We’re taking part in the WorldNomads “blog your backyard” project with five cool things about Auckland, New Zealand and five must-do things to make the most of it. We’ve already published cheap things to do in Auckland and a free audio city guide for Auckland … but here’s five more things to get you excited about the city of sails.
1. It’s volcanic
One thing you’ll notice about Auckland is the landscape: it definitely isn’t flat! The hills that give shape to the city are actually volcanoes, some more prominent than others. Many of them are reserves, great places to exercise and to get some good views of the city.
Most of the 49 volcanoes scattered around the city formed over the last 50,000 years ago; the most recent eruption (about 600 years ago) formed the island of Rangitoto, which is located in the centre of the harbour and is a symbol of the city. The name means “bleeding skies” in Maori — it must have been an amazing thing to see happen!
To do: Catch the ferry from Auckland’s CBD to Rangitoto and climb to the top. Make sure you bring a few litres of water, snacks and sunscreen as there’s no shops on the island. And don’t forget your camera!
The city is located on an isthmus, which means that the sea is omni-present. In summer, the 28 beaches are packed with swimmers, sunbathers and people doing watersports like surfing and windsurfing. Plus Kiwis head to the beach for picnics and to play beach cricket, beach rugby, frisbee… whatever, really! And since Christmas is in summer here, you’ll even see people having Christmas lunch down on the beach.
On the theme of water, Auckland is affectionately known as “the city of sails”, and it’s easy to see why on a fine day — the harbour fills with boats of all sizes, from tiny optimists to luxury yachts. We’ve got so much water around, we like to make use of it.
To do: Catch the bus to Mission Bay and, if you get bored there, start walking along the waterfront — there’s other beaches further from the city; or it’ll take you an hour or so to walk back into the city centre. If you have a car, head to the wild west coast beaches, like Bethels or Piha — but make sure you’re swimming or surfing near locals to stay safe.
3. The people are friendly
It’s not something you notice as a local, but so many tourists have mentioned it to me that it really should go on the list. Kiwis in generally are a friendly bunch, and many will go out of their way to help someone in trouble.
A visitor recently told me that he got off the bus at the wrong stop on his way home, and the woman he asked for directions called her husband, who drove the visitor all the way home. Other people have told me that when they’ve asked for directions, locals walked with them all the way to their destination, even though it wasn’t on their way. It’s just nice.
To do: I guess we could recommend you get lost?! There’s tours of Auckland Museum’s Maori and Pacific Island cultural exhibits each day, which starts with a Maori dance performance. With locals and tourists enjoying the show, it’s a good spot to meet some people and get a taster of New Zealand’s unique Polynesian culture.
4. The Sky Tower and the Harbour Bridge
Not only do we have two really cool icons, but you can jump off them. The Harbour Bridge Bungy operates from a pod positioned about a third of the way across, or rather under, the bridge. You can do a Bridge Climb over the top if you like, but I found it adventure enough walking along the narrow accessway to the bungy pod. And jumping off, of course.
The Sky Tower has the SkyWalk, which allows you to walk around the outside of the structure, 194m up in the air. Plus there’s a controlled jump called the SkyJump from the same level. Or if you’re less of an adrenaline junkie, the inside viewing platform has great views and is a lot cheaper.
To do: Head to the Sky Tower and start climbing stairs; or the more reasonable option is to buy tickets from the central information kiosk on the ground floor. Ask your accommodation provider about transfers out to the Harbour Bridge bungy.
5. Cafe culture and restaurants
Auckland’s had a great cafe culture for some time, with suburbs like Parnell and Mission Bay boasting a large selection of independent cafes. New Zealand has a few small chains like Columbus, Atomic and Mojo, all of which started up in Auckland and which make better coffee than imports like Starbucks.
Auckland isn’t known for its nightlife, but there are a lot of nice bars and restaurants to choose from, most more low-key than nightclub-style. The harbourside Viaduct area has over 30 bars and restaurants, many of which have a happy hour for the after-work crowd — head there at 5pm for a good deal.
To do: Spot a New Zealand-owned café and drop in. There are small chains like Atomic and Columbus; and great independents like Roasted Addiqtion, or the Alleluia Café in St Kevins Arcade, near the corner of Queen St and K’ Road.
Blog your backyard
This post is part of the worldwide “blog your backyard” project – Share your local expertise and join the Blog your Backyard project! Become an ambassador for your country (home or adopted) by sharing your experiences and tips with other travelers. Submit your entries starting August 8th on WorldNomads.com for a chance to win one of 20 awesome excursions with Urban Adventures. Plus, if you want to share more of your local expertise or get answers to all of your travel questions, download the free ‘Ask A Nomad’ iPad app.