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As a proud JAFA (“Just Another Fantastic Aucklander; don’t listen to anyone who suggests it stands for anything else!), it upsets me when I hear people say, “Auckland’s boring.” Nothing could be further from the truth; you just need to know where to go, and most of the fun happens around the outskirts of the Central Business District. Auckland is a beautiful harbour city with a thriving food scene and café culture. It’s the home of the flat white coffee, and world-class vineyards are just a 30-minute boat ride away. Here’s how I recommend you spend 48 hours in “the City of Sails.”
The First 24 Hours
VISIT: Waiheke Island. Wake up, take the ferry to Waiheke Island, and discover why Aucklanders spend so much time on the water. Just 30 minutes from downtown, Waiheke was once known for its hippie culture, and while this is still evident, it’s now an upmarket destination and the playground of wealthy Aucklanders. Enjoy lunch at a vineyard with sweeping views of the Waitemata harbour, such as Cable Bay or Mudbrick. Follow up lunch with a tasting of locally produced wines, then catch a bus or taxi to a beautiful beach on the island; Oneroa affords spectacular views, and if the searing New Zealand sun is out, I’d recommend you take a dip in the fresh, cool waters.
Waiheke Island. Photo by J. Squirmelia.
LOCAL: Return to downtown Auckland in time for a sundowner in the newest urban community Wynard Quarter, near the city’s Viaduct Basin. This area was developed for the 2012 Rugby World Cup, and there is an array of places to choose from, including terraces overlooking the marina, which usually features a few “super yachts” worth gawping at.
Near Princess Wharf, Auckland. Photo by Silverstack.
EAT: Take a short walk to the Britomart district for dinner. This is another newly developed part of the city which has emerged as a fashionable place for Aucklanders to dine with friends. Try Mexico for fresh, tasty small plates in a buzzy environment or Britomart Country Club for a trendy take on classic Kiwi tucker.
Restaurants lining the Viaduct Basin. Photo by Gothphil.
DRINK: If the party mood takes you, wander back up to the Viaduct and join the nightlife scene by the sea. The Fox is popular spot for a casual night out, especially if the All Blacks, New Zealand’s fabled national rugby team, are playing. If you fancy something smarter Snapdragon is the place to be seen.
The Next 24 Hours
EAT: Brunch is a big deal in Auckland, and as such amazing breakfasts can be found all over town. There’s no better scene than Ponsonby Road – “Auckland’s hippest strip” – to soak up the café culture where independently owned cafés abound. Santos and Dizzengoff make some of the best flat whites in town.
The café culture of Ponsonby Road is not to be missed. Photo by iTravelNZ.
DO: Feeling adventurous? Head to the city do a Sky Walk on – or Sky Jump off – the Sky Tower, one of Auckland’s most famous landmarks. Feeling more adventurous? You can even bungy jump off the Auckland harbour bridge!
Ready, set, go! Bungy on the habour bridge. Photo by D Kong.
EAT: If your nerves need calming after that adrenaline rush, pop over to the Kapiti Store on Shortland Street, where you can enjoy wine-, cheese-, and ice-cream tasting from one of New Zealand’s top producers and discover why New Zealand’s dairy products are the best in the world.
Later, continue back to downtown and jump on a bus to Mission Bay for lunch. I always head to Du Fontein for a big pot of New Zealand’s spectacular green-lipped mussels, washed down with a bottle of Sauvignon blanc, many of which you won’t find outside New Zealand. Then, chill with the locals on the beach at Mission Bay.
DO: Afterwards, it’s time to work off that lunch with an evening kayaking trip to Rangitoto Island, Auckland’s other most famous landmark. Visible from Eastern Beach, this uninhabited volcano is best explored on foot, and Ferg’s Kayaks organizes kayaking excursions that include a hike when you get there. Be sure to pack a change of clothes or two!
VISIT: If you still have some time the next morning, head to the Domain, a huge park close to Auckland’s centre. Here, you’ll find the Auckland War Memorial Museum, where you can learn about Māori culture and check out a host of exhibits. Have a picnic lunch in the park near the winter garden and soak up the last stunning views of the harbour.
The Auckland War Memorial Museum is well worth the visit. Photo by Cmbjn843.
New Zealand’s magical landscape of wild snow-capped mountains, shining lakes, and roaring rivers serves as a giant playground filled with world-class “tramping”, skiing, and rafting. G Adventures runs a number of departures to New Zealand encompassing a wide range of departure dates and activities to cater for different tastes. Check out our roster of small group trips to this mesmerizing land.