In three days you’ll find out why Auckland’s lifestyle is rated so highly. Depart the city for Waiheke Island on a ferry that will have you at your destination in just 35 minutes. Efficient local transport on the island makes it easy to visit vineyards, beaches and artists’ studios. Excellent restaurants are part of Waiheke’s charm.
Spend a day exploring the sights and sounds of central Auckland – from thrills and spills, to art and culture, to getting out on Auckland's sparkling harbour.
Another city escape takes you west to Auckland's wild side. Hike in the verdant Waitakere Ranges and experience the native rainforest and rugged black-sand beaches which define the west coast.
Auckland is set on three beautiful harbours and dotted with 48 extinct volcanic cones. It’s regularly named one of the best places in the world to live; Lonely Planet named Auckland as one of the world's Top 10 Cities for 2014 in its 'Best in Travel' guide.
In the Hauraki Gulf, to the east of the city, there are several beautiful islands for travellers to visit. Waiheke, known as the Island of Wine, is a year-round favourite.
The ferry link between Auckland and Waiheke Island comes in two forms. Fast passenger ferries travel from Auckland’s central business district to Matiatia Bay in just 35 minutes. Vehicular ferries operate between Half Moon Bay marina in east Auckland and Kennedy Point on Waiheke.
Waiheke is a picturesque blend of vineyards and olive groves, beaches, farmland and forest. Visits to vineyards, art studios and cafes will keep you busy, or you could simply find a perfect beach and make relaxation your top priority. Wine tours make sampling the island's fare easy; check out Fullers wine on Waiheke, Ananda Toursor Waiheke Island Wine Tours.
Waiheke’s also a great place for zip lining, archery, clay pigeon shooting, sea kayaking, horse riding and golf.
There's a good choice of accommodation - from luxury retreats to backpacker hostels. Transport options include bus, taxi, rental car and scooter.
Today you make your way back to Auckland from Waiheke to explore the central city and all its exciting activities. Head to the Sky Tower for big city views, and if you're up for a thrill, try the SkyWalk or SkyJump. Those who prefer to keep their feet firmly on the ground will enjoy a good dose of history and culture at Auckland Museum and the Auckland Art Gallery. Harbour activities like sailing an America’s Cup yacht, kayaking out to a nearby island or jet boating are also wonderful ways to experience Auckland.
For lunch head to Wynyard Quarter or the Viaduct for waterfront dining. Or check out the Britomart precinct to combine a bite to eat with shopping at designer boutiques.
If you'd like to check out one of Auckland's most popular inner city beaches, drive or bus along Tamaki Drive to Mission Bay. Enjoy an ice cream on the beach, take a dip in the sea, hire a kayak, try stand up paddle boarding or throw a frisbee around. Or you could drive up to Mount Eden (Maungawhau) for panoramic views; it's one of the region’s extinct volcanoes and it's highest natural point.
Head to Ponsonby for dinner. It's one of the most fashionable inner-city suburbs in central Auckland, with its laneway of stylish bars and street vendor-style eateries.
Head out to the Waitakere Ranges, just a 45 minute drive from downtown Auckland, to explore some of the 250km of walking tracks through pristine rainforest – from short and easy walks to multi-day tramps. Call in at the Arataki Visitor Centre on Scenic Drive, a short drive on from Titirangi, for walking maps and local advice. If you'd like to be guided through the ranges, book in with Bush and Beachor Time Unlimited tour providers.
Experience two beautiful waterfalls and two wild west coast beaches in one morning. Drive to Karekare beach where, after just a few minutes' walk inland, you'll find the stunning Karekare Falls surrounded by lush native bush.
Next, make your way up the coast to Piha. From the end of Glen Esk Road, an easy 45 minute walk through native bush leads you to the towering Kitekite Falls, with its six levels cascading into a turquoise pool. Here you can cool off during the summer months.
After your walk head to the Piha Café for a bite to eat for lunch. Spend the afternoon on the rugged black-sand beach of Piha. Climb up Lion Rock and watch experienced surfers ride the waves.
Test your driving skills in New Zealand
Put yourself in the driver’s seat using the AA’s new Visiting Drivers Training Programme and experience what it is like to drive on New Zealand roads. Complete a series of driving tasks and test yourself on New Zealand’s road rules. If you pass the tests, get a certificate to prove your skill.