Auckland, known as the 'city of sails', was recently voted joint 5th best city in the world for quality of life, which would come as no real surprise to the 1.5 million Kiwis that live there. The physical surroundings of the city are second to none, with large natural harbours on both the east coast (Waitemata) and west coast (Manukau), and the city itself built up around over 40 volcanic cones, some of which once sported Maori hill-forts (Pa). Beyond the confines of Waitemata harbour lies the volcanic island of Rangitoto, and the yachting playground that is the Hauraki Gulf, dotted with over 45 small islands.
The city itself is lively and vibrant, in particular the area around the Viaduct Basin custom built to host the America's Cup teams, has developed into a major waterfront complex of restaurants and bars. The Ponsonby district is also a popular place to grab a bite to eat, or just a cup of coffee, and watch the world go by.
Your international flight will likely arrive in Auckland so you might factor in time to explore this cosmopolitan city before or after the 11-day Ultimate North Island Adventure 'Kauri' or before continuing on to the South Island.
Being New Zealand's largest city, Auckland is home to several museums and galleries, including the National Maritime Museum, the Auckland War Memorial Museum, the MOTAT (Museum of Transport and Technology) and the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki.
Parks and gardens
The 80-hectare Auckland Domain is located close to the heart of the city, east of Stanley Street. Just south of the centre, the Eden Gardens on the slopes of Mt Eden are particularly renowned for their displays of camellias, rhododendrons and azaleas. Mt Eden itself is the highest point in Auckland, offering 360° views of the city. The Auckland Zoo remains a popular attraction with the landscaped gardens coming a close second to the animals on display.
A sprawling city like Auckland is not the choicest of locations for hiking, but there are still some very pleasant walks to be had. The 16 kilometre (10 mile) coast-to-coast walkway runs from the Waitemata Harbour, through the Domain and passing by Mt Eden and One Tree Hill on the way to Manukau Harbour. There is some bush walking on offer away from the city, in particular the Waitakere Ranges beyond Titirangi.
Exploring the Hauraki Gulf
There are a variety of boat cruises available to visit several of the islands in the Hauraki Gulf, including the distinctive volcanic cone of Rangitoto Island, Waihiki Island, Great Barrier Island and the protected reserve of Tiritiri Matangi.
Swimming and surfing
With over 100 mainland beaches and access to both the east and west coasts, there is plenty to choose from. Amongst the surfer's favourites are the somewhat rugged west coast beaches of Te Henga (Bethell's Bay), Muriwai and Piha with families tending to head for the more accessible east coast beaches off Tamaki Drive.
Around Auckland, there are two major areas for wine production - west of Auckland is the Henderson district, and out in the Hauraki Gulf (30 mins ferry from central Auckland) there are nearly 30 separate wineries on Waiheke Island.
It's easy to arrange a full-day trip to Hobbiton from Auckland. Learn how a tranquil Waikato farm was converted into The Shire from Middle-earth and after enjoy a beverage at the Green Dragon Inn! Hobbiton movie set work with a number of transfer companies to offer these day trips.
Other things to do in Auckland
- Climb the Harbour Bridge with Auckland Bridge Climb
- Visit Kelly Tarlton's SeaLife Acquarium, which now also includes an extremely popular Antarctic attraction exhibit
- Take a trip up the Skytower, at 328m, the highest structure in the southern hemisphere
- Hop on ferry over to Devonport and explore the Auckland's North Shore peninsula: the appealing suburb of Devonport itself, the volcanic cones of North Head (once a military fort) and Mt Victoria and the beautiful beaches up towards Takapuna
Crowne Plaza Hotel
- centrally located, two minutes walk to the Sky Tower or Civic Theatre
Quest Auckland Apartments - centrally located
The Hilton Auckland - right on the waterfront in central Auckland
Hotels near the airport:
Jet Inn Airport Hotel
Hotel Grand Chancellor Airport Hotel
Airport Gold*Star Motel
Golden Chain Airport Motels
Skyway Lodge Budget Accommodation
The following hotels reflect the unique character of Auckland:
Ascot Parnell Boutique Hotel - Auckland city New Zealand: bed and breakfast in a tranquil garden setting. Central location, spacious suites. Walk to all downtown tourist attractions
The Devereux Boutique Hotel - delightfully different hosted bed and breakfast boutique accommodation in Auckland's premier eastern bays suburb of Remuera. Victorian mansion with ten globally themed ensuite rooms in a tranquil garden setting. Convenient and close to all the things you might want to see and do in Auckland - downtown, waterfront, Mission Bay, shopping, restaurants, museum, antiques and art galleries
Emerald Cottage - located on Takapuna Beach. Seaside ambience with stunning views.
Some more budget options:
Surf n Snow - centrally located backpackers
Ponsonby Backpackers - small, friendly hostel just a few miles from the centre of town
Brown Kiwi - backpackers located in Ponsonby with warmth, hospitality and local character
Lantana Lodge - friendly, backpackers located in Parnell 30 minutes walk to the city centre