Auckland City Travel Guide

Auckland City

Auckland is the point of arrival for many visitors. The city is built on a dormant volcano, around a beautiful, green harbour. The sprawling city is melting pot of cultures, architecture, lifestyles and things to do. In what can only be described as an absurd twist of fate, Auckland is now home to the largest Polynesian population in the world. The earliest immigrants from the Pacific were the first inhabitants of the land arriving here sometime between Ad 750 and 1200.

Today Auckland is the hub of commercial activity and the largest growing city in the country with a population of approximately 1.5 million. A long and profitable history which began over 1000 years ago, Auckland has plenty to offer the visitor. International fame for this 'City of Sails' first came to the media with the infamous explosions of the Rainbow Warrior. A decade later, the late Sir Peter Blake captained New Zealand's yachting victory in San Diego in the prestigious and most prized yachting competition, the America's Cup in 1995. By 2000, the city looked at its best having restructured its waterfront with the Viaduct Harbour to host the cup. It will once again be host the America's cup in 2021.

Auckland offers all the attractions of a major city. It is the place to be for cultural and sporting events, shopping and history with a café culture and thriving nightlife scene. Aucklanders love the place and with good reason. The sea is not only reserved for the plentiful yachties as there are heaps of easily accessible sandy beaches and islands to visit. If you want to escape the hustle and bustle of rush hours and city life in general an hours drive will take you to the Waitakere Ranges. Alternatively, you can take a ferry to Devonport or Rangitoto Island.


The Maori appreciated Auckland long before the pioneers arrived. When they landed here over 1000 years ago, they found a thriving population of the moa. They proceeded to hunt this large and tasty bird to extinction. Complete with a fertile soil, the region with such an abundant source of food, its unsurprising that various tribes all wanted to cash in on the bounty. They built pas or fortified cities along the volcanic hillsides from which they could both protect themselves and wage war on other tribes. The Ngati Whatua Iwi, Nga Puhi Iwi and Waikato Iwi all held claim to being the rightful proprietors of the land. Tribal wars ensued and endured and Auckland was dubbed by the Maori as the "Battle Place of 100 Lovers" or "Tamaki Makau Rau".

After all the bloodshed over this beloved land it was sold to the pioneers for the grand total of 50 British Pounds and a few 'luxury' items like tobacco, sugar, flour, axes and blankets. Auckland became the second capital of New Zealand after the signing of the Waitangi Treaty in 1840. It became the seat of Governor William Hobson's government. Auckland's days as political capital were numbered, by 1865 the government had already decided that Wellington had a preferable location.

The Sights
The Skytower dominates the skyline. Standing 328m tall its the tallest building in the country and offers fantastic views which stretch all the way to the Hauraki Gulf and lend a birds' eye onto the CBD. Located at the corner of Federal and Victoria streets, the building was completed in 1997. The glass lifts will shoot you up to the glass floors of the observation deck in 40 seconds (although its worth paying a little extra to go up to the next level). Once on the deck you get to play with binoculars, weather monitors, audio guides and other interactive displays. The Skytower forms part of Harrah's Sky City Complex which also boasts a revolving restaurant and a 24 hour casino


Kelly Tarlton's Underwater World and Antarctic Encounter
Kelly Tarlton became a New Zealand icon for his incredible explorations and finds of shipwrecks and their lost treasures. The Underwater World is Kelly Tarlton's gift to those who won't or can't venture into scuba-diving. Instead you step into a clear Perspex onto a moving footpath which runs for 120m along the length of the aquarium. All the mysterious and tranquil beauty will pass before your eyes with anything from tiny fish to sharks, eels, turtles, giant stingrays and much more. The Antarctic Encounter was inspired by the failed attempt of Captain Robert Scott and his team in the race to be the first to reach the South Pole. There's a copy of the base camp which was built in 1911 and live colonies of Gentoo and King penguins playing in artificial snow. You can hop on a Snow Cat, get attacked by an orca (simulated) or learn more of Antarctica's history and future.

The New Zealand National Maritime Museum
New Zealand's history is intimately connected to the sea. The Polynesians first arrived by canoe about a 1000 years ago. It would take another 800 years before European technological and navigational would bring about the arrival of the pioneers. Indeed, boating and sailing seems to run through the very veins of the people. The attractions include early Polynesian and Maori canoes which were used for fishing and sailing as well as longer voyages. There's also a prototype of the Hamilton Jet Boat which was invented in 1957, a replica of an immigrant ship with swaying floorboards and displays of the America's Cup. No less impressive are the KZ1, the Americas Cup Yacht and the Taratai a 25m canoe which Jim Siers created using 1000 year old techniques and then proceeded to sail across the Pacific.

Auckland City Art Gallery
Popular demand has resulted in 2 separate buildings to house art. NZ art is permanently displayed at the corner of Wellesley St East and Kitchener St in a Victorian building topped by a clock tower. The heritage collection of some 10,000 pieces includes some ancient works by Maori as well as colonial artists. You'll see early colonial portraits of ceremonially dressed Maori nobility complete with the traditional moko or facial tattoo by famed artists Gottfried Lindauer and Charles F. Goldie. The gallery lends an artistic walk through history, depicting the exploits and adventures of the early colonials and their depictions of the beautiful landscapes which surrounded them. Other works by acclaimed NZ artists include those of Frances Hodgkins, Colin McMahon, Rita Angus and Tony Formison. . Entry: Free. The modern gallery houses special displays of contemporary art and performance art by NZ and International artists. Whatever's on while you're here, don't miss Colin MaCahon room which is a permanent exhibition of this No. 1 NZ artist. Hungry for more? Then grab a copy of the Auckland Gallery Guide for more info on what's featuring in the city's museums and galleries.

Auckland Zoo
This zoo can hardly be said to be one of the most fantastic in the world. However, if you want to take a look at some native species without waiting or getting muddy, it's probably the best place to do so. You can walk through an aviary of native birds such as the only mountain parrot in the world the kea, a special nocturnal house with lively kiwis or see the elusive tuatara, a rare prehistoric reptile. Children love the primates, Tui Farm, hippos, rhinos and lions.

Museum of Transport & Technology (Motat I & II)
These museums are a delight to anyone with an interest in aviation. Motat I, houses displays on communications, energy and transport or the interactive infotainment Science Centre. You'll find the info on Richard Pearse interesting. This pioneer aviator decided to ease the tediousness of his boring farm work and take to the skies. It is possible that he managed to get there before the Wright Brothers. Motat II is located at the Sir Keith Park Memorial Airfield. Its the place to see historic and rare aircraft such as a V1 bomb or a Lancaster bomber used in WW II, or the huge and luxurious Solent flying boat.

Hobson Wharf Maritime Museum
The Hobson Wharf Museum is located at the Eastern Viaduct, Quay St. It houses historic boats and details Auckland's long connections to the sea with displays on navigation, Polynesian voyages, Pakeha immigration and whaling. The museum enables you to take a historical look into boat building and sail making. The wharf is also a training ground for local yachties. Open 10am-5pm daily.

Rainbow's End Adventure Park
Rainbow's End on Great South Road (cnr Wiri Station Rd) is the city's largest adventure park for quick adrenalin fixes.

Historic Buildings
St Stephen's Chapel (1856/7) was built to replace an earlier stone church which failed to withstand a storm. The new wooden church would become an Anglican memorial ground; it was here that the Constitution of the Church of the Province of New Zealand was signed in 1857. In the churchyard are the graves of the Reverend Rota Waitoa, the first Maori minister to be ordained and Bishop Cowie, the first Bishop of Auckland.

Selwyn Court (1863) which once housed Bishop's Selwnyn's library is now a lecture and meeting centre. George Augustus Selwyn (1809-1878) was a distinguished missionary bishop who drew together the various mission stations into a Church Province. Selwyn became known for a Gothic style of church with leaden windows which were a move away from the basic wooden churches before his time. The Bishop's Court which is next to it is the Bishop of Auckland's residence. Over the summer months, the park comes alive with outdoor events such as classical and opera concerts. Grab a copy of What's on or check out the entertainment sections of the local newspapers.