With all the spectacular and unearthly-like destinations to visit in New Zealand, earmarking one of its cities to be the main focus for your trip can be difficult to justify.
The country is littered with a plethora of high calibre natural attractions across both North and South Islands, opening the door for Auckland to get a bit of stick from travellers because of its stereotypical ‘big city’ status. New Zealand is often typified by its out of this world scenery, amazing nature and laid-back lifestyle, so it’s fair to say Auckland does things a little differently.
Home to the largest population in the country – although not the capital – Auckland is the high-rise city that stands out from the rest.
Yet, seeing Auckland for what it is without any contrasting comparison, it’s one a hell of a cool place.
From cultural attractions to nearby islands to a growing stylish going out scene, Auckland has tons on offer. Okay, it might not be as visually outstanding as some of the spots in the South Island, but for somewhere that is labelled as a ‘just a big city,’ it has just about everything you want from a travel destination.
For most of the world, Auckland and New Zealand is a fair trek away. But we’ve got the lowdown on why Auckland is well worth the journey and time.
In The City
In the heart of Auckland’s CBD by the harbour, the Viaduct isn’t somewhere to miss. Full of restaurants, bars, shops, museums, resident and commercial estates – the Viaduct doesn’t slow down too often, except on Sunday evenings. Still, it’s been home to international and national events over the years including fashion events and sponsored boat shows.
If you’re wanting to set sail, in the city of sails, the Viaduct Harbour is where you’ll no doubt begin.
Go on a cruise or perhaps charter a yacht if you’re willing to splash the cash – but it’ll be one of the best things you can do in Auckland period.
What most people tend to do in Viaduct is dine. Whether it’s fresh seafood from Oyster & Chop or pub food from Irish Bar O’Hagan’s there’s a whole bunch of options available as you watch the world and the water, drift by.
City Bar Scene
Auckland isn’t the cheapest place on the planet to go out drinking so it’s important to know where to go on a night out.
If you’re in the city make sure you head down Queen Street. Bluestones have $4 Heineken on offer, whilst next door the Spitting Feathers is worth a pint.
Staying in the city, it’s always interesting venturing down Karangahape (K) Road, Auckland’s gay and alternative area. Whether it’s a BYO restaurant you choose or the popular dive-spot Eagle Bar, everyone tends to have fun down here because of its raw approach.
There are some Melbourne-esk spots also in the city that appear to be on the rise epitomised by Vulcan Lane and Fort Street from Belgium ales to outdoor seating laneways.
Whether you’re eating some mouth-watering tapas at Tasca in Newmarket, drinking great ale at Corner Store or Galbraiths, perusing the famous French Markets La Cigale in Parnell or shopping in the stylish Ponsonby, Auckland’s suburbs are more interesting than you think.
If you’ve got time in Auckland, choose your time wisely and experience the suburb life like a local, you’ll see the real inner side to city life in Aucks’ that tarnishes the jibes Auckland get’s for being just a big city.
Bucket List Attractions
The postcard photo you’ll see of Auckland undoubtedly will include the Sky Tower. Not only is it the standout landmark of the city, it has a revolving restaurant and viewing deck suitable for all ages.
If you’re still not convinced, the Sky Tower allows you to do a Sky Walk and Sky Jump, at 192 metres high!
The Sky Jump especially will get anyone’s heart racing, an activity that is essentially base-jumping whilst attached to wire!
Where to start? New Zealand is an island country after all!
Going from Auckland to nearby islands is easy enough. Rangitoto Island, Auckland’s largest yet youngest volcano spanning nearly 600 years is a day trip in itself. Hiking there takes an hour from reaching the island and the views are stunning of Auckland city and the surrounding bay waters.
Waiheke Island is even closer but is known for its wonderful wineries and eco-adventures. Go on walking trails, ziplining or even sailing – all only 40 minutes or so away via ferry.
Tiri Tiri Matangi, is famed for its strict conservation efforts and native bird species. There is a limit to the number of visitors allowed per day and apart from the volunteers and conservationists, the land is uninhabited. This is a unique full of rare wildlife and arguably Auckland’s best eco-friendly attraction.
Auckland maybe the largest city in New Zealand that automatically puts off the city haters, but being based in Auckland is a great way to see the surrounding day trips on offer.
Hunua Ranges, represented non-other by the free-flowing Hunua Falls, is less than an hour drive away is a gorgeously underrated spot to go hiking with many tramping trails available for all levels.
Coromandel, around less than two-hours away, is a dream spot and almost reminds you of a smaller and deserted Maya Bay, famous in Thailand. Then there’s Piha, a black-sanded beach is a surfers dream with regular breaks and small crowds. A tad unknown, Muriwai is home to a huge Gannet Colony and is one of Auckland’s most underrated day trip attractions.
eDreams Day Trips Tips Further Afield: The Hobbiton, significant in the Lord of the Rings movies and Rotorua famous for its bubbling geothermal pools and geysers are both top must see’s in New Zealand. Both are less than three-hours drive.
The City of Volcanoes
If you didn’t know any different and were to get up high enough you’d notice Auckland has its fair share of small volcanic peaks with approximately 50 in total. The most iconic and popular ones are One Tree Hill, Mount Albert and as mentioned, Rangitoto.
At the top of these peaks, it’s great viewing to see the tips of the Auckland. Especially if you like microadventures that simply cost nothing to achieve, you might want to set yourself a mini target – climb as many volcanic summits as possible!
Home to New Zealand
Culture & History
New Zealand boasts typical Maori tradition all over the country and you can learn more about its roots in the cultural attractions available in Auckland.
The Auckland War Memorial Museum was originally built for what the name suggests but has now made room for fascinating Maori and Polynesian artefacts and treasures too.
Situated by the Viaduct, the New Zealand Maritime Museum is a traveller favourite, showcasing history at sea from models of Maori canoes to European ships. After all, Auckland’s official nickname is the City of Sails because of its rich maritime past.
If transportation is an interest of yours, make sure to stop by the MOTAT (Museum of Transportation and Technology). Here, you’ll also have a blast from the past with vintage trams, cars and planes on display!
The All Blacks
Whether rugby is your sport or not, watching the best rugby team in the world right now is something special. The famous (and scary) pre-game ritual called ‘The Haka’ that the players perform is worth the entry ticket in itself.
With Eden Park being Auckland’s main sports stadium housing over 50,000 Kiwi-crazed fans, if you’re ever in town and the All Blacks are on, buy the ticket and go to a game, it’ll be quite the sporting experience!