Greater Auckland is actually a fusion of four cities -- Auckland, Manukau, North Shore, and Waitakere. Each is on a motorway network, which crosses the harbor, rivers, creeks, and bays and carries thousands of commuters into the inner city to work. You can pick up a city map at the visitor center, but the Automobile Association (tel. 0800/500-213 in New Zealand) has a better one.
Main Arteries & Streets -- The main street is Queen Street, which ends in Queen Elizabeth Square at Customs Street.Quay Street runs along the Waitemata Harbour. At the top end of Queen Street is Karangahape Road (usually called "K'Road"), a mere 2km (1 1/4 miles) from Quay Street. Within that area you'll find most of the inner city's shops, restaurants, nightspots, major hotels, and bus, rail, and air terminals. The most popular inner city suburbs with the best restaurants are Parnell and Ponsonby.Newmarket is favored for clothes and shoe shopping.
Neighborhoods in Brief
First, let's get a feel for the four cities. North Shore City is contemporary, casual, and cool, with, I'm told, a hint of California; Central City and East Auckland are much more cosmopolitan, with a growing Asian community in the wealthy eastern areas. To the west, Waitakere City is the principal winegrowing region; it retains strong evidence of early Eastern European settlement from the 1900s. To the south, Manukau City is a melting pot of Polynesian, Maori, and European lifestyles. Now on to the main areas:
Inner City -- It's hard to decide where the inner city begins and ends, but let's say it generally encompasses the central business district. This is where you'll find the major hotels and many attractions, including the boisterous and exciting Viaduct Harbour, home of the former America's Cup Village. It's also where you'll see the clearest evidence of New Zealand's increasingly multicultural society. The High Street/Vulcan Lane area is an "edgy" part of town if you're looking for a good time. Most water-based tours leave from the downtown Quay Street area. This is a great place to base yourself if you don't want to bother with a vehicle; everything is in walking distance.
Ponsonby/Herne Bay -- This is quintessential Auckland -- bold, brazen, bohemian. It's where most of the best restaurants, bars, and cafes are; it's where the nouveau riche and the almost famous hang out; and you'll find some exquisite specialty shops and lots of divine old wooden houses. Some lovely B&Bs are here, and you won't need a car to have fun. Just off Ponsonby Road is Karangahape Road, famous for everything from off-the-wall nightclubs and sassy restaurants to ethnic stores and the whole gamut of sex shops, massage parlors, tattoo and body-piercing studios, and strip joints.
Mount Eden/Epsom -- These leafy, green hillside suburbs reek of old money. You'll find stunning mansions and villas aplenty -- not all peopled by resident blue bloods, though, because the area also has a good number of student apartments. Both Mount Eden and Epsom have trendy little villages, where old shops and restaurants have been tarted up so the resident folk can feel they're living on the edge. There are some lovely B&Bs in the area, and it's a very pretty place to base yourself, close to One Tree Hill, Cornwall Park, and the inner city.
Parnell/Newmarket -- If you want plush, trendy, and sophisticated with an undercurrent of hedonism and excess, this is the suburb for you. Parnell Village is perfectly charming, with lots of super (and expensive) shops and restaurants (with nighttime bar action). It's close to the inner city, the Auckland Museum, and the beautiful Auckland Domain park. There are a few good B&Bs in this area, and in Newmarket, the fashion shopper's Saturday-morning paradise, you'll find heaps of good motels.
Remuera -- Known locally as "Remmers," this is Auckland's most affluent suburb. Stunning mansions, new high-rise apartments, some great upmarket B&Bs, and an easily accessed village full of specialty shops make it a good base. It's also close to the inner city.
Mission Bay/St.Heliers -- Wealthy seaside suburbs with big real estate price tags -- if you have a Porsche or Ferrari, this is where you bring it to show off on a sunny weekend. Not such a good place to stay if you want to be within walking distance of the city, but it makes a delightful half-day outing. The area boasts lots of excellent restaurants and cafes, and it really buzzes on weekends, with people walking, running, and in-line skating along the waterfront.
Devonport/Takapuna -- These two neighborhoods lie over the Harbour Bridge, which can be a nightmarish drive in rush-hour traffic, but if you stay in Devonport you won't need a car at all. Simply lock it up, wander the cute village, and catch a ferry to the inner city when you want a faster pace. There are lots of excellent B&Bs here. Takapuna is the main shopping area of the North Shore, but it doesn't have as much character as Devonport.
The Eastern Suburbs -- Pretty to visit, all very well kept, but too far from inner city action -- if that's what you're after. Pakuranga, Howick, and Panmure do, however, have a quiet beachside charm and are popular with boaties. To the south is Otara, home to Auckland's ever-growing Polynesian community.
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.