Highlights of New Zealand | Auckland
Auckland is the departure point for Odyssey Traveller’s 14-day long tour of New Zealand. This small group tour is crafted for the senior and mature travellers, looking to travel with like-minded people in a group of 6 to 12, and learn about the history and culture of our destinations with the help of our knowledgeable tour leader and local guides. This article is to assist anyone planning to visit the beautiful city of Auckland.
Auckland is the most populous urban area of New Zealand, home to some 1.6 million people, roughly 1/3 of the country’s population. Not so surprisingly, the central business district (CBD) of Auckland is the leading economic hub of New Zealand. The city is located on a small isthmus of the North Island, connecting the Northland peninsula to the rest of the island, between the Hauraki Gulf, the low Hunua Ranges, the Manukau Harbour, and the Waitakere Ranges. Auckland is often referred to as the City of Sails, as it’s a very popular sailing destination thanks to its rare twin harbours (Manukau Harbour and Waitemata Harbour). The islands around Auckland are just as appealing to visitors as the city itself, with ferry services departing all year to Waiheke Island, Rangitoto Island and more. Despite being one of the most expensive cities in the world, Auckland and Auckland region is regularly recognized as one of the most liveable cities, and it’s definitely a not to be missed for visitors coming to New Zealand.
History of Auckland
The Maori first settled what’s modern Auckland around 1350, and named their settlement Tāmaki Makaurau, which can be translated in many ways, such as “Tāmaki desired by many” or “Tāmaki of a hundred lovers”, all referring to the desirability of natural resources and geography of the area. Many iwi (tribes) lived alongside each other in peace, mostly growing kūmara (sweet potato).
But as firearms have been introduced in the late 18th century, intertribal warfare began and drove many to the inner lands to be less exposed to coastal raids. European settlers from 1800s were welcome in the area, as the local tribe hoped they would bring trade and protection from rival tribes. As a result, William Hobson, the first governor of New Zealand, choose Tamaki as his capital and renamed it Auckland after his patron George Eden, Earl of Auckland, first Lord of the Admiralty.
Auckland remained the capital until 1865, when it lost its title to Wellington, as the latter was seen a better choice due to its proximity to the South Island. However, that did not halt the city’s growth: it was the country’s main port for trading while developing into a commercial and industrial centre, twice as fast as the rest of New Zealand.
Nowadays Auckland is a melting pot of Maori, Pākehā (European New Zealander) and other immigrants (mainly from Asia), who gave a new, distinctive character to the areas where they clustered, bringing multiculturalism to the city which is celebrated with festivals and sporting events.
Highlights & Attractions of Auckland
Dominating the CBD (central business district) with its impressive 328 metre height, the Sky Tower is a not to miss attraction for any visitors. The tower is the largest freestanding structure in the Southern Hemisphere and currently the 25th tallest in the world. You can enjoy a spectacular panoramic view up to 80 kilometres in every direction from the Skydeck on level 60, 220 metres above sea level. Visitors can also have a unique dining experience in the revolting bar, which turns 360-degrees in an hour. The adventurous can take a walk on the observation deck in a full body harness and safety lines, or take on a jump from 192 metres, reaching 85 km/h speed.
Waiheke Island is the second largest island of the Hauraki Golf. It’s a prefect destination both for a day trip or a longer stay, as you can rent cosy beach houses. The island is a 40-minute ferry ride from Auckland CBD, with departures every day of the year. It’s really easy to get around: use the public transport, rent a bike, scooter or car, or you can bring over your own vehicle on the ferry. Waiheke offers a plethora of activities for everyone: from exciting hiking trails all across the island, to vineyards and wine tasting, white sandy beaches perfect for swimming and kayaking, no wonder the island is one of the most popular destinations around Auckland.
There are a few iconic streets in Auckland CBD. One of them is K’ Road (officially Karangahape Road) which is perpendicular to the main street of the city, Queen Street. K’ Road is famous for being one of the cultural centres of the city with its cafes, boutique shops, op shops and exciting art galleries. As a travel route for the Maori, the road is older than Queen Street which was developed by the European settlers in 1840. From 1900 to mid-20th century the road was a busy shopping street with clothing and department stores. After 1965 K’ Road lost its importance due to the construction of the inner-city motorway system, but started to make a slow come back from the 1990s to gain a new reputation as Auckland’s bohemian centre and home to the LGBT community.
Auckland Harbour Bridge
The Auckland Harbour Bridge is another icon that defines the skyline of the city, running just over a kilometre across Waitematā Harbour. It opened in 1959 and its 8 lanes are part of the State Highway 1 (connecting the entire country from Cape Reinga to Stirling Point) and the Auckland Northern Motorway. The bridge is often criticised for simply copying the Sydney Harbour Bridge and for being inaccessible with bike or on foot. There are plans to add a pedestrian and cycling path in the coming years. In the meantime, the brave can experience the bridge climb or bungee jumping from the bridge.
Rangitoto Island is another icon of the Auckland skyline with its distinctive symmetrical cone standing 260 metres over Hauraki Gulf. The island emerged some 600 years ago as Rangitoto erupted for years on several occasions, and it is the youngest volcanic island of the Gulf. You can reach the island with a 25 minute ferry ride from downtown Auckland. You can hike or drive to the summit, explore the lava caves or see the shipwreck abandoned around the island between 1887 and 1947. Whatever you decide to do, make sure to bring plenty of water and food, as there are no food outlets on the island. Also there are no rubbish bins, so every visitors is expected to take their leftovers with them in an effort to keep the island pest free. Make sure to check and catch the last ferry departure of the day (it could leave from Rangitoto Wharf or Islington Bay Wharf depending on weather conditions!), otherwise it’s a long swim back to Auckland.
Take a day tour nearby
The world famous black sand beaches of Piha are only an hour away once you’ve done your sightseeing tour of Auckland. On the way to Rotorua, the home of the Maori culture, some of the most popular choices are taking a guided tour of the Waitomo glowworm caves or of the Hobbiton movie set. At Waitomo, there are several options to explore the caves, visitors can go on a bit of an adventure or just take a simple walking tour and listen to the tour guide explaining the science behind all the glowing. In Hobbiton, there is not self-guided tour option, you’ll walk roughly 2 hours, can take pictures along the way, before enjoying a complimentary drink in the Green Dragon.
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Small group tour of New Zealand's North Island
Escorted 13 day small group tour of the East coast of New Zealand’s North island. Off the beaten track, for like minded people curious about history, culture, wine and landscapes. Your tour director and local guides share their knowledge with you the traveller on this New Zealand tour for senior travellers.
From A$10,450 AUDView Tour