The Greenwood Guide to New Zealand

Auckland

  • Get sailing on the Waitemata Harbour in this the 'City of Sails'; even better if you can bag a space on one of the America's Cup yachts that operate here.
  • Learn about the history, geology and wildlife of New Zealand at the Auckland Museum. Do this on a Sunday morning and spend the afternoon (during summer months) picnicking at the Domain, watching a free jazz concert.
  • Have a long and lazy lunch in front of the super-yachts at the Viaduct Harbour, before taking a walk through Downtown to the Sky Tower, the Southern Hemisphere's highest platform.
  • Hop on the ferry to historic Devonport, climb Mt Victoria for 360° views of the city or walk up to the old garrison atop the other volcanic cone of North Head. Afterwards, bathe at lovely Cheltenham Beach.
  • Explore the islands of the Hauraki Gulf: the city-suburb of Waiheke, volcanic Rangitoto and the wild frontier of Great Barrier.
  • Spend a day tramping in the lush forest of Waitakere National Park. Stop in at the Arataki Centre for information about the area's flora, fauna and cultural history. Carry on west till you hit the coast and some of Northland's rugged, great-for-walking beaches like Piha and Karekare.

Auckland: a city of sails and sailors

No explanation is really needed to describe why Auckland has acquired the moniker 'city of sails' - just take a look at all those lovely sailboats jammed into its Waitemata Harbour, all bobbing neatly into line. With a population of just over one million, Auckland is said to have more boats per capita than any other city in the world. With its temperate, sea-faring-friendly climate and the stunning island-speckled Hauraki Gulf off the end of the deck, it is abundantly clear why yachting is such a hugely popular pastime here. One of the highlights of the city's year is the Auckland Anniversary Regatta at the end of January, with over 600 vessels taking part.

Exploring the Hauraki Gulf

The gulf around Auckland is dotted with lots of lovely islands. There are 65 of them in all, some within minutes of the city, others a little further offshore. Many are easily accessible on ferries from central Auckland. For more information on times of crossings visit www.fullers.co.nz.

Here's a bit of info on some that you might like to visit:

Waiheke gained a reputation in the 1960s for the 'alternative' lifestyles of its residents and its artisan culture, though now it has now become more like a dormitory suburb of the city. With white sand beaches, vineyards and olive groves, this is still a great place to visit and is easily accessible at less than half-an-hour's ferry journey from downtown Auckland.

Rangitoto is the youngest island in the gulf. It emerged from the sea just 700 years ago in a series of volcanic explosions. Its wonderful volcanic landscape supports over 200 species of moss, plants and trees including tree daisies, manuka, orchids and the largest pohutukawa (also known as the 'NZ Christmas tree' due to its flaming red flowers over Dec/Jan) forest in the world! There are some 10 or so short and long walks around the island and from the summit there are magnificent views over the Hauraki Gulf, the Waitemata Harbour and Auckland City.

Tiritiri Matangi in Maori means 'wind tossing about'. As its name suggests this is an island of dramatic, steeply rising cliffs and, despite extensive planting programmes attempting to return the forest to its original glory, it remains largely bare. 25km north of Auckland, it is an open sanctuary and the public is free to visit and venture down the five main walking tracks to enjoy some of New Zealand's more unusual and rare fauna and bird life.

Great Barrier Island is decidedly remote. It is the largest island in the gulf, about half the size of the city's metropolitan area, and lies 90km north-east of Auckland. Very rugged with narrow ravines, steep cliffs, jagged pinnacles and a deeply indented coastline, the 1100 residents live the type of alternative and artsy lifestyle of the former residents of Waiheke. The island is a real haven of peace and tranquility, wilderness and rare birdlife. Scenic drives, wonderful walking tracks among native forest and bush, long white surf beaches, fishing and good diving all make this a great destination. Catch a ferry from the city or alternately take a 30-minute flight.

Kawau Island can only be reached from Sandspit in Warkworth, a little further up the coast, although if you stay at Kawau Lodge, Dave will happily come and meet you on the mainland with his boat to take you over. It is best known for Mansion House, built in 1846 and home of former New Zealand governor Sir George Grey. He turned the island into a zoological park importing a variety of animals including kookaburras, peacocks and parma wallabies which, thought to be extinct in Australia, can sometimes still be seen.

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