Auckland is the largest Polynesian city in the world and its dynamic and diverse population reflects the wide variety of activities and scenery of New Zealand. Located on the North Island and home to a third of the country’s population, Auckland AKA The Big Smoke rests between two harbors, the Waitemata and the Manukau, and on top of over forty dormant yet dramatic volcano cones.
Queen Street is the main artery of the Central Business District (CBD) and runs right to the ferry terminal, passing by the attractions of Sky City with the Sky Tower, the pedestrianized café culture hot spot Vulcan Lane, as well as Aotea Park, home to Aotea Market on Saturdays. Strolling along the waterfront you will come across the Viaduct, home to millions of dollars worth of chic sailing vessels and the hottest nightlife on the North Island with nightclubs like the Minus 5 Lounge (an ice bar) and Lenin (a Russian themed vodka bar).
Close by is the Auckland Harbor Bridge, site of the world’s first commercial bungy jumping site where you can still tie your feet to a rubber band and fling yourself headfirst towards the water. Head the opposite direction and you will come across Mission Bay Beach, one of the dozens of beaches in a half-hour radius from the city center.
Almost all visitors to New Zealand will travel through Auckland, and New Zealand’s flagship city is definitely worth a day or two to explore before you dive into the epic wilderness of the rest of the country. Hostels and hotels are plentiful, the vibe is young and cosmopolitan, and the sweet Kiwi beer is cheap and flows like Auckland’s iconic volcano Rangitoto did six hundred years ago.
Things to do in
Although Auckland is very spread out and takes up more space than any other city in the world, most of the sites and attractions are centrally located and easy to reach via public transportation, which is inexpensive and convenient to use.
SkyCity is a massive entertainment complex based around the Sky Tower, the tallest building in the southern hemisphere. This being New Zealand, you can jump off the top of it- highly recommended. SkyCity boasts several casinos, theatres, restaurants, a five-star hotel and offers stupendous views of Auckland and its harbors.
For shopping and interesting colonial architecture, head to the Parnell neighborhood next to the Auckland Domain, the giant city park that is home to the Auckland War Memorial Museum. Are vintage clothes and hookah bars more your style? Wander K' Road for all manner of Bohemian treasures and loveable freaks. Ponsonby Road is a hip area for stylish pink cocktails and cute boutiques (perfect for a dinner date), and Tamaki Drive leads you around the harbor and is a relaxing setting for an evening stroll, dog walk or bike ride.
SkyCity Hotel: Fancy hotel in huge entertainment complex with multiple attractions
Copthorne Hotel: Large modern hotel overlooking harbor right on Prince's Wharf
Hyatt Regency: Deluxe hotel with excellent food. Ask for a room in the new wing
Heritage Hotel: Well-located hotel with rooftop pool, health clubs and parking
Barrycourt Hotel: In Parnell neighborhood, suites available, good for families
YHA Auckland International: Giant hostel with all the services, the party is here
Auckland City Hotel: Recently renovated, some rooms have living & kitchen areas
Rendezvous Hotel: New Zealand's largest hotel, dramatic, modern and very clean
The Langham: Consistently rated one of the best quality hotels in Auckland.