Auckland, New Zealand's largest city, is located in the North Island of New Zealand. Auckland is the main gateway to New Zealand touring and travel. Auckland also has, not one, but two, spectacular harbours. The Auckland Harbour Bridge spans parts of both the Waitemata Harbour, which opens to the Hauraki Gulf, and Manukau Harbour, which opens to the Tasman Sea. Sailing is a familiar pastime for Auckland locals, and Auckland is a regular port of call for many international yachts and cruisers - hence the nickname 'City of Sails'. You can visit Auckland's suburbs and its districts which weave their way around a variety of bays ideal for swimming and water sports, or you can ferry to the island of Waiheke, best known for its beaches, artistic community, food and wine.
This waterside city has a strong pulse and a nautical twinkle in its eye. Its location on a thin stretch of the North Island, sandwiched between the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea, is complemented by the lush subtropical forests of nearby hills and the volcanic terrains of nearby islands.
Auckland's maritime climate ensures that temperatures never go to the extremes they would if the city was landlocked. Temperatures usually stay in the mid-20°s (high 70°Fs) in summer, and rarely fall near freezing in winter (June-August) - although the ground in some sheltered low-lying areas may at times receive a coating of frost. In summer the weather can become quite humid.
Auckland's busiest tourist season arrives with the warmer weather between November and April, hitting its peak during summer school holidays (20 December-late January). To a lesser extent the Easter weekend, Labour Day weekend (late October) and the mid-year school holidays are also busy. January and February are the best beach-weather months, and December and March either side are usually warm - even hot at times. November and April are slightly cooler and not so good for hanging around at the beach, but it's noticeably quieter, and accommodation is easier to find.
Auckland's accommodation generally caters fairly well for disabled travellers, with a significant number of hostels, hotels, motels and B&Bs equipped with wheelchair-accessible rooms and disabled bathrooms; rooms that are truly barrier-free, however, are few and far between. Many tourist attractions similarly provide wheelchair access, with wheelchairs often available at key attractions with advance notice.
Some tour operators have accessible vehicles - call ahead for more information. Some of Auckland's buses are kneeling buses and taxi companies have wheelchair-accessible vans.
Many of Auckland's tourist attractions are, unsurprisingly, based around the maritime. When you've had enough of aquariums and the history of sailing, go look for Maori culture and dinosaur skeletons, lie in the gardens or try stargazing at the Observatory.
The giant trees planted here over a century ago have seen it all: student protests, lantern festivals and rock concerts, as well as lots of people lolling in its neat hill-top surrounds. The park was originally a defended pa (fortified Maori village), then a barracks, now a cherished city park.
Tel: (09) 846 7367 (info)
The original decorative wallpapers of Alberton House have seen a number of grand balls and music recitals. Sophia Kerr Taylor (widow, mother of 10, singer, gardener and women's-vote advocate) and three of her daughters ran this white timber mansion for 80 years. More recently, Alberton served as the set for scenes in Jane Campion's film The Piano.
Tel: (09) 303 4965 (info)
The plain white walls and concrete floors of this public gallery come to life with an open field of art practices, including sculpture, photography, the moving image and sound art. Artspace exhibits many of New Zealand's leading contemporary artists and promotes a cultural dialogue, both locally and internationally, through speaking programmes and publications.
Tel: (09) 376 3221 (info)
The public gallery of this community arts centre provides a professional space for emerging artists to exhibit their work. Shows turn over every three weeks, and might include contemporary Polynesian themes or those of the modern Goth. If you find the gallery locked, ask the office downstairs for the key.
The gorgeous Domain emanates out from a long-dead volcano: its terraced remains creating a natural amphitheatre and a literal level playing field for numerous sporting grounds. Stroll through pockets of formal gardens or fringes of bush (on the Parnell side of Domain Dr), and experience perpetual winter at the Wintergarden cool house. The Domain is home to the Auckland Museum, a sculpture walk, and lots of glorious green space.
Coast to Coast Walkway
Tel: (09) 375 3358 (info)
This 16km trail links Viaduct Harbour and Manukau Harbour, cutting a path through a bunch of sights and attractions such as Auckland Museum and Cornwall Park. Walk one way, then bus back. Pick up a printed copy from visitors centres or download it from the government's website.
Harbour Bridge Bungy & Climb
Tel: (09) 361 2000 (info)
Auckland is synonymous with superhero-type stunts. Be part of a human chain strung out atop the Harbour Bridge (those strung out by heights need not apply). Or, swan dive off and dip your nose in the water.
Howick Historical Village
Tel: (09) 576 9506 (info)
This fascinating 'living' museum will split visitors along 'Isn't it tacky/fascinating' lines, with its costumed staff evoking the atmosphere of Auckland in the turbulent pioneering era from the 1840s to the 1880s. There are over 30 buildings, many relocated here from other parts of the region. The streets, the pond with ducks and geese, and the village gardens are faithful reconstructions of Victorian fashion, and there's a cafe with homemade goodies as well. There is a theme day on the third Sunday of each month, with special events and displays such as the blacksmith working at the forge, the 65th Regiment firing its muskets, and maybe even a chance to see the school in session.
John Leech Gallery
Tel: (09) 303 9395 (info)
At over 150 years old, John Leech Gallery was among the city's first commercial galleries. Considering its own historical standing, it's little surprise that historic works comprise part of its collection, representing NZ's most influential, controversial and coveted artists (the likes of Charles Goldie and Theo Schoon).
Tel: 0800 668 286 (info)
The 19ha (48ac) Museum of Transport and Technology is near the zoo. It's in two parts: Motat I has exhibits on transport, communications and energy, including vintage cars, a display about pioneer aviator Richard Pearse and the infotainment Science Centre, with hands-on displays and Motat II features rare and historic aircraft as well as railway and military hardware. Exhibits include a V1 flying bomb and a Lancaster bomber from WWII, but pride of place goes to the huge Solent flying boat that ran a Pacific islands loop in the days of luxury flying.
The grassy slopes of Auckland's highest volcanic cone are a popular vantage from which to watch the city and look into the gaping mouth of its crater. Come at dawn when it's just you and the lowing cattle watching the sun and the city rise.
National Maritime Museum
Tel: 0800 725 897 (info)
Sea vessels of all shapes, sizes and stages of history are pertinent lessons of the city's connection to the sea. Maori canoes, immigrant ships, jet boats and the old steamboat SS Puke will have nautical buffs in knots. Harbour cruises also operate from here.
NZ Film Archives
Tel: (09) 379 0688 (info)
This fabulous film resource has over a thousand Kiwi feature films and documentaries (dating from 1905) that you can view on a large telly. There's no better way to catch up on all those stellar Kiwi classics you may have missed. Perhaps the beautifully rendered tale of a family's '70s summer in Rain? Or the never-a-dry-eye Maori tale of Whale Rider, or a Peter Jackson classic such as Heavenly Creatures.
Oedipus Rex Gallery
Tel: (09) 379 0588 (info)
Familiar names in the contemporary art world grace this upstairs city space, as do emerging artists working in a variety of forms, including painting, print and photography.
One Tree Hill & Cornwall Park
Now dual parks, this huge area was once the largest volcanic-cone fortress in the southern hemisphere, said to have supported up to 5000 Maori; terracing and food-store pits are still visible. The city's European 'father', John Logan Campbell, is buried beneath the big, bald hill alongside the commemorative obelisk. His original house, Acacia Cottage, is in the adjacent Cornwall Park. The area's historical significance is explained in the Huia Lodge info centre.
Tel: (09) 373 3561 (info)
Water babies squeal with delight at the sight of the partly submerged playground here. Then there's the toddlers' pool with fountains of water squirting from the surrounding wall and the bigger kids' pool. And, there's a café to keep the adults quiet.
Tel: (09) 262 2030 (info)
Ride a giant plastic log through a river rapid, lose your stomach in the rocking Pirate Ship or plummet to the ground on the Fear Fall. Kids reckon this is better than the promised pot of gold at the end of every rainbow.
Tel: (09) 425 7444 (info)
NZ's answer to Disneyland, Sheepworld showcases all things sheepish. Watch working dogs round 'em up on this small farm before feeding the eels in the lake and visiting the gift shop: beauty creme infused with sheep's placenta and 23-carat gold flakes anyone?
Tel: (09) 427 0044 (info)
Every day is a white one at this winter wonderland, with indoor skiing, tobogganing and airboarding. It's five-below in this human-sized snow dome, so rug up.
St Mary's Church
Tel: (09) 303 9500 (info)
The stunning burnished wooden interior and ornate stained-glass windows of the Gothic St Mary's would inspire even atheist aesthetes to attend church. The original commission for a stone church proved too costly, resulting in a wooden St Mary's completed in 1898. In 1982 it was moved across the road to its present position and rotated 90 degrees. The neighbouring Holy Trinity Cathedral is where the majority of services are delivered.
Stevenson Discovery Centres
Tel: (09) 306 7067 (info)
The museum's dedicated children's galleries are the best hands-on learning centres hands down. The Weird & Wonderful gallery has drawers full of spiders, jars full of fish and atriums of scurrying cockroaches, plus microscopes and dress ups a plenty. Treasures & Tales provides insights into everything from woodwork to music.
Tel: (09) 817 6547 (info)
The country's largest cemetery is a fascinating historical record, including numerous heritage buildings, plus a South African wildflower sanctuary. Don't miss the Corban family mausoleum (they of Corban Wines, once one of NZ's largest and most successful wineries). Guided walks are available on the first Sunday of each month.
Just about anything that comes out of New Zealand is available in Auckland. Popular souvenirs include sheepskin products, paua shell items, bone carvings, greenstone, woodcarving and turning, knitwear and leather goods. Also worth considering are wine, books, ceramics and designer clothing.
Aotea Square Market
Aotea Sq is transformed into a little tent city, with around 90 stalls pedalling locally made wares. Expect clothing and jewellery, plus arts and crafts such as ethnic-inspired oils or accessories. Fuel up from food stalls and dig the free entertainment Saturday after 12:00.
Auckland Fish Market
Tel: (09) 379 1490
No self-respecting harbour city would be without a fish market and Auckland is no exception. Alive with sights, smells and boisterous early-morning auction action, it also has plenty of retailers and a cooking school. Open all week, it has a great range of foodstuffs from the sea and elsewhere.
Tel: (09) 358 5561 (info)
At Buana Satu, fun souvenirs like kitschy tea towels or chilli-pepper fairy lights, mix in with more traditional ones such as woven flax bags and baskets, and jewellery. Clothing, tin toys and leis make other great baggable options.
Champions of the World
Tel: (09) 379 4937
Pick up a hat, T-shirt, key ring or tie from the Kiwi sporting code of Rugby Union. Only problem is, official merchandise comes in one colour: All Blacks. Great retro one-day cricket gear worn by the Black Caps is also available for any budding Ewan Chatfields.
Tel: (09) 373 3974 (info)
This gallery-cum-shop is a treasure trove of precious things designed and crafted by around 50 local jewellers. Individual pieces may reference nature, NZ icons and identity. Materials used include precious metals, shells, fabrics, stone and found objects. Fingers has been around for over 30 years, and hosts regular solo and group shows.
Tel: (09) 360 9931 (info)
Ladies and gentlemen no longer have to pick through other boutiques' racks looking for local designer Adrian Hailwood's smart and playful pieces; they're all consolidated here in his own-label store. (Even he's here, working out the back.) Expect his and hers shirts and jumpers made from divine silk or velvet fabrics with a juvenile-retro woodland print, or classic '50s cuts in Western fabrics.
Tel: (09) 360 8131 (info)
Pint-sized designer clothes in boho styles for little dahling girls and boys. T-shirts, tops, jackets and dresses, plus hats and accessories are all imagined and made locally from durable pre-shrunk cottons.
Tel: (09) 309 6299 (info)
One of NZ's internationally coveted designers, Karen Walker's casual pieces give a nod both ways: to streetwear and to tailoring. Something of an empire, her name is now on everything from '70s-style sunglasses through to house paints.
Tel: (09) 377 6536 (info)
One for the fellows, Little Brother stocks its own line of street-smart streetwear that's understated tucked-and-tailored. Designs are consciously created and made in NZ. Also in store, look for T-shirts emblazoned by iconic music label Flying Nun, and miniature Little Brother pieces for boys (aged one to eight) under the Little Shit label.
Tel: (09) 302 2504 (info)
She started on the street, spraying twisted cutesy motifs about town. Then Misery's work moved in to galleries (fetching around NZ$2500 ) and grew to her own boutique. The paintings are still for sale, but are now surrounded by a range of bags, shirts, hoodies, T-shirts and small smalls - all inimitably Misery.
Tel: (09) 845 3289 (info)
Classy crafts include handmade heirlooms referencing Maori and colonial history - Native Agent's specialty. Pick up a unique quilt or jewellery piece, puzzle or picture designed by local artist Rona Ngahuia Osborne and friends. Embroidered shirts and linens are unique and gorgeous.
Tel: (09) 274 0830
Punters flock to Otara market before sun up, to feast on its Polynesian atmosphere and South Pacific food. A sprawl of other stalls sell music, fashions, and fruit and veg. It's a great place to find authentic flax-ware, Tees and jewellery, without the city price tags.
Tel: (09) 366 7282 (info)
This colourful little shop stocks souvenirs and gifts with Polynesian style. Easy-to-carry-home exotic items include carved paua shells, handmade paper products and kete (flax-woven bags and basketware).
Royal Jewellery Studio
Tel: (09) 846 0200 (info)
Royal presents a vast array of the country's finest ornamentation: from traditional pounamu pieces imbued with karakia (Maori incantations and prayers) from artists such as Te Kaha to Joanna Campbell's pieces referencing dressmaking. The studio is housed in the fittingly dramatic Deco building of the former Royal Theatre.
Tel: (09) 307 0731 (info)
Well-stocked shelves contain books from every genre, but Unity specialises in locally published works and the cream of international imports. Check out the 'staff recommendations' shelves, with hand-written reviews.
Victoria Park Market
Tel: (09) 309 6911 (info)
Victoria Park Market, a 20min walk west of Queen St, has a huge variety of goods including clothes, pottery, leather work, handicrafts and so on. Just the spot to spend the afternoon searching for that perfect kiwi t-shirt, tiki keyring or lambswool ruggie. Get a cheap massage after all that shopping and chill out in one of the cafes. Cheap massages are also available, and there's live entertainment on weekends.
Tel: (09) 360 4090 (info)
High-end imports can be found here, such as Costume National mix in with locally designed accessories and the occasional stuffed animal. Personable and idiosyncratic, Wunderkammer is an experience, not just a shop.
Tel: (09) 360 7391 (info)
Zambesi is, hands-down, the most influential and interesting fashion label to come out of New Zealand. Zambesi's twisted classics are strikingly unique and crafted to last. Zambesi pieces are highly prized internationally too. There are two other stores in Auckland, in the city centre (corner of Vulcan Lane & O'Connell St) and Newmarket.
Auckland has a good variety of places to go after the sun sets. There are plenty of convivial pubs and bars although club nightlife tends to be quiet during the week. On weekends the popular spots are full to overflowing and live music, theatre and ballet choices are the most plentiful in the country.
Tel: (09) 373 2761 (info)
Up for a bit of art-house escapism? The boutique Academy screens a steady diet of foreign and independent films that may never have a mainstream cinema release. It's also the venue for the likes of the World Cinema Showcase and Human Rights film festivals.
Tel: (09) 307 5060
The Aotea Centre is the main venue for the classics: expect to hear the well-fed voices of The NBR NZ Opera (www.nzopera.com) and to see the pointy toes of the Royal New Zealand Ballet.
Tel: (09) 361 6093 (info)
If you can see the dance floor through the hundreds of pairs of dancin' feet, you'd see its coloured dancing squares. Strictly disco, Boogie is a forgiving kind of place, which may explain the door queues.
Chapel Bar & Bistro
Tel: (09) 360 4528 (info)
There are two sides to every Chapel story: its corner location allows two Ponsonby people-watching aspects, it's a bar and a bistro, and it has indoor and outdoor seating. It's friendly, neat and casual, with undeniable appeal.
Tel: (09) 309 2677 (info)
Millions have been spent restoring the Civic Theatre. It has a romantic, Eastern-style interior featuring a midnight-blue, star-studded ceiling in the main theatre and gold lions with blazing red eyes crouched in alcoves. Prior to its renovation it was a movie theatre; now the Civic features popular musicals like Les Miserables or The Phantom of the Opera.
Classic Comedy Club
Tel: (09) 373 4321 (info)
Built for laughs, the Classic has been proven to be the city's top comedy venue. See local comedians and comediennes stand up (and sometimes fall) during the venue's regular performance programme. Main shows are Thursday to Sunday and there's an open-mike night most Mondays. A bimonthly calendar of events is available at the door.
Tel: (09) 376 4600 (info)
This little Irish pub has a big reputation, putting on something to entertain the punters every night. If it's not a band belting out original numbers, it's a trivia night or big-TV sports telecast.
Tel: (09) 309 2677 (info)
A quartet of performing-arts venues comes under the Edge's collective management. They're all within a ticket's toss of one another, and each favours a specific style. They include Aotea Square and the imposing Auckland Town Hall, its Great Hall home of the Symphony Orchestra (www.aucklandsymphony.gen.nz) and Philharmonia (www.aucklandphil.co.nz). Nearby is the Aotea Centre and the Civic theatre.
Tel: (09) 307 1344 (info)
Your basic garden-variety club: each night brings a different crowd-pleasing flavour from R & B through to funk. Join gangs of girlfriends and an older crew on their big night out.
Tel: (09) 309 3079 (info)
They don't stop the hip-hop at Fu Bar. The cream of Auckland's local crews plus the best touring acts hit the decks at this mainstay of Auckland's underground scene. If hip-hop aint your thing the DJs also do plenty of drum 'n' bass or you can catch rockers Die! Die! Die! and other local live acts.
Tel: (09) 303 1928 (info)
A converted theatre, Galatos hosts bands in the basement and DJs and club nights in the main room, the parquet floor of which has seen the gamut of dance styles from the cha-cha in its ballroom days to current hands-in-the-air DJ worship. The upstairs Lounge is home to the Moving Image Centre (www.mic.org.nz), which screens new-media (integrating performance with visual technologies).
Tel: (09) 369 5639 (info)
This comfy-sofa'd champagne bar sells unique Kiwi drinks such as NZ-made gin (South) and vodka (42 Below), which can be infused with feijoa or manuka honey. There's also a great open-air deck on the roof if it all starts going to your head and you need a touch of the great outdoors.
Tel: (09) 377 3711 (info)
The Khuja Lounge sits on the top floor of the Art Deco Westpac building and has great views to accompany the ever-changing line-up of quality live jazz, soul and hip-hop acts. Grab a cocktail and a window seat for that top-of-the-world feeling.
Kings Arms Tavern
Tel: (09) 373 3240 (info)
The most popular small venue in Auckland is the Kings Arms Tavern, which has emerging bands playing rock and alternative music. If there's no band on, you can take it easy in the garden bar any day of the week. A gig at the 'K A' is a rite of passage for bands breaking into the local scene.
Minus 5° Bar
Tel: (09) 377 6702 (info)
Known for its extraordinary décor, Minus 5º is carved entirely from ice. Warmth comes with your entry fee by way of fur-lined jackets, gloves and a vodka. And don't get too carried away looking at Victor the ice carver's latest sculptures, you have only half an hour before Jack Frost starts a knockin'.
Tel: (09) 358 3535 (info)
A mild-mannered café and bar the rest of the week, come Thursday Rakinos cranks with DJs and bands. It covers a lot of bases, so makes a fitting finish or start to any night.
Tel: (09) 366 0339 (info)
With an annual programme that presents current plays, past plays, locally devised theatre and overseas theatre, it's not easy to pin down the Silo. Past plays have included Toa Fraser's No 2, plus those from playwrights of the ilk of Neil La Bute (US), Dylan Thomas (Wales) and Louis Nowra (Australia).
Tel: (09) 361 2666 (info)
Whiskey gives a nod to the basement bars of New York with its dim, intimate interior. Spot your favourite old-school soft rocker among the black-and-whites lining the walls; one of whom will invariably be providing the soundtrack to that whiskey sour you're sipping.
With a mild climate and stunning natural surroundings to call their own, Aucklanders are bound to lead a healthy outdoor lifestyle. Boating is an Auckland institution: there are some 80,000 pleasure boats in the city. The plentiful beaches also offer swimming, surfing and other water sports.
One of the best ways to appreciate the City of Sails is to take to the water. There are numerous companies offering cruises, ferries, tours and charters. Most charter companies offer skippered, crewed and skippered, or bareboat (you skipper yourself) charters, as well as instruction. For one of the best experiences on the water, take a trip on the tall ship Soren Larsen , a square-rigged, 19th-century brigantine beauty with 12 sails.
The expanse and fringing bushland of Auckland's Domain make it a great place to run. A flat and popular route is along Quay St to Tamaki Drive and from there to St Heliers Bay (about 7km/4mi one way).
For good surf less than 50km (30mi) from the city, try Te Henga (Bethells Beach) on the west coast where the water is often very rough. You should also check out Piha, Karekare, Muriwai and Whatipu. Most of the surfing beaches have surf clubs and lifeguards.
Auckland has many beaches within easy reach of the downtown area. They include Okahu Bay, Mission Bay, Kohimarama Beach and St Heliers Bay, which are along Tamaki Drive. They tend to be best at high tide. There are also numerous public swimming pools in Auckland. Some are open in summer only.
There are numerous, free pamphlets on many walks in and around Auckland. Tracks range from dead easy to very demanding. The pamphlets are generally available at visitor centres, but you can also get them from the relevant city councils and the Department of Conservation.
Once, eating out in Auckland invariably meant Chinese - or maybe steak and chips. Drinking wine with meals was considered a little eccentric. Today, dining out here is exciting, and the quality and variety just keep getting better. The emphasis is on fresh, innovative food imaginatively served.
Auckland has exactly what you would expect from a city of its size and energy: something for everyone, from backpackers to business travellers. You can choose from hostels (book early if you're aiming for summer), university lodgings, B&Bs, serviced apartments, motels and glamour hotels.
There are regular bus services between Auckland and most larger towns and tourist areas; they operate from the Sky City Coach Terminal on Hobson St. There's an early morning train and an overnight train to Wellington daily. Major bus lines also offer discount travel passes, valid for 14 days to 3 months.
Hiring a car and driving around New Zealand is easy, although the roads can be spoiled by cowboy behaviour, and don't forget that Kiwis drive on the left.
Most international flights to New Zealand go through Auckland. Direct flights connect to and from west coast USA; east coast Australia and Perth; London and Frankfurt, and several cities in Asia. There's a departure tax for all international flights from Auckland, payable at the airport. A number of domestic airlines connect Auckland with other major centres in New Zealand.
Trains arrive at and depart from Auckland train station on Beach Rd, about 1km (0.6mi) east of the city centre.
Auckland airport is 21km (13mi) southwest of the city centre and airport shuttles run to several accommodation places and Aotea Square in the city. A taxi will cost around US$30.00. The Britomart Transport Centre provides a hub where you can access buses, trains and ferries as well as general transport information. If you're a cyclist, hire a bicycle and try the pleasant waterfront rides. Taxis are easy to hire from ranks or from the sidewalk and ferries run between the city centre and various spots on the North Shore and the gulf islands.
There is an excellent public bus service called the Link, which travels around the interesting areas of the city centre.
Because it is such a sprawling city, the car is king in Auckland. The place is crawling with car-hire operators. Some good deals can be had for long-term car hire, but be warned that the cheapest is not necessarily the best. Parking in the city can be a headache, too.
The Tranz Metro train service has three routes running from Britomart station: one to Waitakere and two to Pukekohe.
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