About Auckland: General tourist information
For general information on tourism in New Zealand, taking in everything from adventure tourism and eco-tourism to shopping and sight-seeing, try www.tourism.net.nz and www.newzealand.com. For general information about what is on in Auckland go to www.aucklandnz.com.
To get around Auckland using public transport, try the route planner at www.maxx.co.nz provided by Maxx, Auckland’s main public transport service . The main buses in the central city are the free City Circuit bus and the $1.70 Link bus; more can be found at www.maxx.co.nz/how-to-travel/take-the-bus/other-bus-services.html. If you would like to have a day out on the harbour, or if you would like to visit Rangitoto Island or Waiheke Island, try Fullers Ferries at www.fullers.co.nz.
For sightseeing bus tours, try:
Auckland Explorer Bus – hop-on, hop-off sightseeing bus – all day pass $35
The bus does a continuous circuit of 14 of Auckland’s top attractions
Great Sights Auckland for a fixed guided tour
Taxi companies in Auckland include:
- Green Cabs – 0508 447 336 (0508 4 GREEN) – Toyota Prius taxis with all remaining carbon dioxide emissions offset
- Co-op Taxis – (09) 300 3000
- Alert Taxi – (09) 309 2000
- Maxi Taxi – (09) 309 4000 – for larger groups
If it is your first time in Auckland, you might notice that it’s very hilly. One reason for this is that Auckland is built around approximately 50 volcanoes, collectively known as the Auckland Volcanic Field. (This field is currently dormant; the most recent addition was Rangitoto Island approximately 600 to 700 years ago.) Many of these volcanoes are now preserved as parks and provide great views of the city. Two of the best to visit are Mount Eden Domain and One Tree Hill Domain, both of which are easily accessible from the central city.
If you are only in town for a short period of time but still want a great view of the city, take a trip up the Sky Tower, the tallest building in the Southern Hemisphere (328 metres / 1076 feet). Also located within this building are the Sky City Casino, numerous restaurants and bars, and the SkyJump, a 192 metre cable-controlled jump that is a cross between a bungy jump and a base jump. Alternatively, AJ Hackett Bungy offer bungy jumping and a bridge climb on the Auckland Harbour Bridge.
Located in the Auckland Domain, just 10 minutes walk from the University of Auckland’s Faculty of Engineering, is the Auckland War Memorial Museum – http://www.aucklandmuseum.com. The war memorial museum also houses significant Maori and Pacific collections.
Museum of Transport and Technology – http://www.motat.org.nz.
Auckland Art Gallery – http://www.aucklandartgallery.govt.nz.
The area of the Pacific Ocean to the east of Auckland is known as the Hauraki Gulf and is dotted with islands. Most islands are easily accessible by ferry from the main ferry terminal in downtown Auckland (99 Quay Street). Here are some of the highlights in the Hauraki Gulf:
Rangitoto Island is Auckland’s most recent volcano (approximately 600 to 700 years old) and is the symmetrical island you can see in the harbour from virtually everywhere. It is very rugged with amazing scoria and tundra. You can walk to the top relatively easily – the tracks are good but they are quite steep towards the summit – or you can get a “train” (carriages drawn by a tractor) if you book in advance. There are also some small lava caves that you can walk through with a torch. Make sure you take food and drink as there are no shops on the island and wear solid shoes as the scoria is rough. Please see Fullers Ferries for ferry times, prices and bookings.
Waiheke Island is the second largest island in the Hauraki Gulf and is actually another suburb of Auckland. Regular ferries are run by Fullers Ferries and the trip from the central city is roughly 40 minutes each way. The island is home to dozens of boutique vineyards, so wine tours are very popular. There are also small art galleries and a number of beautiful beaches. For more, go to http://www.waihekenz.com.
Tiritiri Matangi Scientific Reserve is one of the most successful conservation projects in the world. Unwanted predators have been eradicated, and the once-pastoral island has been replanted with native trees. Rare native birds have been returned to its now safe and restored habitats. Unlike most other island sanctuaries, Tiritiri Matangi is an open sanctuary and visitors are rewarded with the special experience of seeing some of New Zealand’s most endangered birds in the wild. Go to http://www.tiritirimatangi.org.nz. Bookings are essential. Phone 0800 360 Discovery (0800 3603472) (free call within NZ only) or +64 9 307 8005 or book your trip online.
Two small mountain ranges frame the Auckland region, the Waitakere Ranges to the west and the Hunua Ranges to the south. Both are within an hour’s drive from the central city, both have walking tracks of varying lengths and both have several reservoirs (as they are water catchments for Auckland). Make sure you wear sturdy shoes and suitable clothes, and pay a visit to the visitor centre first to pick up a map. If you do go to Waitakere, it is worth a trip to Piha, a rugged iron-sand surf beach that is popular with surfers and swimmers alike. (Piha is known for its rips, so be sure to swim only in the patrolled areas!)
For a more relaxed day out, follow Quay Street from the city (where it becomes Tamaki Drive) and continue along the waterfront to Mission Bay, a beachfront suburb that has a wide range of restaurants. For a true Kiwi experience, buy some fish & chips and eat them on the beach – just make sure you don’t forget the tomato sauce!
Auckland is a melting pot of fine food from around the world, particularly the Asia / Pacific region. Listed below are a selection of excellent restaurants near the central business district, grouped by price range.
The French Café | 210 Symonds Street
As the winner of Metro Magazine’s supreme award for Auckland restaurants for four out of the last six years, The French Café is without a doubt one of Auckland’s best restaurants. The food is French inspired, but also uses flavours from New Zealand and Asia. The roast duck leg with orange sauce, bok choy and kumara (sweet potato) mash is their signature dish.
The Jervois Steak House & Saloon | 70 Jervois Rd, Herne Bay
Steak lovers, this is the place for you! You order a fine cut of meat and it comes unadorned on the plate – sauces and vegetables are an optional extra. The prime rib and the French onion soup are highlights on the menu.
O’Connell St Bistro | 3 O’Connell Street (corner of Shortland and O’Connell Streets)
For an intimate fine dining experience, try O’Connell St Bistro, located right in the heart of the city. This restaurant’s extensive wine list has been recognised by New York’s Wine Spectator Magazine for the last eight years running.
The Observatory | Corner of Victoria and Federal Streets (in the Sky Tower)
The Observatory is a seafood buffet restaurant located near the top of the Sky Tower – even the views from the bathrooms are breathtaking! (Please note that the buffet is quite small when compared to similar restaurants overseas, but the food is generally of a very high standard.)
Iguacu | 269 Parnell Road, Parnell
Iguacu (pronounced ig-wa-soo) is one of the top restaurants in Parnell, an inner city suburb where many of the restaurants are situated in converted villas, giving them a warm, inviting feeling. Iguacu blends Pacific-rim flavours with traditional European cuisine.
After dinner, try Iguacu’s excellent desert menu or walk 100 m up the road to the famous Chocolate Boutique Café (323 Parnell Road, Parnell) and sample their selection of fine New Zealand chocolates. (The Italian Denso, a melted chocolate drink, comes highly recommended!)
Orbit | Corner of Victoria and Federal Streets (in the Sky Tower)
Orbit is Auckland’s only revolving restaurant, located near the top of the Sky Tower in the heart of the downtown area. The restaurant provides panoramic views of the city as it rotates through 360°. Unfortunately, as one of Auckland’s busiest restaurants, people often leave with mixed feelings about Orbit. If you want stunning views while you dine then another option is The Observatory, which is also near the top of the Sky Tower.
The Café at Hyatt Regency | Corner of Princes St and Waterloo Quadrant (in the Hyatt Regency)
For those delegates choosing to stay at the Hyatt, The Café is a convenient choice. Don’t let the name fool you – The Café fits right in amongst the other mid/high end restaurants mentioned here.
Mai Thai | 57 Victoria Street West (near the Sky Tower)
Mai Thai is one of New Zealand’s finest Thai restaurants, a fact recognised by the Thai Embassy when it chose it as the location to host the Thai Prime Minister during the 1999 APEC conference and the numerous awards the restaurant has received.
Another excellent choice if you like Thai food is Thai Friends (311 Parnell Road, Parnell) in the inner-city suburb of Parnell. As with Iguacu above, the Chocolate Boutique Café (323 Parnell Road, Parnell) comes highly recommended for dessert.
Mexican Café | 67 Victoria Street West (near the Sky Tower)
This restaurant has a lively, colourful atmosphere and has built up the reputation for serving the best Mexican food and margaritas in town.
Mezze Bar | 9 Durham Street East
Mezze Bar is a café, wine bar and restaurant serving everything from tapas-style snacks to full meals. It’s also a great place for pre-dinner drinks or a late-night coffee.
The Occidental | 6-8 Vulcan Lane (Vulcan Lane runs between Queen and High Streets)
The Occidental is one of the oldest bars in town and has been faithfully serving its patrons since 1870. Other bars have come and gone but The Occidental has remained by continually reinventing itself. In 1999 it was transformed into a Belgian Beer Café and it now serves Belgian cuisine and beer alongside its selection of Australasian wines. Belgian-style New Zealand Green-lipped Mussels are their specialty.
Burger Fuel | 291 Queen Street, 187 Parnell Road, 114 Ponsonby Road
Burger Fuel’s aim is to engineer the ultimate gourmet burger, and it shows. The atmosphere is as charged as the food. And unlike many other burger chains, Burger Fuel doesn’t only cater to the carnivores among us – they also have a range of delicious vegetarian and vegan burgers.
Renkon | 10 Durham Street East (off Queen Street), 211 Parnell Road, 2/175 Ponsonby Road
Renkon specializes in donburi and was among the first to introduce the idea to New Zealand. Donburi is basically a large bowl of rice topped with a mixture of cooked as well as fresh vegetables, and meat or fish. But this description doesn’t do it any justice – it’s simply delicious. The Sauce Katsu Chicken on rice comes highly recommended.
Tanuki’s Cave | 319B Queen Street (near the Sky City Cinemas)
When you descend into the subterranean Tanuki’s Cave, there, at the bottom of the stairs, is a ceramic tanuki welcoming you. Tanuki’s is both loungey and intimate, with warm and fuzzy lighting thanks to the glow cast by the red paper lampshades. The restaurant specialises in yakitori (assorted meat charcoal grilled on skewers) and kushiage (deep fried breadcrumbed skewers).
Verona | 169 Karangahape Road (K’ Road)
If you’re hoping to see a different side of Auckland then K’ Road is a must, and there’s no better place to visit than Verona Café. The atmosphere of this café/bar is ostentatiously unostentatious and its been a feature of K’ Road for many years. For more, take a look at this review.
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