Auckland is a sophisticated cosmopolitan city and New Zealand’s largest, home to approximately 1.3 million people. Despite its big city nature, it is totally unclogged, as it is spread over an area twice the size of London.
The city is located between Hauraki Gulf in the Pacific Ocean in the east and the Manukau Harbour in the Tasman Sea to the southwest. On the northeast the city’s geography is marked by the Hunua Ranges and the Waitakere Ranges in the west and north-west. Surrounded by sea, it is considered one of the most beautiful cities in the world. It is also considered one of the most pleasant cities to live in and always ranks among the top five in the international quality-of-life polls.
Auckland is New Zealand’s most multicultural city and its diverse cultures are celebrated at the city’s various festivals. The city’s Maori name is Tāmaki-makau-rau, or Ākarana (a Maori translation of Auckland).
It is a major gateway to the country, but retains a slow-paced and relaxed atmosphere. Nevertheless, it cultivates a vibrant nightlife along the waterfront where numerous live music bars and restaurants with delicious food can be found.
Auckland is an extreme adventure destination. The city will have you walking on narrow edges, jumping off tall buildings, or swimming with sharks. Probably the most outrageous challenge is the 192 meter free-fall from the city’s tallest structure, the Sky Tower.
The city is surrounded by amazing scenery that provides numerous options for an active holiday. Auckland lies on a volcanic field consisting of 48 volcanoes, all of which are extinct and are perfect for great hiking trips. Also, in close vicinity to the city, are the Hauraki Gulf Islands, their beautiful sandy beaches make them ideal places to unwind.
Auckland has a warm, temperate climate. It has sunny and humid summers (December to March) and very mild winters. The daily average temperature is around 23°C in summer (January) and 13°C in the winter (July). Rainfall is distributed throughout the year, but the wettest season spans from May to August. Nevertheless, Auckland is one of New Zealand’s sunniest cities.
January average temperature 20 deg Celsius 71 mm rainfall February average temperature 20 deg Celsius, 86 mm rainfall March average temperature 18 deg Celsius, 79 mm rainfall April average temperature 16 deg Celsius, 97 mm rainfall May average temperature 13 deg Celsius, 114 mm rainfall June average temperature 12 deg Celsius, 127 mm rainfall July average temperature 11 deg Celsius, 132 mm rainfall August average temperature 11 deg Celsius, 112 mm rainfall September average temperature 12 deg Celsius, 94 mm rainfall October average temperature 14 deg Celsius, 94 mm rainfall November average temperature 16 deg Celsius, 81 mm rainfall December average temperature 17 deg Celsius, 79 mm rainfall
Auckland is served by Auckland International Airport, New Zealand’s largest airport. It is located on the shores of Manukau harbor, in the southern suburbs of Auckland. The airport’s domestic and international terminals are connected via a free shuttle service. Web: www.aucklandairport.co.nz/
You can choose from an array of transportation options. Buses, shuttles, taxis and rental cars are available. Airbus services run 24 hours a day and leave the airport every 15 minutes during the day, and every 30 minutes at night.
Web: www.maxx.co/ Public transport includes buses, trains and ferries. Check the website for schedules. The bus is perhaps the most practical way of traversing the city, as the network connects most points of interest within Auckland. Trains have only three lines and connect to only a few suburbs. Ferries are useful for reaching the suburbs on the city’s north shore and they also connect to the Hauraki Gulf Islands.
Taxis can be either hailed on the street of pre-booked over the phone.
During rush hour the traffic gets very congested. Pubic transportation is somewhat weak so using your own car is a good option. Drivers must be over 21 and hold a valid drivers license.
Piha, New Zealand’s most famous surf beach is located just 20 minutes’ drive from Auckland. The black sand beach lies 40 km from the city on the west coast of the North Island. The rips and currents are strong so it is advisable to swim only in the patrolled areas and to keep an eye out for the signals and flags. Another famous feature the beach is the dramatic Lion Rock that looms over the shore.
Just a 15-minute bus ride and two beaches, Mission Bay and St Helier’s Bay, are easily accessible from downtown Auckland. The two sea resorts are set 1 km apart, offer safe swimming conditions, a variety of cafés, restaurants and shops, and boast splendid views of Waitemata Harbour and Rangitoto Island.
Auckland is set on a volcanic field, with as many as 48 volcanoes, all of which are extinct and have great hiking trails. At a slower pace is the romantic ride up the volcano that shows off a wonderful panorama of the city beneath. The two accessible peaks are One Tree Hill and Mount Eden.
Auckland offers many unforgettable experiences guaranteed to skyrocket your adrenaline. Auckland Harbour Bridge offers treks on the bridge structure, as well as bungee jumps off it. The Sky Tower offers New Zealand’s Highest Jump, a 192 meter free-fall. Definitely not for the faint hearted!
The tower measures 328 meters in height and is the tallest structure in the Southern Hemisphere. It has two viewing platforms. The main one is positioned at 186 meters and the smaller one at 194 meters. On a clear day it affords a panoramic view of 82 km over the entire city. The top deck features a revolving restaurant and the main deck has a café. The tower is popular with adrenaline enthusiasts as it offers the ultimate in this line. The Sky Jump is a 192 meter free-fall, an approximately 11 minute adventure.
This interesting museum portrays New Zealand’s long standing maritime history. It epitomizes the explorative spirit of the native inhabitants as well as the settlers. Depicting the 1000 years of seafaring in the Polynesian seas is a wide variety of sea vessels, from traditional Maori canoes, to the ships used by the Western immigrants, to old steamboats and whaling ships. In addition, scow cruises leave daily from the nearby harbor. The museum also features a store and a café.
Kelly Tarlton’s Antarctic Encounter and Underwater World
Web: www.kellytarltons.co.nz/ Address: 23 Tamaki Drive, Orakei Open: daily: 9:30 am to 5:30 pm (all days, including public holidays)
The aquarium is home to an amazing variety of animals, including sharks, stingrays, penguins, and tropical fish. It has five sections: The Antarctic encounter features colonies of king penguins and gentoo penguins in a temperature controlled environment. Stingray Bay is a huge acrylic tank featuring two species of ray and numerous other fish. The best known and loved inhabitant is the giant stingray named Phoebe with a 2 meter wingspan. Underwater world was the first section to be built in the complex and features sharks and other sea creatures, holding up to 2000 animals. The Sea Creatures section has smaller tanks with a colorful selection of exotic fish: piranha, octopus, sea horses, pufferfish, to name a few. There is also an educational interactive room that is especially interesting for children. The aquarium’s specialties are the one-on–one animal experiences: feeding the stingray, diving in the shark cage and, for those looking for another thrill, there is cage-free diving with sharks.
Address: the car park between Manukau Polytech and Otara town centre, Newbury St, Otara
A weekly market, starting at 6 am on Saturday mornings, it is the largest street market in New Zealand. Most of the stall-holders are Polynesian, and items for sale include fruits, veggies, traditional clothing, street wear, Chinese toys, and freshly prepared food. The market is a good place to buy all sorts of items at lower prices than in supermarkets, and soak up the Maori atmosphere.
Bay Of Islands
One of North Zealand’s biggest attractions, and most popular holiday destinations, the Bay of Islands is famous for its stunning natural beauty, amazing coast with numerous coves, sandy beaches and warm waters. The regional center is Paihia, from where a variety of activities can be arranged. Among the sports available are kayaking, diving, fishing, and of course swimming. Sailboat cruises to the surrounding islands are among the most popular activities. For those with an interest in the history of the place, the townships of Waitangi and Russell (the former capital) are also worth exploring.
Hauraki Gulf Islands
Frequent ferries leave from the vicinity of the Ferry Building on the waterfront. The Hauraki Gulf, studded with marvelous and diverse islands, is an immensely popular destination. There is a large number of islands, some are just minutes away from Auckland and are popular as day trips. Other islands are more remote and are aimed at conservation of bird and plant species and have restricted access.
The most popular of the Gulf islands is Waiheke, which is blessed with beautiful bays of white sandy beaches and is lined with chic cafes and art galleries. The island is also a notable winegrowing region. Rangitoto is an uninhabited island with an unusual landscape and is famous for its large volcano and popular with hikers. All in all, the islands provide an amazing variety of landscapes and can also be explored by yacht or ferry cruise.
Auckland is a multicultural metropolis with a huge variety of restaurants, and choices really seem limitless: you can choose from Thai, Japanese, Indian, seafood, Italian, buffet, Chinese, vegetarian, Mexican, Malaysian, Greek, French, Spanish and Halal restaurants and eateries. Some are licensed and some are BYO so check beforehand.
Mission Bay is an area not to be missed as restaurants lining the promenade will serve you the best ambience, views and food in town. You can choose from a selection of international food, for example, Indian, Thai, Italian, etc. In addition, there are numerous pleasant ice-cream and coffee shops.
The Viaduct Harbor is another great area for dining, as its waterfront is home to the Restaurant Precinct, featuring over 20 restaurants and bars. In addition, the area often plays host to various events and is really a vibrant place nearly all of the time. The restaurants cover a wide spectrum of international cuisines, from Thai, Italian and Japanese, Brazilian, as well as tapas menus, authentic Hong Kong dishes, and more. In addition to the exotic tastes, the New Zealand favorite fish and chips eateries also abound. Many Auckland restaurants operate as cafes, bars, music bars and nightclubs, all in the same establishment, and usually do not require booking.
Ever since 1840, Auckland has been celebrating its birthday with a regatta. Known as ‘The City of Sails’, and is one of the largest one-day regattas in the world. Additional program and events are held in the harbor and on the waterfront.
Usually held over three days in March, this is New Zealand’s richest and largest sporting event showcasing the ultimate in thoroughbred racing, fashion and glamour. The nation’s finest jockeys, trainers and horses compete for the country’s biggest prizes. The race is accompanied by an all day entertainment program and is New Zealand’s most exclusive racing event.
The event celebrates unique culture and identity of Pacific nations and New Zealand and usually attracts over 1000 performers from Samoa, Tonga, Cook Islands, Fiji, Niue, Tahiti, Tokelau, Tuvalu, Kiribati and the Tangata Whenua. For the festival, a village is built where the typical food, art, culture, performances and crafts are on display. Recently the festival has outgrown its single day scope to include more events and activities.
Auckland’s Big Day Out
Web: www.bigdayout.com/ Date: January Location: Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland, New Zealand
Established in 1992, Auckland’s Big Day Out is a touring festival, starting in Auckland, NZ, and then travels all over Australia for the next three weekends. It features a star line-up, from international musicians to Ozzie favorites, and draws bigger and bigger crowds each year. It is held in Mt Smart Stadium, located ten minutes from central Auckland.
The marathon has been held since the 1980s and attracts 10,000 runners and a huge crowd of supporters. The route takes in a big loop around the bay. There are also shorter variants, for example a 10 and a 5 km walk. To round it off, a free concert is held near the finish line in Victoria Park featuring well known New Zealand bands, as well as kid’s entertainment and other tourist activities.
For favorite family fun, the festival features a circus, magic shows, musical productions, merry-go-rounds, roller-coasters, live shows such as axe-throwing, chain-sawing and log-rolling, and wine-competition. The children adore the Farm Zone where they can feed and play with live animals, such as goats, donkeys and chicks. The main draw of the festival, though, remains the equestrian events in the Agricultural and Pastoral section.
Waiheke Island is located just a short boat trip away from the city and is known for its warm climate and hilly terrain. In the last 30 years it has become a renowned winegrowing region. Around 30 individual wineries have developed there and their wines are gaining respect all over the world. The festival showcases many of the best longstanding wines, along with some new vintages.
A very young festival, the Auckland Fringe is an open-access platform for performing and visual artists. Anyone can apply to perform at the Fringe. The 2009 inaugural event attracted over 40,000 visitors and hosted some 75 performances, including theatre, dance, music and visual arts events.
Auckland is a vibrant metropolis with a lively nightlife, and numerous options for every taste. The waterfront is a lively and popular area featuring many bars. The area between Queens Wharf and High Street has a large number of bars featuring live music. Many venues are a combination of bar, restaurant and club and most of them are along the along Karangahape Road, as well as in Ponsonby and Parnell. Licensing hours are relaxed; some bars even serve alcohol 24 hours a day. Dress code is casual, with the exception of some venues, which require more formality. The most fashionable hangouts are located in the Prince's Wharf. Some of these are Bellini, located at the Hilton Auckland, the Lenin Bar, and the Minus5. For live music, venture downtown especially to venues along Karangahape Road and to Ponsonby.
This is the hub of Auckland’s culture and art, featuring the Aotea Centre, New Zealand’s largest concert hall, the Auckland Town Hall, and the Civic Theatre. The program includes theater, ballet, dance, opera performances, major stage productions and art exhibitions.
Address: Victoria and Federal Streets Phone: 0800/759-2489 Web: www.skycity.co.nz Open: daily, 24 hours
New Zealand’s largest casino, the Skycity attracts as many as 12,000 people per day. It offers more than 1,600 gaming machines to choose from, table games including poker, money wheel, blackjack, roulette, craps, Caribbean stud poker, baccarat, tai sai, pai gow, over 1,200 slot machines and an 80-seat keno lounge. The casino also houses several excellent restaurants, the Sky Tower, the Skycity Theatre complex, and a collection of contemporary New Zealand art.
The area where Auckland lies today was first settled by the Maori around 1350. It is a strategic location with harbors on both the east and west coasts. The indigenous tribes are descendants of the first settlers who came from Hawaii in canoes 800 years ago. The first settlers inhabited the coastal areas, but later they established fortified terraced villages (pa) on the volcanic peaks due to conflicts between the two prominent tribes, the Ngati Whatua and Tainui. Traces of the settlements can be seen in excavations on numerous volcanoes, including Mount Albert, Mount Eden and One Tree Hill. Eventually, with the help of guns, supplied by the Europeans, the Ngati Whatua defeated the Tainui The first Europeans reached New Zealand in the 18th century. They brought with them many new animals and crops but they also bought diseases and guns, forever changing the traditional Maori lifestyle. The local chiefs signed a treaty with the British in 1840. The latter bought 3,000 acres of land, where they built their colonial settlement, Auckland. The city was built on the strategic and fertile isthmus between the Waitemata and Manukau harbors and was appointed the national capital the same year. Farming, copper mining and exploitation of timber were in progress early on. At first the relations between the European settlers and the Maori were friendly but from 1845 to 1872 there was a series of Land Wars, fought over the issue of Maori land being sold to the settlers. The period from 1848 to 1860 was marked by a sense of cooperation and relative peace, during which time the settlers’ community grew rapidly. By mid-century already 3,500 people were living in the newly established capital. In 1865 Wellington replaced Auckland as the new capital but Auckland continued to grow at a fast pace, becoming the commercial hub. In 1859, the number of settlers had reached the same as the number of Māori, around 60,000 each and by 1900 Auckland was the largest city in New Zealand and as the city spread out it was fitted with a tram network.
MODERN (20TH CENTURY)
During the early 20th century the city continued to grow and develop, with new buildings such as the Post, the Ferry building, the Town Hall, and the Grafton Bridge. The city expanded over the isthmus, and in 1959 the city built the Harbour Bridge, linking the north shore and the city. The Bastion Point occupation of the 1980s succeeded in keeping government building projects off sacred Maori land.
The 1985 sinking of Rainbow Warrior, a Greenpeace boat on its way to protest against French atom bomb tests in the French Polynesia, raised a lot of world media attention. Later two French secret service agents were arrested for the bombing.
Today this vibrant multicultural city continues to grow and tourism plays an important role in its economy.
New Zealand is a very western style country but puts an emphasis on the casual approach. A handshake and eye contact are accepted greetings but in Maori culture, however, prolonged eye-contact may be seen as too personal.
The Maori represent 10% of the society. Their traditional way of greeting and showing affection is rubbing noses.
The Maori word for non-Maori is ‘Pakeha’.
Marae is a sacred place in Maori culture and if you wish to visit one of them do so on an organized tour. Never enter a sacred site before asking for permission. Follow the protocol of greeting and welcoming when in a marae. Ask permission before taking photographs of Maori buildings and landmarks. Always remove your shoes before entering the wharenui (Māori communal house) or a marae.
Most New Zealanders are descendants from the British, and their native language is English. They are referred to, and call themselves, Kiwis. New Zealanders do not appreciate being confused with the Australians: New Zealand and Australia are two separate countries with distinct customs, etiquette and national identity.
Tipping is not customary in New Zealand, and is also not expected. In case of exceptional service a tip will be appreciated, however. When invited to a restaurant it is customary to split the bill. Dressing nicely is appreciated when dining out, but not to the level of a suit and tie. Some restaurants are BYO, which means you can bring your own wine or beer, in which case a small corking fee is charged.
Even some private parties are BYO. It is not uncommon for someone to host a barbecue but not provide all the food and drink. In this case the guests are told to ‘BYO meat and grog’. It is very common to bring over food if invited to someone’s home. The custom is known as ‘ladies bring a dish’. If you do not bring a dish, at least bring some beer or wine.
In New Zealand, cars are driven on the left, and walking on the pavement, as well as riding an escalator follows the same principle. Kiwis are very proud of their spotless environment and have zero tolerance for littering.
Auckland is generally a safe city, but travelers are advised to use common sense, as in any city. Do not carry large amounts of cash with you and keep valuables hidden.
Be vigilant when using ATMs at night. Do not walk around with cash in your hand. Avoid walking alone in dark alleys. In general, it is safer to stay in a group of people, especially for women.
Be vigilant in Karangahape Road, Viaduct Harbour and Fort Street at night when many intoxicated people wander around. Be especially watchful on the streets on Friday and Saturday nights, as there is a lot of drunken driving and car racing. Be careful where you park your car, and do not leave any valuables where they can be seen, as theft from parked cars is quite common.
Emergency Phone Numbers
Emergency: 111 Call the emergency operator which will appoint the appropriate service, either ambulance, police or fire brigade.
For non-emergency call Auckland City District Headquarters at: +64 9 302 6400
Non-emergency traffic incidents and information: 555
The most popular time to visit Auckland is during the summer (December to February), which is also the high season, so it is advisable to book ahead. This is also the best time to enjoy the city’s numerous events, featuring food and wine events, festivals, concerts, and sporting events.
The warm season (November – April) is the best for exploring the outdoors. Winter is a charming time to visit as well, with snow activities such as skiing available from June to August.