The lovely city of Auckland has two large harbors and is the major city in the north of North Island in New Zealand. There is a lot to do and see in and around the city.
To get an idea about the city and before you do any exploring head on up the 328 meter Sky Tower. Not only will you have fantastic views you can visit some terrific bars and award-winning restaurants and cafes. The tower is also home to two first-class hotels and the world-class SkyCity Casino.
Goat Island Marine Reserve is a 547-hectar aquatic area that was established in 1975. It is the country’s first marine reserve. Stepping knee-deep into water you can see such fish as snapper, blue maomao and stripy parore just swimming about. Here you’ll find interpretive panels which explain the area’s Maori significance. All around Goat Island are dive areas found just offshore or you can choose to snorkel or dive right from the beach.
You can expect to see colorful sponges, forests of seaweed, boarfish, crayfish and stingrays.
The top visitor attraction of Auckland has become the new Kelly Tarlton’s SEA LIFE Aquarium. This offers visitors a unique Southern Ocean experience with 30 exhibits, over 80 different species and eight new themed zones. You can delight in the world’s largest sub-Antarctic penguin colony display, the world’s biggest species of stingrays and New Zealand’s largest collection of sharks. You’ll enjoy the new live jellyfish display and the magical Seahorse Kingdom where you can see the world’s only display of Spiny Sea Dragons and so much more.
For fantastic and thrilling Shark Adventures, snorkel in the Shark Cage or dive cage free with Shark Dive Xtreme.
The Auckland Bridge is just the right place for the adventurous and bungee jumping. You can also choose to participate in the Auckland Bridge Climb. This is the only bridge climb in New Zealand. There are custom engineered walkways providing a safe walk on the gently curving arches which is suitable to all ages. Plus when you get to the summit you’ll be treated to 360 degree views.
One Tree Hill is a volcanic cone, once the isthmus’ key pa and the greatest fortress in the country. At the top visitors can delight in spectacular views. Here you’ll also find the grave of John Logan Campbell, who gave this land to the city as a gift in 1901. At the summit is a memorial built to the Maori people. Nearby you’ll find the stump of the last “one tree”.
Take the time to explore Cornwall Park with mature trees and historic Acacia Cottage dating from 1841. The Cornwall Park Information Center offers interesting interactive displays that illustrate what the pa would have looked like at the time when 5000 people lived her. There is a great children’s playground and the Stardome has regular stargazing and planetarium shows.
Auckland Zoo is a modern and spacious zoo. It also offers visitors a chance to view New Zealand animals. There is a section called Te Wao Nui which is divided into six ecological zones – Coast (seals, penguins), Islands (mostly lizards, including NZ’s pint-sized dinosaur, the tuatara), Wetlands (ducks, herons, eels), Night (kiwi, frogs, native owls and weta), Forest (birds) and High Country (cheekier birds and lizards).
Looking just like a Neo-classical temple the Auckland Museum stands topped off my an impressive copper-and-glass dome. The museum dominates the Auckland Domain and has become a prominent part of the city’s skyline. Here visitors can see displays of Pacific Island and Maori artifacts on the ground floor. Some highlights include a 25m war canoe and an extant carved meeting house. There’s also an amazing display on Auckland’s volcanic field that includes an eruption simulation. On the upper floors are military displays which show the building in its dual role as a war memorial. Auckland’s main Anzac commemorations take place at dawn on April 25 at the cenotaph in the forecourt of the museum.
If you enjoy viewing boats go to Mahurangi Harbor and Mahurangi Regional Park. Here you can stroll through coastal forest, see pa sites and a historic homestead and cemetery. There are sheltered beaches for picnics. The park has three distinct branches – Mahurangi West on the north side, Scott Pine on the east and isolated Mahurangi East which is only reachable by boat. Four basic campsites are available.
Auckland Art Gallery has an impressive glass-and-wood atrium grafted onto its 1887 French-chateau frame. Here visitors can view the artwork of Pieter Bruegel the Younger, Guido Reni, Picasso, Cezanne, Gauguin and Matisse. Among the highlights are intimate 19th century portraits of tattooed Maori subjects by Charles Goldie and the starkly dramatic text-scrawled canvasses of Colin McCahon.
Mt. Eden is Auckland’s highest volcanic cone at 196 cm from which one can see the entire isthmus and both harbors. The symmetrical crater at 50m deep is known as Te Ipu Kai a Mataaho (the Food Bowl of Mataaho, the god of things hidden in the ground) and is looked upon as being highly tapu or sacred. It cannot be entered but the rest of the mountain can be explored. You can choose to drive up or use the different paths to walk to the top.
At Villa Maria New Zealand’s most awarded winery the growing grapes don’t seem to be bothered by the roar of jets overhead since the winery is located 4 km from the airport. The grounds of the winery are park-like. There is a charge for tasting the wine but you can take your time and relax on the restaurant terrace sipping wine and enjoying antipasto platters. A series of concerts are held here every January and February featuring big international artists.
The city’s oldest park is the Auckland Domain. This is a 75 hectare park that was developed around the cone of an extinct volcano. The “tuff rings” created by volcanic activity that occurred thousands of years ago can be seen in the land contours and forms a natural amphitheater with around ten hectares developed as first-class sports fields.
The park was designed to look like formal gardens and there is a lovely reflecting pool with three bronze sculptures. The central male figure represents Auckland and the two females offer wisdom and “fertility of the soil”.
Paths wind through the native bush, there are duck ponds and century-old trees that provide shade to picnic under. In the summer you can watch cricket games and in the winter – rugby, league or soccer.
Auckland Domain hosts the sculptural artworks by some of NZ’s leading artists. Visitors can stroll around the eight large artworks by artists Chiara Corbelletto, John Edgar, Charlotte Fisher, Fred Graham, Christine Hellyar, Neil Miller, Louise Purvis and Greer Twiss.
A favorite place to head for to relax and enjoy for both residents and visitors is nearby Waiheke Island. Here you can find some of the region’s best sandy beaches. On the island are also about 30 boutique wineries with tasting rooms, restaurants and awesome views. The island also has interesting galleries and craft stores. You can enjoy strolling along a network of walking trails leading through nature reserves and past the cliff-top holiday homes of the Auckland elite. If you like you can go kayaking and do some clay pigeon shooting.
A most famous beach is Karekare. In 1825 this was the site of a ruthless massacre of the local Kawerau iwi by Ngapuhi invaders. This is an amazing black-sand beach and the best way to get to it from the car park is to wade through a stream. You can enjoy the beach but don’t do any swimming because the surf is so strong and there are ever-present rips so you would be in danger of drowning. In the summertime when lifeguards are on duty you might venture a bit into the water.
Visit the lovely Karekare Falls where there is a leafy picnic spot and the start of several walking tracks.