Auckland is New Zealand's largest, most culturally diverse and cosmopolitan city. Its European, Pacific and Asian influences make it a destination unlike any other. But its urban credentials—a flourishing cultural life and abundant commerce—are often upstaged by its breathtaking geography. Sprawled across an isthmus, the city envelops more than 40 extinct volcanoes, several of which stand in green, pastoral parks overlooking a broad harbor, gulf islands and a seemingly endless shoreline.
Auckland's residents appreciate the city's two-sided personality: They view nature as one of life's privileges rather than a barrier to development, and the city's population is dispersed into neighborhoods of manageable size. All in all, Auckland is a gateway to nature and outdoor adventure, with fine dining and culture there for the asking, too.
MUST SEE - MUST DO
Sights—Panoramic views of the city and harbor from the Auckland Harbour Bridge and SkyCity and Sky Tower; a ferry trip to Devonport, Rangitoto Island or Waiheke Island; a drive through the Waitakere Ranges to the vast, wild west-coast beaches of Piha and Muriwai.
Museums—Cultural and natural-history exhibits at the Auckland Museum; New Zealand and international art at the Auckland Art Gallery; maritime history exhibits at the Voyager New Zealand Maritime Museum; Navy history and exhibits at the Navy Museum.
Memorable Meals—Savor meals with panoramic views at Orbit atop Sky Tower; quick bites at Federal Delicatessen below on Federal Street; fresh seafood at Sails Restaurant overlooking Westhaven Marina; fabulous food and fun at Libertine in the revitalized Victoria Park Market; Italian fare at Prego in Ponsonby.
Late Night—Dancing at Ink Bar; local rock bands and good beer at dive-y King;'s Arms; fantastic, interesting cocktails with a Japanese twist at Fukuko.
Walks—Visiting plant exhibits in the Auckland Domain Wintergardens or Auckland Botanic Gardens (Manurewa); strolling along Tamaki Drive or through Cornwall Park; hiking in the Waitakere Ranges; walking or cycling the Coast to Coast trail; wandering through historic Devonport, along beaches or on Rangitoto, Motutapu and Waiheke islands.
Especially for Kids—Kelly Tarlton's Antarctic Encounter and Underwater World; Rainbow's End; Butterfly Creek; SheepWorld; the Museum of Transport and Technology (MOTAT); interactive children's exhibits at Auckland Museum; Auckland Zoo; Crystal Mountain; Stardome Observatory and Planetarium.