Sure, you may think of Auckland as just a stopping point on the way to exploring New Zealand’s famed natural beauty and Lord of the Rings sets. But that is doing my hometown an injustice, as I’ve said before. There’s loads to do in and around the central city, mostly within easy walking distance. You can also jump on one of two types of Link bus – for a couple of New Zealand dollars they circle the inner or outer city and will give you a glimpse into Kiwi life, not to mention easy transport around. So where should you start? Well – always with a delicious coffee and a good breakfast – my post on Eating My Way Around Auckland is coming soon! And after that? Depends what you’re looking for…
Best for views over Auckland
The Sky Tower, in the CBD, was pretty controversial when it was first built – some even likened it to a syringe needle. Now it’s an icon of the city. You can take the lift to the top and gaze down at the busy streets beneath a glass floor, if that’s your thing. You can even jump off it, if you weren’t a fan of the lift!
My sister and her boyfriend spotting views from Mount Eden
If you prefer natural viewpoints to skyscrapers, head to Mount Eden – then you can even claim to have climbed a volcano. Mount Eden, or Maungawhau, has fantastic views over the city. You can drive up to the top, or stretch your legs on the popular walking trails. While the central crater is now off-limits, you can walk right around the edge for 360 degree views over the harbour, the city, and the surrounding suburbs. If it’s a clear day, you’ll be able to see right out to the Waitemata Ranges.
Best for culture vultures
Auckland has a number of galleries and museums to keep you entertained. The Auckland War Memorial Museum also offers good views back to the city, from its privileged high-point in the Auckland Domain. The Domain is a massive park also home to Botanical Gardens, sports grounds, and band rotunda. Inside the Museum there’s a strong focus on New Zealand, ranging from science to history. With fascinating interactive displays and a huge collection, it’s easy to spend more than a little time here.
The Auckland Art Gallery is a beautiful mix of modern and historical building – although when I say historical, bear in mind that Auckland City’s oldest building dates from 1843! The collections the Art Gallery houses cover both national and international art and there are often visiting exhibitions. I loved these sculptures by Seung Yul Oh on display outside – fun both to play around next to and to admire. Just along the road is busy Aotea Square, home to several of the city’s main theatres and music venues, if you just can’t get enough culture!
Best for shopaholics
Just behind where I’m taking this photograph of Western Park in Ponsonby are some great shops!
New Zealand is home to some fantastic fashion, from Karen Walker to World to many up-and-coming designers. Shopaholics are spoilt for choice, with great shopping to be found in Ponsonby, Newmarket, and in the city in and around High Street.
Best for nature-lovers
If you need a break from the (small-scale) hustle and bustle of Downtown Auckland, pop into Albert Park. The gardens round the central fountain are beautifully maintained, and you’ll be able to spot the Sky Tower peeking out from behind the trees. Next to the park is the University of Auckland, the largest in the country. The campus is quite architecturally mixed but there are some lovely buildings, including the Clocktower visible from the Park.
If you’re a gardening enthusiast, head along to the Parnell Rose Gardens. Take some time to smell the roses in this green oasis that looks over the port and the city. The blooms in spring and summer are simply magnificent.
Best for maritime marvelling
Due to its position between two big harbours, Auckland is unsurprisingly home to a lot of yachts, dinghies, launches, and many more – its nickname is actually the City of Sails! It’s easy to get a feel for the sailing life, even if your feet are firmly planted on land. Just head down to Auckland’s waterfront. One of my favourite spots when I worked in central Auckland was Queen’s Wharf – it was barely five minutes walk from my office, but if I walked down the end I felt miles away. I’d sit and sniff the salty air, watching the hustle and bustle of the city. Ferries streamed past, seagulls circled, and every so often one of the old guys at the end of the wharf would hook a fish… or a gumboot.
For a bit more action, head to the Viaduct, or Wynyard Quarter. Here you’ll find busy restaurants and bars right next to equally busy yachties scrambling over their gleaming decks. I love to grab an ice-cream (sorbet of course) and stroll along in the sunshine taking it all in.
Best for escaping
Just along the road from the busy city lie the golden sands of the Eastern Bays. Hugely popular in summer but beautiful no matter the season, they’re perfect for swimming, sunbathing, or just a little bit of relaxation. If you really want to get away, jump on a ferry for beautiful Waiheke Island – just half an hour away, but feeling like a different world.
Have you visited Auckland? Did you see any of the attractions above – or something completely different? If you liked this post, check out What Not To Do In Auckland.