The biggest city on New Zealand’s North Island, Auckland is more than just a stunning metropolis with great places to explore, shop and eat. It’s also a great base from which to discover the captivating natural landscape of the wider region, with a beautiful pristine coastline on one side of the city and mountains on the other.
To the south-west of Auckland, you’ll find the Hauraki Gulf, while to the west you can explore the rainforest of the Waitakere Ranges. Head for downtown Auckland’s Sky Tower and take a glass lift ride to the top so you can see it all for yourself from 220 metres above the ground.
Built on a range of extinct volcanoes, Auckland offers so much for visitors to explore. The suburb of Mount Eden lies on one side of a cinder-cone volcano; you can climb up the mountain to look down into its 50-metre-deep crater. The region’s volcanic soil, as well as the natural springs of the Pukekawa volcano, provide a great location for the flowers and greenery to flourish in the city’s oldest park, Auckland Domain.
At the Domain’s highest point, you’ll find the Auckland War Memorial Museum where you can learn more about the natural history of the region as well as the heritage of the Maori people. Take a trip elsewhere to the Auckland Zoo to see the iconic kiwi, as well as the many other kinds of animals among the 138 species of wildlife housed in its habitats.
At Viaduct Harbour you’ll see vessels large and small sailing on the water, with ferries departing here through the day for the islands in the Hauraki Gulf. From here, you can head to Waiheke Island just 40 minutes away (a great destination for hiking), enjoy some time on the beach, or sample some of the great food on offer.
Meanwhile, on the rising hills behind Auckland, you can explore miles of rainforest and coastal trails in the Waitakere Ranges, and get to camp out in the wilderness. If you’re a keen ‘tramper’ (as the New Zealanders call hikers), try the tough Hilary Trail which stretches for 75 kilometres and will give you a good four days’ walking. For a more sedate voyage, take a day trip through the ranges by car or bus.
It is easy to get around Auckland with buses, trains and ferries all available around the downtown area. The Explorer Bus is a great choice if you want to find out more about the sights of the city. Or if you want to go a little further afield, you can hire a car too.