Destination guide: Auckland, New Zealand
Auckland is one of the most important ports in New Zealand (Oceania) and one of the cities with the greatest amount of business and tourist activity in the country. It is found in the middle of an isthmus of volcanic origin and has a stable climate with an average annual temperature of 23°C, making it ideal to visit at any time of year.
Among Auckland’s main tourist attractions are the Sky Tower or “Skywalk”, a financial complex you can bungee jump from, Butterfly Creek, the Howick Villa that recreates the Maori way of life, Kawau Island, Otara Market where you can witness Auckland’s ethnic and cultural mix and the Botanical and Eden Gardens, as well as many other places of interest.
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Auckland - Things to do
Auckland Art Gallery
The Auckland Art Gallery spreads over two neighboring buildings. The Main Gallery, built in French chateau style, houses important works by Pieter Bruegel the Younger and Guido Reni in the European collection, and an extensive collection of NZ art. It’s worth calling in for the intimate 19th-century portraits of tattooed Maori subjects by Charles Goldie and Gottfried Lindauer alone. The New Gallery concentrates on contemporary art and temporary exhibitions (with varying admission charges).
Latitude: -36.8515100000000/ Longitude: 174.7662400000000
Telephone Number: +64 9 379 1349
Opening hours: 10am-5pm.
Pricing: admission free.
The magnificent Auckland Museum has an imposing Greek temple with an impressive modern dome. Its comprehensive display of Pacific Island and Maori artefacts on the ground floor deserves to be on your ‘must see’ list. Highlights include a 25m war canoe and an extant carved meeting house from the Thames area that you can enter (remove your shoes first).
Latitude: -36.8607400000000 / Longitude: 174.7778700000000
Telephone Number: +64 9 309 0443
Opening hours: 10am-5pm.
Pricing: adult/child $5/free.
This is an excellent modern zoo with spacious, natural compounds. The infrared lighting of the nocturnal house offers a rare chance to see kiwi fossicking about. The big foreigners tend to steal the attention from the timid natives, but if you can wrestle the kids away from the tigers and elephants you’ll find tuataras and a large selection of native birds.
Latitude: -36.8629010853947 / Longitude: 174.7197067737579
Telephone Number: +64 9 360 3800.
Opening Hours: 9.30am-5.30pm.
Address: Motions Rd.
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.
Latitude: -36.8780157585909 / Longitude: 174.7644245624540
Address: 250 Eden Rd, Mt Eden.
Transportation type: bus Details: 274 or 275.
The Wintergarden, with its fernery, tropical house, cool house, cute cat statue and neighboring cafe, is in the Auckland Domain which contains sports fields, interesting sculpture, formal gardens and wild corners.
Latitude: -36.8603100000000 / Longitude: 174.7740900000000
Opening Hours: 9am-5.30pm Mon-Sat, 9am-7.30pm Sun Nov-Mar, 9am-4.30pm Apr-Oct.
Pricing: admission free.
Ponsonby Village Food Court
The city’s best food hall is Ponsonby Village Food Court. Choose between Italian, Japanese, Malaysian, Chinese, Turkish, Thai, Lao, Indian, Mexican and the best Vietnamese in the central city.
Latitude: -36.8575900000000 / Longitude: 174.7484600000000
Sub-Type: Fast Food.
Opening Hours: 10am-10pm.
Price Range: Low.
Address: 106 Ponsonby Rd.
Vegetable-shaped salt-and-pepper shakers, superbright walls and the freshest ingredients entice punters to this upstairs eatery, popular with visiting vegetarian/vegan rock royalty. Grab a window seat if you can.
Latitude: -36.8470700000000/ Longitude: 174.7663900000000
Telephone Number:+64 9 303 3724.
Opening Hours: 7am-4pm Mon-Fri, 11am-4pm Sat.
Price Range: Low.
Pricing: mains $7-17.
Address: 10 Vulcan Lane. Extras: Level 1.
Perfectly propped high above Waitemata Harbour, White's gleaming interior reflects nature's mood. Terrace tables are a treat in fine weather, and the stretched communal table makes a comfy landing for solo diners. Fine local produce is treated with cooking styles and ingredients from around the world, and partnered with international and local wines. Bookings essential.
Latitude: -36.8399529968429 / Longitude: 174.7653740644460
Telephone Number: +64 9 978 2000.
Opening Hours: 06:30-23:00.
Price Range: High.
Address: 147 Quay St, City Centre.
Extras: Hilton Hotel, Princes Wharf.
Agents & Merchants/Racket
Tucked into their own covered laneway with an outdoor fireplace and sofas, this duo conjures an old-world yet thoroughly modern atmosphere. A&M serves excellent tapas and wine while Racket kicks off a little later with DJs on duty.
Latitude: -36.8452828000000 / Longitude: 174.7696862000000
Telephone Number: +64 9 309 5852
Address: 46-50 Customs St.
Secreted down some stairs in an arcade, this is the kind of bar that Buffy the Vampire Slayer would have hung out in on Auckland-based assignments. It’s dark, grungy and very cool, with regular live music in the neighboring Whammy Bar.
Latitude: -36.8574408900000 / Longitude: 174.7600328000000
Telephone Number:+64 9 337 8293
Opening hours: 5pm-midnight Mon-Thu, 5pm-2am Fri & Sat.
Address: K Rd.
Extras: St Kevin’s Arcade.
Kings Arms Tavern
One of Auckland’s leading small venues for live (and local) rock bands, which play most nights. A rite of passage if you want to get into the local scene.
Latitude: -36.8613538298916 / Longitude: 174.7577297687530
Sub-type: Live Music.
Telephone Number: +64 9 373 3240
Opening Hours: 11am-late.
Address: 59 France St.
There’s a strong Maori bent to the jewellery, clothing and knick-knacks on offer here, and it’s all NZ-made.
Latitude: -36.8722354573467 / Longitude: 174.7434121370320
Sub-Type: Native Agent
Telephone Number: +64 9 845 3289
Address: 507b New North Rd.
TransportationType: train Details: Kingsland.
Held in the car park between the Manukau Polytech and the Otara town centre, this market has a real Polynesian atmosphere, and you can buy South Pacific food, music and fashions. Take bus 497 from Britomart ($5.40, 50 minutes).
Latitude: -36.9606429154728 / Longitude: 174.8721098899840
Opening Hours: 6am-noon Sat.
Telephone Number: +64 9 274 0830
Address: Newbury St.
TransportationType: bus Details: 487, 497 outside Britomart station.
Hands-down, the most interesting and influential fashion label to come out of the country, and much sought after by local and international celebs.
Latitude: -36.8690400000000/ Longitude: 174.7774000000000
Opening Hours: 8.30am-6pm Mon-Wed & Fri, to 9pm Thu, 9am-5pm Sat, 11am-5pm Sun.
Telephone Number: +64 9 303 1701
Address: cnr Vulcan Lane & O’Connell St, City.
Transportation Type: bus.
Check www.aucklandnz.com for full details of what’s on in the city.
Watch some leading women tennis players warm up for the Aussie Open; held early January at the ASB Tennis Centre.
The men’s equivalent; held mid-January.
Big Day Out
Australasia’s biggest music festival, attracting big-name alternative bands and lots of Kiwi up-and-comers to Mt Smart Stadium in mid-January.
Auckland Anniversary Day Regatta
The ‘City of Sails’ lives up to its name; Monday of last weekend in January.
A series of free gigs and movies in parks around the city; runs until March.
Waitangi Day Festival
Maori culture, food and a free concert, held at Okahu Bay on February 6.
Devonport Food & Wine Festival
Sip and sup with the smart set at this two-day festival in mid-February.
The big event on the gay and lesbian calendar; 12,000 people descend on Coyle Park, Pt Chevalier for a free festival.
Mission Bay Jazz & Blues Streetfest
New Orleans comes to the Bay as jazz and blues bands line both sides of the street as the sun sets; held late February.
Three days of Asian food and culture in Albert Park to welcome the lunar New Year.
The Auckland Philharmonic entertains picnickers in the Domain; late February.
Auckland Cup Week
Try to spot the winner at the biggest horse race of the year; at Ellerslie Racecourse, early March.
Held in odd-numbered years, this is Auckland’s biggest celebration of the arts.
Western Springs Park hosts this excellent (and giant) Polynesian party with music, dancing and food; held in early to mid-March.
Auckland secondary schools’ Maori and Pacific Islands cultural festival – the biggest Pacific Islander (PI) cultural festival in the world.
Fun for all the family, with an agricultural flavour.
NZ International Comedy Festival
Three-week laughfest with local and international comedians; held mid-April to early May.
One of the world’s best yachting nations shows off its wares – find something to float your boat; held mid-May.
Auckland Art Fair
Held in May in odd-numbered years at the Viaduct Harbour.
Gay and lesbian film festival, running from late May to early June.
New Zealand International Film Festival
Auckland goes crazy for art-house films from mid- to late July.
City to Surf Run
On the second Sunday in August, 60,000 highly trained athletes, overfed pretenders and sundry fools run (or walk) 14km from Hyde Park to Bondi Beach. The fastest reach the beach in 40 minutes, their athletic seriousness counterbalanced by family fun and the odd cardiac scare.
Air New Zealand Fashion Week
Is any country better qualified to show what you can do with merino wool and a sense of imagination? Find the next Karen Walker or Kate Sylvester here. Held in mid- to late September.
Two weeks of fabulous (mainly free) tours of Auckland’s neighbourhoods and historic buildings.
Diwali Festival Of Lights
Auckland’s Indian community light up the Viaduct with an explosion of colour, music and dance; held in mid-October.
Queen of the Whole Universe
A fundraising drag-fest (queens not cars) held at the Aotea Centre in mid-November.
Christmas in the Park
A party so big it has to be held in the Auckland Domain.
Trading on the country’s action-packed reputation, Auckland has sprouted its own set of insanely frightening activities. Look around for backpacker reductions or special offers before booking anything.
The wise men of bungy, AJ Hackett Bungy & Bridge Climb ([tel] 09-361 2000; www.ajhack ett.com/nz; Westhaven Reserve, Curran St) offer the chance to climb up or jump off the Auckland Harbour Bridge. Both the 40m bungy leap and the 1½-hour guided tour along the arch (with a harness attached to a static line) cost $120.
Not to be outdone, the Sky Tower offers an ever-expanding selection of pant-wetting activities. If you thought the observation deck was for pussies, Sky Walk ([tel] 0800 759 925; www.skywalk.co.nz; adult/child $135/100; [hrs] 10am-5.30pm) involves circling the 192m-high, 1.2m-wide outside halo of the tower without rails or a balcony – but with a safety harness (they’re not completely crazy). Sky Jump ([tel] 0800 759 586; www.skyjump.co.nz; adult/child $195/145; [hrs] 10am-5.30pm) is an 11-second, 85km/h base wire jump from the observation deck. It’s more like a parachute jump than a bungy and it’s a rush and a half. You can combine both in the Look ’n Leap package ($260).
Sky Screamer ([tel] 09-377 1328; www.reversebungy.com; cnr Albert & Victoria Sts; ride $40; [hrs] 10.30am-10pm Sun-Thu, 10am-2am Fri & Sat) involves being strapped into a seat and reverse-bungied 60m up in the air. Should you hurl, rest assured – you can get a video of it.
Getting out on the water is an intrinsic part of the Auckland experience. If you can’t afford a cruise or yacht, take a ferry instead.
Fullers ([tel] 09-367 9111; www.fullers.co.nz; Ferry Bldg, 99 Quay St) operates ferry services (Birkenhead, Northcote Point, Devonport, Rangitoto, Waiheke Island, Great Barrier Island) and daily harbour cruises (adult/child $35/18, 1½ hours, 10.30am and 1.30pm), which include a stop on Rangitoto, a complimentary cuppa and a free return ticket to Devonport.
360 Discovery ([tel] 09-307 8005; www.360discovery.co.nz; Pier 4 kiosk, Quay St) also runs ferries (Gulf Harbour, Motuihe, Tiritiri Matangi, Coromandel Town) along with the Harbour Discovery cruise (adult/child $29/15, 1½ hours), departing at 10am, noon and 2.30pm, which stops at Devonport, Rangitoto, Motuihe and Orakei Wharf (for Kelly Tarlton’s Antarctic Encounter).
Hey, this is the ‘City of Sails’ and nothing gets you closer to the heart and soul of Auckland than sailing on the gulf.
Sail NZ ([tel] 0800 397 567; www.sailnewzea land.co.nz; Viaduct Harbour) heads out on genuine America’s Cup yachts (adult/child $150/110, two hours). This experienced and highly regarded outfit also offers daily Whale and Dolphin Safaris (adult/child $150/100); dolphins are spotted 90% of the time and whales 75%. Its Pride of Auckland fleet of glamorous large yachts offers tours ranging from the 90-minute Coffee Cruise (adult/child $70/37) to the full-day Sailing Adventure (adult/child $135/110).
Gulfwind Sailing Academy ([tel] 09-521 1564; www.gulfwind.co.nz; Westhaven Marina) provides cruises (half-/full-day $395/795 for up to six people), as well as personalised tuition and flexible small-group sailing courses; a two-day RYA Start Yachting course costs $545.
Penny Whiting Sailing School ([tel] 09-376 1322; www.pennywhiting.com; Westhaven Marina) runs courses that consist of five three-hour practical sailing lessons ($650).
Visitors centers, DOC offices and public libraries have pamphlets on walks in and around Auckland. The city council’s Auckland City’s Walkways pamphlet has a good selection of urban walks, including the Coast to Coast Walkway. Heading clear across the country, from Waitemata Harbour to Manukau Harbour, the walk encompasses Albert Park, the University, the Domain, Mt Eden (Maungawhau) and One Tree Hill (Maungakiekie), keeping as much as possible to reserves rather than city streets. Starting from the Viaduct Basin and heading south, it’s marked by yellow markers and milestones; heading north from Onehunga there are blue markers. To get back to the city, take bus 328, 334, 348 or 354 from Onehunga Mall ($5.40, 50 minutes).
Hang Gliding & Skydiving
Active Sky Hang Gliding ([tel] 021 170 3646; www.activeskyhanggliding.co.nz) lets you fly like a kahu (native hawk – NZ doesn’t have eagles) in a tandem flight ($175) off the cliffs at Kariotahi beach, southwest of Auckland.
NZ Skydive ([tel] 09-373 5778; www.nzskydive.co.nz) offers an exhilarating tandem skydive from 12,000ft (including a 7000ft free fall) for $299; capture your excitement/terror on DVD for $165. It all takes place at Mercer airfield, 55km south of Auckland.
When the weather conspires to keep you off the beaches, Auckland offers excellent alternatives.Olympic Pools & Fitness Centre ([tel] 09-522 4414; www.theolympic.co.nz; 77 Broadway; adult/child $7/4.50; [hrs] 5.45am-10pm Mon-Fri, 7am-8pm Sat & Sun) Pools, gym, sauna, steam room and crèche.
Parnell Baths ([tel] 09-373 3561; www.parnellbaths.co.nz; Judges Bay Rd; adult/child $5.70/3.90; [hrs] 6am-8pm Mon-Fri, 8am-8pm Sat & Sun Nov-Apr) Outdoor saltwater pools with an awesome 1950s mural and popular sunbathing areas.
Fergs Kayaks ([tel] 09-529 2230; www.fergskayaks.co.nz; 12 Tamaki Dr, Okahu Bay; [hrs] 9am-6pm Mon-Fri, 8am-6pm Sat & Sun) hires out kayaks ($15 to $40 per hour or $50 to $120 per day), bikes (per hour/day $20/120) and inline skates (per hour/day $15/30). Day and night guided kayak trips are available to Devonport (8km, three hours, $95) or Rangitoto Island (13km, six hours, $120).
NZ Surf Tours ([tel] 09-828 0426; www.newzealandsurftours.com) runs day-long surfing courses ($120) that include transport, equipment and two lessons. A five-day small-group course ($799, October to May) heads to Ahipara and includes accommodation, transport and food.
Both the Dive Centre ([tel] 09-444 7698; www.divecentre.co.nz; 97 Wairau Rd, Takapuna; PADI Open Water $499) and Orakei Scuba Centre ([tel] 09-524 2117; www.orakeidive.co.nz; 234 Orakei Rd, Remuera; PADI Open Water $399-599) have dive shops and run courses.
Balloon Expeditions ([tel] 09-416 8590; www.balloonexpeditions.co.nz; flight $320) and Balloon Safaris ([tel] 09-415 8289; www.balloonsafaris.co.nz; flight $330) offers early-morning hot-air balloon flights that take about four hours (one hour in the air), with breakfast and a bottle of bubbles.
Rainbow’s End Adventure Park ([tel] 09-262 2030; www.rainbowsend.co.nz; 2 Clist Cres, Manukau; superpass adult/child $45/35; [hrs] 10am-5pm) has enough rides (including a corkscrew roller coaster and the ‘Power Surge’), shows and interactive entertainment to keep the kids happy all day, plus plenty of sugary snacks to fuel it all. Superpasses allow unlimited rides.