Auckland Travel Guide
Introduction to Auckland
With a population just shy of 1.5 million people, Auckland is easily the most urbane city in a nation renowned for its pastoral charm. It is likely the first place you’ll visit during a trip to New Zealand, and while there are bigger attractions further afield on the North Island and on the South Island, don’t sell this place short.
With fine dining, excellent museums and galleries, getaway islands just a ferry ride away, and the tallest tower in the Southern Hemisphere, block off at least three days on either end of your trip so you can properly devote the amount of attention this city deserves.
Cultural Attractions in Auckland
Learn about the history of New Zealand by spending a couple hours inside the Auckland Museum. Its official name is the Auckland War Memorial Museum; while it does an excellent job covering New Zealand’s involvement in the wars of the 20th century, this institution addresses a wider range of topics that make it a compelling place to experience.
From the intricacies of Maori culture to the role volcanoes have played in the creation of this country, there is no better place to go to kill a rainy day when visiting Auckland.
Want to discover the best works that New Zealand’s creatives have made over the years? Pay a visit to Auckland Art Gallery, as it contains 15,000 works crafted by Kiwi, South Pacific, and international artists.
Called Toi o Tamaki in Maori, you’ll find prints, paintings, sculpture, and other forms of visual created in modern and contemporary styles within its halls. There are also galleries which host international exhibitions, and an excellent cafe where you can sample some of the world’s best coffee, so don’t miss this place if you love art.
There are few better places in Auckland to spend a day outside than on One Tree Hill. A dormant volcano and the second highest peak with city limits, it is named for the last tree that stood here before it too fell. At this summit’s mount, you will find an obelisk that was meant to memorialize the Maori.
Built at the direction of the landowner before he handed this parcel of land over to the city, it was to be an act of reparation for having caused the Maori’s assumed extinction (their numbers were low and declining in the 1930s). However, the stabilization of their population in the years following John Campbell’s death means it is now a marker commemorating the centennial of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840.
While the obelisk is impressive, the views out over the city of Auckland are even better, so be sure to head up here during blue/golden hour to get some amazing shots.
Other Attractions in Auckland
Looking to get amazing shots of Auckland from the loftiest vantage point possible? The vistas available from the observation deck of Sky Tower are world class, making it a mandatory stop for serious photographers. Lording over the rest of Auckland and surrounding area at a vertigo-inducing height of 1,076 feet, it is the tallest freestanding structure in the Southern Hemisphere.
Once you are done snapping some killer shots (which can extend out 80 kilometres on a clear day), have dinner at Orbit 360°, a revolving restaurant which does a complete revolution once per hour. At the base, try your luck at the Skycity Casino, which spreads all the games of chance you would expect to find in such a place.
While Auckland is a tranquil place compared to other centres worldwide, even this city can get a bit much sometimes. Get away from noise and concrete by taking a ferry to Tiritiri Matangi Island, which is home to one of New Zealand’s most exciting conservation projects.
Here, you’ll find many of this country’s endemic bird species, like bellbirds and kiwis (although they can be tough to spot, as they are nocturnal). Once you have finished birding, relax on an outstanding beach suitable for swimming and snorkelling during the summer months.
Make room in your travel itinerary for a visit to Waiheke Island as well. More developed than Tiritiri Matangi, this isle is home to a number of vineyards which welcome scores of wine tourists every year. There are also olive groves offering tours and tastings, making Waiheke Island a paradise for gourmands and foodies.