With one and a half million residents, Auckland is easily the largest urban area in the New Zealand. One in three New Zealanders lives in the Auckland metropolitan area, which nestles in a bay on the North Island and boasts two sparkling harbors. Auckland faces the Pacific Ocean on one side and the Tasman Sea on the other.
Auckland has strong competition in the tourist market with nearby Wellington, the national capital, home to New Zealand's booming movie industry and Queenstown, the holiday town on the South Island hosting visitors from all over the world who want to try out New Zealand's extreme sports like white water rafting and bungee jumping.
But the city has plenty to offer, including New Zealand's most vocal and vibrant Maori community, unbeatable waterfront seafood restaurants and bars and a dazzling skyline that includes the Sky Tower, the tallest freestanding building in the southern hemisphere.
Resting in an ancient volcano crater is the city's most popular municipal park which is used for outdoor events in summer such as Christmas Carols and performances by the New Zealand Symphony. The Domain is an ideal place for summer picnics.
This public space is located in the very center of downtown Auckland and it is used for political rallies, outdoor festivals, concerts and other public events. Numerous artworks and sculptures mark various points of the square that is popular with everyone from musicians and buskers to office workers at lunch.
Invariably known as K Road, this is the heart of Auckland's nightlife and café scene. Visitors may want to come here on their first day in Auckland to get a feel for what the city is all about, or find budget hotels in the side streets off K Road, which enjoys friendly competition with Ponsonby as the key nightlife district of Auckland.
The West Hollywood of Auckland is Ponsonby, a thriving hub of art galleries, fashion boutiques and cafés as well as the city's gay and lesbian scene. Ponsonby is within walking distance of downtown Auckland and Ponsonby Road, the main drag, meets K Road at a busy intersection.
Queen Street runs the length of Auckland from Queens Wharf, where it meets the sparkling Auckland waterfront before running several miles uphill to the residential suburbs of the city. All the major retailers, hotels and transport interchanges including ferries are located on or near Queen Street.
Stunning sunset views across the water to Mount Victoria are one of the many appeals of the Auckland waterfront, which is loaded with scores of seafood restaurants, lookout points and promenades. The soaring Sky Tower is located close to the water.