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Your gateway to the South Pacific paradise, New Zealand's largest city nestled in the vast Hauraki Gulf; it harbours more sailboats than the eye can see. A city of commerce and industry where you can experience uncrowded beaches, rural countryside and forests. Population 1.32 million people.
The dominating feature of the Auckland cityscape are the graceful lines of the harbour bridge, the sparkling waters of Waitemata Harbour and Hauraki Gulf, and the brooding cone of Rangitoto Island - the last of the city's 48 volcanoes to erupt, just 600 years ago.
The America's Cup Village
Enjoy the highlights of Auckland's inner city life and the America's Cup Village. Catch a ferry, have a dinner cruise or stroll to any of the fantastic viaduct basin restaurants, cafes and nightclubs and enjoy excellent shopping.
Auckland's American Express Viaduct Harbour was miraculously spruced up for the 2000 America's Cup and now remains one of the city's highlights. Waterside restaurants and bars have sprouted up next to rows of modern apartments. Across the water, on the western side of the basin, is Syndicate Row, where all of the America's Cup syndicates work and shelter their racing yachts. It is also the largest super-yacht marina in the Southern Hemisphere.
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Sports to see:
International Rugby Union
Sailing races and competitions
Boasting over 400 lush, green, un-crowded and beautifully maintained courses, set amidst the most magnificent and dramatic panoramas in the world, New Zealand truly is a golfer's paradise. Between its two major islands and what is probably the most incredible range of terrain - much of it on the hilly side of topography - New Zealand is one of the few countries that can emulate the demanding Scottish links.
Known as the city of sails, Auckland is reputed to have more boats per capita than any other city in the world. The Annual Regatta, held every Auckland Anniversary weekend, is a sailboat spectacular. For visitors wanting to experience the harbour or visit its islands, several options are available, including a short ferry trip to the attractive harbourside suburb of Devonport, lunch and dinner cruises, sailboat jaunts and cataraman excursions to the inner islands of the Hauraki Gulf. The nearest, Rangitoto, a perfectly symmetric volcanic cone out in the Gulf, has a hiking trail to the summit. Waiheke Island has great beaches, craft shops and excellent vineyards. Pakatoa is an informal motel-style resort, while farthest out is the large Great Barrier Island where you need to set aside a few days to explore the forest trials.
Shop, dine and sample
Specialist shopping can be found in the surrounding inner-city suburbs, such as Broadway Street in Newmarket wiith its chic, shiny boutiques and stores; the restored colonial villas of Parnell Village offer craft shops and boutiques rubbing shoulders with numerous cafes and restaurants; or try Devonport Village and Ponsonby.
The dedicated shopper should also explore the Viaduct Quay, (America Cup Village) the Chinese market with its exotic wares and eateries and the bustling Victoria Park Market with stalls offering every imaginable craft, along with interesting cafes. Auckland has developed a reputation for fresh and innovative cuisine. Restaurants are mostly in the interesting older inner-city suburbs such as Ponsonby and Parnell and on the downtown waterfront and in seaside suburbs such as Mission Bay and St Heliers which specialize in local seafood and delicacies.
The West Auckland vineyards, where you can sample some of New Zealand's international prize-winning wines, are no more than a 30 minute drive from downtown hotels. Tours can be arranged.
The art of Auckland city
The Auckland Museum, an imposing neo-classical building set on a hill in the Domain, has the world's largest collection of Maori and other Polynesian artifacts. The Pounamu Maori Cultural Group performs here daily at 11:15 AM and 1:30 PM. There is also a short tour of the Maori exhibits 45 minutes prior to these times. Downtown, the Auckland City Art Gallery has the country's largest collection of the famous Goldie paintings of the Maori, as well as famous European artists.
Private art collections include the James Wallace Gallery of New Zealand art at the Custom House and Te Taumata Maori Gallery and shops at the Finance Plaza, Queen Street. The Hobson Wharf Maritime Museum on the city waterfront has displays and artifacts depicting local and New Zealand maritime history.
Several historic homes dating back to the middle of the last century have been maintained in their original condition - Alberton Homestead, Ewleme Cottage and Highwic House are open for inspection and Howick Colonial Village in the eastern suburb of Howick depicts life in the last century.
From February each year, there is likely to be live theatre, a show or concert or perhaps a ballet performance coinciding with your visit. The Auckland Philharmonic Orchestra performs every few weeks and the world class New Zealand Syphony Orchestra plays regularly. The Auckland Opera Company also mounts several productions per year.
Things to do
For a fascinating glimpse of local marine life, visit Kelly Tarlton's Underwater World at Orakei Wharf on scenic Tamaki Drive. Here moving walkways transport visitors through acrylic tunnels for underwater views of sharks, rays, colourful fish and other marine life. Antartic Encounter creates a realistic view of the frozen continent.
Across town, the Auckland Zoological Park has the largest collection of animals in the country and the walk through aviary of native New Zeland birds and plants is a must for every bird lover. Nearby Western Springs - is a haven for a wide variety of waterfowl and Murawai Beach on the west coast, north of the city, is home to a Gannet bird colony that can be viewed from the clifftop.
The Regional Botanic Gardens, 25 minutes south of the city at Manurewa, specialize in both local and foreign teperate and sub-tropical species. The Parnell Rose Gardens, the largest of the formal public gardens, are a spectacular blaze of colour frpm October to May when the thousands of roses are in bloom. Ten minutes from downtown Auckland are Eden Gardens, a private garden specializing in rhododendrons and camelias. You should also try their soothing Devonshire teas.
Only a block off Queen Street, the main downtown street, Albert Park is a green oasis in the central city. Above the waving palms you will glimpse the ornate towers of the university opposite. In the Auckland domain, a large park-like area of trees and playing fields, is an area of formal gardens adjacent to the Winter Gardens - glasshouses of tropical and sub-tropical plants. Of special interest to the children is Rainbow's End Amusement Park at Manakau City and the children's section of the Auckland Zoo at Western Springs.
Green forests and black sand
For an introduction to New Zealand's native forests, there's a scenic drive through the Waitakere Ranges in West Auckland from which you can gain an impression of how most of New Zealand once was before the forests were felled. From the impressive new Arataki visitor centre there are stunning vistas over both Manukua and Waitemata harbours. The centre also interprets New Zealand flora and fauna for visitors.
Auckland's twin harbour location provides it with too many beaches to mention, but generally, those on the west coast tend to have black sand and are ideal for surfing, with swimmers having to take care between the lifeguard's flags. The beaches on the east are calmer, with light coloured sand, are very safe for swimming and snorkelling. Perhaps best-known of these are Takapuna and Long Bay across the harbour on the North shore.
The Auckland Region
The region is divided in two by the city of Auckland which extends from coast to coast. The rolling farmlands north of the city provide some of the produce for the city. This area also provides plenty of opportunities for recreation. As you drive along Hwy 1 you pass the popular beach towns of Orewa and Waimera - around thirty miles/50 kms from Auckland - and the turn-off to Whangaparoa Peninsula, an attractive satellite of Auckland and location of the Shakespeare Regional Park.
At Waiwera one finds a complex of pools fed from local thermal springs with hotel, motel and campground accommodation. About 4 miles/ 7 km north of Waiwera is a signpost pointing to the Bavarian settlement of Puhoi where there is a historic village including a great little pub. Almost opposite, on Hwy 1, is a sign pointing to another of the regional parks, Mahurangi, an attractive recreation area and beach.
The two centres serving this area are Warkworth, 42 miles/68 km from Auckland and Wellsford (55 miles/88km). Warkworth has a historic settlement with craft stores. The town is also a base for the Mansion House, Kuwau Island boat trip from nearby Leigh.
Its a day round trip from Auckland to Wellsford and to Helensville, down Hwy 16 that skirts the west coast Kaipara Harbour. From Helensville, its about 16 miles/25 km to the first of the West Auckland vineyards around Huapai and Kumeu and further on, the Henderson Valley. On the way are turn-offs to those wild west coast beaches - Murawai, Bethells and Piha - which if you are a surfie, are a must visit.
Looking across the Hauraki Gulf from Auckland, the north of the Coromandel Peninsula can be seen as a line of blue humps on the horizon. Nearly half of the peninsula is in the care of the Dept of Conservation, including the Hahei Marine Reserve, protecting the magnificent Cathedral Cove Coasts and the forest-clad volcanic hills of the interior where ancient giant kauri trees have survived the milling of earlier times.
The Coromandel is a favourite vacation spot for New Zealanders. Quiet, rustic and just off the beaten track. It lacks the commercial development of some international vacation areas. Hotels, motor inns and "bed & breakfast" guest-houses are generally smaller, more intimate and most likely used by New Zealanders, giving visitors the opportunity to meet, mingle and wine and dine with the locals. The east coast beaches such as Hot water Beach are idyllic and uncrowded.
Recreation options, both guided or independent, include coastal walks to secluded beaches, overnight hikes into the hills, sea kayaking, dolphin sightseeing trips, charter boat excursions and big game fishing.
There is a city and suburban bus network. You can rent compact motor-homes and there are many coach tours emanating from Auckland. To get about New Zealand, a Travel Pass is offered that embraces Intercity coach, NZ Rail, and Cook Strait Ferries. Multi day passes are available. A combination of rental vehicle/inclusive coach tours is the most practical choice.
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SUGGESTED ADD-ON TOURS
America's Cup Village
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