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What to see and do in Auckland – a guide to notable activities and attractions

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Covering such a vast area, it’s not surprising Auckland offers a huge range of things to see and do. From hiking through scenic regional parks and trekking up volcanoes for panoramic views of the city, to sailing, jet boating and island-hopping in the Hauraki Gulf, the region provides endless entertainment. Cultural days out are also in plentiful supply – head to colonial towns brimming with history, independent art galleries, award-winning wineries and thriving farmers’ markets.

Mike Watt

My Destination local expert on

Auckland (NZ)

Central Auckland

 

Get your bearings in downtown Auckland with a lofty view from the Sky Tower; the city’s distinctive landmark and the tallest building in the Southern Hemisphere. The bravest souls can also attempt the stomach-flipping SkyWalk or SkyJump. Safely back at ground level, there are several superb museums and galleries to check out, including the magnificent Auckland War Memorial Museum and the iconic art gallery Toi o Tamaki, covering seven centuries of art. The more adventurous can head to Viaduct Harbour for jet boating or sailing, whereas kids will love Auckland Zoo and the magical Stardome Observatory and Planetarium.

 

Hauraki Gulf Islands

 

Like loose pieces of the mainland jigsaw, many Hauraki Gulf Islands lie a short ferry ride from downtown Auckland. The volcanic Rangitoto Island is the closest pick – trek to its summit for an Auckland panorama and explore its rugged lava tunnels. Further afield lies Waiheke Island, featuring some of the best beaches in New Zealand, packed full of award-winning wineries and a haven for arts and craft. For a more remote escape, the 2 ½ hour ferry to unspoilt Great Barrier Island rewards you with plentiful water sports, excellent bird watching and the secluded Kaitoke Hot Springs.

 

West Auckland

 

West Auckland boasts a trio of adventure hubs. The lush rainforest and wild coastline of the Waitakere Ranges offers a veritable playground for hikers, rock climbers and surfers, while Woodhill Forest hides a mountain bike park and Piha Beach is one of the top surf spots in New Zealand. To the north of Piha, bird watchers will enjoy the Muriwai Gannet Colony, while to the south lies the wild beauty of Karekare Beach. After a more indulgent escape? Head to the rolling hills of Kumeu, home to Auckland’s oldest winery plus a range of fascinating galleries and artisan shops.

 

North Auckland

 

A tapestry of pretty seaside villages and long sandy beaches, North Auckland is an ideal place to relax. Devonport, a 12 minute ferry ride from the city, offers charming cafes and boutique shops, while at the top of the high street, Mount Victoria provides a city and gulf panorama. Further north, find Auckland’s ‘foodie capital’ of Matakana, with a thriving weekly farmers’ market; the rural village of Puhoi, famed for its local cheese; and the coastal town of Orewa – home to three kilometers of golden sand and the nearby Waiwera Thermal Resort.

 

South Auckland

 

Auckland’s ‘melting pot’, this southern region combines black sand beaches and cliff-top vineyards with a blend of Polynesian, European and Maori cultures. Explore the gems of its rich past at Otuataua Stonefields – home to remnants of ancient Maori structures – and the emerald bulk of Mangere Mountain, site of former Maori settlements. Further south, the Auckland Regional Botanical Gardens feature a more manicured expanse of lawn and lake, while Rainbow’s End Theme Park injects a welcome shot of adrenaline and the Awhitu Peninsula offers hang gliding, surfing and scenic mountain biking.

 

East Auckland

 

From the Pohutukawa Coast with its white beaches and flame-red trees to the quaint colonial towns of Howick and Clevedon, this rural region is a delight to discover. East Auckland is packed with history – check out the restored Howick Historical Village and Clevedon’s original wooden kauri house, dating back to 1878. Be sure to soak up the local rural life too, by browsing the famous Clevedon Village Farmer’s Market or sampling a few glasses at one of the region’s boutique vineyards. Outdoorsy pursuits are also covered here, with superb golf offered at Howick and Beachlands, plus plenty of cliff-top and shoreline walking trails.