The largest urban area in New Zealand is a modern city, settled by Europeans in the mid 1800s. The pleasant climate and abundant sea life encouraged growth and the city has grown to more than 1.5 million residents in a little over 200 years. Roughly one third of New Zealand’s population lives in or around Auckland. With a large bank account it’s easy to have a good time, but cheap thrills take a little more work to ferret out.
Climb a Volcano
There are 48 volcanic cones in the city waiting for you to explore them. Mt Eden is very easy to get to and a fairly easy climb. The view from the top is amazing especially on a clear day and you can see the entire city and well out into the harbor.
One Tree Hill is a name known to U2 fans and although the tree is gone, the memories remain.
North Head on Devonport has nice views and the WW2 tunnels that run under the hill are fun to explore if you’ve brought a flashlight.
Mangere Mountain is the best cone to climb to get a view of how volcanic eruptions disrupt the earth around them.
Go See Some Art
The Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki has the best collection of art in the country and often hosts travelling exhibits. Many Pacific and New Zealand artists are included in the collection along with art from the Middle Ages to present time. A collection of Maori paintings are on display as well as privately donated collections from Britain and European medieval art.
The Auckland Museum and War Memorial requests a donation but is free to Aucklanders. Everything you want to know about the history of New Zealand can be found in the Maori and Pacific Island collections and the effect war has had on the country.
Stop and Smell the Roses
The Auckland Botanic Gardens is incredibly charming and a fun place to be a kid. The Potter Children’s Garden is designed to get children involved in gardening and teach them the wonders of digging for grubs and watching native wildlife. There’s also an Edible Garden, Camellia Garden, Rose Garden and many more.
The Parnell Rose Garden is within Dove-Meyer Robinson Park and has dozens of rose varieties growing. The Festival of Roses is held here in November and the park is a pleasant place to walk even when the flowers aren’t in bloom.
Wander the Wilds
The Awhitu Peninsula is a short drive from the city and has a mix of beaches, wetlands and mudflats that attract a lot of water fowl. A day here could be spent walking the shoreline enjoying nature or hiking farther inland to explore an historic homestead and get some great views of the harbour.
At the tip of the peninsula the Manukau Heads Lighthouse stands guard over the rocky outcroppings. It’s one of the few in New Zealand that’s open for ascending and entrance is by donation.
Goat Island is a protected Marine Reserve that has some of the best snorkelling places near the city. The island has spiritual significance to the Maori and the serene, wild beauty is certain to touch your soul as well.
Take a Hike
There are many walking trails through and around the city. Whether you’re looking for an urban adventure or a walk in the wild – Auckland has it.
The Coast to Coast Walkway takes about 5 hours and is an easy walk from harbour in Auckland to Manakau harbour on the south side. It takes you past the wharf, museum, Mount Eden and is a fun way to get a look at the waterfront. Maps and brochures are easy to find if you’d like a guide.
The Auckland City Heritage Walk takes you through many of the historic areas of the city. The 1.5 km may take a while depending on how much you stop to explore.
The Kitekite Track menders through native plants allowing hikers to view streams, pools and waterfalls. At 1.8 km its an easy stroll for most.
The Hillary Trail through the Waitakere Ranges Regional Park requires a bit more planning. The four day adventure is difficult but you’ll get a full appreciation of the forests along the coast.
The harbour is a busy place with boats coming and going at all times. Take a seat in a cafe in the Wynyard Quarter and spend an afternoon enjoying the sails and doing some serious people-watching.
K Road is also good for sitting back and letting the world entertain you. Wander through the vintage shops before settling down at a cafe to watch the hipsters and drag queens go about their daily business.