When we made the decision to travel to New Zealand it was very clear we wanted it to be a road trip. It is to easy to fly in and out of cities and miss the amazingness that is in-between. After much deliberation on how we would navigate the vast country, we decided that we would fly into the North Island and kick off our road trip in New Zealand’s biggest, most populated city – Auckland.
Unfortunately for Auckland, it really didn’t stand a chance with us. We arrived after a 13 hour flight from South America and didn’t sleep a wink. Upon arrival we picked up our 4×4 and headed to The Langham Hotel to drop our stuff off. The plan for the day was to start exploring the city. The only thing we ended up exploring on day one was our comfy bed with the blinds drawn.
As we prefer adventures versus city breaks, we didn’t give ourselves much time to see the city. When we did decide to finally leave the room we got a glimpse of what makes the city great. Unlike a lot of other large cities, Auckland is close to the mountains, is surrounded by volcanoes and sits along two coastlines – a visit here provides a great opportunity to combine city life with the great outdoors (again, if you get your jet-lagged butt out of bed).
Here are some of Auckland’s highlights:
// CITY EXPLORATION
If you are looking for an easy way to explore the city then look no further than the Coast To Coast Walkway. This 16km trail allows you to hike from one side of New Zealand to the other in a day passing by some of Auckland’s most popular sights. The start and end points include Manuka, one of Auckland’s southern suburbs, and Waitemata Harbour, the main access by sea to Auckland. As with most walks, the time that it will take you to cover the trail is dependent on those making the walk. Set aside a few hours and enjoy checking out the city by foot.
Tourist hot spots on the walk include the nightlife and shopping destination Viaduct Harbour. You will also pass by Auckland’s highest point & one of the best 360* views of the city at Mt Eden. A highlight of the walk includes meandering through five different volcanic areas, including the 182-meter volcanic peak One Tree Hill. You will also have the opportunity to visit a handful of the 26 regional parks located in Auckland, including Auckland Domain, the city’s oldest park.
// ISLAND HOPPING
If you find yourself in Auckland for an extended period of time be sure to get out of the city and explore some of the surrounding islands. If you are interested in beautiful vineyards and beaches be sure to check out Waikehe Island. Take the short 35-minute ferry ride from downtown Auckland, rent a bike, and you are set to start exploring. There are multiple vineyards, art galleries, walking trails and white sand beaches to enjoy.
Prefer exploring natural wonders and up for some adventure? Be sure to visit Auckland’s iconic Rangitoto Island. Whether you explore this island by foot or by kayak, Rangitoto makes for a great day trip away from the bustling city. The island is home to the youngest and largest volcano in the Auckland volcanic field. Hiking to the top will take about an hour but you will be treated to great views of the surrounding area. Not keen on the walk? Fullers offer an option to take a 4WD to the top as part of a guided tour.
Looking for a day out to scrub up on your New Zealand history? Rotoroa Island may be the place for you. Rotoroa can be reached with a quick ferry from downtown Auckland and offers fantastic scenery and insight into local history. Home to New Zealand’s first and longest running alcohol and drug addiction treatment center, Rotoroa was closed off to the public for over a century. It’s now open – so enjoy. In addition to being able to visit the historical buildings, Rotoroa offers great walking tracks and four beautiful beaches.
When in Auckland it is hard to miss the views of the Auckland Sky Tower. If you aren’t afraid of heights and are keen to get a 360* view of the city from above – the Sky Tower is a great option to spend a bit of your time. Feeling adventurous? The Sky Tower offers two adrenaline packed activities that you may want to explore. SkyWalk gets you in a harness and lets you enjoy the views from outside of the viewing platform. Not enough fun for you? Try SkyJump. This add-on straps you to a wire and allows you to base-jump off the famous tower via a wire.
We skipped the thrills (blame in on the jet lag) and opted to go shopping along Queen Street – Auckland’s city center hub and major shopping district. While not as adrenaline fuelled as the SkyTower, we made it out alive and in one-piece and still had plenty of views of the Sky Tower.