Auckland is New Zealand’s most populous city with 1.5 million people and is located in the northern part of the North Island. No, it’s not the capital…Wellington is. As a metropolis, Auckland has fabulous restaurants, shopping, an international airport and many sights. But even more amazing is the surrounding area with beaches, hiking, natural wonders, islands, and so much more…all within easy reach. It’s the best of both worlds if you ask me.
I visited Auckland at the end of a cruise in the middle of March, late Summer down there, which was the perfect time of year for great weather. Unfortunately, I was recovering from the flu, thanks to my fellow cruise passengers. However, I did manage to see quite a bit. These are my top 7 things to see in Auckland.
As the tallest building in the Southern Hemisphere (as of now), the Sky Tower is instantly recognizable in Auckland’s skyline. Head up to the top for an amazing 360-degree view of the city and its two harbors. You’ll find a café and two restaurants up top as well, one of the restaurants is revolving! For the adventurous, take the Sky Walk where you are clipped to a secure harness and can walk around the platform on the 53rd floor. If you a true daredevil, bungee jump off the same platform!
Naturally, I managed to find plenty of time to shop while there! Head to Queen Street in the CBD for luxury brands like Louis Vuitton, Prada and Gucci, as well as many other fabulous shops. The Strand Arcade and Auckland’s oldest department store “Smith & Caughy’s” can also be found on Queen Street.
High Street, which runs parallel to Queen St., boasts some great boutiques, and some of the best cafés in Auckland.
Britomart, close to the waterfront, has tons of local New Zealand designer shops such as Karen Walker, Zambesi, Kate Sylvester and so much more. You’ll also find internationally known shops like Tiffany and Ted Baker there.
Mt. Eden is the highest natural point in Auckland and boasts some amazing views of the city. It’s a volcanic cone shaped hill and is really fascinating. The quickest way to get there is to drive, or take a taxi. But you really should walk from the CBD through the Mt. Eden suburb to get there, it’s not far. This district has some fabulous restaurants, cafés and wine bars to reward you after your walk!
Loaded with private yachts, Viaduct Harbour (or Harbor for us Americans), is a popular spot in the evenings. Packed with lively pubs, bars and restaurants with fabulous views of the harbor it’s a great place for cocktails and dinner. Try some Italian food (great pizzas) at Portofino, make sure to get a table outside with a view.
My favorite restaurant in Viaduct Harbour is Soul. The pink design immediately spoke to me, well maybe it was the Veuve flower stand! The food is great, with lots of fresh seafood and several bites to share. Get a table outside for a fabulous view of the harbour at sunset. Of course, there are several champagnes by the glass on the menu…I chose Veuve Rosé Brut.
The historic ferry building is right on the water front. Head there to take a ferry to the many islands and towns around Auckland.
Devonport is quick 12 minute ferry ride from Auckland, and is the cutest town with quaint boutiques, art galleries and cafés. Be sure to go the the small park on Victoria St. and see “Old Albert”, a Moreton Bay Fig Tree (also known as an Australian Banyan) that was planted in 1883. Be sure to snap a few photos of the Auckland skyline from Devonport, the view is amazing.
Just a short 30 minute ferry ride from Auckland’s ferry terminal lies this heavenly island. Spend the day hiking on amazing trails with lush green vegetation and gorgeous views. There are several beautiful sandy beaches to soak up the sun or do some snorkeling. Head to Oneroa for a gorgeous beach and a quaint village with cute shops and restaurants.
Wine lovers can spend the day touring over 25 wineries and tasting the day away. No wonder Waiheke is known as the “Island of Wine”. Adventure seekers can have a go at jet skiing or zip-lining on Waiheke.
For a fabulous meal with a sea view head to Mudbrick, incredible! Mudbrick also has a more casual restaurant called The Archive Bar and Bistro at the same location. If you like lamb (and if you don’t that just leaves more for me!), be sure to try their signature dish of slow-cooked lamb shoulder!
Head to the beach! There are multiple beaches in and around Auckland. Drive a little over an hour to Tāwharanui Regional Park with its huge park and beautiful white sandy beach.
The beaches on the East coast are white, sandy beaches and less crowded. Check out Omaha Beach (no, not the one in France), Pakiri and Tāwharanui.
West coast beaches are known for their black sand and rocky shores. They are great for horseback riding and surfing. The most popular West coast beaches are Muriwai, Piha and Te Henga.
Keep calm and travel on!