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Auckland is a city with a lot of character. As New Zealand’s largest and most diverse city, it is definitely a place to visit if you’re looking to experience an array of different attractions. These 11 reasons to visit will show you why everyone should explore the City of Sails at least once.
Aucklanders and outside visitors adore Waiheke Island because of its remarkable viticulture, stunning white-sand beaches, and jam-packed adventure activities. Getting to the island is as easy as catching a ferry from downtown — a scenic trip across the Hauraki Coast which usually takes around 40 minutes. As the residence of many artists and creative minds, Waiheke also has a particular bohemian flair to it: galleries and art walks are very much a part of the island’s appeal.
Queenstown may be viewed as New Zealand’s adventure capital, but Auckland is a definite must-visit for keen adrenaline junkies. The list of adventure activities is quite extensive: the Sky Tower and the Harbour Bridge are among the favourite places for bungy jumpers, while the west coast is a great place for hiking and canyoning. Other exhilarating attractions to keep an eye out for include mountain biking, motorbike tours, helicopter rides, and sea kayaking.
Parks, nature reserves, botanic gardens, beaches, dormant volcanoes; Auckland may not have the breathtaking alpine backdrop of the South Island, but it is surrounded by beautiful places that everyone should cherish. A hike is one of the best ways to get up close and personal to the pieces of unspoiled forestry in the vicinity, and scenic cycle rides can be just as much of a treat. The Waitakere Ranges, Shakespear Regional Park, and the Hunua Ranges are some of the natural wonders to discover.
That’s not to say that Auckland Zoo and Kelly Tarlton’s should be brushed aside. They are great places to explore (especially if you’re travelling with kids) but if you really want to see New Zealand’s wildlife in the most natural manner, then the Hauraki Gulf will be the place to do it. Whales, dolphins, penguins and an array of native birds are among the different critters you might spot on your travels. For specific must-visits, Rotoroa Island has, over the years, been transformed into a conservation site where visitors can learn about the country’s native animals. Tiritiri Matangi Island is another option for wildlife enthusiasts. If plants and forestry are more of your thing, Rangitoto and Motuihe are some of the islands worth venturing into.
North, south, east and west — Auckland is enveloped by coastal treasures. Mission Bay is the closest beach to the city centre, and is by default the most popular. Piha, Karekare and Bethells Beach are some of the more isolated gems nestling along the west coast. Takapuna is one of the best of the North Shore, and there are plenty more to discover as you contour the region.
Wellington may pride itself as being the coffee and foodie capital of New Zealand, but Auckland’s restaurants always receive the highest praises. The luxurious French Café has won a number of awards both locally and internationally. Local accolades like Cuisine magazine’s annual ‘Good Food Guide’ and Metro magazine’s ‘Restaurant of the Year Awards’ are practically dominated by Auckland restaurants, cafés and eateries.
The Auckland Art Gallery is home to New Zealand’s largest collection of Maori treasures (locally known as taonga). An incredible arrangement of galleries are also scattered throughout the city, including the Gow Langsford Galleries downtown, Artspace on K’rd, and Te Tuhi in Pakuranga. If you’re more of a street art kind of person, keep an eye out for the cool sculptures at the Auckland Domain and those scattered around town. Graffiti art is also gaining traction, and it’s not too difficult to spot a wall that has been transformed into a mural canvas.
Maungawhau (Mount Eden) is the place to get a full 360-degree view of Auckland. The Sky Tower is the next best thing, offering you a glimpse of the Hauraki Gulf, the North Shore, and various other parts of the city. Climb atop the Rangitoto summit, and you’ll get to see Auckland from a different perspective. Needless to say, panoramas in this city are always a given.
La Cigale’s French Markets, which operate every Saturday and Sunday in Parnell, are quite famous. City dwellers are also lucky enough to have access to the Britomart Market, which is small but always very dynamic. Further north, Matakana’s weekend markets attract visitors from all parts of Auckland and all walks of life. The seasoned Avondale Sunday Markets are a local treat for West Aucklanders, and the ever-evolving Auckland Night Markets are always a must-visit for night owls and foodies.
A visit to the Maritime Museum, or even the nearby Viaduct Harbour, will give you insight into Auckland’s well-ingrained sailing culture. The city has one of the largest ports in New Zealand, as well as being the home turf of the America’s Cup sailing races. On a nice weekend, it’s extremely common to see boats of all shapes and sizes sailing along the harbour — you can basically settle into any of the beaches to watch them.
The beautiful Bay of Islands region is a few hours’ drive north. The Coromandel peninsula, Rotorua, Hobbiton and Waitomo Caves are within a couple of hours’ drive in the opposite direction. Even Wellington is within an eight hour driving distance. In short, whether you’re in the mood for a day trip or a want to spend a week exploring, Auckland’s location will help you make the most of the North Island’s best attractions.