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An Auckland city guide: Maori history, village vineyards and an impressive coastline

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Whether you prefer to spend your time bird watching or bush walking; shopping or surfing, the diversity of Auckland guarantees that any break here will be spent doing something you love. The region’s main draw has to be its spectacular natural beauty – the deserted islands and beaches, the cinematic Waitakere Ranges – but Auckland’s archeological sites, lush vineyards and city sophistication make it a must-visit destination.

Mike Watt

My Destination local expert on

Auckland (NZ)

History and heritage

 

The Auckland region is stuffed with cultural heritage, from the mountains to the museums. Explore the area’s Maori past at the fascinating archeological sites of Mangere Mountain and the Otuataua Stonefields, or head to the city suburb of Tamaki for tribal tours that include ancient storytelling and the chance to paddle a Maori-style canoe. Both city and country offer different realms of history; explore the restored Howick Historical Village in East Auckland, visit Stony Batter WW2 fort on Waiheke Island, and don’t miss the Auckland War Memorial Museum in the suburb of Parnell.

 

Beaches and islands

 

Auckland is dominated by a magnificent coastline; craggy cliffs, deserted sweeps of golden beach and a scattering of enticing islands in the Hauraki Gulf. Auckland’s northern beaches offer a multitude of activities from swimming to kayaking, while Piha Beach and Muriwai Beach on the west coast offer some of the country’s top surf spots. The Pohutukawa Coast is another highlight, with sheltered white sand beaches that bloom with flame-red flowers in summer. In the gulf, the vineyard-strewn Waiheke Island is a popular choice, while the marine reserve of Goat Island is easily accessed, boasting aquamarine coves and idyllic diving spots.

 

Rural towns and villages

 

The charming seaside village of Devonport is one of the city’s closest retreats – a mere 12 minute ferry from Downtown Auckland. Here, find immaculate historic buildings and creative shops and boutiques - don’t forget to sample treats from one of the famous chocolatiers. Further north, Puhoi Village is famous for its cheese and offers real insight into what it was like to live in old New Zealand. In East Auckland, the village of Clevedon offers a pick of the best local crafts and produce at Clevedon Farmer’s Market and Clevedon Village Market, while Kumeu in the west offers Auckland’s oldest winery, several vibrant galleries and the popular Honey Centre nearby.

 

City attractions

 

Even if you don’t make it outside the city, there is still plenty to explore. Your first stop should be the iconic Sky Tower, where the most adventurous can try the death-defying SkyJump. Don’t have a head for heights? Check out Viaduct Harbour, the city’s sophisticated waterfront – packed with classy restaurants, trendy bars and the Voyager Maritime Museum. For even more culture, head to Toi o Tamaki – Auckland’s vibrant art gallery – or combine fresh air and adventure at Auckland Zoo or in the natural greenery of Cornwall Park, home to the Stardome Observatory and Planetarium.

 

Wildlife watching

 

Get the binoculars out – Auckland is a bird watcher’s paradise! The islands of the Hauraki Gulf are prime spots, particularly Tiritiri Matangi Island, an open wildlife sanctuary bursting with birdsong and native species. If feathery creatures aren’t your thing, marvel at some of Auckland’s lively marine life on a Whale and Dolphin Safari, or take in a variety of ocean dwellers at Kelly Tarlton’s Sea Life Aquarium. Exciting encounters can also be had at South Auckland’s Butterfly Creek, which hosts giant saltwater crocodiles, tropical butterflies and the native giant wetapunga – the world’s heaviest insect.