Spread across a striking landscape of sweeping harbours, hazy islands and green-clad volcanoes, Auckland is a city well-placed for adventure. It faces onto both the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea, so the sea is truly at the heart of Auckland – no wonder they call it the City of Sails. It's also the top Kiwi town for culture, history and entertainment, as it’s by far the largest of New Zealand's cities.
It also happens to be the most northerly and the warmest. It's therefore unsurprising that many Aussie visitors, drawn in by the charm of New Zealand, make this gem at the tip of North Island their base. But it's a surprisingly big city, running some 20 kilometres north-to-south, east-to-west, with a variety of districts. That makes choosing a hotel here a bit of a challenge – but also gives you the opportunity to find the locale to suit you.
The hub of Auckland faces onto Waitemata Harbour, along the famed water-fronting skyline of the CBD (Central Business District). Its shining towers are where New Zealand's biggest businesses and banks once ruled the roost. But now this area has taken on a more cultured edge, and many of its glittering buildings are home to galleries, museums and luxury hotels. The best accommodation in Auckland can be found along the harbour-front, with its fabulous views.
There are lots of other lodging options to choose from, though, in the centre of town. Family hotels, quality serviced-apartments, and accommodation for the business traveller are all here. Further back from the harbour you can also find some lower-cost budget hotels and B&Bs.
Another district with an inner-city buzz is Newmarket-Rumuera, just south of the CBD. This is where the self-confessed 'Jafas' of Auckland come to shop, as well as to be entertained. It has several large, modern hotels, some perfectly located to indulge in retail therapy. And being so close to the CBD means that Rumuera hotels are great for business travellers, too.
A bit less brash and bold is Parnell, reckoned to be the oldest district in Auckland. It also has some of its finest shopping, and many boutique cultural attractions. The hotels here are often boutique too, being smaller and more personable than in the CBD. Some are still top-notch (with prices to match) but many of Parnell's family hotels are less expensive, especially compared to the high-flying centre of town.
To get a different perspective on Auckland, try heading to the North Shore. The hotels here offer great views back across Waitemata Harbour, and its skyline dominated by the needle of the Sky Tower. There's a good mix of family, mid-range and luxury hotels, some close to the friendly beach villages of Takapuna and Devonport.
For all its natural splendour – and its famed green volcanic cones, like Mount Eden – Auckland is still a crowded, bustling city. But around its margins, it opens out into some breath-taking scenery. A great example is Waiheke Island. Here you'll find small-scale lodgings, beach-side hotels and intriguing guest-houses among the fine wineries and farms of this rural idyll – all just a short boat ride from the glitter of Auckland.