Auckland travel guide
Auckland is situated on a narrow strip of land, flanked by two magnificent harbours to the east and west. The shallow Manukau Harbour opens out to the Tasman Sea to the west, while the Waitemata Harbour lies at the heart of the city centre and is Auckland's deepwater port. It has a vibrant waterfront that has flourished with the successful hosting of the America's Cup, and the trendy restaurants and waterside cafes are a constant hive of activity.
Known as the 'City of Sails', with a larger boat-to-person ratio than anywhere else on earth, it is a paradise for sailing enthusiasts and every weekend the waters of the Hauraki Gulf come alive with a flotilla of colourful sails. The best way to experience the city is from the water, sailing around the attractive harbour or on a ferry cruise to one of the many stunning islands dotted about the Gulf.
Auckland is the largest and most cosmopolitan city in New Zealand, and acts as a major gateway to the rest of the country. Yet it is also one of the least densely populated in the world, covering an area twice the size of London but with barely a million inhabitants. It has a friendly small-town atmosphere and a relaxed pace of life.
Beyond the bustling downtown area, dominated by the southern hemisphere's tallest building, the Sky Tower, the city sprawls outwards, with low-slung buildings and wooden houses among leafy parks and walking tracks. The suburbs wind their way around picturesque bays and harbours and between volcanic hills that provide panoramic views over the city and mountains, encompassing numerous green urban parklands that are dotted with sheep.
Situated on The Domain, an extensive central city parkland on one of Auckland's extinct volcanic hills, the Auckland Museum overlooks the city and the attractive Waitemata Harbour. It is one of the most visited attractions in the city, housing a remarkable collection of Maori and Pacific Island artefacts and cultural displays. Originally built as a World War I Memorial in 1929, the building was dedicated to the memory of New Zealand victims in both World War I and II. The 'New Zealand at War' exhibition has since been joined by extensive displays about the people and the country, its cultures, art and natural history. There is a Children's Discovery Centre on the middle floor. For many, a highlight of a visit to the museum, is the three times daily Maori cultural performance of song and dance, providing an entertaining insight into Maori mythology and history.
Address: Domain Drive, The Domain, Parnell
Auckland Sky Tower
At 1,076 feet (328m), Auckland's Sky Tower is the tallest freestanding structure in the Southern Hemisphere and has unforgettable views over the city, the harbour and the gulf islands. It is part of the Sky City Entertainment Complex, with a casino, theatre, hotel and conference centre. Visitors to the tower can splash out on dinner in the revolving restaurant, or admire the view from one of the four circular observation decks, reached by a glass lift. There is an outdoor deck, glass floor panels, an audio visual guide and touch computer screens providing geographical information. The Sky Deck is the highest viewing level with spectacular 360-degree views.
Address: Sky City Complex, Victoria and Federal Streets
Tiritiri Matangi Island
Visitors can access the island by a regular ferry service, which leaves from Auckland and Gulf Harbour. The Ferry runs from Wednesdays through to Sundays each week, though it may be cancelled at short notice due to weather or other circumstances. When on the island, visitors can enjoy a guided walk, explore the beaches or simply admire the natural beauty of the place. Note: the ferry leaves the Island at 3.30 pm sharp, and it is important to be back at the wharf by 3.15 so that boarding and departure can take place without delay.
As the largest and most cosmopolitan city in New Zealand, Auckland has plenty to do and see for visitors, ranging from scenic cityscapes to beautiful wildlife reserves which surround the city. If you are heading out with the kids or just want to learn more about Auckland, Maori culture or New Zealand in general, a great place to start would be the Auckland Museum. The museum overlooks the city and the attractive Waitemata Harbour and is one of the most visited attractions in the city. Apart from the museum there is also the recently refurbished Auckland Art Gallery, housing some amazingly creative installations and free tours starting daily around midday.
After you have soaked up some local knowledge and culture from the exhibitions of the Auckland Museum and Art Gallery, why not take a daring venture up the Auckland Sky Tower, one of the tallest freestanding buildings in the Southern Hemisphere, from which you have a breathtaking 360 degree view of the city, the harbour and the gulf islands. And finally, if you want to explore the wilder side of Auckland, why not take a ferry from Auckland Harbour to Tiritiri Matangi Island, one of New Zealand's most important wildlife sanctuaries, where one can admire the beautiful flora and fauna of Auckland while on a tour led by expert guides of the island. And after all that, if you haven't had your fill of attractions, one can take turn at the Auckland Zoo, catch a show at the Civic Theatre or enjoy a lazy walk through Albert Park.
A popular way to enjoy many of these sites is to purchase a tourist card, called a multipass, which allows access to numerous venues within a one month period.
Hauraki Gulf Islands
The nearest island to the city is the uninhabited Rangitoto, a large volcanic cone with an unusual landscape of black distorted lava shapes that governs the view over the harbour. It is possible to hike up to the crater rim and explore the lava caves on the slopes. Each island has a different character with different things to do, whether it is to explore natural geological features or to enjoy the isolation, relax on white beaches or wander about the galleries and cafes. Some visitors prefer simply to sail around the islands on a yacht or ferry cruise and enjoy the scenery from on board.
Bay of Islands
The Bay of Islands is famous for its beautiful coastal scenery and is one of North Island's major attractions. The bay is interspersed with numerous little coves, inlets and sandy beaches, and the historical townships of Paihia, Waitangi and Russell are the central hubs of the area, from where an unbelievable array of activities and tours can be arranged. Sailing and boat cruises around the islands are the main attraction, but the natural surroundings and warm waters of the bay make it an ideal place for kayaking, swimming, diving and fishing. The bay is also of historical significance as the place where the Treaty of Waitangi was first signed between the European settlers and Maori chiefs in 1840.
Hamilton is a pretty town 80 miles (128km) south of Auckland. It's proximity to the bigger city means it is often overlooked by tourists in New Zealand, however as an excursion from Auckland, Hamilton has some worthwhile sights to offer. There are several hot springs around Hamilton, and the city is full of gardens, parks and river walks. Not far out of Hamilton is Matamata, home to the Hobbiton Movie Set, the 'Hobbit village' created for The Lord of the Rings film trilogy. Guided 'film and farm' tours are offered for fans of the movies.
Auckland boasts the world's largest Polynesian population, and celebrates the art, culture and lifestyle of this vibrant native community with the annual Pasifika Festival. The festival opens on Friday evening with a concert showcasing talented Polynesian music artists. On Saturday the entertainment continues with local church music and dance groups while visitors can sample traditional food, view art and handcrafts, browse at more than 300 stalls and wander through the series of 'Pacific Island villages' for a total cultural experience.
Venue: Western Springs Park, Great North Road; Date:March 2017 TBC; Time:Opening night concert: 7:30pm-9:30pm; festival: 10am-5pm; Website: www.aucklandnz.com/pasifika
New Zealand Fashion Week
International fashion buyers and writers descend on Auckland during October each year to celebrate in grand style the unique indigenous-inspired collections of New Zealand's talented designers. About 50 designers show their collections at this major event. Some shows are open to the general public, but on the final day of the week everyone can join in the fashion extravaganza when Aotea Square becomes a hive of fashion, music, markets, and interactive and educational activity for all.
Venue: 135 Halsey Street, Aucklands Viaduct Harbour; Date:22 - 28 August 2016; Website: www.nzfashionweek.com
Auckland Anniversary Regatta
Being known as the 'City of Sails,' Auckland is recognised as a yachtsman's paradise, so it is no surprise to discover that its annual official Regatta is the biggest one-day Regatta in the world. This historic event was first held in September 1840 and has sailed on through turbulent years and changing social trends to become a family outing full of fun and excitement. Numerous events take place in the harbour and surrounding waterfront to complement the actual yacht regatta.
Venue: Auckland Harbour; Date:February 2017 TBC; Website: www.regatta.org.nz
NZ International Comedy Festival
Some of the best and brightest comedians from the international circuit join some of New Zealand's top acts for over three weeks of comedy madness.
Date:April to May 2017 TBC; Website: www.comedyfestival.co.nz
Like its cosmopolitan gathering of citizens, Auckland has a diverse and full flavoured variety of eating establishments. From Indian to Japanese, and Turkish to French, there is a veritable rainbow of cuisine available from which visitors can choose. Fuelled by entrepreneurial immigrants and New Zealand's strong focus on artisanal food, wine and beer, the bustling local markets of the country's biggest city are excellent shortcuts to understanding Auckland's cultural mosaic. With well-established farmers' markets complemented by newer specialist markets, Auckland emerges as New Zealand's only truly international city and it is certainly reflected in the variety of its restaurants.
And although Auckland's food scene is a melting pot of national cuisines, locals still love their traditional New Zealand cuisine. Staples, such as roast lamb are a favourite, along with all kinds of fresh seafood, including of course, the famous New Zealand mussel. Auckland has no shortage of brilliant restaurants serving this type of local cuisine, with establishments such as One Tree Grill creating inspired Pacific Rim style dishes for patrons to enjoy, which can be deliciously paired with a wide selection of New Zealand's world famous wines. There are many areas in Auckland to enjoy a bite to eat, but if one wants an authentic seafood experience why not cruise around the Viaducts and Waterfront where one can find a variety of fresh seafood treats to chose from. Other popular clusters of eateries can be found in High Street, Queen Street, the Wynyard Quarter and the Arts Precinct, each with own unique atmosphere and speciality restaurants.
Bodrum Restaurant and Bar
Bodrum is arguably one of the best Turkish restaurants in Auckland. With an open plan kitchen diners can watch the chef as he prepares each scrumptious dish in front of you. On Fridays and Saturdays diners can enjoy entertaining belly dancing performances. Bodum has an extensive wine list as well as raki and aromatic Turkish coffee. Try the Sarai Patlican which is a tender lamb stew with jalapenos and other vegetables. The kebabs are grilled and marinated to perfection and the Eggplant Ashor, marinated ground beef with pan-friend eggplant, will have you coming back for more. Bookings recommended.
Address: 2 Osborne Street, Newmarket; Website: www.bodrum.co.nz
Punjab Palace is one of Auckland's many Indian restaurants. What sets Punjab Palace apart is their extensive menu and the pride and personal involvement that the owners take in the day to day running of this great restaurant. With piping hot curries, perfectly cooked naan and meat dishes done to perfection, Punjab Palace serves food fit for royalty. Try the Mango Chicken for something different, or the Lamb Rogen Josh for some of India's finest spices and New Zealand's best lamb. Bring along a bottle of wine and enjoy a great Indian feast. Bookings essential.
Address: 164 Ponsonby Road, Ponsonby and 71-D Great South Road, Papakura.; Website: www.punjabpalace.co.nz
For French cuisine at its best visit Saison. This French restaurant serves up an exciting array of stylish meat and seafood dishes. Using seasonal vegetables and only the best meat available Saison will tantalise your taste buds in all the right ways. Saison has a great wine selection including local and international wines. The roasted John Dory with pumpkin gnocchi comes highly recommended as does the roast duck with bitter chocolate jus. Be sure to save space for one of their desserts. Reservations essential.
Address: 417 Manukau Road, Epsom;
Auckland has a large selection of Japanese restaurants and sushi bars, but Industry Zen is a cut above the rest. With authentic Japanese decor and traditional Japanese meals this restaurant will transport you to Japan for the evening. Industry Zen is definitely one of the best sushi restaurants in Auckland and is often fully booked. Their sushi is made to perfection and the sushi wraps are a hit. Industry Zen also serves a decadent selection of Japanese tapas including crumbed rock oysters, fried squid legs and traditional Japanese Gyoza. The green tea ice-cream is the perfect way to end your meal. Bookings essential.
Address: 104D Customs Street;
One Tree Grill
One Tree Grill Restaurant is an upmarket dining experience which serves up traditional Pacific Rim cuisine and boasts a very impressive array of wines from the region and abroad. The restaurant prides itself in it professional service and quality food, making every dining experience a unique and special evening out for its customers. The food is beautifully presented and tastes equally as delicious. The venison and chocolate dish is definitely a must-try. Although rather a bit more expensive than other options in the area, the quality certainly lives up to the price point. Bookings are essential.
Address: 9-11 Pah Road, Epsom; Website: www.onetreegrill.co.nz
Auckland's 'city of sails' reputation and natural beauty make it an ideal destination for tourists wishing to take part in sightseeing and various other activities. Surpassing its daytime reputation Auckland comes alive at night. With clubs, bars, cinemas, dance clubs and pubs, Auckland is arguably the kiwi nightlife capital. The Tourist Times is a great source of hip and happening entertainment listings and is distributed free of charge throughout the city.
The city has a great selection of clubs and bars catering for up and coming businessmen, highflyers and young students. The main nightlife areas include High Street, Ponsonby, Viaduct Harbour, Parnell and Karangahape Street. There is a great mix of bars, clubs and quirky establishments in Auckland from which visitors can choose, including a great live music scene. If one is looking for something totally different, Auckland does provide some establishments that are a bit of an oddity, such as a bar which constantly has the temperature set to minus five degrees Celsius and another which is furnished with a variety of beds and pillows which patrons can snuggle up in while enjoying a beverage.
Auckland International Airport
Location: The airport is situated 13 miles (21km) south of Auckland.
Time: Local time is GMT +12 (GMT +13 from the last Sunday in September to the first Sunday in April).
Contacts: Tel: +64 (0)9 275 0789 or 0800 247 767 (NZ only).
Transfer between terminals: A free bus links the two terminals, and walking is also possible.
Getting to the city: An Airbus Express bus service leaves regularly (roughly every 10 minutes during the day on weekdays, every 15 minutes during the day on weekends, and every 30 minutes overnight) for the city centre. Tickets start from NZD 16. Shuttle buses also offer economical transportation between the airport and city or suburbs on a 'shared ride' basis. Taxis are also available, as is car rental.
Car rental: There are numerous car rental companies including Avis, Budget, Hertz, Thrifty and Europcar.
Airport Taxis: Taxis are available in ranks outside both terminals. Any taxi can transport passengers to the airport, but only authorised taxis can pick people up from the airport. The trip to the city centre costs between NZD 75 and NZD 90.
Facilities: Facilities at the airport include left luggage, business facilities, a medical centre, banks and ATMs, bars, restaurants and shops, a crèche, a post office, a hairdresser, supermarket, internet kiosks, tourist information and hotel reservations desks. Disabled facilities are good, but those with special needs should inform their airline or travel agent in advance.
Parking: There is plenty of parking adjacent to both terminals including a 'wait zone' where cars can park free of charge for 30 minutes. Fees range from about NZD 9 per hour to NZD 39 per day. There are also cheaper long-term parking options located off site with free shuttle services to the terminals. Substantial parking discounts are available for those who book online in advance.
Departure tax: None.
Auckland boasts a fairly comprehensive public transport network, including buses, trains and ferries. Buses serve most of the city every day of the year, with special NiteRider services after dark. The Link bus offers three bus loop routes in downtown Auckland which pass many of the major tourist attractions and are useful for travellers; the routes are colour-coded and buses pass frequently. The city train service is aimed primarily at commuters and is of limited use to tourists. Ferries connect to the north shore suburbs and take passengers to the Hauraki Gulf Islands. Taxis can be hailed on the street, but are more commonly booked by phone. Despite all this, many visitors find getting around Auckland frustratingly slow without a car, and for many hiring their own vehicle is still the most convenient option, especially if planning to explore beyond the city.
Auckland has an oceanic climate, with warm, humid summers and mild, damp winters. The city experiences plenty of rain throughout the year, but predominantly in winter; the summer months are the driest. In summer, between December and February, temperatures average between 57°F (14°C) and 74°F (23°C); and in winter, between June and August, temperatures average between 44°F (7°C) and 59°F (15°C). The weather can be very changeable in Auckland year-round, with tropical cyclones and cold fronts causing occasional extreme conditions like hailstorms.
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