Auckland is the gateway city to the incredible country of New Zealand. It may be far away, but that should only spur your desires to visit and immerse yourself sooner rather than later.
If there was an award for being the consummate hosts, the people of Auckland would surely be deserving. Each time I visit, there are smiling, helpful faces ready and eager to help you find that corner bar with the fantastic drinks or that local bistro specializing in fusion seafood that is as foreign as you could imagine, yet invitingly familiar enough to be called home. While there, check in to The Langham Auckland, Hilton or Crowne Plaza on the harbor’s shore or Hotel DeBrett for a more boutique experience.
Auckland is based around two harbors and you feel the water almost everywhere. Viaduct Harbour is the front and center water attraction that has restaurants, shops and museums so close, it seems like nothing to spend a day meandering along the shore and stopping into whatever store catches your curiosity. In my mind, top sights are the Sky Tower, for its fantastic view, the Auckland War Memorial Museum and Parks, the New Zealand Maritime Museum and the botanical gardens and art gallery. If you’re feeling hungry along the way check out Kazuya or Masu, which specialize in succulent Japanese fare or try Saan, if you’re feeling a taste for Thai. Soul or Depot are your best bets for freshest local catch and aren’t to be missed by seafood lovers.
Around Auckland there are also day trips that get you out and feel a million miles from anything metropolitan. One such locale is Takapuna Beach, located on the North Shore, which is a great place to lollygag. You might also consider hoping a 45-minute ferry from downtown to Waiheke Island, which is a brilliant day trip for hikers and bikers. Be sure to check out the Oyster Inn for lunch or dinner while there, which for me, was a bucket list-level meal.
If you’re looking to get a bit further out, I’d recommend renting a car and making the trip to the Bay of Islands. Just north of Auckland, it’s a day trip you won’t soon forget. The protected bay is brimming with individual islands, each unique in its topography, history and culture. It also makes for some incredible snorkeling and kayaking. Should you find yourself that far north, head to my favorite spot – The Sand Spit – the tides move forcefully through Kawau Bay and you truly feel like you’re off the grid, but the beer is cold, so enjoy!