Auckland, New Zealand is the perfect mix of urban convenience and natural beauty! The largest metropolis in the country, Auckland contains almost ¼ of the total population of New Zealand. It is home to nearly 1.8 Million residents who enjoy an enviable quality of life. With a vibrant city that is surrounded by natural beauty, visitors can experience volcanic hills, beaches, islands, bays and so much more. Auckland is the only city in the world built on an active volcanic field! The outstanding landscape was celebrated by the country’s famous resident, Peter Jackson, who used many locations in New Zealand as the setting for his “Lord of the Rings” Trilogy and the “Hobbit” films.
There’s always a sail on in Auckland!
Auckland is located in the North Island between two natural harbours, it is locked in by the Tasman Sea in the west and the Hauraki Gulf of the Pacific Ocean in the east. Fully one third of residents in Auckland own a boat, explaining where it earned its nickname, “City of Sails”.
Here’s a Pro-tip: This city is great for all types of travellers, whether you’re looking for a budget stay or you desire more luxury. The New Zealand Dollar, is around NZ$ 2.00 = GB£1.00 so trading currency is easy!
Auckland International Airport is the largest and most important gateway into New Zealand. It is located 20km from the city centre but is easily accessible by taxi, shuttle bus and the Sky Bus. The Sky Bus would be my recommendation for the most cost-effective and efficient transport link into the city as it runs at all hours every day. The city’s public transport is a great way to travel once you settled in. It’s easy to grab a train, bus or ferry throughout the metropolis with regular routes to most major attractions and the main shopping, dining and entertainment neighbourhoods.
Here are some great sites to see in and around Auckland:
- Eden – Also known as Maungawhau in Māori, this is a dormant volcano that is 196m (643ft) above sea level. It has a sharply defined bowl crater with a depth of 50m (160ft). Much of its appeal is the stunning 360-degree views of the Auckland region seen from the edges of its cone. Mt. Eden is completely unmissable!
Mt. Eden: paradise in the middle of the city
- Coast-to-Coast Walk – enjoy fresh air and a bit of exercise with this stroll through the city’s parks and the volcanic cones of Mt. Eden and One Tree Hill.
- An attraction you cannot miss as you look upon the city skyline is Auckland’s sky Tower. It’s the tallest in the southern hemisphere and offers some seriously impressive views as well as some fine dining.
Part of Auckland’s allure is that it has so many islands to explore just off the mainland! Each has its own unique selling points. Here are my favourites:
Waiheke Island will give you nothing to wine about!
- Waiheke Island – A 40-minute ferry ride from downtown will transport you to a wine lovers paradise! This island is 19km (12 miles) long and is an absolute wonder of nature with the bonus of housing 30 boutique wineries. Browse through art galleries, hike along some trails or enjoy the afternoon on a beautiful beach, there is something for everyone!
- Rangitoto Island – This island makes an impressive view when looking upon the Hauraki Gulf due to its iconic symmetrical shape, you can’t miss it! It’s a favourite destination for hikers due to the beautiful views from the summit and easy trails. This island is also relatively untouched because there is no accommodation available, just nature.
- Great Barrier Island – The magic of ‘Aotea’, as it is known in Maori language, lies in the night sky. The island has been granted Dark Sky Sanctuary. This means it is the perfect place for star gazing in the Southern skies!
Auckland enjoys warm and dry summers and mild winters. When you’re not sightseeing, you may want to relax on the beach:
- Piha Beach – This dramatic rugged coastline is a favourite for landscape photography, and famous for its black sand! Lion Rock features tall and mighty on this beautiful beach that is popular among residents for surfing.
You’ll love Piha Beach, I’m not lion!
- Medlands Beach – Located on Great Barrier Island, this beach is wonderful for kayaking, fishing and swimming. Enjoy beautiful sand dunes and stunning scenery as a bonus!
- Okakari Point – Popularly known as ‘Goat Island’, this rich marine reserve offers the perfect day out! It is extremely popular for snorkelling and scuba diving.
Here’s another Pro-tip: Piha is surrounded by the Waitakere Regional Parkland so there are plenty of walks in all directions. Hike along this stunning coastline and make the most of your day outside the city!
Auckland is a culturally rich metropolis surrounded by water and nature, so it offers some excellent dining options. With around 15,000 km of coastline, it comes as no surprise that seafood is heavily featured on the menus. Here are my favourite restaurants in Auckland:
You’ll sea great food in Auckland!
- The Maori Kitchen – This restaurant serves an incredibly special and traditional dish called ‘Hangi’ that involves slowly steaming meat and vegetables in an underground oven. You should definitely checkout this cultural experience!
- Harbourside Restaurant – This upscale bistro is the perfect venue for a special dinner for both its food and spectacular views. It’s one of Auckland’s best seafood restaurants.
- Mudbrick Restaurant and Vineyard – One of the benefits of Auckland’s wineries are their beautiful restaurants! Located on Waiheke Island, you should try the chef’s wine and food pairings.
With such a high quality of life, you can bet Auckland has some amazing nightlife experiences! There are several areas that you can experience a great evening in the town whether you’re after a relaxing drink or looking to dance the night away! The most popular areas are Ponsonby, Viaduct Harbour, Karangahape Road, Wynyard Quarter & North Wharf and Britomart. I love to spend time at:
- Housebar – the design is reminiscent of old-fashioned speakeasies and is the perfect cosy spot to grab a drink in a classic atmosphere.
- Lenin Bar – A top spot to enjoy some of the country’s best electric DJs, this is a premium vodka bar and a really popular dance venue!
- Silo Park – During the Summer months you can enjoy the lively night markets and even an outdoor cinema on Friday evenings.
Auckland offers an incredible range of accommodation options to fit anyone’s budget. Here are my favourite places to stay when I visit:
- Hotel Grand Windsor – Visit this romantic art deco era hotel, with opulent furnishings and a wonderful spa you won’t want to leave! This hotel is in downtown Auckland and near all transport links.
- SO Auckland Hotel – With views over the water this hip hotel is the place to be. It has a very popular rooftop bar, sleek décor and is near all best restaurants and boutiques.
- SkyCity Grand Hotel – The epitome of luxury and entertainment, you will enjoy this wonderful hotel. The SkyCity entertainment complex features a 24-hour casino, Auckland’s iconic Sky Tower, plus more than 20 restaurants, cafes and bars.
New Zealand is far away for many travellers but it is far and away one of the best places to visit. I really love the land of the Kiwi and Auckland feels like home when I’m there!