Far more than just a gateway to the country's blockbuster scenery Auckland, or the City of Sails as it's often called, is New Zealand's largest and most diverse city, which brims with things to see and do. Add a sunny climate, a background of Polynesian culture, a passion for outstanding food and wine as well as a location within half an hour of beautiful beaches, hiking trails and a dozen enchanting holiday islands, and it's easy to see the appeal.
Auckland is surrounded by water and one of the few cities in the world to have harbours on two separate bodies of water, the Manukau Harbour on the Tasman Sea and the Waitemata Harbour on the Pacific Ocean. Previous home of the America's Cup yacht race, the Waitemata Harbour is a year-round haven for yachts and leisure craft, and taking a harbour cruise is a spectacular way to see the city and its surroundings.
For those who prefer to explore on foot, the 1,082 foot Sky Tower sits at the geographical centre of Auckland and is an icon of the city's skyline. It's also an exciting hub for adrenalin activities such as SkyWalk or SkyJump, a place to soak up breathtaking 360º views or enjoy superb dining. At the base is the SKYCITY Auckland entertainment complex with restaurants, a casino and a theatre. Excellent city views are also available from Auckland Harbour Bridge, or if you prefer you can even bungee jump from it!
For a cultural perspective head to the Auckland Museum, housed within one of the country's most outstanding historical buildings, it contains the world's most extensive Maori and Pacific Island artefacts. Alternatively, the New Zealand National Maritime Museum explores 1,000 years of seafaring history and the Auckland Stardome Observatory offers regular stargazing and planetarium shows of the Southern Hemisphere sky.
Families are sure to have fun at Auckland Zoo where there's always lots to see; Kelly Tarlton's Antarctic Encounter & Underwater World gets you up close and personal with sharks and penguins, while at Rainbows End Adventure Park, there are over 20 rides and attractions from thrill rides to family favourites.
Immediately south of the centre, two of Auckland's highest points, Mount Eden and One Tree Hill with its encircling Cornwall Park, provide wonderful vantage points for views of the city. Across the Waitemata Harbour is the old waterside suburb of Devonport, where you can enjoy some shopping and a spot of lunch or explore the WWII tunnels and gun emplacements in North Head.
Whilst in the city, be sure to check out one of the many vibrant shopping precincts, such as Queen Street, which is the main street running through Auckland's CBD and home to hundreds of stores. Other options include High Street and Chancery, Takapuna on Auckland's North Shore, the lively Britomart Precinct or Newmarket for the glitz and glamour of top designer stores.
Auckland's diversity is truly evident in the multitude of restaurants with cuisine from every corner of the world. Head to Britomart's compact cobbled laneways for an eclectic collection of hip bars, cafes and restaurants; try Viaduct Harbour for a laidback lunmch or elegant dining experience; or the perfectly positioned Wynyard Quarter which is lined with lively, stylish eateries. Alternatively take the 35 minute ferry ride to Waiheke Island, known as the 'island of wine' for its many wineries and fabulous restaurants.
GMT +12 hours.
New Zealand dollar
Auckland is approximately 24 hours 30 minutes from the UK (including a stopover).
Auckland can be enjoyed in any season thanks to a warm coastal climate without extremes of temperature. Summer is certainly the most pleasant with daytime temperatures hovering in the mid 20ºCs.
Get to know Auckland with a half day city highlights tour followed by a Hauraki Gulf harbour cruise. Travel through the city and over the Auckland Harbour Bridge enjoying views back to the city from the North Shore. Visit the Viaduct Harbour and Auckland’s famous Queen Street before continuing to the Auckland Domain, the city’s oldest park. During the cruise the crew provide a commentary about the city and its landmarks. Available daily from Auckland.
Experience Auckland and its fascinating Maori culture on a very personal small group tour by exploring some important historic sites and learn more about the fascinating Maori culture and history along the way. Accompanied by an indigenous guide, the tour also features culturally significant locations in the Auckland area as well as its numerous volcanoes and amazing west coast scenery. Available daily from Auckland (excluding 25 Dec). Minimum age 4 years.
The Northern Explorer rumbles through the heart of the North Island on an epic journey that allows you to experience the extremes of New Zealand’s scenery, from the fertile farmlands of Waikato to the volcanic peaks of the Central Plateau and the sparkling Kapiti coast. Carriages have spacious reclining seats with generous leg room and panoramic windows The train also has an open-air carriage for uninterrupted views and a licensed cafe. All journeys are available in reverse. Auckland to Wellington which takes around 10½ hours; or Auckland to National Park which is 5½ hours. Departures Monday, Thursday & Saturday.
From £85 (Auckland to National Park one way) or £139 (Auckland to Wellington one way)