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1. See Auckland from the Water
Auckland covers a narrow isthmus near the top of the North Island. On the east coast, the Waitemata Harbour leads out into the Hauraki Gulf, a massive maritime playground dotted with islands of all sizes. With this stunning natural landscape on its doorstep, it’s no wonder Auckland’s nickname is the City of Sails. Auckland locals love to spend time in or on the water, flocking to beaches for swimming, fishing and boating.
With this in mind, one of the must-do activities in Auckland is a boat trip of some kind. Auckland harbour sailing trips allow impressive views of the city skyline, and the Hauraki Gulf islands are a series of treasures just waiting to be explored. Iconic Rangitoto is a famous Auckland landmark and well worth visiting for a hike to the top. Further out, Waiheke Island is a popular destination, with beautiful beaches and plentiful vineyards.
To truly experience the Hauraki Gulf, step on board Hauraki Blue’s overnight cruise and immerse yourself in the beauty of this spectacular marine park – cruise around the islands, kayak and snorkel in crystal clear waters, and spend the night at sea.
2. Explore Auckland’s Waterfront
While you’re in downtown Auckland there are many more top Auckland attractions to visit around the harbour and waterfront. The Britomart transport precinct, Viaduct Harbour and Wynyard Quarter have all been given a facelift in recent years and are now cool urban spaces where locals and visitors mingle to eat, drink, shop and party.
Simply need a break? Sink into a beanbag or onto a comfortable bench in public spaces like Silo Park, Takutai Square in Britomart or North Wharf and spend some time people-watching. In the Viaduct Harbour you will also find the Voyager New Zealand Maritime Museum – great if you’re interested in New Zealand’s seafaring history.
Another great option for seeing the best of Auckland's harbour and inner-city sights is a GreatSights Auckland city sights tour.
3. Take a trip up the Sky Tower
One of the best views of Auckland can be found at the top of the Sky Tower in the central city. At 328 metres high, the Sky Tower is the tallest building in New Zealand – and the Southern Hemisphere too! Zoom up to the observation deck (don’t worry, you won’t have to use the stairs) and marvel at 360 degree views all around the city. There’s also a restaurant in the Sky Tower, and if you’re brave enough you can walk around the edge or even jump off!
4. Get a dose of culture
Auckland is home to a host of great cultural experiences. A visit to the Auckland War Memorial Museum is the perfect way to learn about New Zealand history and culture, while the Auckland Art Gallery is home to a large collection of New Zealand and international art.
Most of the theatres in Auckland are located around the top of Queen Street. See a show at the Civic amidst lavish decor, or see theatre, comedy and dance in contemporary style at Q Theatre or the refurbished Aotea Centre.
5. Wander down Ponsonby Road
One of Auckland’s oldest suburbs, Ponsonby is home to great shopping (including high-end designer fashion and homewares), dining and nightlife. Sit at a cafe and watch the well-heeled of Auckland pass by or pick up a unique New Zealand souvenir.
6. See the famous Auckland black sand beaches
Auckland’s coastline is a mixture of golden sand beaches, rocky coves, powerful surf and calm bays. The West Coast is where to find black sand beaches like Piha, Muriwai, Bethells and Karekare. The wild beauty of these beaches is something every visitor to Auckland should see. If you’re going to swim there, please swim between the flags as the waves are very strong!
7. Visit the best markets in Auckland
The Otara Markets in South Auckland are a unique part of Auckland’s culture and history. Go there on a Saturday morning and enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of Auckland’s unique blend of Polynesian cultures, with fresh produce, fast food, fashion, bric-a-brac and more on sale for bargain prices.
In the central suburb of Parnell, the La Cigale French markets in Parnell offer gourmet delicacies, fresh baking, organic produce and deli delights. It’s the best place to go for picnic food!
For a different taste experience, head along to one of the suburban night markets held around Auckland. Shopping mall carparks are transformed into cheap and cheerful international spectacles, emitting tantalising scents from Asia, the Pacific, Europe and the Americas. Wander past stalls of sizzling dumplings and steaming hot satay, drink fresh-squeezed juices, and feast on everything from noodle dishes and pizza to gourmet tacos and handcrafted patisserie treats.
8. Hiking in Auckland
Auckland has plenty of hilly ranges for those who like to get out into the outdoors and hike the trails. Head out to the Waitakere Ranges to the west or the Hunua Ranges to the southeast and walk through native forest – just make sure you follow the trail and prepare with appropriate clothing, footwear and supplies.
Another popular Auckland walk is the Coast to Coast Walkway, which is a 16km hike from Onehunga to downtown Auckland.
9. Get up close to New Zealand wildlife
Auckland is home to two enriching wildlife experiences: The Auckland Zoo and Kelly Tarlton’s Sea Life Aquarium.
Forget dingy cages and sad animals – the Auckland Zoo is a leader in conservation initiatives and has won awards for its research work and sustainability. Visit hundreds of species of exotic and native wildlife in beautiful surroundings and get up close and personal – you can even choose one of their special behind the scenes encounters and feed the animals!
Kelly Tarlton was a New Zealand marine archaeologist and diver who invented a revolutionary new way to see marine life. In 1985 he built his Underwater World on the Auckland waterfront, using unique acrylic viewing tunnels so visitors could travel through as if they were on the sea bed. Today you can travel through the tunnel and see sharks, stingrays and other fascinating sea creatures, as well as explore the Antarctic with a new experience, seeing penguins on the ice.
10. Free Auckland activities
There are many places in Auckland that can be enjoyed for free! Public spaces in Auckland like parks and squares are great places to experience local life and enjoy the scenery.
The Auckland Domain is a beautiful park full of open spaces, sculpture displays, native bush and formal gardens. It’s home to the Auckland War Memorial Museum and also the Wintergardens – tropical indoor gardens that are free to enter.
Another of Auckland’s impressive volcanic cones is Mount Eden. Climb to the top for great views around the city, then stroll down to the village below for a spot of shopping or a bite to eat. On the North Shore, Mount Victoria and North Head are great places to enjoy the view. You can also explore the gun tunnels at North Head that date back to World War II.
At the end of Wynyard Quarter downtown, Silo is an urban park with playgrounds, water features, sculpture and interesting walkways. During summer there are free movie screenings and night markets held here.
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