South Pacific

Auckland, New Zealand’s City of Sails

Devonport, Auckland City | Photo credit: Tourism New Zealand (www.newzealand.com)

As one of the few cities in the world that can boast of having two natural harbours, it’s no surprise that Auckland is known as the City of Sails. With so much water around, sailing is a big part of life for many locals, and rumour has it there are more boats per resident here than anywhere else in the world – estimates suggest a staggering 80,000 are moored in the area.

Auckland’s location really is stunning. Situated on a narrow isthmus on New Zealand’s North Island, it overlooks Waitemata Harbour to the north and Manukau Harbour to the south. Flanked by two great bodies of water – the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea – it’s small wonder maritime activities play a large role in life here. But be you a sailor or landlubber … there’s much more to see and do in Auckland …

Although not the capital of New Zealand – that role falls to the smaller city of Wellington further south – Auckland is the country’s largest city. The metropolitan area is home to around 10 per cent of the entire population of New Zealand, while the region as a whole houses around 30 per cent of the isalnders of New Zealand. And with immigration and birth rates on the up, it’s still growing.

This multicultural city is also where you’ll find one of New Zealand’s largest indigenous Maori populations – around one in seven people can claim some kind of Maori ancestry.

The continued growth of the city’s population is great news for visitors, as it’s causing an explosion of development. Waterfront areas that have lain dormant for decades are being rejuvenated into vibrant public recreational areas, and a host of new businesses are opening up in the city centre. Combined with its beautiful natural surroundings and laidback lifestyle, this makes Auckland an ideal starting point for any trip to New Zealand, or a great getaway in its own right.

Did You Know?

  • The Maori name for New Zealand is Aotearoa, which means the Land of the Long White Cloud.
  • The Maori name for Auckland is Tāmaki-makau-rau.
  • Auckland has the largest Polynesian population of any city in the world.
  • Although its population count is a fraction of the size, geographically Auckland is not much smaller than London in the UK, covering 1,000sq km.
  • Auckland straddles the volcanoes of the Auckland Volcanic Field. The approximately 50 volcanic vents in the field take the form of cones, lakes, lagoons, islands and depressions, and several have produced extensive lava flows.

How to Get Here

American's Cup Sailing Experience, Auckland | Photo credit: Tourism New Zealand/Kieran Scott (kieran@kieranscott.co.nz)

Auckland Airport (AKL) is the largest and busiest airport in New Zealand with over 13 million (some 7 million international and 6 million domestic) passengers a year. The airport is in Mangere, a western suburb of Manukau City, and is 21 km south of Auckland City centre.

There are several ways to get to Auckland from the airport … Airbus Express A bus service for travellers to Auckland’s Central Business District and Downtown Ferry Terminal from and to Auckland Airport departs every fifteen minutes. This service also stops outside the Mt Eden train station in both directions. Reservations are not required and tickets are sold by the driver.

Pacific Coachlines Manukau to Airport 380 There is a half hourly bus service to Manukau city centre from and to Auckland Airport and the Airport Shopping Centre, seven days a week. This service operates between 4.15 AM from Manukau and the last bus leaves the Airport Shopping Centre at 11:30 PM.  This service connects with the Papatoetoe train station in both directions. Reservations are not required and tickets are sold by the driver.

Stagecoach Botany/Pakuranga to Airport These services operate to Botany from and to Auckland Airport five days a week. The first bus leaves Botany at 6.10 AM and the last bus leaves the Airport at 5:45 PM. Reservations are not required and tickets are sold by the driver.

Shuttle buses A number of shuttle buses are available from the bus shuttle rank which is accessible through Door 11 in the arrivals area, Jean Batten International Terminal.  They also operate outside the Air New Zealand and Qantas domestic terminals.

Taxis are available for all arriving and departing flights from both the international and domestic terminals. Taxis ranks are situated at the western side of the Jean Batten International Terminal and in front of the Air New Zealand and Qantas domestic terminals.

A number of national and local car rental firms maintain counters outside the Arrivals area.

New Zealand Dollar

The most convenient way to access cash in local currency is to use a debit or credit card in an ATM in New Zealand. All banks have ATMs accessible 24-hours a day, generally outside the branch or in the foyer.You might be charged a fee by your bank, and you may need a new PIN number, so contact your bank or credit card company before you travel to make sure you’ll be able to access your account.

For locations of ATMs you can visit these VISA and MasterCard Web sites.

Travellers cheques are becoming less popular in New Zealand. If you do use travellers cheques, take cheques in NZ$ not Canadian or US funds. Travellers cheques can be exchanged for cash at banks, exchange houses and large hotels, or used to settle accounts in some, but by no means all, retail or dining establishments.

Credit cards are accepted in most establishments in New Zealand. Be aware you may be charged a fee to use credit cards abroad, and you should let your issuing company know what countries you are travelling to, as their fraud departments can sometimes freeze cards used in foreign countries.

What will the seasonal weather be like?

New Zealand is in the Southern Hemisphere so summer is from December to February, while winter falls in June, July and August.

Auckland has a warm-temperate climate, with warm, humid summers and mild, damp winters. It is the warmest main centre of New Zealand and is also one of the sunniest, with an average of 2060 sunshine hours per annum. The average daily maximum temperature is around 23 C in February, and 14 C in July. High levels of rainfall occur almost year-round with an average of 1240 mm per year. On July 27, 1939 Auckland received its only recorded snowfall.

Rainfall is common throughout the country and provides New Zealand its lush, green countryside.
Be aware that the weather can change unexpectedly, even in summer, so be prepared if you’re heading off on an outdoor adventure.

Getting Around

Catch a ferry | Photo credit: Tourism New Zealand/Rob Suisted (www.naturespic.com)

Buses, trains and ferries together service the city of Auckland. Several bus companies operate services that will take you practically anywhere and everywhere a visitor would want to go. You’re most likely to use The Link bus, which runs in a circular route through all the neighbourhoods of interest, including Parnell, Newmarket and Ponsonby. You can catch The Link on Queen Street in the city – watch out for its bright green livery. There are several buses each hour on weekdays, and one every 15 minutes on week nights and weekends. There is also a free City Circle bus that loops around the city centre every 10 minutes linking Viaduct Harbour, Sky City and Auckland University. This bright red environmentally friendly bus runs from 8 AM to 6 PM, seven days a week.

Auckland has a fairly extensive rail system that connects the city centre with the suburbs. The Britomart station at the bottom of Queen Street is the heart of the system. Ten trip tickets can also be purchased at a discount at certain outlets around the city.

You’ll need to take a ferry to certain points of interest, such as Waiheke Island in the Hauraki Gulf. A range of ferry services leave from the wharf at the bottom of Quay Street. Fullers Ferries run the most number of services.

As in any major city, taxis are common in Auckland. Several companies operate services. Only ever get into a licensed taxi, which should have a meter running. You can flag taxis in the street, or call private hire car companies to arrange a pick-up time and location.

If you want to rent a car, free city maps are available from a car rental agency or the Tourism Auckland Visitor Information Centre at the airport, SKYCITY or Princes Wharf, but, investing in a handheld GPS system featuring turn-by-turn voice directions could be invaluable. GPS systems today also feature points of interest that are nearby your location, and many other features that will provide a level of confidence while navigating in a foreign country.

What not to miss …

World Heritage Site(s)

Rangitoto Island | Photo credit: Jason Pratt

Heritage is our legacy from the past, what we live with today, and what we pass on to future generations. Our cultural and natural heritages are both irreplaceable sources of life and inspiration.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), seeks to encourage the identification, protection and preservation of cultural and natural heritage around the world. There are currently three World Heritage Sites in New Zealand.

Auckland has been captivating to travellers for 800 years. 

New Zealand’s indigenous people, the Maori, called this land “Tamaki Makau Rau”, a maiden with 100 lovers. It was a place desired by many and fought over for its riches, including its forested hills, productive volcanic soils and harbours full of seafood. The first sailors to settle here were the Maori, and in later years migrants from the Pacific Islands have contributed to the Polynesian population. You can take a walk through the city with a guide from the local iwi (tribe), visit museums, or wander through the weekend markets at Otara and Avondale for the flavours, sounds and sights of the South Pacific.

Created in 1845, Auckland Domain is the city’s oldest, largest and most attractive park, with semi-formal gardens, a sculpture walk, pathways and ponds, a winter garden with cool and tropical houses, and the Fernz Fernery, with over 100 types of fern. The 202-acre domain is situated on an extinct volcano, known as pukekawa or ‘hill of bitter memories’. Within the domain is the Auckland Museum, the city’s most visited attraction, combining its Greco-Roman style architecture with a contemporary take on the presentation of the displays. The exhibits include various interactive and audiovisual components. The museum also houses one of New Zealand’s most important collections of Maori and South Pacific artefacts, and the Manaia cultural performances of song, heralded by a conch blast that reverberates through the museum during scheduled times of the day.

The ever-expanding city centre with its eye-catching skyline is easily explored on foot, starting with the waterfront, which epitomises the lively feel of the ‘City of Sails’. Should you be inclined, you can stop in at the National Maritime Museum and the America’s Cup Village. The museum pays homage to the debt an island nation owes to its maritime history. It covers almost a millennium of history – from the arrival of Maori and then European settlers, to the 2000 America’s Cup. Displays also deal with navigation skills, whaling, sealing and other fishing activities, the first freezer ships to export farm produce (sheep and dairy products) to Europe and the invention of the jet boat. Visitors can see historical boats, make their own model boats and take a trip out into Auckland Harbour. The one-hour guided cruises on the Ted Ashby, a replica of one of the traditional, flat-bottomed, ketch-rigged scows that once worked the North Island tidal waterways, sails Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays at 1200 and 1400. The America’s Cup is the world’s oldest and most prestigious sporting trophy and ultimate yachting regatta. Usually the domain of billionaires and elite professional yachties, NZL 40 and NZL 41 offer the unique opportunity for anyone to sail on these sleek sailing machines. There are two sailing options available. You can choose to join a two hour sailing experience or a three hour match race (When available).

The Auckland Art Gallery is the largest art institution in the country and houses a vast collection of more than 12,500 national and international artworks. The Main Gallery, which opened in 1888, was the first permanent art gallery in New Zealand, and was joined by the New Gallery in 1995. A special draw is the large collection of works by Māori and Pacific Island artists, as well as European works dating from 1376.

Sky Tower New Zealand’s tallest building stands 328m high in the centre of Auckland, dominating the skyline in the same way as Toronto’s CN Tower. A lift service takes 40 seconds to whizz visitors to the first observation platforms. From here, the views are breathtaking enough but even more so from the very top level, from where visitors can look out over the harbour as well as the city. The tower is one part of the Sky City complex – a casino with cafes, bars and a restaurant. Visitors should note that anyone spending a minimum amount dining here receives a free pass to the very top of the tower to the crows nest or Sky Deck, a further 50m up.

An experience not to be missed is the Auckland Harbour Bridge climb. The climb takes you up, around, under and over this historic landmark along a network of specially designed walkways until you are 67m in the air, with the glistening harbour below. An experienced guide leads each climb and tells you all sorts of information about the history of the structure and the city, including secrets and snippets not available in your average guide book. If you’ve got plenty of time or you’re not sure of your fitness levels, take the 1.5 hour tour that gets you – gently – to the top. If you want more of a challenge, choose the Highlights Climb for a quicker, more action-packed adventure. If that’s still not enough of a thrill, sign up for the Bridge Bungy and hurl yourself off the landmark at 40m. You can even opt to have your head dipped in the harbour if you choose. Note Children 7 and younger cannot climb.

Or, how about standing in the crater of a volcano? You can visit any number of volcanic cones located throughout the Auckland area. Rangitoto Island is a volcanic island in the Hauraki Gulf near Auckland. The 5.5 km wide island is an iconic and widely visible landmark of Auckland with its distinctive symmetrical volcano cone rising 260 metre high over the Hauraki Gulf. Rangitoto is the most recent and the largest of the approximately 50 volcanoes of the Auckland Volcanic Field. Mount Eden is a volcanic cone with a grassy crater. As the highest natural point in Auckland City, it offers 360-degree views of Auckland and is a favourite city outlook. Mount Victoria in North Shore City offers a spectacular view of Auckland. A brisk walk from the Devonport ferry terminal, the cone is steeped in history, as is nearby North Head. One Tree Hill dominates the skyline in the southern, inner suburbs. It no longer has a tree on the summit but is still crowned by an obelisk.

If you are looking for a few moments of tranquility, then visit Ayrlies, which is a garden masterpiece situated in the gently rolling countryside of Whitford. The country garden was sculptured from bare paddocks in 1964, and has been developed into a majestic garden combining temperate and subtropical plants, mature trees, waterfalls and views to the sea. Either stroll through Ayrlies at your leisure or bring along a picnic and find a private spot to relax in the garden surrounds.

Considered by many to be the most magical part of the Auckland experience, Waiheke Island is easily accessed by ferry. When you arrive on the island, you can pick up a rental car, taxi or take a tour and visit some of the beautiful beaches and native forest reserves, which harmonise delightfully with the cafes, vineyards, olive groves and art studios. Waiheke Island is in the Hauraki Gulf of New Zealand 17.7 km (about 35 minutes by ferry) from Auckland.

For the kids …

Auckland Sky Tower | Photo credit: Jorge Andrade

Howick Historical Village, just a few kilometres from the city, is a fascinating place. Head here to learn all about the history of Auckland and its early European settlers. This living museum is a collection of more than 30 colonial buildings and the cottages look as though they’re still lived in. Costumed staff make you feel as if you really have stepped back in time.

Kelly Tarlton’s Antarctic Encounter and Underwater World is a winter wonderland of snow and ice – built completely underground. You can join the Antarctic Encounter and visit a life-sized replica of explorer Captain Scott’s hut, then board a snowcat that will transport you to a white wilderness where penguins roam. Next, head to the Underwater World and journey through a clear tunnel as hundreds of fascinating sea creatures float above you in 200 million litres of ocean water.

If you have the nerve … New Zealand’s Highest Jump! You, and / or your kids, can leap off Auckland’s famous Sky Tower – 192 metres straight down! SkyJump is one of New Zealand’s most thrilling attractions and one of Auckland City’s ‘don’t miss!” experiences. SkyJump can be described as Base Jumping while attached to a wire – just like a movie stuntman. You’ll fall very fast (Approximately 85kph) for around 11 seconds, and then come to a very smooth landing in the plaza below.

If you haven’t as yet seen a kiwi, you will at the Auckland Zoo. Almost 1,000 creatures from around the world are housed at this forward-looking zoo, which tries to place the animals in surroundings that closely recreate their natural environment. New Zealand’s native species, such as the Tuatara, the most famous national lizard-cum-dinosaur, are well represented. There is also a large walk-through aviary. The rainforest is very popular. Here, monkeys and apes, parrots, spiders and other rainforest creatures can be seen in their natural habitat. Pridelands is an area that is home to the animals of Africa, including lions, rhinos and giraffes, while Hippo River allows very close-up views of hippopotami.

About Shopping

Frequently voted ‘Best Shopping Precinct’ by locals, the suburb of Newmarket is where the style-conscious go to browse boutique stores and find the latest fashions from international designers and home-grown talent. Bustling Broadway is the main strip of glitz and glamour, while the back streets hide a multitude of stores bursting with one-off clothing and gift ideas. Nuffield Street has everything you’d expect to find on a city high street, plus much more. There’s also the nearby Two Double Seven shopping mall. Shoe lovers be warned – Newmarket has the highest concentration of shoe shops in the country!

Queen Street, which stretches from Customs Street down near the wharf through the heart of the city, is the main shopping area in Auckland. This is where you’ll find all the usual suspects, plus heaps of stores you’ll only find in New Zealand. The Westfield shopping mall is at the bottom end of Queen Street, not far from the water.

If you love the sounds, scents and colours a good market provides, head to Aotea Square on a Friday or Saturday. Thanks to its exciting mix of tasty organic food, and exquisite Pacific Island arts and unique fashions by up-and-coming designers, it’s one of Auckland’s favourite markets. So whether you’re looking for Maori wood carvings, one-of-a-kind pieces of jewellry or just a delicious lunch, you’ll find it at Aotea.

For shopping and history side by side, visit the Victoria Park Market. Built 100 years ago, this former rubbish destructor has been transformed into a unique shopping environment with more than 85 shops, cafes and restaurants. The heritage building, which is the oldest industrial Victorian building left in the country, is a short stroll from the city centre.

Auckland after dark …

It’s always fun to go out on the town in a ‘new town’. And in Auckland, there is always somewhere to go, especially if you enjoy the performing arts. The Auckland performing arts scene is vibrant and can best be described as a cultural melting pot. When you are in town you can check listings to see what’s on at a number of theatres. One of the centres of Auckland cultural life is The Edge, a conglomeration of buildings around the junctions of Queen Street, Wellesley Street West, Albert Street and Mayoral Drive. The Auckland Civic Theatre, which was renovated in 2000, is a famous heritage atmospheric theatre. The Auckland Town Hall, built in 1911, is considered to have some of the finest acoustics in the world. The Auckland Philharmonia performs mainly at the Auckland Town Hall. Behind the Town Hall, the Aotea Centre has main and small stages, for drama, music, ballet and opera.

Auckland may not be New York or Paris but it has its share of night entertainment. The waterfront is where many of the smarter venues are, in particular around the America’s Cup Village and the Princes Wharf development.

High Street, to the south of Queen’s Wharf, also has good bars, including some with live music, and there are a number of excellent clubs in the immediate suburbs, particularly along Karangahape Road, or in Ponsonby and Parnell.

With the city’s British-influenced past, it is not surprising that there are numerous British-style bars in Auckland.

Auckland’s SKYCITY Casinos is the largest in New Zealand. This vast expanse of gaming tables is where you can try your luck. The upmarket Alto Casino & Bar, on the third level, is much more stylish and intimate, and Bar 3 is popular with locals. The casino has live music and there is a strict dress code.

Sports / Outdoor Adventure

North Harbor Stadium, Auckland | Photo credit: Tourism New Zealand/Julia Thorne (www.photonewzealand.com)

If you enjoy being on the water, it would be a shame to visit the City of Sails and not breeze across its harbours on a yacht. You can sign up for one of the many sailing experiences available. A favourite is the Ultimate America’s Cup Experience, where you help crew on a million-dollar yacht that has actually sailed in the great race. You can even join a harbour race and experience the thrill of it all yourself.

One of the best ways by which you can pay tribute to the thriving spirit of the City of Sails is by taking to the water. With a geography that allows you to temp, – or just enjoy nature in its most engaging aspect is by trying out the variety of water sports in Auckland.

Whether you are a serious player on the waters, or are just a visitor, there are surf tours, schools and camps all over the city to provide you a water sporting experience. For one of the best experiences in boating as a water sport, take a trip on the tall ship, the Soren Larsen, a square-rigged 19th century brigantine beauty with 12 sails.

If you want to go for a good surf (less than 50 kilometres from the city), try the Te Henga or Bethells Beach on the west coast where the water is often rough. Other beaches have their own surf clubs and lifeguards.

Water Sports in Auckland is the experience of feeling the sun on your face, catching some breathtaking scenery and a taste of genuine Kiwi culture.

Kiwis love their rugby. Even those New Zealanders not into sport will take an interest when the mighty All Blacks are playing, and if the national team is unfortunate enough to lose, the entire country goes into mourning. To see where the fearsome warriors play in Auckland, sign up for a tour of Eden Park. It takes you behind the scenes of this world-famous stadium, which is a short distance from the centre, near Mt Eden. If you’re lucky enough to score tickets to a game, you’ll get to see the All Blacks perform their famous haka before the match.

Kiwis love their cricket also, and it’s a big occasion when they play Australia, their closest rivals. The New Zealand national team is known as the Black Caps and is one of the top teams in the world. They play at Eden Park during the summer months.

Local Customs and Etiquette

As a rule Kiwis are a laid-back, friendly bunch. You’ll probably hear the phrase “How’s it going bro?” between friends and strangers alike, and if something’s good it’s often described as “sweet as”. Don’t be alarmed if you see two people pressing noses in the street – it’s a traditional Maori greeting.
New Zealanders tend to be outgoing and often express an interest in overseas visitors. It’s hard to offend a Kiwi, unless you see them as a second-class Aussie – there’s great rivalry between the two nations, particularly in the sporting arena.

A fairly liberal, forward-thinking country – New Zealand gave women the right to vote back in 1893 – most Kiwi etiquette rules relate to issues of equality. There is little class structure and not much racial tension between the many different ethnic groups.

Most Kiwis are very environmentally conscious and treat their land with a sense of respect that stems from the traditional Maori view that everything in nature has a life force. Damaging that life force hurts both the object and the offender. Actions that flaunt this belief are frowned upon.

Tipping is not expected in New Zealand. If you have received good service at a restaurant and want to show appreciation, five to 10 per cent of the bill is fine. There is no need to tip for every drink you order in a pub, although some bartenders in the flashier joints will try and encourage this by placing your change on a tray. If you don’t tip, it doesn’t usually affect how quickly you get served.

Above all, New Zealanders are honest and open, and appreciate the same from you.

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