Auckland is the gateway into New Zealand for visitors to the North Island. The city is built on an isthmus between two harbors containing 40 inactive volcanoes. The largest Polynesian city in the world, it has a distinctly South Pacific feel with harbors, sail boats and islands. The period December through to March has the best weather. The central city is about 40 minutes from the airport to the south. The city is a sprawling one so a good inner city base is essential. The Langham, on a ridge above the compact CBD has excellent service and dining, for a boutique option try stylish De Bretts right in the center of town. Here’s your agenda for three days in Auckland.
For a view of the isthmus and to get your bearings, take a walk up to the SkyTower which is ever present on the city’s skyline. The view from the top takes in the whole isthmus, the beaches to the west and Coromandel Peninsula to the east. While there you might like to do a jump of 630 feet (192 meters), plummeting at 53 miles (85 kilometers) an hour.
For a mid morning coffee to add some caffeine to the adrenaline, call into the Best Ugly Bagels which is just down over the hill from the Skytower in the Cityworks warehouse where you can watch a bagel being brought to life or for a delicious full on Kiwi breakfast try Federal and Wolfe which is nearby.
To stretch your legs, take the twenty minute walk up past Victoria Park to Ponsonby Road. Ponsonby has a high cafe and bar ratio and is home to some of the countries best fashion labels.
There are bright green Link buses which travel from here around the city in a circular route. You can catch one from here through to the Domain Park and National War Museum which has a spectacular Pacific and Maori artifacts collection.
Catch the Link back into downtown’s Britomart precinct for lunch. Try a snack at The Store. For a special treat, Milse nearby specializes in high end desserts and patisserie with a degustation menu.
It is a short walk up Queen Street to the Auckland Art Gallery in Wellesley Street. For a unique souvenir of your Auckland visit call next-door to Fingers Jewellers, who showcase the best in contemporary New Zealand jewellery.
In the evening catch a show at inner city Q Theatre after a dinner at the latest incarnation of the Sugar Club up on the top of the Skytower – splendid food and views plus a stylish cocktail bar.
Summer or winter the Hauraki Gulf is one of Auckland’s best assets. Ferries leave from the Ferry Building on the harbor end of Queen Street. If it is summer pack a swim suit and towel as there are numerous good beaches. Check out a trip that suits you from the options.
For a visit to a dormant volcano, sail over to Rangitoto Island which is the conical island sitting offshore from the city. It appeared 700 years ago out of the ocean, it is covered in volcanic rock and slowly regenerating coastal forest species. There is a walk way up to the summit – pack food and water for the trip.
Tiri Tiri Matangi is another island experience. Tiri is a bird sanctuary home to many of the rare species which are almost extinct on the main islands. Again there are no shops on the island so bring your own food and water and book in advance to ensure a place on the ferry.
For a more self indulgent island experience, take the ferry to Waiheke Island which is 35 minutes from Downtown. The island has become a popular vineyard location producing pinot gris and syrah grapes. These boutique vineyards are in beautiful settings with some fantastic restaurants serving local delicacies. New Zealand seafood is one of the country’s delicious secrets.
Finish up with a swim in the ocean beach at Onetangi before catching a ferry back to the mainland.
Head west. Hire a car and pick up supplies at Farro’s Deli in Grey Lynn for a picnic before driving to a Wild West coast beach. Famous for their black iron sands, high bush covered coastline and raging surf – only 40 minutes from the CBD they are a world away.
Drive up from the city through the Waitakere Ranges. The regional park has giant tree ferns and pockets of virgin forest containing the super-sized Kauri trees. There are a variety of different trails available depending on your fitness.
Energized by the forest air, continue driving over to the coast to one of the most untouched beaches, Kare Kare which has a long winding approach through native bush. Unpack a picnic and wait for a spectacular sunset.
In the evening, for that special last meal in the City of Sails, make a reservation at Britomart’s Ortolana with farm to fork menu in a laid back setting.
Any other suggestions for three days in Auckland?