Auckland is New Zealand’s largest city, located at the northern end of the North Island. Its many distinct suburbs are widely scattered around volcanic hills and seaside bays. An extensive foreshore makes it a boating paradise and its cosmopolitan mix of cultures lends it an invigorating vibe. Whether you are picking up your rental car at Auckland Airport or in a downtown depot, the motorways cut right through the city centre so it’s an easy city to navigate.
Massively popular attractions include the Auckland War Memorial Museum, a distinguishing landmark set high in the city’s oldest park, The Domain, with wonderful views towards the harbour. The award-winning Auckland Art Gallery houses an extensive and thought-provoking collection, with a terrace café on the south-western corner of delightful Albert Park. The Voyager Maritime Museum is stuffed full of seafaring stories and offers heritage sailing trips. Wander through aquatic habitats and underwater tunnels at Kelly Tarlton’s Sea Life Aquarium, climb on or bungy off Auckland Harbour Bridge, and visit the 328m-high Sky Tower, with its viewing platforms, revolving restaurant, theatre, casino and exhilarating 192m SkyJump.
Satellite villages close to the city centre are well worth exploring. Head east to Parnell for chic boutiques and art galleries, Ponsonby to the west for its stretch of independent arty shops, pubs and restaurants, and north over Harbour Bridge to Devonport for colonial charm and buzzing cafés. Devonport and Takapuna offer sandy eastern swimming beaches that look out to the 260m-high volcanic cone of Rangitoto Island. Take in sweeping views of the city and its bays from the summits of Mt Victoria and North Head, where you can also discover old war bunkers and disappearing guns, and learn more about the country’s naval history at the intimate Torpedo Bay Navy Museum.
Spending time on the water is a must, and a sailing charter is ideal. Or head to the ferry terminal for harbour cruises, day trips to Great Barrier Island, Rangitoto Island and the vineyards and arts community on Waiheke Island, the wildlife sanctuary of Tiritiri Matangi Island, and wild ‘n’ wet jetboat rides.
Auckland is a party town, with a diverse and eclectic music scene and wide range of bars and clubs. Book at The Edge for performing arts and culture at the modern Aotea Centre and the historic, atmospheric Civic Theatre, or check what’s on at Big Little City.
You’ll find a string of seaview cafes and restaurants at popular Mission Bay and there’s an array of restaurants and bars in the city centre and at Viaduct Harbour, including Fish on the waterfront. For top nosh dine at The Depot Eatery or gorgeous Sidart in Ponsonby.
There are myriad accommodation choices for all budget ranges, from funky backpackers’ hostels and the various Waldorf Apartments to top-class Langham Hotel.
To broaden your exploration of the region, aim your Auckland hire car south past the brilliantPah Homestead café and art collection in Hillsborough to Manukau for the glorious Auckland Botanic Gardens and head-spinning fun at Rainbow’s End theme park. Further west, past arty-crafty Titirangi and bush walking in the Waitakere Ranges, you’ll reach the dramatic coastline and wild surf beach at Piha. Or head 40 minutes north-west to unspoiled Bethells Beach and visit the gannet colony at Muriwai. Head east around the Hauraki Gulf to the Coromandel Peninsula for pristine sandy beaches and more surfing. Continue north past Warkworth wine country and the sculpture trail at Snells Beach to Pahia and the Bay of Islands for sailing around isolated islands, deep sea fishing, and whale and dolphin watching.