Auckland skyline

Located on a narrow isthmus surrounded by myriad islands and spectacular twin harbours, Auckland’s stunning landscape, rich history and vibrant nightlife makes it a natural gateway to exploring New Zealand’s North Island. Here’s how to make the most of your time in the ‘City of Sails’.


First timers:

Make your way through Auckland’s CBD to the Sky Tower, the city’s most striking modern landmark and the Southern Hemisphere’s tallest free-standing structure at 328m (1,076ft).

Get an early start to beat the crowds and take the glass-bottomed lift to the top for an impressive 80km (50 miles) view. After taking in the sights, grab a cup of coffee and a croissant in the stylish Sky Lounge, which opens its doors at 9:30am.

The downside of visiting the Sky Tower is you will have to pay up to NZ$28 (£14) to reach the highest viewing platform at 220m (722ft).

Auckland mt edenHike to the top of Mt Eden
jemsweb / Creative Commons

Old hands:

Begin the day with a leisurely stroll to the summit of Mt Eden, a volcanic cone that stands 196m (643ft) above Auckland and offers spectacular vistas over the city. A sacred Maori landmark, Maungawhau (‘Tree-Clad Mountain’) is the highest natural point in Auckland, and a short walk or bus ride from the city centre via Mt Eden Road.

A major viewing bonus of the city from Mt. Eden is having the Sky Tower in your pictures - rather than viewing the city from inside it - and you save yourself a fair few dollars for what are arguably far superior views.

Afterwards, make your way to Albert Park by bus and grab some breakfast from Albert Park Café and Espresso on Kitchener Street, renowned for its delicious breakfasts, homemade cakes, plus award-winning coffee.


First timers:

Take the free shuttle bus from 172 Quay Street to the popular Kelly Tarlton’s SEA LIFE Aquarium in the Orakei suburb. Housed in old storm water and sewage holding tanks, the Aquarium features a conveyor belt that slowly pushes you along whilst you marvel at the sharks and manta rays swimming above your head. The complex also features a more impressive Antarctic Encounter with the largest colony of penguins anywhere outside the wild.

Then head for New Zealand’s oldest suburb, Parnell, home to the Chocolate Boutique Café (323 Parnell Road). Boasting the largest selection of confectionary in New Zealand, with choices including gourmet chocolates, truffles, nutty rochers, and pralines, the Chocolate Boutique Café has something for all budgets and tastes.

Auckland art galleryExplore Auckland Art Gallery
HaianH Photo / Creative Commons

Old hands:

Make your way through the scenic Auckland Domain to the Auckland War Memorial Museum, a must for those who wish to sample Maori culture and learn about New Zealand’s history.

This striking Greek Temple boasts an extensive ethnological and natural history collection and Maori artefacts including a wood carved meeting house built in 1878 and a 24m-long (80ft) war canoe.

Museum highlights include the Volcanoes exhibit and Maori cultural performances twice a day that introduce visitors to indigenous culture through traditional song and dance. Tickets cost around NZ$25 (£12.50) for adults (Mon-Sun 1200-1430). Alternatively, the Auckland Art Gallery is worth moseying around if you are more of an arty type.


First timers:

Stroll along Queen Street, which runs through the heart of the commercial centre. Named after the longest reigning British monarch, Queen Street stretches from Queens Wharf towards Auckland’s affluent suburbs.

Notable landmarks along the route include Auckland Town Hall, a listed building which first opened in 1911. The building’s separate Concert Chamber houses the Town Hall organ, the largest musical instrument in New Zealand. The world famous Civic Theatre stands at the corner of Queen Street and Wellesley Street. If time allows, catch a performance of one of the touring shows or musicals, if only to admire the auditorium’s spectacular décor.

Queen Street and the adjacent High Street are ideal for retail therapy. Packed with souvenir shops, department stores, eateries, and live music venues, it is undoubtedly Auckland’s main commercial artery.

Auckland queen streetShop at the commercial centre, Queen Street
Sam Wilson

Old hands:

If you have had your fill of central Auckland, take a 25-minute cruise from the Downtown Auckland Ferry Terminal to Rangitoto Island, a rugged volcanic isle in the nearby Hauraki Gulf.

One of Auckland’s natural wonders, this symmetrical volcanic cone towers 260m (850ft) above sea level. Visitors to the island can take a train or hike to the summit for 360-degree views of the Hauraki Gulf and Auckland environs.

The rugged terrain features lava caves, sandy coves, and pohutukawa forests, so durable footwear and a reasonable level of fitness are essential.

A round trip takes up to five hours and costs NZ$59 (£29) with Fullers for the ferry trip and a guided tour of the island. The ferry departs at 12:15pm daily.


First timers:

Even those with the most selective of palates will find something to savour in one of Auckland’s many restaurants, whether it be local specialities such as Clevedon Oysters or Chinese and Korean fare available in food courts.

For something substantial, try the legendary Angus Steak House(8 Fort Lane), where they have been dishing up the freshest steaks in town for over 40 years (Mon-Sun 1700-2300). Not to be confused with the UK restaurant chain of the same name, this local haunt offers prime Angus beef prepared on a sizzling plate with a variety of salads and sides.

If money is not an issue, head back to SkyCity and elevate up the Sky Tower to dine at the sophisticated Observatory Restaurant. With its brasserie-style buffet and plenteous seafood options, the Observatory boasts great food and unique views across the city.

Auckland steakEnjoy a meal at Angus Steak House
Stockbyte / Thinkstock

Old hands:

Over on Princess Wharf, Limon is a Spanish/Mediterranean themed restaurant renowned for its tapas and tango nights. From the menu, the garlic prawns and the paella Valencia come highly recommended.

For after dinner cocktails, the chic bars along the Viaduct Harbour are bustling at weekends. The pick of the quayside bars is Lenin (139 Quay Street), a peculiar Soviet-themed establishment featuring a star-shaped bar and a wide-range of vodka-based cocktails. Local DJ’s whip the crowds into a frenzy at the weekends with the latest commercial house tunes. Further afield, The Carpark on Lower Hobson Street is a trendy bar that’s becoming the place to be seen in Auckland. The city’s best DJs will see you through till the early hours.

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