Auckland is as big, cosmopolitan, and hedonistic as any New Zealand city gets. History and future combine in this sprawling place, where you can walk above the harbor along the Auckland Harbour Bridge and the Sky Tower looms above a sea of skyscrapers. But while the sights are intriguing, it's the easy-going spirit of the Aucklanders and their impressive backyard that will really captivate you. Lush vineyards, sugar-white beaches, and island retreats are all just a hop away from the inner city bustle.
Things to Do
The grand, neoclassical Auckland Museum is a cavernous chest of Maori taonga (treasures); time your visit to catch tattooed Maori sticking their tongues out in the high-energy haka (war dance). Few big international cities are as outdoorsy as Auckland -- locals flash past on rollerblades in Cornwall Park or at Mission Bay, kayak and sail on Waitemata Harbour, and kick back on Waiheke Island -- join in the fun. Ride the glass elevator to the top of the space-age Sky Tower for giddying sunset views of the Auckland skyline.
Auckland mixes shopping with sightseeing. You can tour Waiheke Island's gently sloping vineyards for spicy Syrahs and crisp Chardonnays or browse stores in seaside Devonport's historic streets. High Street is decidedly upmarket and harbors big-name designers; and you can browse other fashion-conscious boutiques of Parnell and Ponsonby. Hit colonial-era Queen Street for department stores and Newmarket's classy Nuffield and Teed Streets for chic boutique shopping. Weekend is market time: Head for Pacific-flavored Otara Market, Parnell's La Cigale French Market, or Britomart's City Farmers' Market.
Nightlife & Entertainment
Bar-lined Viaduct Harbour is the place to watch Auckland strut its early-evening stuff. Sip frozen vodka with a too-cool crowd in the ice-carved Minus 5 Bar. Linger over champagne in one of the classy Britomart bars, or dance to the latest beats on Ponsonby Road.Karangahape Road's edgier nightlife kicks off around midnight in pumping bars, strip clubs, and live-music venues. For a more cultured evening, catch the revered New Zealand Symphony Orchestra at the Auckland Town Hall.
Hotels & Restaurants
Foodies can eat their way around the world in Auckland. Savor Pacific Rim cuisine with the in-crowd at one of Viaduct Harbour's see-and-be-seen restaurants. Dine alfresco on Spanish tapas or fresh fish at one of Mission Bay's beachfront cafes and bars. Or head to fashionable Ponsonby Road for relaxed fine dining.