Auckland: Explore New Zealand’s Largest City

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Auckland Sky Tower and Central Business District.

Auckland, with more than 1.5 million residents, is the largest city in New Zealand and is a major city in the north of New Zealand’s North Island.  New Zealand is divided among two islands known simply as the North Island and the South Island.  The maori word for New Zealand is Aotearoa which means ‘Land of the Long White Cloud.’  There are varying stories about the meaning but it is believed to have derived when an explorer named Kupe discovered a ‘long white cloud’ hanging over the land as his canoe approached New Zealand.

The Auckland city center is located near the Viaduct Harbour.  Viaduct Harbour is full of mega-yachts and lined with bars and cafes.  In the city center of Auckland you can discover world-class shopping, dining and entertainment.  Central Auckland is a hub of city highlights set against beautiful coastal scenery.  While visiting Central Auckland be sure to indulge in Pacific-Rim cuisine while overlooking the harbour and discover the lively waterfront precincts.

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The Sky Tower is an observation and telecommunications tower located at the corner of Victoria and Federal Streets in the Auckland Central Business District.  The Sky Tower (pictured above and below) has stood tall at 328 meters (about 1,076 feet) as an icon of  Auckland’s sky line for 20 years.  It’s an exciting hub of adrenaline activities, superb dining and breath-taking views from three observation levels.  The Sky Tower attraction is on the top of the list for all visitors.  From the observation deck you can see the surrounding landmarks including the Harbour Bridge, Mount Eden and Waiheke Island.  The views are breathtaking.  At the base of the Sky Tower is SKYCITY.  It is an entertainment complex that has two world-class hotels, a dining precinct with over 20 bars and restaurants, a 700 seat theatre and a world-class Casino.  If dining with a view is what you’re after then you will enjoy the choice of three restaurants and cafes up in the Sky Tower.  The first restaurant found on Level 52 of the Sky Tower is named Orbit 360 and it is a revolving restaurant.  On Level 53 you will find The Sugar Club, a restaurant with a 1930’s inspired theme offering seasonal small plates.  You can also relax on Level 50 at the Sky Café with cocktails, sandwiches & desserts, plus panoramic views of the surrounding area.

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Princess Cruise Ships docked in Port of Auckland
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Pier at Auckland Central
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View of Auckland Central from the Auckland Pier

One of Auckland’s nicknames is the “City of Sails.”  It is derived from the popularity of sailing in the region.  This nickname gained even more popularity when Team New Zealand became a household name in their home country following their consecutive wins in the America’s Cup in 1995 and 2000.  Under the leadership of Sir Peter Blake, Team New Zealand became the first team from a country outside the United States to win and successfully defend the America’s Cup.  If you have never seen these yachts race across the water with great speed and agility then you must visit the Viaduct Basin to see this in person.  It’s fascinating.  Did you know there are more than 135,000 yachts and boats registered in Auckland and around 60,000 of the country’s 150,000 registered yachtsmen are from Auckland?  It’s true.  About one in three Auckland households own a boat.  The Viaduct Basin is located on the western edge of the Central Business District in Auckland and has hosted two America’s Cup challenges (in 2000 and 2003).

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Sail boats gliding across the Viaduct Harbour

Other attractions we think you will enjoy while in Auckland:  

The Auckland War Memorial Museum is worth a visit as it tells the story of the Auckland region and is housed in a memorial that honors fallen service members.  The exhibits focus on Pacific Island communities (namely, the Maori people), Auckland’s natural history and New Zealand’s military history.

Cornwall Park. If you are looking to relax, picnic, and enjoy some time with nature then Cornwall Park is the place to visit.  The sprawling park, which sits on a volcanic cone, offers an abundance of greenery.  Other features in the park include the remnants of a pre-European Maori fort and the remains of the park’s donor Sir John Logan Campbell. One of the park’s highlights is its lookout point One Tree Hill.  The view from here is stunning.

Mount Eden. This dormant volcano is completely covered with grass and offers some of the best views of downtown Auckland. It’s also the highest natural point in Auckland. We recommend visiting here early in the morning to catch the sunrise or in the evening to view the sunset.  Great photo opportunities abound.

About 4 miles southwest of downtown Auckland is one of Auckland’s premier animal attractions, the Auckland Zoo. This sprawling animal sanctuary boasts the largest number of exotic and native animals in New Zealand.  Zoo tickets include access to free on-site parking, four eateries, a picnic area, a gift shop, the KidZone farm area and two playgrounds.  Free animal encounters with cheetahs, orangutans, penguins, elephants and other creatures are also covered by entrance fees.

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Waiheke Island

If you are looking for a great attraction to see outside of Auckland then a visit to Waiheke Island (pictured above) is a must.  This island is just a 40-minute ferry ride from downtown Auckland.  The ferry ride alone across the beautiful turquoise waters is worth the trip.  Known as the ‘island of wine’ for its many wineries and vineyards makes a wine tasting tour a definite must for any wine enthusiast.  For adventure seekers, try horseback riding on the island or zip-lining above the forest canopy.  If exploring on your own is for you then rent a scooter and spend the day discovering the island’s many secluded beaches.

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Waiheke Island Cafe and Shopping

It is easy to see why Auckland is regarded as one of the most livable cities in the world.  With clean air, a great climate year-round, beautiful blue skies, delightful beaches, tranquil breezes, a wide array of outdoor activities, and a rich history Auckland offers everything to those that choose to call it home.   And for the visitor Auckland offers many activities for you too.  We have only mentioned some of the hundreds of activities waiting for you to explore.

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Kiwi Fruit
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Kiwi Bird

Trivia:  Did you know New Zealand is known as the “Land of the Kiwi”?  Do you know why?  No, not because of the fruit.  The kiwi is a unique and curious bird.  It cannot fly, has sturdy strong legs, loose hair-like feathers and no tail.  Click here to learn more about the Kiwi, the national icon of New Zealand and unofficial national emblem.

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Auckland Skyline at Night

Goodnight from beautiful Auckland, New Zealand.

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