As a local, I don’t always appreciate all that Auckland has to offer. Somehow, I don’t see the attractive architecture of the city centre or the green spaces that appear everywhere you look. I’m blind to the white-sand beaches and the clean air. But a city that has one of the highest standards of living in the world also has a lot to offer the casual tourist – and a lot of it is cheap or free.
1. Visit the Otara markets
Every Saturday, thousands of people congregate in Newbury Lane, in the South Auckland suburb of Otara, to buy fresh produce, clothes and arts and crafts. It’s a great place to experience Polynesian culture – if you’re lucky you’ll be treated to an impromptu concert or two.
2. Have a drink at the Viaduct
Auckland’s harbour area was freshened up in the late nineties to host two America’s Cup regattas, and is now a pleasant place for a drink in the evening. Take your pick from dozens of bars and restaurants, all with sea views.
3. Attend a concert in a park
In summer, Aucklanders head outside, and so does the music. The big events are Christmas in the Park and the Starlight Symphony, both held in Auckland’s immense Domain, but other, smaller concerts are held in parks throughout the city.
4. Have a coffee in Mission Bay
This beachside suburb is packed on weekends, as people come to enjoy the sun or have a drink if the weather isn’t favorable. A row of bars and restaurants face the sea, separated only by a strip of park (adorned with an iconic fountain) that’s a popular setting for informal games of soccer, rugby, and frisbee.
5. Walk the Waitakeres
The Waitakere Ranges Regional Park, a vast stretch of native bush, is situated about half an hour’s drive from the city center, and boasts an impressive range of well-maintained walking paths of various lengths. Stop in at the Arataki Visitor Centre to pick up information on the tracks – several easy paths start nearby.
6. Go wine tasting
There are several wine regions within a short drive of the city, and most wineries don’t charge for tastings – though it’s good form for at least one of your party to buy a bottle at each stop. Head north to Matakana, northwest to Kumeu, or south to Clevedon and sample some of what New Zealand has to offer.
7. Climb some volcanoes
Auckland is full of volcanoes – quite how many is the subject of some discussion, but at any rate several make their mark on the skyline. One Tree Hill and Mt Eden are both pleasant settings for a picnic, and if you’re feeling lazy you can drive up instead of going by foot.
8. Visit Rangitoto
Rangitoto Island’s profile is another symbol of Auckland, and this relatively new volcanic formation (it burst out of the sea about 800 years ago) can be seen from many parts of the city. If you’re feeling up for a bit of exercise, take the ferry across and climb to the top. Be aware that there’s almost no infrastructure on the island – take everything you need with you and be prepared to carry rubbish out again.
9. Eat fish and chips on the beach
Fish and chips could be called NZ’s national dish, and eaten fresh and crispy from the paper, smothered in tomato sauce – ah, there’s nothing better. Wash it all down with a can of L&P, the national soft drink.
10. Surf or swim at Piha
Head out to the west coast to burn your feet on the black sand and get in amongst the waves.
There’s a lot more to do in Auckland than just these ten things – Waiheke Island, the restaurants of Ponsonby, the quirky atmosphere of K Road. But I don’t want to give too much away – go and discover Auckland for yourself.