What are the best things to do in Auckland?

Jeff Fleisher

Auckland is an active place so expect to spend your time hiking, sailing or maybe even jumping off a tall tower. Forbes Travel Guide editors have picked out these activities as the five best things to do in Auckland.
 
1. Go up Sky Tower. The tallest building in the Southern Hemisphere, Sky Tower dominates the Auckland skyline and offers stunning 360-degree views of the city below. The observation deck has areas with clear floors that let you look directly down, and telescopes to zoom in on spots all over Auckland.
 
2. Enjoy Viaduct Harbour. Auckland is nicknamed the “City of Sails,” and its harbor is always full of boats. Visit the excellent Voyager Maritime Museum, take a harbor cruise on a vintage vessel, or just watch the sailboats while dining at an outdoor cafe.
 
3. Watch rugby at Eden Park. Rugby is easily the most popular sport in New Zealand, and historic Eden Park is the best place to watch the World Cup champion All Blacks national team. Depending on the time of year, the park hosts matches in international play, the Super 15 tournament and the nationwide Air New Zealand Cup.
 
4. Hike up Mt. Eden. The highest natural point in the Auckland area is this green, dormant volcano just south of town. It's a pleasant hike to the top, and the mountain has an unusual cone shape. From the top, you get a great view of the city and the harbor beyond it.
 
5. Sky jump. Adventurous travelers shouldn't miss this unique activity — jumping 192 meters from the top of Sky Tower while attached to a cable. You’ll find controlled base-jumping offers an exhilarating rush similar to skydiving.

  • On July 31, 2013
    Nicky Park answered the question: Nicky Park

    What are the best bars in Auckland?

    This is a tricky one, as my feelings on Auckland's bar scene change with the seasons. As it stands, right now, these are my favourite watering holes. This list, no doubt, will be ever changing.

    * Brothers Beer: Located in the popular City Works Depot downtown, I love this bar for a spot of day time beer drinking. Brothers Beer boasts the largest range of craft brews from around NZ, Australia, Europe and the US. They have 18 beers on tap, I suggest getting a tasting plate and asking the staff to set you up with their picks. The décor is quirky and cool, it’s sunny and a really great watering hole for a date.


    Racket: Ask the flirtatious bar staff to whip you up a daiquiri, this sexy rum bar is worth a visit. It’s nestled in an alleyway in the Britomart precinct downtown, giving it an out of Auckland buzz. The fireplace, the cobblestoned pathways and dark wooden surfaces all add to the sultry charm. A great place to finish the night.


    * Neighbourhood: This eclectic pub is set in the groovy inner-city suburb of Kingsland. The massive outdoor space out the front is a drawcard when the sun is shining. Sample a couple of locally brewed Mac's beers (my favourite is the low-carb Spring Tide) and lounge about with the locals. The food here is also really good (the sliders are always on the money, and the mushroom pizza with truffle oil is also good). If it's not the day to be outdoors, the interior also has a warm, hip vibe.

    * The Golden Dawn: The drinks list at this grungy Ponsonby bar is outstanding. Pulled together by one of the country's best mixologists, Golden Dawn features a huge variety of international grapes, boutique beer on tap and an outstanding cocktail list. Pick your poison and pull up a pew at one of the shared bench seats out the back. This place also plays host to a bunch of different music acts so check out what's on.

    * 1885: This is one smooth and sexy bar, located in the popular Britomart precinct downtown. The dim lights, the dark wooden fixtures, the chesterfield leather couches - it's perfect for sipping a warming spirit on an Auckland evening. Hidden away downstairs is a cool space used for special events - my favourite is the jazz night on a Wednesday - well worth  the $10 at the door. If you're up for something a bit more happening, the adjoining Britomart Country Club (http://www.britomartcountryclub.co.nz/) boasts the city's biggest beer garden. This place is packed with suits for Friday night drinks and they have heaps of good deals (like half price food and beverage on Monday night).
  • On July 31, 2013
    Nicky Park answered the question: Nicky Park

    What are the best restaurants in Auckland?

    Auckland's food scene is really blossoming. There's heaps of different options depending on what you feel like eating, what vibe you're after and how much you want to spend. As of right now, these are a few of my favourite places, but I'm sure it will continue to evolve as the cuisine scene does here. (For other award winning Auckland restaurants go here.)

    The French Cafe: This fine dining establishment is an Auckland institution. This year it has been named the best restaurant in Auckland by Metro magazine - and also took out the title for best hospitality, best fine dining and the best chef, Simon Wright. The seasonal menu is stunning, and the wine list here is perfectly picked. Most recently, my favourite dish is the spanner crab risotto with pearl barley. I suggest treating yourself to a tasting menu paired with wines. It's the best way to really soak up the generosity of The French Cafe. If you have a larger group ask about about the chic new space out the back, The French Kitchen.

    Depot: It's simple Kiwi food, cooked perfectly every time. The staff are super friendly (despite being under the pump by the constant crowds) and the sliders are a must in my books. It's also an oyster bar, so it would be rude not to slurp a few of those. They don't take bookings, but there's plenty of room to sip a sav while you wait for a table to come up.

    The Tasting Shed: offers some of the best service I have ever experienced, in the world. Located about an hour’s drive out of Auckland on a lush piece of land, the food here is made for picking, sharing and enjoying with wine. The décor is rustic and charming, once you’re seating at the chunky wooden tables, you don’t want to leave. The attention to detail makes for such a memorable experience – the beautiful copper cutlery, the fresh market flowers, the knowledgeable staff, I just love it out here. They take bookings (something of a rarity in Auckland) and will drop you home if you’re staying within 5km. Well worth a visit.

    Mexico: As the name suggests, this place has the best Mexican menu I've sampled in the city so far. It's dark and rustic, with Day of the Dead images hung on the wall, and waitresses wearing floral headpieces. Fried chicken is their speciality, and my favourites are the caramel braised pork quesadilla and the cumin spiced patatas bravas. Make sure you're in a group so you can sample more plates.

    Soul Bar: When you're in Auckland you have to sample seafood. Even if you're not a massive fan, New Zealanders pride themselves on their ocean food, so it would be rude not to give it a go. This is my go-to restaurant when I've got tourists in town. Soul Bar sits harbourside, offering stunning views of the City of Sails. Their menu is seasonal, but the salt and pepper squid starter will get you going, then try a piece of fish for main.

  • On July 31, 2013
    Nicky Park answered the question: Nicky Park

    What are the best tours of Auckland?

    There are heaps of tours to do in Auckland but here's a few that might get you inspired:

    Bularangi Harley Tours: Experience the joys of seeing the beautiful scenery of Auckland from the comfort and freedom of a motorcycle. Your tour will begin with stories of the area you are visiting then you will experience the roar of the Harley Davidson. All tour guides have a vast knowledge about Auckland, Maori culture and are wonderful story tellers with an inherent passion for and knowledge of Auckland.

    Magic Broomstick Tours: The tour takes you around the village and beaches of Devonport noting some points of historic interest, visits North Head to enjoy the views and to learn about the fort and the network of tunnels, finally gliding to the top of Mt. Victoria, one of Devonport’s extinct volcanoes, to enjoy the panoramic views of Auckland City and the Hauraki Gulf.

    Ananda Tours: These guys specialise in relaxed and exclusive tours of Waiheke Island.  Chill out in their comfortable minibuses and experience Waiheke’s award winning wines along the wine trail, olive oils, arts and crafts, scenic, silver service tours or any combination that you would like. Tours are accompanied by an informed commentary, ensuring that you get the most out of your experience.

    Auckland Walks: A two hour Auckland City Walk embraces social history, public art and heritage architecture as well as introducing some of the retail, dining and entertainment possibilities in the inner city. It is an entertaining orientation and discovery experience, starting from the Fullers Ferry terminal on Quay Street with passionate guides who point out fascinating facts right under your nose.

    Auckland Gourmet Walk Tours: Experience the cafe culture and gourmet delights of the charming inner city suburb of historic Ponsonby. Or maybe a downtown, seafood, bread wine and cheese tour is more to your liking. Zest food tours have a few options that allow you to meet with Kiwi culinary and creative personalities and sample some of the city's finest food and wine.
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  • On July 31, 2013
    Nicky Park answered the question: Nicky Park

    What are the best kid-friendly restaurants in Auckland?

    The Tasting Shed: If you can nab the table with a big group out the back, The Tasting Shed is a gorgeous spot to bring the littlies. The service here is up there with some of the best I’ve ever experienced and the rustic setting in Kumeu, about an hour out of Auckland, is a delight. The dishes are made for picking and sharing, but there’s something to accommodate the kid’s pallet as well. On the day I visited there were little ones dressed up in their favourite costumes playing around on the damp lawn and they seemed pretty chipper. Meanwhile, the grownups were able to pull up a pew near by and enjoy a quiet white without a worry.

    Prego: This Italian eatery is an Auckland institution. Get in there in the early afternoon and sit under the tree in the front courtyard with your little ones. Established on the cool Ponsonby strip, Prego is heaving in the evening, so my parenting sources say the key is to beat the mad rush. They don't take bookings. Children can order a couple of delicious wood-fired pizzas and entertain themselves with pencils and paper provided. Parents – feast on some of the city’s best Italian food and a local red wine to match.
  • On July 31, 2013
    Nicky Park answered the question: Nicky Park

    What are the best art galleries in Auckland?

    Auckland Art GalleryToi o Tamaki: Heralded in 1888 as "the first permanent Art Gallery in the Dominion", Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki remains the largest art institution in New Zealand, with a collection now numbering over 15,000 works. The gallery’s collection includes major holdings of New Zealand historic, modern and contemporary art, and outstanding works by Māori and Pacific Island artists, as well as European painting, sculpture and print collections ranging in date from 1376 to the present day. (Cnr Wellesley and Kitchener Streets, Tel: 09 379 1349/0272 919953)

    TSB Bank Wallace Arts Centre: Located in the historic Pah Homestead in Monte Cecilia Park, Hillsborough, the Arts Centre opened to the public in August 2010, and has received over 300,000 visits to date. The Pah Homestead was fully restored by the Auckland City Council together with support of TSB Bank from 2009 to 2010 as the new home of the James Wallace Arts Trust and its Collection. The Arts Centre hosts a changing programme of exhibitions curated from the James Wallace Arts Trust Collection of over 6000 works as well as regional touring exhibitions. The Arts Centre also runs ongoing community education programmes targeting Auckland schools and the wider public.
  • On July 31, 2013
    Nicky Park answered the question: Nicky Park

    What are the best adventure outings in Auckland?

    New Zealand prides itself on catering to the thrill seeker so adventurous activities are a Kiwi specialty. While the South Island is better known for getting the blood pumping, there’s still action up north. Here are my picks of Auckland adventures:

    1. Canyoning in the Waitakere Ranges: About an hours drive out of Auckland lies the beautiful Waitakere Ranges. There’s plenty to do out there on your own, however, there are guided day trips that will have you abseiling down waterfalls, jumping off cliffs, crawling through holes and swimming to safety. It’s one of the most rewarding adventures that I’ve ever done and well worth checking out. There's also cool night time canyoning adventures out on the west coast. You'll arrive just in time to see the sun setting then be guided by just the glow worms and your head lamp. Check out more here.

    2. Scaling the Sky Tower: There’s plenty to do on, in and around the soaring Sky Tower, but the best of the adventures I reckon is the SkyWalk. All rigged up, you are led around a 1.2m wide walkway that circles the SkyTower, 192m off the ground. There’s no handrails and it can get really windy up there. Your bravery is rewarded with panoramic views of Auckland city and I recommend purchasing the cool pictures of your time up there.

    3. Jumping off the Harbour Bridge: Bungy jumping is a must-do in Auckland (if you have the guts). Kiwis boast the fact that they are the brains behind this spine-tingling activity so it’s worth adding to your bucket list. In Auckland, the best place to give it a go is off the iconic Auckland Harbour Bridge. The first bungy off the bridge happened back in 1987 when the activity’s inventor, AJ Hackett, leapt off. He was detained by police. However, in 2003 he took over the Harbour Birdge Climb and added the bungy element.

  • On July 31, 2013
    Nicky Park answered the question: Nicky Park

    What are the best things to do with kids in Auckland?

    * Butterfly Creek: The premier attraction of this place is the Tropical Butterfly House. It's the is the largest in the southern hemisphere, hosting more than 700 free-flying, exotic butterflies from Asia and South America.The Butterfly House also includes a large walk-through exhibit with New Zealand’s largest tropical freshwater aquarium containing Lakes Malawi and Tanganyika cichlidsand a coral reef tank. Other features of Butterfly Creek include Buttermilk Farm interactive farmyard with alpacas, rabbits and lambs, the Red Admiral Express train and Papillon Bar and Café. (Tom Pearce Drive, Tel: 09 275 8880)

    * Kelly Tarlton’s SEA LIFE Aquarium: Get up close to the magnificent King Penguins and playful Gentoo Penguins with an on-the-ice encounter in the world's largest sub-Antarctic penguin colony display. See the world’s biggest species of stingray and New Zealand’s largest collection of sharks. Journey through the vast underwater aquarium, get your hands wet in the interactive touchpools and marvel at the magical Seahorse Kingdom. Kelly Tarlton’s is a fantastic family experience for all ages and one of Auckland’s most popular attractions. (23 Tamaki Drive, Orakei, Tel:  09 528 0603)


    * Auckland Zoo-Te Wao Nui: Te Wao Nui offers Zoo visitors the opportunity to experience Aotearoa's native animals, plants and living cultural history in a way that’s never been done before in New Zealand. Te Wao Nui encompasses six distinct ecosystems, covers a quarter of the Zoo’s on-display area, and is home to many unique creatures including  the world’s rarest duck (that also doesn’t fly) to one of the planet’s heaviest insects, frogs that don’t croak, and a reptile-like creature that pre-dates dinosaurs! (Motions Road, Western Springs, Tel: 09 360 3804)
  • On July 31, 2013
    Nicky Park answered the question: Nicky Park

    What are the best parks in Auckland?

    The Auckland Domain is the city’s oldest park, developed around the cone of an extinct volcano which is 50,000 years old. The Wintergarden complex is situated in the Domain and was established after World War I and is a protected heritage site. Auckland Museum stands at the domains highest point in the 75 hectare park. During the summer time head down there and watch a local cricket match from the stands, pack a picnic or, if the time is right, get festive at Carols in the Domain.

    Auckland Botanic Gardens is the largest outdoor garden in the city. It features more than 10,000 different plant types and is a showcase of flora from around the world and native plants such as New Zealand's Nikau. See trees that existed on the ancient Gondwana supercontinent, as well as a magnificent display of roses, camellias and magnolias. Entry is free to this beautiful space (102 Hill Road, Manurewa, Tel: 09 267 4728)
  • On July 31, 2013
    Nicky Park answered the question: Nicky Park

    What are the best museums in Auckland?

    The Auckland War Memorial Museum is certainly worth a visit when you're in town. Established in 1852 as the first guardian of New Zealand’s national treasures, the Auckland Museum is now regarded as one of the best museums in the southern hemisphere. This place is renowned for its unique collection of Maori and Pacific treasures, and for its status as a war memorial to the many thousands of New Zealanders who died in defence of their country. Check out their website for all the latest happens at this beautiful space. Visually, this building is stunning, set in the huge grassy grounds Auckland domain. There's usually plenty of parking, but you can leg it there in about 15 minutes from the main streets of the CBD, or hop in a cab, it should take under ten minutes. I recommend getting down to the museum for a night time activity – it looks perfect when illuminated.
  • On July 29, 2013
    Nicky Park answered the question: Nicky Park

    What is the weather like right now in Auckland?

    I'm very excited to say that things are warming up in Auckland. We're just weeks away from spring and the sun is already shining. By Auckland standards, it has been a fairly dry, mild winter, so things are looking hopeful for the months ahead. It doesn't tend to get too windy here (unlike our capital Wellington) so if you can find a spot in the sun it’s happy days.  New Zealand is known for having very radiant heat so sun safety is vital. Things are only going to heat up now as we approach the stunning Kiwi summer time.

    Admittedly, dusk and dawn are still pretty chilly, so you’ll want to rug up for night time activities, but you can probably leave the thermals at home.

    For more info visit the NZ Herald weather section here.
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