Flights to Auckland: New Zealand's big city
It's man versus nature in sprawling Auckland. Soaring skyscrapers tower over the suburbs, apparently oblivious to the fact they're sitting atop a huge volcanic field. We hope it’s benign. Twin harbours straddle the tiny isthmus that prevents the Tasman Sea from pouring into the island-studded Hauraki Gulf. And windswept black sand beaches take on edgy city centre galleries and hip, harbour-side bars in the battle for locals' affections.
Back to nature
Not many cities sit smack in the middle of a volcanic field. Auckland does. There are around 50 dormant cones in all, many with great city views. Take a break on your Auckland holiday for a ramble up Mt Eden, the closest city crater. For cracking views of Hauraki Gulf, and truly aching feet, try Mt Victoria in Devonport. If you still crave exercise, try the steamy rainforest tracks in the Waitakere Ranges, or explore the many coastal walkways of picturesque Waiheke Island, a 35-minute ferry ride from downtown Auckland.
Hosting 2011's Rugby World Cup finals provided party-loving Auckland with just the excuse needed to sjush up its venues. The Cloud is a multi-million-dollar tubular folly that has divided Aucklanders. Make up your own mind on a visit to this eye-catching waterfront entertainment complex. If it's not your style don’t despair; you can swig zingy Sauvignon Blanc in the bars of swanky Viaduct Basin instead.
Auckland has a thriving theatre scene. See thesps in the making at Silo Theatre. Or go old-school with Shakespearean classics at The Edge. Auckland Art Gallery, modernised and re-opened in 2011, promises a visual feast for lovers of Kiwi and European painting and sculpture. Test your fight or flight response in Auckland Museum where vibrant (if somewhat terrifying) Maori haka performances entertain daily.
Population: Auckland has the largest Polynesian population of any city in the world. A whopping 200,000 of the city’s 1.3 million people are Pacific Islanders.
Key dates: January 31 is Auckland Anniversary Day, a holiday that traditionally sees boat-toting locals pour from the city into the sea.
Getting about: Hire a car to explore Auckland or swap wheels for ferries on trips to the Hauraki Gulf's 65 islands.
Did you know? You can walk across Auckland, from Manukau to Waitemata Harbour in less than a day. The 16km Coast to Coast Walk passes old Maori settlement sites, volcanoes, parks and prominent viewpoints.
Nineties’ minimalism is out and comfort back in vogue at our pick of Auckland hotels. Expect regency-style splendour in genteel Remuera, casino chaos in the city and good old-fashioned Kiwi hospitality throughout.
Our favourite Auckland restaurants satisfy the hungriest of bellies. Join the creatives at their Ponsonby ‘office’ for brunch, decamp to the city for a lunchtime burrito and hoof it to the waterfront for seafood at sunset. If you're still hungry after all that, consider seeing a doctor.
Shopping in Auckland
Bargains! Our favourite shops in Auckland are groaning with them. Pick up fresh, cheap veges from vibrant local markets and bag funky cut-price Pacific t-shirts in clothing mega-stores. You might even be left with enough small change to sample chilli-lime chocolate or splurge on local art.
Auckland nightlife is nothing if not diverse. Thick walls of ice keep the drinks (and customers) chilled in one bar while outrageous drag queens set the dance floor alight in another. Sale Street is an ale lover's paradise, with its own micro-brewery and Auckland's biggest beer garden.
Auckland’s attractions are as devil-may-care as the locals. You might find yourself leaping from a tower in the morning and waving at sharks in the afternoon. It’s almost a relief to ponder Pacific artefacts in the relative safety of Auckland Museum.