Auckland, The City of Sails as it’s been nicknamed is a hub of culture, food & incredible views. One of New Zealand’s largest cities with over 1.5 million people calling it home. When you ask people who have visited New Zealand and which of the cities where they’re favourite you’re likely to find yourself in a heated debate with them (North VS South). While all of New Zealand is absolutely breathtaking, Auckland as a city definitely encompasses a lot of what makes New Zealand great. The food, the culture, the history & the people. All of these things together create an incredible place to learn about the mystical history of Maori culture, indulge in some of the world’s best restaurants and be gifted with views that you’ve only ever dreamed of before. Volcanoes invite you to hike them, the ocean begs for you to swim, kayak or surf it’s waves, it’s lush forests scream to be enjoyed all throughout the year and its people will make you feel like you’re at home. After calling this city home for a year during my Working Holiday it’s about time I shared some of my absolute favourites with you!
Get beached - are you having trouble envisioning yourself finding any beaches worth your while in a city such as this? Well never fear, one of the best beaches in Auckland is only a walk, bike ride or rollerblade away. There are dozens of rental companies to go through to rent your fear if you’re without it, but my all time favourite way to get there was strolling from the city along the water all the way out to Mission Beach & onwards to St-Heliers (there is a city bus as well that goes that direction from the Auckland Ferry Terminal). You’ll find tons of restaurants, cafes & bars lining the strip infant of the water, a huge park and the cutest little houses. Whatever brings you to the beach, you’ll always have a great view, and better yet stick around for sunset & you’ll be even more impressed.
If you’ve got a car, or a little more time on transit head out to these North Shore beaches to get you fix of lush walking paths & white sand before jumping into lovely blue sea, Long Bay, Brown’s Bay, Mairangi Bay & Takapuna Beach are just a few. If you’re looking for something a bit more active than sunning yourself then definitely call up Sarah from Girls Get Out There NZ to book A SUP (stand up paddle board) trip. I got the chance to take part in the beginners class at Takapuna beach (through a Groupon Deal) and loved every minute of it!
While I do love white sand, there’s something to be said for the incredible black sand beaches that exist in the World, and none more impressive than those of Auckland’s West Coast. Starting with Piha Beach - 40 km from the city centre this is one of the most famous surf beaches near the city. One of my absolute favourite spots for me while I was living in Auckland was this beach. I experienced it on a sunny blue bird day, a torrential downpour where some friends & I nearly got washed away, and at sunset after an epic storm, and at no time was I ever disappointed with the views. And also an epic starting point to hit up 2 more awesome beaches as you head further North - Bethells Beach followed by Muriwai Beach. Muriwai is home to a nesting colony of nearly 1200 gannets and the walking trails here are awesome no matter the weather (think storm chasing in the winter), Bethells is one of the biggest beaches (sand per sq ft) I’ve ever seen and although it was winter when I visited it looked like the perfect spot to post up with your friends&fam for a long summer day of footy on the beach!
(1. Piha 2. Muriwai 3. Bethells)
Moving on from the beaches to the great outdoors & the walking tracks that New Zealand is famous for. Right smack in the city is one of my all time favourite views of Auckland from above at Mount Eden Domain & One Tree Hill. Mt. Eden is a dormant volcano and is the highest natural point in the city so you can imagine the views are fantastic! You’ll encounter lots of sheep and rabbits along the way & surely be taken aback by the lush green of the landscape. When you reach the top you’ll be at One Tree Hill (unrelated to the show I’ll add) and have epic views from there as well. I’ll let these views speak for themselves though….
Once you’ve had your fill of city views, you might be seeking a bit more nature. Well in that case look no further than 25 minutes outside the city centre and you’ll find yourself at The Waitakere Ranges Visitor Center. Lush rainforests, impressive cliffs and local history and cultural exhibits are just some of the things you’ll find along the walks & in the centre itself. Plus these awesome photo op frames will make for the perfect souvenir.
Volcanoes are not impossible to find in New Zealand, and within 25 minutes from Auckland Ferry terminal you’ll find yourself at the base of one - Rangitoto. A 2,5 km track will lead you up to the summit where the views will make you feel like you’re in a tropical paradise. And if you want to get there on your own arm power, then check out Auckland Sea Kayaks for their trips out to Rangitoto, especially the sunset summit cruise. Ferry timetables and ticket prices can be found here.
(Photo credit for images 1&2 to @stevecpinnell )
While you’re at the Ferry terminal it might be worth picking up some extra tickets to get to Waiheke Island. Why you might ask? Well wine & beaches of course! 2 things that you shouldn’t miss out on when you’re in Auckland. Some amazing wineries are set on Waiheke and the atmosphere will make the perfect place for a day out soaking in the views & tasting some of the best wine you’ll ever have (in my opinion). A few worth checking out are; Cable Bay, Mudbrick, Man O’War & Stonyridge. Great tour options always seem to be up for grabs on Grabone or Groupon so check those out to make the most of you day. If wine isn’t your thing, then never fear, pick up a bike and beach hop for the day. Whatever you’re after you’ll be sure to find it on Waiheke.
The next “island”, and my favourite of the bunch, that I’d suggest you check out would be Devonport. I say “island” because technically Devonport is landlocked and you can drive there, but the ferry always seems to be faster (aka no traffic on the open water right?). With the best views of Auckland city (in my opinion of course but you’ll probably agree) from Mount Victoria, and sunset views that could make anyones heart skip a beat, this Harbourside suburb is a must visit. Home to the base of the Royal New Zealand Navy there are lots of left over military tunnels and canons at North Head that are definitely worth checking out.
If you prefer to get off dry land for a little while then there are a few different options to check out...
Sea Kayak with Auckland Sea Kayaks - With multiple different tour options ; Rangitoto sunset summit, Waiheke island, Riverhead, self guided or guided you’ll be sure to find one that suits everyone in your group. The city looks completely different from the water and feels even more magical!
Bungee Jumping with AJ Hackett Bungy - The Auckland Harbour Bridge is instantly seen when you’re by the water and is pretty impressive. Now what if I said you could jump off? Adrenaline junkies this is for you, the only ocean touch bungee experience in New Zealand and you’ll get a whole new view of this bridge as you’re dropping 40 meters! You may even get so lucky as to see pods of orcas while you wait to jump!
Jet boating with Auckland Jet Boating - 100% New Zealand owned & operated, the team at Auckland Jet Boats are amazing! While I actually never managed to get out there I had quite a few friends who did and one even worked for the team for a bit so I heard first hand what the experience was like and it’s definitely gone on my list when I get the chance to visit again.
Alright now I can’t leave this post without my favourite little spots within the main city centre and you should leave Auckland without experiencing even just a few of these spots! Silo Park Movies - While Silo Park is a pretty rad public park to be explored with lots of cool art, one of my favourite things to do when I lived in Auckland was get a group together on a weekend and check out the Silo Park Movies. New releases or golden oldies projected onto the silos, a totally different experience to a regular cinema. In the heart of summer there are also loads of food & drink trucks down there to grab a bite and watch the sunset before the movie starts.
If a classic cinematic experience is what you’re craving, or maybe the weather has taken a turn to the rainy then get yourselves down to Academy Cinemas. 2 different theatres give 2 totally different experiences, a 112 seater or a 16 seater you’ll have an intimate experience while you take in the awesomely curated films while indulging in sweet treats of a bevy or two throughout. And on Wednesday’s they have a deal where every movie all day is $5!
Home to the hostel I called home for just about half my time in Auckland (Ponsonby Backpackers), Ponsonby Road is a must visit for any trip to Auckland. The inner city suburb has gorgeous tree lined residential streets, and a Ponsonby road itself is home to some of the best eateries and bars in the city; Grand Central, The Little Easy, Chapel Bar & The LongRoom to name a few . Be sure to check out the boutiques and shops along the way before popping into my favourite pizza joint - Freeman & Grey for their delicious wood fired pizzas & tasty cocktails!
Food and Drink are definitely something to be enjoyed in Auckland and you’re choices are endless but here are a few honourable mentions for some of my favourite bars, cafes & restaurant to check out (restaurant details are linked in the restaurant names)
I never truly considered myself a 100% city mouse but living in Auckland I truly enjoyed all it had to offer, and when the mood struck me where I needed to ditch the city for a bit of nature I didn’t have to look very far. One of the very few places in the World I’ve ever seen myself living for a long time, it really does hold a special place in my soul and I’m always trying to let people know that Auckland is so much more than just a city. So if your future holds a trip to New Zealand be sure not to skip Auckland and all it has to offer!