You can book several half- and full-day tours of the city and its environs at the visitor center. The half-day tours cover sightseeing highlights, while all-day tours usually include something of the east or west suburbs, the zoo, and the vineyards.
Mike's Garden Tours (tel. 09/846-5350; www.mikesgardentours.co.nz) are the only ones that combine sightseeing with private garden visits. There are several options, ranging in price from NZ$110 to NZ$200 for adults, half-price for children ages 5 to 15.
Tamaki Hikoi (tel. 0800/282-552 in NZ, or 09/367-6009;www.aucklandnz.com), is a 3-hour Maori walking tour through Auckland. A guide from the Ngati Whatua tribe retells legends, beginning at the dormant volcano of Mount Eden. After a picnic lunch, you continue past local landmarks, finishing at the downtown waterfront. The tour costs NZ$95 per person. There is also a 1-hour tour of Mount Eden for around NZ$40. It's an easy to moderate walk, mainly on road surfaces, but wear sensible walking shoes.
Bush & Beach (tel. 09/837-4130; www.bushandbeach.co.nz) will take you out to the wild west coast to experience the elemental side of Auckland. Half- or full-day tours can include visits to a gannet colony, a winery, or a virgin rainforest. They cost NZ$140 to NZ$225 per person. They also offer an all-day tour to Great Barrier Island for NZ$695 per person. Children 11 and under pay half-price. Make sure you wear sensible walking shoes. Their Best of Both Worlds tour provides a good overview of Auckland's diversity, taking in the city in the morning and the bush and beaches of West Auckland in the afternoon.
For a range of tours with a Maori flavor, contact Potiki Adventures (tel. 021/422-773; www.potikiadventures.co.nz). From an urban marae visit to gathering shellfish to learning about flax weaving and Maori plant medicine, the company can organize personalized itineraries or take you on a full-day tour for NZ$225 adults, or NZ$95 children 14 and under. They're the only company that offers tours to the Otara Markets -- probably the largest Polynesian market you will ever get to see.
One of the best wine tours is with Auckland Wine Trail Tours (tel. 09/630-1540; www.winetrailtours.co.nz), which specializes in bringing small groups to leading growers. Half- and full-day tours cost NZ$110 to NZ$245 per person. The full-day Matakana tour (NZ$245 per person) introduces you to the wines of one of the loveliest rural areas near the city. Fine Wine Tours (tel. 0800/023-111 in NZ, or 021/626-529; www.finewinetours.co.nz) has a great choice of half- and full-day food and wine tours for NZ$179 to NZ$299. The Great Auckland Food & Wine Lovers Tour (Mon-Sat; NZ$299 per person, including cafe lunch) is especially good and introduces you to cheese-making, ice cream, a busy fish market, delis, a chocolate boutique, a distillery, and a winery, all in Auckland.
On the Water
With 96 boat charter companies, Auckland won't deprive you of an opportunity to get out on the waves. Fullers Auckland, Ferry Terminal, 99 Quay Street (tel. 09/367-9111; www.fullers.co.nz), is one company that makes it easy. One of its best-value deals if you're on a tight itinerary is the Harbour Cruise, a 1 1/2-hour sightseeing excursion that shows off Viaduct Harbour, Devonport Naval Base, and the Harbour Bridge, with coffee and commentary. Fares are NZ$38 for adults, NZ$19 for children ages 5 to 15. The cruise includes a round-trip ticket to Devonport so passengers can visit the seaside village at their leisure, or on any scheduled Fullers sailing. Tours depart from Pier 2, Ferry Terminal, 99 Quay St., at 10:30am and 1:30pm. Fullers also has a Volcanic Explorer option that visits Rangitoto Island at a cost of NZ$59 for adults, NZ$30 for children ages 5 to 15, and several Waiheke Island Explorer options, including a Taste of Waiheke Tour, which visits three award-winning wineries and a top olive oil producer. It costs NZ$129 and includes a light lunch at Stonyridge.
After winning the America's Cup twice, New Zealand is big on yachting. Explore NZ (tel. 0800/397-567 in NZ, or 09/359-5987; www.explorenz.co.nz), has some very exciting ways to experience Auckland from the water. Its Pride of Auckland operates a fleet of purpose-built sailboats, which offer lunch, dinner, coffee, and half-day cruises. And their Sail New Zealand operation offers a variety of tours in both Auckland and the Bay of Islands. NZL 40,NZL41, and Lion New Zealand are all available for sailing or match-race tours.
The Maritime Museum's own cruises on heritage vessels are a little cheaper, but the luncheon cruise has a boxed lunch as opposed to a sit-down meal; it's also shorter and on an entirely different type of vessel. All are excellent experiences.
If you want tall ship sailing, the Soren Larsen (tel. 0800/767-365 in NZ, or 09/817-8799; www.sorenlarsen.co.nz), star of The Onedin Linetelevision series, is your vessel. You can book day sails, coffee cruises, or holiday voyages, which include a 5-night sailing cruise between Auckland and the Bay of Islands. Auckland day trips start at NZ$150 per person, longer voyages are NZ$1,600, which includes all meals. The New Zealand season is December through February. Day trips leave from Princes Wharf West, adjacent to NZ National Maritime Museum. Boarding is at 9:45am.
Island Escape -- If you feel like spoiling yourself, join Island Escape Cruises, 10/22 Princes Wharf (tel. 0800/581-717in NZ, or 09/358-1717; www.islandescape.co.nz), for a 5-day luxury cruise of Hauraki Gulf islands. Make your home in one of the boat's 10 big cabins and enjoy fishing trips, picnics ashore, bush walks, and expeditions from the ship by helicopter or boat. The 42m (138-ft.) Island Passage is stylish from start to finish, and this adventure guarantees memories to write home about. The 5-day cruise costs NZ$3,750 to NZ$6,250 for double or twin occupancy, and includes all meals, snorkel equipment, fishing gear, and boat tours. This is a particularly indulgent way to get to Great Barrier, Waiheke, Kawau and Tiritiri Matangi islands.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.