Lay of the Land
With twice the land mass of London, Auckland is a seemingly never-ending sprawl that’s often treated as a fly-over destination by travelers eager to get into New Zealand’s wild landscapes. (The fact that much of the inner-city looks like it suffered from a complete lack of urban planning or anything resembling architecture doesn’t help.) But within the concrete mess, there are treasures to be found – and the locals are as nice as anyone you will meet in the country.
First of all, it’s a city surrounded by water, framed by two harbors, the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean. There are great beaches, islands (like scenic Waiheke and nature paradise Tiritiri) and national parks within an easy day trip from Auckland. Back in the city, travelers can explore such revamped districts as Britomart, Viaduct & Wynyard Quarter; visit the small but excellent Auckland Art Gallery; and take in the expansive views from the 53rd floor of the Sky Tower. The waterfront is redeveloped and there are some great restaurants and bars. In short, if you get “stuck” in Auckland for a few days, New Zealand’s largest city can make for a great little urban getaway, pre- or post your itinerary.
Most international flights arrive at the Auckland International Airport, a deceptively close 21km (13 miles) south of the city center. Traffic can get bad in the afternoons, so be sure to schedule in enough time, especially when you are self-driving.
When to Go
Avoid the time between Christmas and New Year’s when locals are at the beach (picture Paris during August) and many of the city’s restaurants and bars are closed.