The waterside city of Auckland is known for its nautical lifestyle. Dubbed the “city of sails” Auckland has more boats per capita than any other city and the lifestyle here takes place largely on the water. As you’d expect, Waitemata Harbour is the focal point of the city; its name is Maori and means “sea of sparkling waters” – a good summary of the backdrop. The America’s Cup was hosted here in 2000 and a major renovation of the area took place. It’s lively not just during the day, for the yachts and watersports, but by night for the popular bars, clubs and restaurants that have sprung up over the last decade.
For such a large city, Auckland’s surroundings are stunning. On a flight to Auckland, travellers see first the sea, then the volcanic hills and lush forests before spotting the city. Situated on a strip of land with the Pacific Ocean on one side and the Tasman Sea on the other, the landscape is awe-inspiring and many visitors use Auckland as a base from which to explore the rest of New Zealand. From Stanley Bay, there are more than 100 beaches within an hour’s travelling time.
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Thanks to its maritime climate, Auckland does not have temperature extremes. Rain falls throughout the year, but mostly in winter. Summer temperatures are in the mid 20s (Celsius) in January and February, and it tends to be humid. Winters are mild with temperatures between 4 and 10 in July and August. Auckland rarely has freezing weather but occasionally gets a coating of frost.
When to fly to Auckland
The peak season is December through March. Tourists arrive with the warm weather, and the crowds peak during summer school holidays (mid-December to late January). January and February have the best beach weather, and December and March can be very warm.
Easter weekend and Labour Day weekend (late October) are busy as are the holiday periods from mid-May to the end of May, the first half of July, and late August to mid-September.
Although cooler than the peak season months, November and April are much quieter and hotel rooms and cheap flights to Auckland are easier to find.
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Getting around Auckland
Auckland is easy to get around by foot, bus or ferry. You can also rent a scooter or bicycle for at least half a day. You can get almost anywhere in central Auckland by bus, some of which will take you to tourist attractions for free. The public transport is good enough that you won’t need a car to get around, and you’d struggle to find parking anyway. You may want to rent a car to head out to the suburbs however, and you can also take a ferry to the north shore suburbs and Hauraki Gulf Islands.
Auckland insider information
- When you’re in the waterfront area, don’t miss the chance to take a trip around the harbour on a yacht. The choice of vessels willing to take you out is almost overwhelming – including the Louis Vuitton boat from the America's Cup. One particularly good trip is to take a boat ride to Hauraki Gulf. It takes just over two hours and you can enjoy some stunning views of the city as you head out. Many of the yachts will let you help with the sailing, or if you prefer, just sit back and enjoy the views. There’s no need to book in advance, just turn up and take your pick.
- The Auckland Observatory and Planetarium, better known as the Stardome is situated in the One Tree Hill district. As well as the spectacular planetarium, you can also see the real stars on a clear night through one of the Stardome’s telescopes.
- Spend a day shopping at Victoria Park Market. Once a rubbish dump, today the market – distinguished by its big tall, red chimney – is home to many artisan and craft boutiques. If you need a break from shopping, there are also many restaurants, cafés and a food court.
- For a meal with a view, have supper at the Orbit restaurant, on the top of the Sky Tower. The vista of the city is stunning from this altitude, and the restaurant slowly rotates throughout 360 degrees. The restaurant is open for brunch, lunch or supper – and the price of a meal includes free entry to the observation level (normally charged at $25). The restaurant is very popular, however, so make sure you book in advance. For the best views, try and book a table at sunset.
- For a free view of the city, head up Mount Eden, a volcanic cone located near the centre of the town. Popular with the locals, the spot is a great place for picnics, walks and to peer down into the volcanic crater, as well as out across the city.