When I think of New Zealand, I think of rolling green hills, blue turquoise waters, and mountainous landscapes. I think about the incredible natural beauty this country possesses, but to be quite honest, I never thought twice about Auckland.
The first time I visited New Zealand, I flew straight into Queenstown like the good little backpacker I was, and visited only the South Island. Auckland is a city that everyone has heard of, but I was actually directed to skip over the city of sails as it apparently wasn’t worth the visit.
Fast forward to a couple of years later, and I found myself flying back over the pacific to New Zealand for a 3 week adventure with Audley Travel. My first stop was Auckland, and I had 48 hours to adventure around and decide for myself if Auckland was “worth the visit”.
Since we were arriving internationally from the states, our flight got in at 6am and we went straight to the hotel to drop our bags and explore. We were staying at the Sky City Hotel which is right in downtown Auckland, and within walking distance to Queen Street and the Viaduct.
Queen street is the Main Street in Auckland where you can find most of the shops and big brand stores. Just off of Queen Street is High Street, which is known for it’s funky high fashion boutique clothing stores. One of the more up and coming area’s of the city that we explored is the Britomart. Britomart, is an area of the city known for some amazing restaurants serving farm to table food, cafes, and boutique stores. If you are looking for a good place to walk around and find dinner, this would be it!
In the afternoon, we were lucky enough to have a half day food tour with Elle, from The Big Foody. She took us on a walk around the city to some of the best restaurants such has Depot, and Amanao. We even stopped at a local cafe called Scarecrow for some Manuka Honey tastings, which apparently New Zealand is famous for! One of my favorite stops on this tour had to be at Giapo, a gellataria owned by an Italian Kiwi, hailing from Sorrento, Italy! We ended up chatting with Giapo himself, and he was kind enough to give us a backstage look at his ice cream shop where all of the creative magic happens. If you ever get the chance to visit this sweet tooth’s paradise, you must!
The next day we were up early for a full day tour of west Auckland with Time Unlimited Tours. I had known New Zealand was one of the most naturally beautiful countries in the world, but I had assumed most of this beauty would be far away from a city center. I soon found out that I was very wrong when we drove into the Waitakere Ranges. This area of Auckland is about an hour out of the CBD, and is considered a subtropical rainforest. A windy road leads you up to this area where there is tons of natural beauty just waiting to be explored.
We stopped at a few lookout points to see Auckland in the distance, which really put into perspective how close natural beauty is to the city. Throughout our time in the Waitakere Ranges we stopped at Kare Kare Falls, and Piha Beach. Piha beach is different from most beaches you might’ve been to because it is a black iron beach! Because Auckland sits on 48 extinct volcanic cones, this beach gets it’s black sand from the leftover volcanic ash.
I absolutely fell in love with Piha beach and the stunning views you get from some of the lookout points above. Although it wasn’t particularly warm this day, I obviously took my shoes off for a quick “earthing” session, and also to dip my toes into the Tasman Sea which was a first for me!
Lastly, the night ended with some bar hopping in Auckland’s Viaduct area or Harbor. Here you can find the young and old coming together for dinner, drinks, and a view of the many sailboats that are docked here.
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed my time in Auckland. I really thought I was going to be itching to leave, but instead, I found myself wishing I had more time to explore the city and it’s surrounding areas. There are so many places close by that are easily accessible from Auckland and can be done in an afternoon and a day trip. If you have more time, I suggest hoping on a ferry to Waiheke Island for some wine tasting, or heading to the cute little seaside town of Devonport for incredible views of the city skyline, boutique stores, and beautiful beaches.
You really do have it all within an arms reach of Auckland, so you might want to think twice before skipping over the city of sails!