Auckland is the gateway to New Zealand and its largest city. Almost entirely surrounded by water, and covered with volcanic hills, the city has a spectacular harbor and a population of 1.3 million people.
This is a city of infinite possibilities. Wherever the visitor may be at any given moment, there is the assurance that within 30 minutes or less he or she could be cruising the harbor, playing a round of golf, swimming at a beautiful city beach, or even walking in subtropical forest .
New Zealand consists of two main islands, North and South, as well as some small offshore islands. Auckland is located on the North Island. It has a pleasant subtropical climate with mild winters (June, July and August) and warm, humid summers (December, January and February).
Greater Auckland is actually a fusion of four cities: Auckland, Manukau, North Shore, and Waitakere. Each is reached via a highway network, which crosses the harbor, rivers, creeks, and bays and is used daily by the thousands who commute into the inner city to work.
Auckland has two universities with the accompanying literary and cultural benefits. Many Auckland shops are open seven days, central bars and nightclubs welcome patrons well into the night, and a cosmopolitan mix of Polynesians, Asians, and Europeans all contribute to the cultural milieu.
There is fine music in Auckland: everything from symphony concerts and ballet to rock, jazz and blues. Kiwi bands such the one led by Bic Runga mix contemporary rock sounds with Polynesian influences.
Auckland is known as the City of Sails and has more boats per capita than any other city in the world. It also has 22 regional parks covering 91,521 acres.
This city is a top choice for anyone interested in wide open spaces and physical activities. Above the ground you can go bungee jumping, parachuting and skydiving. On the ground you can go hiking, mountain bike riding, skiing, horse riding, rock climbing, and ‘zorbing’.
Underground you can go surface caving, cave rafting, and hydro sliding; and on the water you can go jet-boarding, white-water sledging, rafting, boogey boarding, canoeing, kayaking, surfing and scuba diving. If there is a difficult and challenging way to get from one point to another you can do it in New Zealand.
Of all these activities, the most popular one is still tramping (hiking or trekking). Thousands of miles of marked tracks and an efficient network of trampers’ huts are in place.
Auckland is an ideal vacation destination for families, and, in fact, for travelers of all ages. It is clean, safe, and exciting, all at the same time. Whether you are stopping for a week, or planning to spend a month of in depth exploration of this natural wonderland, Auckland will provide a most fulfilling experience.
Things to do
100 Mt. Albert Rd., Mt. Albert
09/846-7367 Fax 09/846-1919.
Wed-Sun 10:30am-noon, 1-4pm
This is perhaps the finest of all Auckland’s historic homes open to the public. This once simple farmhouse built in 1863 grew into the fairy-tale mansion that stands today. Owned by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust, it provides an intimate glimpse into Victorian life.
Auckland Art Gallery
Wellesley and Kitchener Streets
09/307-7700 Fax 09/302-1096.
Daily 10am-5pm both galleries
Closed Christmas Day and Good Friday
Admission to main gallery free; fees for some touring shows.
Admission charged; children under 12 free.
Recognized as the leading New Zealand art gallery, Auckland City Art Gallery and the New Gallery hold over 10,000 New Zealand and European artworks. The Main gallery emphasizes historical collections with guided tours at 2pm daily, while the New Gallery, opened across the street in 1995, houses a magnificent contemporary collection of new ideas, new works, and new artists.
Auckland Museum Te Papa Whakahiku
Daily 10am-5pm Closed Christmas Day and Good Friday
Bus 635 from Downtown Bus Terminal; Explorer Bus stops every 30 min. past the hour at museum door; Link Bus every 10 min. weekdays, every 20 min. weekends with a 5-min. walk from its Parnell Rd. stop to museum.
Admission Permanent Collection by donation
Maori Concert and Discovery Center : Admission charged.
Auckland’s imposing museum building stands in the Auckland Domain on the rim of an ancient volcano surrounded by parks and gardens. This Greek Revival-style museum is known for its Maori artifacts, the largest collection of its kind, including Portraits of Maori chiefs by C. F. Goldie. Other exhibits in the museum are dedicated to natural history, geology, and local history, including a reconstructed streetscape of early Auckland.
Also on site is Discovery Center, an interactive children’s activity center that is a perennial favorite.
Maori Treasures Gallery has a new look. Key attractions in this area are the impressive 82-foot war canoe chiseled from one enormous totara trunk and covered with intricate, symbolic carvings.
That same artistry is reflected in the 85-foot meetinghouse with its carved and painted walls and rafters, also greenstone weapons, tools, and feather cloaks.
Twice daily at 11am and 1:30pm, Maori concerts by the world-traveled Pounamu Maori Performance Group bring this history and culture to life.
By car, take Karangahape Road (which turns into Great North Road west out of the city, past Western Springs. Take a right onto Motions Road.
Motions Rd., Western Springs,
Daily 9:30am-5:30pm (last admission 4:15pm Closed Christmas Day
Explorer Bus. Free parking
Admission charged. children 5-15; under 5 free; family tickets.
Sumatran tigers snarl, lions roar, and monkeys chatter. Over 900 birds and animals from every continent make their home in this outstanding parkland, recognized as one of Australasia’s leading zoos with an international reputation for its animal management programs. Visit the McDonald’s South American Rainforest, where troops of spider monkeys, bonnet macaques, squirrel monkeys, and siamangs swing from branch to branch. Discover New Zealand’s unique wildlife, including the kiwi and tuatara, or check out Pridelands for giraffe, zebra, lions, and rhino. And visit the zoo’s two most famous residents, Kashin and Burma, in their state-of-the-art elephant house. Children will also love the Adventure Playland, which features fun educational activities.
Wellesley St. W, Kitchener St., Waterloo Quad
These 15 acres of formal gardens, fountains, and statue-studded lawns are a favorite for Aucklanders who pour out of nearby office blocks and the university and polytechnic to eat lunch on sunny days. The park is built on the site of a garrison from the 1840s and 1850s that was used to protect settlers in their conflicts Maori tribes. There are still remnants of its stone walls (with rifle slits) behind university buildings on the east side of the park.
Beaches. Auckland’s beaches are commonly categorized by area : east, west, or north. The ones closest to the city are the east coast beaches along Tamaki Drive on the south side of the harbor, which do not have heavy surf. Of these, Judge’s Bay and Mission Bay are especially popular. The most visited is Piha, 25 mi west of Auckland. Whatipu, south of Piha, is a broad sweep of sand offering safe bathing behind the sandbar that guards Manukau Harbour. Bethells, to the north, is beautiful, but often has heavy surf.
Cathedral Church Of St. Mary
Holy Trinity. Parnell Rd. and St. Stephen’s Ave
A Gothic Revival-style wooden church. Built in 1886, it’s one of a number of churches commissioned by the early Anglican missionary Bishop Selwyn. The craftsmanship inside the church is remarkable. St. Mary’s originally stood on the other side of Parnell Road, and in 1982 the entire structure was moved across the street to be next to the new church.
14 Ayr St., Parnell
Wed-Sun 10:30am-noon, 1-4:30pm Explorer Bus to Parnell Village
This house was built for the Rev. Vicesimus Lush and named for Ewelme Village in England. The roomy kauri cottage is authentically preserved down to its 19th century wallpaper.
40 Gillies Ave., Epsom
Wed-Sun 10:30am-noon, 1-4pm
Highwic is one of New Zealand’s finest Gothic Revival houses. Built in 1862 from an American pattern book, its distinctive architecture and large gardens offer a glimpse into the lives of a large, wealthy Victorian family.
Kelly Tarlton’s Antartic Encounter & Underwater World
23 Tamaki Dr., Orakei Wharf
09/528-0603 Fax 09/528-5175.
Daily summer (Nov 1-Mar 31 9am-9pm; winter (Apr 1-Oct 31 9am-6pm. Christmas Day 10am-5pm.
Take Mission Bay city bus, Explorer Bus, or Fuller’s Harbour Explorer.
Admission charged. free for children under 4. Special rates for families and seniors
The creation of New Zealand’s most celebrated undersea explorer and treasure hunter, this harborside marine park offers a unioque view of the sea. A submerged transparent tunnel, 120 yards long, makes a circuit past moray eels, lobsters, sharks, and stingrays. In Antarctic Encounter, you enter a replica of explorer Robert Falcon Scott’s 1911
Antarctic hut at McMurdo Sound, then circle around a deep-freeze environment aboard a heated Sno-Cat (snowmobile) that winds through a penguin colony and an aquarium exhibiting marine life of the polar sea. You emerge at Scott Base 2000 for a glimpse of this century’s anticipated Antarctic research and exploration.
Museum of Transport Technology and Social History
825 Great North Rd., Western Springs
Daily 10am-5pm Closed Christmas Day
Bus 045 from Customs St. E.; Explorer Bus
MOTAT is the largest museum of transport and technology in the country, covering 40 acres between its two closely linked sites in Western Springs, just 3 miles from the city center. You’ll find trams, trains, steam engines, aircraft, and more.
The Museum houses major collections of road transport, early Auckland historical buildings, primary industry, and medical and dental equipment displays. Once that’s explored, you can take a working tram ride (every 20 min. from the Great North Road entrance past the zoo to the aviation displays at the Sir Keith Park Memorial site (small charge).
Displays here include interesting military exhibits, rail memorabilia, and one of the most impressive collections of historical aircraft in Australasia, including the only Solent Mark IV flying boat in the world.
National Maritime Museum
Eastern Viaduct, Quay St.
Oct.-Easter, daily 9-6; Easter-Sept., daily 9-5.
New Zealand’s rich seafaring history is on display in a marina complex in Auckland Harbor. Experience what it was like to travel steerage class in the 1800s or check out a replica of a shipping office from the turn of the last century.
There are detailed exhibits on early whaling and a collection of outboard motors, yachts, ship models, and Polynesian outriggers. A scow conducts short trips in the harbor. The museum also hosts workshops, where traditional boat building, sail making, and rigging skills are kept alive.
The pride of the museum is the KZ1, the 133-ft racing sloop built for the America’s Cup challenge in 1988.
Parnell Rose Gardens
Gladstone and Judges Bay Rds.
When you tire of boutiques and cafés, take a 10-minute stroll to enjoy this collection of some 5,000 rosebushes. The main beds contain mostly modern hybrids, with new introductions being planted regularly.
The adjacent Nancy Steen Garden contains the antique varieties. The garden also contains some incredible trees. There is a 200-year-old pohutukawa (puh-hoo-too-ka-wa) whose weighty branches touch the ground and rise up again, and a kanuka that is one of Auckland’s oldest trees.
Rainbow’s End Theme Park
Great South and Wiri Station Rds., Manukau City
09/ 262-2044 ;09/262-2030
Take the Manukau motorway exit 15 min. south of Auckland City and drive 1,312 ft. to the end of the Rainbow
Daily 10am-5pm; during Jan, 10am-10pm closed Christmas Day All-day Super Pass (includes unlimited rides all day:; Mini Pass (includes any 3 rides):
This is Auckland’s premier adventure playground, with 23 acres devoted to rides and attractions for children. For those under 10, there’s a Dream Castle with its own mini rollercoaster, a mini carousel, and Ferris wheel.
Older children will love New Zealand’s only double-loop rollercoaster, and then there is the log flume, the pirate ship, the Enchanted Forest, and a replica of an abandoned mine. Add go karts, dodgems, bumper boats, virtual theatre, and a special section for the toddlers, and the whole family will be glad you came.
Rugby Hall of Fame
Eden Park on Sandringham Road
Buses 23 and 24
Provides a comprehensive display of the game and its star players.
Skycity, Victoria and Federal Sts.
Daily 8:30am-late Underground parking for small fee.
Admission charged. Reservations suggested.
In the first 18 months after it opened in August 1997, Skytower attracted over a million visitors, making it New Zealand’s most popular paid attraction. About 1,076 feet, it is the tallest building in the Southern Hemisphere, affording unforgettable views over the sprawling environs of Auckland. It is taller than both the Eiffel Tower in Paris and Sydney’s AMP Tower, and has four observation decks, including an outdoor area, a glass lift and glass floor panels, multilingual audio guides, and a revolving restaurant.
Access to the observation decks is via three glass-fronted lifts, which can transport 225 people every 15 minutes, and whizzes up the building in a speedy 40 seconds.
The Main Observation level features the latest technology, with live weather feeds and touch computer screens giving geographical information.
Side Trips from Auckland
Waiheke Island is just 35 minutes from downtown Auckland by ferry and of its permanent population of about 8,000, nearly 1,000 commute to the city each day to work. In summer the island’s population swells to over 30,000 as people come to enjoy its winning combination of white sand beaches, lush native bush, green farmland, top wineries and vineyards, and excellent cafes and restaurants.
A succession of picturesque bays leads to Whangaparaoa Bay (Cape Runaway, at the very tip of the North Island’s East Cape.) The beaches are deeply shelved and littered with driftwood, and the old Anglican church, nestled under Norfolk pines on a lone promontory, should not be missed. Cape Runaway can only be reached by foot, and it’s advisable to seek permission before going on private land.
Great Barrier Island
This island at the mouth of the Hauraki Gulf has acres of long, white sandy beaches on its eastern shore, deep-water sheltered inlets on its western shore, and a rugged spine of steep ridges running down the centre.
The 80,000 hectare reserve has a number of walking tracks that combine old logging trails and tramways. Natural hot springs, towering kauri forests and a peaceful setting make it a perfect escape. Flights and ferries operate from Auckland, 88km south.