explore auckland, new zealand

Explore Auckland, New Zealand

Explore Auckland; the largest metropolitan area in both Polynesia and New Zealand, with a population of 1.45 million. It is in the northern half of the North Island, on a narrow isthmus of land that joins the Northland peninsula to the rest of the North Island.

Auckland is a modern cosmopolitan city and roughly one third of New Zealand’s entire population reside in Auckland.

The city and suburbs have developed within the same time frame and similar urban patterns as California (Los Angeles and Auckland have shared urban planning designs and are sister cities). Today the city and suburbs sprawl over a large urban area, hemmed to the east and west by two large harbors (Waitemata and Manukau) and ocean (Pacific Ocean and Tasman Sea) beyond.

Many suburbs were once separate towns and offer examples of early European settlement (Mission Bay, Parnell Village and Ponsonby are historic suburban centres that remain well preserved and contain good examples of Victorian, Edwardian and Deco residential styles).

The Auckland area was first settled by a confluence of Māori people of different tribes more than 700 years ago. From 1600 to 1750 the Tāmaki tribes terraced the volcanic cones, building pā (settlements behind protective palisades). Across the isthmus they developed 2,000 hectares of kūmara (sweet potato) gardens. These earthworks are easily seen on Mt Eden – a volcanic hill easily accessible from the CBD.

Dominating the midtown skyline of the CBD is the Sky Tower – an observation, restaurant and telecommunications tower completed in 1997. It is 328m tall, as measured from ground level to the top of the mast, making it the tallest free-standing structure in the Southern Hemisphere.

Auckland is often known as the “City of Sails”  for the large number of yachts that grace the Waitemata Harbour and the Hauraki Gulf. It could also be known as the “City of Extinct Volcanoes“. Much of its natural character comes from the fact that it is built on the Auckland Volcanic Field which consists of about 48 volcanoes. All of the volcanoes are individually extinct but the volcanic field as a whole is not.

Auckland is the largest city in Polynesia. For some Polynesian island nations there are more expatriates living in Auckland than in their homeland. Auckland’s rich Pacific cultural mix is celebrated at festivals and sporting matches.

Auckland is in a temperate climate zone and does not experience hot or cold extremes at any time of year. The summer months are December to March. The sun is very strong during this time and it is advisable to use sunscreen and cover skin from prolonged exposure. April to June brings cooler temperatures and rain toward the end of June which persists through winter until September and October. Westerly airstreams predominate throughout the year and there’s occasional high altitude haze from summer wildfires in Australia; making for spectacular sunsets.

Auckland has its own international Airport. 

There are a variety of ways to get around including bus, train, ferry, taxi, shuttle and hiring your own car.

What to see in Auckland, New Zealand. Best top attractions in Auckland, New Zealand.

  • Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, Cnr Kitchener and Wellesley Streets. Daily 10:00-17:00, except Christmas Day. The most extensive collection of national and international art in New Zealand, housed in an award-winning landmark building on the edge of Albert Park in the heart of the city. Has a shop and café. The Gallery regularly hosts touring international exhibitions and offers a calendar of talks, performances, film screenings and children’s activities to complement its exhibition program. Admission charges apply for international visitors. Charges may apply to special exhibitions.
  • Auckland War Memorial Museum, Museum Circuit, Parnell. 10:00-17:00. Displays collections of significant importance and offers scenic views of the Waitemata Harbor and islands of the Hauraki Gulf from a prominent position in Auckland Domain. It was constructed in the 1920s as a war memorial to those that fought and died in war. The cenotaph on the grounds below the steps to the museum entrance is the focal point for annual ANZAC day remembrance services. The top floor records names in stone as well as sobering tombs and lists of war events and their locations. The museum contains excellent exhibitions of Māori and other Polynesian peoples’ arts and crafts and daily Māori cultural performances (ground floor) as well as geography of the Auckland region. There is a cafe. 
  • The historically important winter gardensare nearby and well worth the short walk from the Museum to see impressive flower bed displays, tropical plants and statues (free).
  • Auckland Domainis Auckland’s oldest park and also hosts weekend sports events.
  • New Zealand National Maritime Museum, Cnr Quay and Hobson St, Viaduct Harbour. Interesting exhibits chronicle New Zealand’s maritime history.
  • Sky Tower, Cnr Victoria and Federal St. At 328 m, this is the tallest free-standing tower in the Southern Hemisphere, offering views of up to 80 km away and fine dining in the Orbit revolving restaurant.
  • Auckland Zoo, Motions Rd, Western Springs. 09.30-17.30 (last admission 16.15), closed 25 Dec. The largest collection of native and exotic animals in New Zealand, in 17 hectares of lush parkland, minutes from central Auckland.
  • The StarDome Observatoryon the slopes of One Tree Hill. The park also contains Māori archaeological sites, a kid’s playground and a working farm.
  • Kelly Tarlton’son scenic Tamaki Drive and the home of Antarctic Encounter and Underwater World. It’s an aquarium which includes a trip through a transparent tunnel while the fish and sharks swim all around you, and tanks of rays with feeding-time talks.
  • MOTAT(Museum of Transport and Technology), Great North Rd, Western Springs, near the Zoo. An interactive museum with over 300,000 items. Look out for the WW 2 Avro Lancaster Bomber and the Solent Flying Boat in the Sir Keith Park Memorial Aviation Collection.

What to do in Auckland, New Zealand

Auckland is surrounded by nature, much of it free to enjoy.

  • Drive or walkup one of Auckland’s many volcanic cones such as One Tree Hill or Mount Eden to experience panoramic views of the city, and to see sheep and cows in a major metropolitan area!
  • See what’s onin in the city’s entertainment precinct Aotea Centre, Auckland Town Hall and Civic Theatre (with its incredible restored interior). Nearby Sky City Cinemas offer the latest released movies in a world class multiplex. Large suburban centres also have multiplex cinema facilities – most notable of these is Sylvia Park with luxury movie watching options and one of the world’s largest 35mm projector screens. Sylvia Park is easily reached by car.
  • Catch a cricketor rugby match at New Zealand’s largest sports stadium Eden Park.
  • Climb the Auckland Harbor Bridge.
  • Do the Sky Jump, a cable controlled base jump from a height of 192m on the Sky Tower. Or try the Sky Walk, a walk around a 1.2m wide walkway 92m above the ground with no hand rails.
  • Take a ferry from downtownto the volcanic island of Rangitoto that stands prominently near the entrance to the Waitemata Harbour. Climb to the summit for fantastic views of the harbor and Auckland city. Take a picnic or have a swim.
  • Rent skates or a bicycle in Okahu Bay and take a scenic skatealong Tamaki Drive. Combine with a visit to Kelly Tarltons and Mission Bay.
  • Explore NZ, Viaduct Harbour Basin. Waitemata Harbour sailboat cruises on a boat from the Pride of Auckland Also offer a 2 hour Sailing Experienceon an original America’s Cup yacht or an excursion on a power catamaran to see whales and dolphins in the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park. 
  • Auckland Sea Kayaks. Sea kayak to one of Auckland’s volcanic islands like Rangitoto island day or night. 
  • Go to the beach. Mission Baycombines urban chic with beach (on Tamaki Drive further on from Kelly Tarltons).

From fashion districts to flea markets, department stores to malls and retail parks – shopping is as much a recreational activity for Aucklanders as watching for the latest sale (discount promotion) is a sport – big retailers are only too happy to oblige – widely advertised sales and offers are announced daily. Competition keeps prices reasonable – although supermarket (food) prices are expensive when compared with some countries in Europe.

ATMs for cash withdrawals are plentiful in high pedestrian areas and at malls.

Most retail shops and supermarkets accept credit.

Bank branches prominently display current exchange rates and many have an exclusive currency window. There are also exchange booth operators in tourist areas. Some tourist or souvenir shops might exchange foreign money for purchases (usually at inferior rates) – otherwise, presenting anything other than $NZ will get you a blank stare.

The downtown area of the CBD has a number of souvenir shops for a range of budgets. Check around the lower Queen Street and lower Albert Street area. Also DFS Galleria on the corner of lower Albert Street and Customs Street West.

Hobson Street (at the top end) has a couple of large shops also stocking honey and health products.

Auckland Museum has well stocked shops as does the Zoo. The airport has souvenir items both before and after immigration.

The High Street/Vulcan Lane/O’Connell Street area is the Fashion centre of Auckland Central and has local designer stores as well as international brands. Look out for women wear in Ruby, Moochi, Ricochet, Karen Walker and Agatha Paris French Fashion Jewelry as well as many other international brands.

For menswear, visit Little Brother, Crane Brothers, and World Man. For New Zealand and international brands in both men and women wear, see Workshop, Brave, 

Browns and Fabric, along with Ashley Ardrey for shoes.

Malls

Malls offer an ambient environment with good retail options and typically have a food court and cinema multiplex within the facility, if not nearby. Specialist as well as large New Zealand department stores (Warehouse, Farmers, K’Mart), along with large supermarket chains, add scale – many families and teens make malls a destination after school, on late nights and on weekends.

Suburban malls

  • St Lukeswas the first of the suburban malls to be constructed (1971) – now a large mall complex having been modernised and expanded over the years. Remains a very popular mid to up-market destination. Two supermarkets and cinema muliplex.
  • 277 Broadway(Newmarket) upmarket fashion and retail shops, a food court with a view down Broadway and a supermarket. Closest suburban mall to the CBD – easily reached by car, bus or train. Two hours free parking with a receipt from one the shops.
  • Sylvia Park(New Zealand’s largest mall) mid to upmarket shopping. Luxury cinema multiplex experience with one of the world’s largest screens. Two supermarkets. Warehouse.
  • Dress-Smartis an outlet mall specializing in deeply discounted big brand names. Sprawling food court. No supermarket or cinemas.

Auckland has a vast selection of eating choices reflecting a diverse ethnic mix.

Auckland is generally a safe place to visit.

Also what to do in Auckland, New Zealand

  • Go wine tasting on Waiheke Island. Waiheke is home to some fantastic wines and has some of the best beaches in the area. Can get crowded during the weekends, but very quiet during the week. It seems a world away from Auckland, but is only 35 minutes by ferry.
  • Take a ferry to Rangitoto Island. Rangitoto Island has trails around the majority of the island, as well as a bridge that connects to the neighboring Motutapu Island, and is a great hike for even the most inexperienced hikers. Rangitoto Island has several lava caves that can be crawled or climbed through as well a spectacular 360 degree view at the summit (only about an hour hike on the most direct trail). This is one of the more convenient islands that is nearby as it is only 20-25 minutes by ferry.

On your way through the Waitakere Ranges, head to the little beachside village of Piha and be prepared for stunning natural beauty.

Explore Auckland andHamilton and Waitomo Caves are within several hours drive. 

Official tourism websites of Auckland, New Zealand

For more information please visit the official government website: 

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