Dumped on Auckland’s Queen Street, it can be hard to imagine how this sprawling urban metropolis has earned its place among the worlds top ten most liveable cities. But as a proud local I know the essence of Auckland lives just outside our central business district and stretches far beyond the city limits. So before you solidify your impression, let me take you on a tiki-tour around my favourite big little city, New Zealand’s very own Tamaki Makarau (Maori for Auckland) and make sure to bookmark this page for your next visit.
Getting Here & Around
Chances are if you’re arriving into Auckland from overseas you’ll be touching down at Auckland International Airport. From here you can find the SkyBus, the Express Airport – City Bus, and SuperShuttle, another popular Airport Shuttle Transfer service if you’re staying out of the city centre. Of course there are taxis as well.
Once you’re in the city there is quite a good transport network you can use to get around town. First thing is to get yourself an AT Hop Card for use on buses, trains and ferries in Auckland. This will save you at least 25% on most single trip fares (excluding SkyBus, Waiheke ferry’s and NiteRider buses).
Must Do Things In Auckland
New Zealand is a small island nation meaning most Kiwis have a strong affiliation with the ocean, but in Auckland we’re even luckier because this narrow isthmus of land we call home spoils us with two sparkling harbours to enjoy plus many regional parks. Though shorter than the likes of our European counterparts, this land comes with a long history and interaction between our Maori indigenous people and ‘Pakeha’ Europeans. Despite New Zealand culture sometimes being hard to pinpoint, we’re not short of legendary stories or character. So while you’re here make sure to spend some time relaxing in, on and around the water, getting to know Kiwi history and culture, and exploring our great urban playground. Here’s my must do ideas to get you started.
Wine & Dine On The Waterfront
A local favourite summer past time is to jump on a ferry for the vineyards and Mediterranean vibe of Waiheke Island. In just 45 minutes from downtown Auckland you can be sipping bubbly overlooking the vines. In the city centre, the Viaduct Basin and Wynyard Quarter are great places to spend an evening dining and walking along the water. You might have heard of Auckland being referred to as the ‘City of Sails’ – spend five minutes here and you’ll understand why. Super yachts and catamarans stretch as far as the eye can see.
Experience Our Wild West Coast
Black sand and riptides characterise beaches like Piha and Muriwai on our wild west coast, which attract the thrill seeking surfers who dare to dive in their waters. Most visitors to the area will want to climb Piha’s Lion Rock and visit the Muriwai Gannet Colony. Just remember to use caution as the ocean currents and rocky shores are serious risks. Visitors should always look out for local advice and only swim between surf life guard flags. If an adventure is what you’re after, this is the place to be.
Discover Aotearoa’s Art & History
To learn about the history of our people and our land visit Auckland Museum. Meanwhile you can see what life was like for early settlers at the Howick Historical Village and find further impressions and art from our place at Auckland Art Gallery.
Climb A Volcano Or Explore Our Native Bush
Auckland has 48 volcanic cones, many of which you will come across just on regular daily outings, such as Mt Eden, but some less frequented volcanoes are also well worth a visit, such as Rangitoto Island – just a day trip away. Our regional parks are also popular with many walking trails and lookouts to explore. For more information visit our local council’s website for Auckland walking tracks.
Visit the Sky Tower
On special occasions even Kiwis love to take a trip up the Sky Tower. With a 360 degree view far across Auckland, it really is quite a magical experience. If you’re strapped for cash you can visit the Sky Cafe – a cafe and viewing platform, but if you do have the budget I highly recommend making a dinner reservation at Orbit 360 Dining – the rotating restaurant that takes one hour to turn complete.
Sip Coffee & Shop Ponsonby
Anyone who knows a Kiwi will know we love our coffee and take the craft of a classic Flat White very seriously. The weekend is the best time to enjoy a good strong brew and Ponsonby is a favourite shopping area where you can meander the second hand hipster stores mixed in with designer boutiques. To find out where to enjoy a classic Flat White take a look at these 7 kiwi-approved auckland coffee shops.
Picnic At The Beach
No matter where you are in Auckland, you’re never likely to be more than about twenty minutes from a beach and the best way to enjoy it is with a picnic under a great Pohutukawa tree. Only ten minutes drive from the downtown ferry terminal you’ll find local favourites like Mission Bay, St Heliers and Kohimarama beaches where you can rent a kayak or paddle board and get sporty in the water. Board a ferry from downtown and you could lap up the sun looking back on the city view, or for those with transport at hand the beaches north of Auckland are worth a trip. Visit Auckland Council’s Safeswim website for up to date information on beach conditions and where’s safe to swim.
Experience Kiwi Music
You don’t have to go far from Auckland to get among the summer festival scene and great Kiwi bands. NZ favourites like Fat Freddy’s Drop, Sola Rosa and Shapeshifter are regulars on the summer festival scene so best to get in early. For more information, check out some of these popular festivals and events:
- Splore Festival is where Kiwi meets Coachella in the Tapapakanga Regional Park (February).
- Laneway caters for our more alternative music fans in the heart of the city (January).
- Northern Bass is your ticket to New Year’s at the beach.
- Britomart Block Party has you sorted for a NYE to remember downtown.
- Music In Parks are free events run by Auckland Council at various locations throughout the summer months (January – March).