Once the capital of New Zealand, Auckland remains its largest urban area, with a population of just over one million. Boasting a cosmopolitan attitude reflected in its diverse mix of cultures, Auckland is also the largest Polynesian city in the world, and in every district its cultural influences are palpable, making this one of the most interesting cities to visit in the world. With the low budget airline takeover firmly underway, there are plenty of cheap flights to Auckland available, and each year over two million people visit to spend time and vacation here.
Nicknamed ‘The City of Sails’, Auckland boasts two harbours, miles of coastline with coves, bays and beautiful sandy beaches, as well as having within a boat trip’s distance from its shores fifty nearby islands. It’s no wonder then that there are more boats here per capita than anywhere else in the world. With its laid-back attitude, the sea life has instilled a breezy island mentality in the city, and travellers seeking sun, sea and sand can look no further than the gorgeous coastlines here for a perfect seaside holiday. The stunning KareKare Beach attracts tourists each summer, with its long, winding, sandy shores. The film ‘The Piano’ was filmed here on location, and a walk up and down this beach is a reminder of the hauntingly romantic atmosphere that still lingers. For a more adventurous beach, try Piha. Known for its black sand and sheer rock formations, this beach is perfect for surfing and climbing. Try climbing up to the top of Lion Rock for views out over the beach, the sea and the city behind.
Apart from its unusual landscape – the area in and around Auckland is dotted with no fewer than forty-eight volcanic cones, countouring the landscape with distinctive ‘tuff rings’ – Auckland should also be explored on an urban level, in the city itself. A bustling cosmopolitan hub, the city centre is a modern haven of shopping districts, sleek modern architecture and cultural centres for art, theatre and music. For a comprehensive history of the city, try the Auckland War Memorial Museum. Recently renovated to a high standard, it houses important historical and cultural collections, from the Maori to the Pacific. For a leisurely lunch, try wandering down to one of the twin harbours and find a restaurant facing out to sea. If you are there on a Saturday morning, try the Otara Markets for a taste of Polynesian culture. Stalls in this open-air marketplace sell food, clothing, arts and crafts accessories and jewelery. At night, the Ponsonby district is the place to head for its host of trendy bars and cafés – this is certainly the upmarket part of town. The Viaduct Harbour provides a more casual alternative for the evening, and is still lively at night.
Auckland is a city of immense scope and visual diversity. Mixing Polynesian, Kiwi, European and Indian cultures, the colorful mix at ground level is matched only by the view from above. The only way to do it is to catch the lift 328 meters up in the famous Sky Tower. From here, you can enjoy the views out onto this unique, bustling vista, carved into the surrounding landscape of volcanic cones, lush, wild nature reserves and miles of shoreline, the sea glittering out into the horizon. This is one view you won’t want to miss.
Author: Iain is an adventurer and traveler who likes locations with a mix of culture and history.