From buzzing waterfront precincts in the heart of the city to relaxed wineries in the north, wild surf and lush bush in the west, sandy east coast beaches, and islands in the Hauraki Gulf that feel like a world away – Auckland has it all. Its two harbours, Manukau and Waitemata, are the aquatic playground for many of its residents with harbour cruises giving visitors an opportunity to enjoy some of the best city views. Find your bearings and enjoy 360-degree views of Auckland’s volcano-dotted landscape from the top of the Sky Tower before setting out to explore its diverse attractions.
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KEY REGIONS AND TOWNS
The city centre is a buzzing metropolis with world-class shopping, waterfront restaurants, a vibrant arts and culture scene, and harbour activities right on its doorstep. The Sky Tower, located in the heart of the CBD, is New Zealand’s tallest man-made structure with views in every direction. Auckland’s main street (Queen St) is the hub of the city centre. The popular Viaduct, from Britomart to Wynyard Quarter, offers numerous waterfront restaurants and bars, while the nearby village of Parnell is known for its colonial-style shops that line the main street. Ponsonby, one of the city’s hippest streets, is also only 10 minutes from the CBD.
The Hauraki Gulf, on the doorstep of Auckland city, is home to a multitude of remarkable islands. Rangitoto Island is an iconic Auckland landmark and its 600-year-old cone can be seen from all around the city. A hike to the summit will reward you with 360-degree views and unique lava caves. Walk from Rangitoto to neighbouring Motutapu Island and go exploring. Waiheke is the largest island in the gulf and is a fantastic retreat from city life, known for its artsy culture and numerous vineyards. Tiritiri Matangi is an open-air nature reserve, home to New Zealand’s oldest lighthouse that is still in operation. The 4.5-hour ferry journey to the remote Great Barrier Island is well worth it. Historic remains of copper and silver mines, shipwrecks and kauri dams can be found here.
Head west to the Arataki Visitor Centre in Titirangi, the gateway to the Waitakere Ranges that is home to more than 250km of walking tracks. Piha Beach is a local favourite, with the imposing Lion Rock on the water’s edge, and nearby Kitekite Falls is famous for its six drops that fall into a large lake-like pool. Further up the coast is Bethells, known for its massive sand dunes at Lake Wainamu. Windswept Muriwai Beach is home to pounding waves and huge gannet colonies nestled on the rugged coastline. Woodhill Forest is a stunning natural playground for adventure lovers with some of Auckland’s best mountain biking trails while Kumeu, Auckland’s oldest wine region, offers a refreshing blend of wineries, cafes, restaurants and galleries.
Auckland’s eastern suburbs are a favourite for boaties, with easy access to the sea and an excellent marina facility at Half Moon Bay. Howick is home to some of the oldest buildings in Auckland, including fully restored colonial buildings and cottages at the Howick Historical Village. Nature lovers will enjoy the Hunua Ranges, the largest native forest in the Auckland region. About an hour’s drive from the city centre, there are streams, waterfalls and magnificent vistas, as well as including the impressive Hunua Falls. In the east, you can also discover Clevedon’s boutique food and wine, rich history and country charm.
Auckland has the largest Polynesian population in the world and this is most evident in South Auckland. Mangere Mountain and the Otuataua Stonefields are perfect for exploring traces of early Maori settlement. In the heart of the south, Manukau is a hub of vibrant
Pacific communities and cultures. The Otara Markets, held every Saturday, are New Zealand’s largest street markets, with good food, live music and cultural performances. Awhitu Peninsula, an hour from downtown Auckland, is home to the Awhitu Regional Park and the historical Manukau Heads lighthouse, which juts out from the tip of the peninsula.
Across the Auckland Harbour Bridge from downtown is the North Shore, with its laidback lifestyle and the sea as your constant companion. Devonport is home to the twin volcanic cones of Mt Victoria and North Head, which is riddled with tunnels that date back to the late 1800s. The North Shore is home to the East Coast Bays, including sandy Long Bay, part of the Long Bay-Okura Marine Reserve. Torbay, Takapuna and Browns Bay are popular swimming and picnic spots.
The Whangaparoa Peninsula is home to Shakespeare Regional Park and several beaches.
Meaning “Bay of Whales”, dolphins and orca whales can often be seen in the waters off the peninsula. Just 25 minutes from downtown Auckland, Orewa beach is a family favourite, with Waiwera’s hot pools just over the hill. To the northwest is the historic town of Helensville, known for its rural small town atmosphere, while the nearby Parakai is noted for its natural thermal hot springs.
Further north, Matakana is known for its wineries and the popular Matakana Farmers’ Market. Tawharanui Regional Park is home to native forests, walking tracks and white sandy beaches. Close by is Pakiri, perfect for surfing and horse riding. From Leigh, charter boats take you out to numerous dive spots, including Great Barrier Island and the Hen and Chicken Islands. The marine reserve at Goat Island is fantastic to explore both on and under the water. Warkworth, located along the banks of the Mahurangi River, and Puhoi are other spots of interest in the region.
Getting here and around:
Auckland International and Domestic Airport lies 21km south of the Central Business District (CBD) in Manukau.
Motorways and expressways connect Auckland to regions in the north and south, and throughout the wider Auckland region.
Cruise liners visiting Auckland dock in the downtown, right in the heart of the city.
Auckland is connected by rail to Wellington.
It is connected to major towns and cities via scheduled bus services. Rental cars are readily available.
Auckland’s main transport hub is the Britomart Transport Centre on Quay St. It is well serviced by trains, buses and taxis.
Spring (Sep-Nov) – mild with humidity building and some spring showers, 11-18°C; Summer (Dec-Feb) – warm and humid with sea breezes, 22-27°C; Autumn (Mar-May) – tropical storms can blow in bringing rain, 12-20°C; Winter (Jun-Aug) – mild and wet (pack your raincoat), 8-16°C.