Auckland, the 'City of Sails' is the main gateway city to New Zealand with around one third of the country's population and is centre to many commercial and financial institutions.
Almost an island between two magnificent harbours, the Waitemata and the Manukau, Auckland is a maritime playground extending to the beautiful islands of the Hauraki Gulf. In fact, Aucklanders claim the most pleasurecraft per capita of any city in the world and is host to many sailing events, including the America's Cup in 1999.
Don't miss a harbour cruise and perhaps a visit to a nearby island. Waiheke and Great Barrier Islands are popular for their sandy beaches, native bush and idyllic lifestyle. Waiheke is also a flourishing centre for winemakers and artists. Rangitoto Island, formed from a volcano only 600 years ago, is worth a visit for its magnificent views. Also accessible by ferry is the historic suburb of Devonport.
Auckland city has a fascinating assortment of shops from the designer boutiques of Parnell and Newmarket to the casual atmosphere of the city markets and stalls. Restaurants are mostly in Ponsonby, Parnell, the waterfront suburbs such as Mission Bay or St Heliers and the inner city and frequently specialise in the local seafood delicacies.
Auckland is home to many fine galleries and museums. The Auckland Museum is noted for its outstanding masterpieces of Maori art and displays of New Zealand's natural history and birdlife. Downtown, the Auckland City Art Gallery is host to international exhibitions and contains a fine selection of New Zealand and European works. The Hobson Wharf Maritime Museum on the city waterfront depicts New Zealand maritime history. Check with the Visitors Information Centre for the frequent performances of live theatre, shows or concerts coinciding with your visit.
Auckland is also home to Kelly Tarlton's Antarctic Encounter and Underwater World, where you can come face to face with real live sharks and penguins.
A number of public gardens and reserves surround Auckland city and demonstrate the wide variety of plants of this region.
A convenient way to see the highlights of Auckland is by taking a half or full day sightseeing tour.
Auckland is the world's biggest Polynesian city with Maori, Samoan, Cook Island and Tongan people all contributing to the city's vibrant culture. Local markets and churches in particular provide an insight to the local cultures.
Only a short trip from the city are the west coast beaches including Muriwai and the nearby Gannet Colony and the beautiful Waitakere Ranges, all of which feature short scenic walks.