Image: Tourism Auckland

Exploring Auckland

Straddling two harbours and draped over 48 volcanic cones, Auckland occupies a stunning natural landscape. Known as the ‘City of Sails’, when the Waitemata Harbour is dotted with yachts it’s easy to see why. Beyond the harbour is the North Shore, bordered by white-sand beaches, while to the west of the city is Waitakere, where the city gives way to wineries and rainforest.

Neighbourhoods

Downtown Queen Street is shopping central and you’d be hard-pressed not to find what you’re looking for among hundreds of boutiques and chain stores. Explore the laneways running east from Queen Street up to High Street – excellent restaurants as well as some of the best New Zealand fashion can be found here. The Britomart precinct is the hippest new central city destination for shopping, restaurants and bars.

Waterfront At the foot of Queen Street is Queens Wharf. To the west of Queen Street is one of the city’s most popular after-dark playgrounds. In Viaduct Harbour, a marina crammed with yachts and launches is surrounded by restaurants and bars. By day, stroll the walkways and sip coffee al fresco, and at night enjoy dinner or hit the dance-floor. Harbour cruises, ferries and sailing adventures depart from this area. West of Viaduct Harbour is Wynyard Quarter; the Viaduct Event Centre is here and there are several attractions including a tram, playground, night markets and live music.

Parnell East of the city is Auckland’s oldest suburb. Parnell is famous for boutiques, art galleries and colonial villas that have been restored into cafés, restaurants and shops. Explore quaint Parnell Village and visit Dove-Myer Robinson Park. On the other side of Parnell is the beautiful Auckland Museum and Domain. Stay in Parnell for dinner because this area has some seriously good restaurants.

Newmarket Here, the boutiques of over 40 top designers rub shoulders with chain stores in the Westfield 277 mall and on the buzzing high street of Broadway. Nuffield Street is home to a selection of popular al fresco cafés, restaurants and bars.

Ponsonby West of downtown, Ponsonby Road is one of the city’s hippest strips, jam-packed with cafés, bars and restaurants. It also offers good shopping, particularly for the fashion-forward. The narrow surrounding streets are full of picturesque old villas, many of them restored to their former glory as the area has been gradually gentrified.

North Shore Easily accessible via the Harbour Bridge or a relaxing 10-minute ferry ride across the harbour, North Shore is a beautiful part of the city. Here you’ll discover Pohutukawa-lined white-sand beaches, lively cafés and restaurants, a thriving arts scene and spectacular views of the Hauraki Gulf.

Auckland Regions

Heading out West West of Auckland, the Waitakere region is bordered by dramatic black-sand surf beaches such as Piha and Muriwai and framed by the lush forest-clad Waitakere Ranges. The wild landscape is the perfect setting for a myriad of outdoor adventures from surfing to hiking and canyoning. For those seeking a more relaxed pace, there are numerous wineries, as well as art and craft galleries to explore.

North of the Harbour Bridge The Hibiscus Coast is a popular beachside holiday spot or day-trip destination. Safe for swimming, beautiful Orewa Beach lies in the heart of the area, bordered by the cafés and shops of Orewa.

Matakana Wine Country With a good range of amenities in a pretty riverside setting, Warkworth is the gateway to Matakana Coast Wine Country, a beguiling region offering a blend of beautiful beaches, wineries, farmers markets and a marine reserve.

Hauraki Gulf & Islands Hauraki Gulf is dotted with more than 50 islands, many of which are easily accessible by ferry from downtown Auckland. Each island has its own unique character: Waiheke offers wine-tasting and great beaches, Tiritiri Matangi is a sanctuary for native birds and Kawau is home to historic Mansion House.

Do & Discover

Whether you’re after a day’s sailing on its iconic harbour, visiting wine country, in need of a culture fix at one of its numerous galleries or a spot of pampering at a day spa, Auckland never disappoints. Get out on the water in the City of Sails with 360 Discovery, America’s Cup Sailing ExperienceAuckland Jet Boat ToursAuckland Whale & Dolphin Safari, Fergs Kayaks, Fullers Ferries & Island Tours, and the Pride of Auckland. Get cultured at the city’s Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki, Auckland Museum at the Auckland Domain, Museum of Transport and Technology in Western Springs or the Voyager New Zealand Maritime Museum down at Viaduct Harbour. Rest & relax at Chuan Spa at the Langham Auckland or East Day Spa at SKYCITY. Check out iconic sights at Manurewa’s Auckland Botanic Gardens, the Sky Tower, and the Stardome Observatory at One Tree Hill Domain. Get adventurous at Auckland Bridge Climb & BungySkyJump or SkyWalk 360. Other activity options include Auckland ZooKelly Tarlton’s Antarctic Encounter & Underwater World, Otara Market, and theme park action at Rainbow’s End in Manukau.

Heading out West Walkers should hike the Hillary Trail at Waitakere Ranges Regional Park. Also popular is biking at Woodhill Mountain Bike Park. Go canyoning with Canyonz or try surfing with Muriwai Surf School. Wineries in West Auckland include Coopers Creek and Kumeu River.

North of the Harbour Bridge Just north of Orewa are the popular hot pools at Waiwera Thermal Spa Resort. Inland is Puhoi Historic Village where you can paddle on the Puhoi River with Puhoi River Canoe Hire. Also popular is Snowplanet, an indoor ski slope.

Matakana Wine Country To explore the wineries, join a guided tour or pick up a trail map at Matakana and hit the road. Ascension Wine Estate, Brick Bay Wines at Snells Beach and Ransom Wines at Mahurangi are worth a look. Explore the Goat Island Marine Reserve at Leigh with Glass Bottom Boat or Goat Island Dive. Other things to do include the Matakana Farmers’ Market, Sheepworld or riding with Pakiri Beach Horse Riding.

Hauraki Gulf & Islands Pay a visit to Kawau Island Mansion House or Stony Batter Historic Reserve. Go kayaking with Aotea Kayaks or Ross Adventures. Exploring the Waiheke wineries is a popular pastime. Try Goldie Wines or Saratoga Estate.

Food & Drink

With buzzing bars and clubs and international cuisine offerings, Auckland’s restaurant and bar scene is one of New Zealand’s finest. Enjoy unique culinary experiences with or at the Auckland Fish Market, and Great Taste Tours. Time for a coffee? In Ponsonby, try Agnes Curran, Dizengoff or Landreth & Co. Over in Newmarket, Baci Lounge satisfies caffeine-fiends and bibliophiles alike, while Zarbo is nothing short of an institution. In Parnell, try The Strawberry Alarm Clock and in Kingsland, which has established itself as a must-visit destination for coffee lovers, head to Shaky Isles and The Fridge. Back in the central city, Revive is good for healthy lunches.

Restaurants You’ll find rich concentrations of excellent eateries in a number of very different parts of the city – the best part is that each area has a flavour all of its own, so you can enjoy a unique dining experience every night of the week. For inexpensive fare, try Asian-inspired cuisine at Satya in Newton or Wagamama in the city. Spend a bit more at Degree, a popular eatery down at the Viaduct. Other CBD options include Mediterranean/Israeli cuisine at Ima or Asian fare at Monsoon Poon. Parnell is a hot-spot for eateries. For a blend of European and Pacific Rim flavours try Non Solo Pizza for superb Italian, or Oh Calcutta for incredibly good Indian. Ponsonby is another foodie haven, with iconic spots including Ponsonby Road Bistro, Prego and Thai restaurant Sawadee. At the top end of the market, try Clooney in the CBD, Peter Gordon’s The Sugar Club at SKYCITY or The Grove in Wyndham.

Bars & entertainment For major stage events, look up the Aotea Centre, The Civic, Auckland Town Hall and Aotea Square at The Edge. Also look for world-class events at SKYCITY Theatre and big-name concerts at Vector Arena in Parnell. Catch live theatre at Civic Theatre or Maidment Theatre in the city. See the latest on the big screen at Academy Cinemas or Event Cinemas Queen Street. For a night out sipping wine and/or cocktails, the Bellini Hilton Auckland is a good pick. Suitably swanky, Bellini occupies an enviable location at the Hilton. Other cool spots to try include: Agents & Merchants at Britomart, Red Hummingbird and – quite literally the coolest place in town – ice bar Freddy’s Ice House. Hungry? For late-night eats, get along to celeb chef Peter Gordon’s Bellota Tapas Bar at SKYCITY. The tapas menus are also good at Dida’s Wine Lounge & Tapas Bar in Herne Bay and Mezze Bar. If you’re after something more substantial, try gastro pubs Northern Steamship Co or Squid Row Gastro Bar for hearty food and gourmet brews. Night-spots renowned for live music include Cassette Number Nine, Khuja and Kings Arms Tavern. If you’re after full-on dance energy, head to Ink & Coherent on Karangahape Road (or “K Road” as it’s known to the locals).

Shopping

Queen Street, in the central city, is lined with chain stores (and is home to iconic department store Smith & Caughey’s), but head down the little lanes running east to High Street, O’Connell Street and the Chancery to seek out one-of-a-kind boutiques and designer fashion. Look for Kiwi fashion at Britomart – try Karen Walker, Zambesi and the treasure trove that is WORLD Deluxe. Ponsonby is another hot-spot for fashion; it’s also good for home furnishings and cool gifts. On the other side of the CBD, Newmarket is also renowned for fashion – from international brands to local legends. Head to Parnell for galleries and jewellery. Up on K Road, comb the quirky boutiques for street fashion and Pacific-inspired art.

Accommodation

From swanky 5-star hotels and boutique lodgings through to B&Bs, holiday parks and backpackers, there’s an Auckland accommodation option to suit everyone. Choice Auckland hotels include Amora Hotel AucklandAuckland City Hotel – Hobson StCity Central HotelHilton AucklandHotel Grand Chancellor Auckland AirportHotel Grand Chancellor Auckland CitySKYCITY Grand HotelSKYCITY Hotel, Sudima Auckland Airport, and The Quadrant Hotel Auckland. For guest & hosted options, investigate Stafford Villa at Birkenhead Point and The Great Ponsonby Arthotel, or if you’re after good self contained & serviced providers, there’s Best Western Ellerslie International Motor Inn, Quality Hotel Parnell, and Quest Newmarket. For good cheaper options, look to the Manukau Top 10 Holiday Park or centrally-located backpacker operators Base Auckland, Nomads Auckland, or Nomads Fat Camel.

Heading Out West In Piha, try Black Sands Lodge for apartments or Piha Beachstay for backpacking. At Muriwai, try Muriwai Beach Motor Camp.

North of the Harbour Bridge Look for hotel, motel or B&B accommodation in Devonport, Takapuna and Orewa. In Takapuna try the Emerald Inn, Takapuna Beach Holiday Park or The Spencer on Byron Hotel. In Orewa there’s Orewa Backpackers at Hatfields Beach.

Matakana Wine Country Leigh Sawmill Café is popular with backpackers, otherwise there’s Matakana House Motel or Sandspit Holiday Park.

Hauraki Gulf & Islands On Waiheke Island, try Lavender Hill’s lodge in Church Bay, The Boatshed Boutique Seaside Hotel at Little Oneroa or The Sands Waiheke Island apartments and villas. On Great Barrier Island, try Earthsong Lodge or Orama Oasis for backpacking and holiday park facilities.

Local Knowledge

Auckland International Airport has direct international flights to and from 35 destinations (with services provided by 20 passenger airlines) and domestic flights to most New Zealand centres. Get to and from the airport with SkyBus or Super Shuttle, catch a taxi with Auckland Co-op Taxis or go luxe with Hallmark Limousines & Chauffeur Drive. On SH 1, Auckland has a comprehensive motorway system. Coach companies provide regular services and local buses are frequent, operating out of a central depot at Britomart Transport Centre in Queen Street. Local buses are operated by Maxx Regional Transport, and the Link is one of the most useful bus routes. See the sights with a hop-on, hop-off pass on Auckland Explorer Bus. KiwiRail offers daily rail services to Wellington, with the train station located at Britomart where a metropolitan rail service is also based. Ferry services to Devonport, Hauraki Gulf Islands and other seaside suburbs depart from the waterfront. Explore by sea with Sealink (Great Barrier ferry) or Half Moon Bay (Waiheke ferry). Looking for a taxi or shuttle on Waiheke and Great Barrier Islands? Try Waiheke Independent Taxis or Great Barrier Travel.

For more information out West, visit the Arataki Visitor Centre on Scenic Drive, Oratia. If you’re north of the Harbour Bridge talk to the friendly folk at Devonport i-SITE at 3 Victoria Road, Takapuna i-SITE at 49 Hurstmere Road or Orewa i-SITE at 214A Hibiscus Coast Highway. When traversing the Matakana Wine Country, swing by the Matakana Information Centre in Matakana Village or the Warkworth i-SITE on Baxter Street. When island-hopping hop into Waiheke Island i-SITE at 118 Ocean View Road in Oneroa.

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