With roughly 1.5 million inhabitants, a third of the country's population, Auckland has all of the things you'd expect from any world-class city, including a diverse array of restaurants, bars and cafes, entertainment and culture. But due to its location Auckland also has a surprising choice of outdoor activities right on its doorstep.
Climb the Sky Tower
With a height of 327 metres, the Sky Tower is the tallest building in the Southern Hemisphere and provides spectacular views of the city and surrounds. There are three levels of observation decks and three restaurants with cuisine from casual to fine dining. If you're after a bit of excitement you could try an outside walk around the perimeter or a bungy jump, both from 192 metres above the ground. However, you can get almost as much of a thrill standing on the clear glass plates set into the floor of the observation lounge - the view is straight down to the street below!
Explore the Islands of the Hauraki Gulf
Auckland's harbour is dotted with numerous islands which can be reached easily by short ferry ride. Enjoy wine tasting and beach hopping on Waiheke Island, visit the original Auckland governor's residence on Kawau or hike to the summit of Rangitoto for a great view back to the city.
Dine at the Viaduct
Cycle to St Heliers Village
Be Seen on Ponsonby Road
Ponsonby is Auckland's trendiest suburb and the main street has many bars and cafes where you can see and be seen. It's also home to some great shopping with several of New Zealand's internationally renowned fashion designers having stores there.
Also see: Best Bars in Ponsonby Road, Auckland
In contrast to the sheltered eastern coast, the west coast of Auckland is wild and rugged. The dramatic black sand beaches of Piha, Bethells and Karekare are pounded by the rough waters of the Tasman Sea. It's a great place for long walks or body surfing.
Visit the Auckland Museum
Learn all about New Zealand's ancient and recent past with impressive displays of Maori artifacts, natural history and the colonisation by the British, all housed in one of the country's most impressive buildings. The museum is also set within the Auckland Domain, a large park which is a great place for a picnic.
Walk in the Waitakeres
The Waitakere Ranges is a unique rainforest just to Auckland's west. There are many walking trails of varying lengths and even a scenic railway. The mountainous terrain will give you spectacular views of Auckland to the east and the Tasman Sea to the west.
Go Underwater at Kelly Tarltons Antarctic Encounter and Underwater World
Here you'll experience the environment with Antarctica with an amazing display of penguins and snow. Then enter a glass tunnel under the sea, where sharks, stingrays, fish and other sea creatures swim above you!
Auckland is known as the "City of Sails" for its love affair with yachting. In fact, Auckland has more boats per head of population than anywhere else in the world and on any summer weekend you will see the Waitemata Harbour filled with boats. There are numerous options to experience sailing in Auckland, including taking the helm of an ex Americas Cup boat from SailNZ for a fast "match race." For a gentler pace, try a dinner sail aboard the lovely 50-foot 'Pride of Auckland'.
Image Courtesy of Tourism New Zealand