park in the suburb of Grafton, Auckland Domain contains over 75 hectares of land within the crater of the Pukekawa volcano. Attractions in the park include the Auckland War Memorial Museum, cricket grounds and Wintergardens.
The ability to tour world class vineyards in close proximity to a city is a rare treat. With New Zealand a New World wine powerhouse, take advantage of the oenophile culture of the country with a wine tour around Auckland. From the trailblazer West Coast region to relative newcomer Matakana, the areas around Auckland have much in store for those who appreciate the grape.
The city has much to offer foodies as well, with the Auckland Seafood Festival, Stamford Gourmet Cooking Weekend and Sunday Star Times Literature Feast, all held in the month of September.
New Zealand is mad for rugby so whether you catch the Blues at Eden Park or the national team, tickets to a match while in Auckland is a must. The city will host the 2011 Rugby World Cup.
As the proverbial City of Sails, a slew of events at Westhaven Marina provide Auckland with a major influx of nautical sport lovers.
In general, Auckland has a warm-temperate climate, with plenty of sun and a minimum of precipitation.
- Winter (June to August) 7-15°C
- Spring (September to November) 9-20°C
- Summer (December to March) 14-24°C
- Fall (April to May) 10-20°C
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