Auckland is richly textured, colourful and upbeat. Set on an isthmus between the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean, it's home to more than 1.5 million people, 32 percent of New Zealand's population. The city is a veritable melting pot of cultures, cuisines and neighborhoods. The suburbs are like little villages with their own vibes and landscapes from hipster Ponsonby to Polynesian Manukau, from the dramatic wild, black sand beaches of Piha to the white sands of tranquil Anchor Bay, all within a 45-minute drive.
When to go
Visit Auckland between December and February through March for hot, humid, sub-tropical summer weather—long languid days when everyone is at the beach or wishing they were. Autumn (March through May) offers crisp, clear days and cooler nights—but it's still warm enough to enjoy the wide range of outdoorsy offerings. In winter (June through August) you'll experience a mild climate and days which show you why the lush native rainforest is so verdant and green. The city comes back to life in spring (September through November) with the return of daylight saving heralding a range of festivals and events.
Matariki is the Maori name for Pleiades, a cluster of stars that can be viewed anywhere in the world. The rising of the Matariki is an important time in the Maori calendar as it signifies the Maori New Year and heralds the start of New Zealand's premier Maori winter festival of music, arts, dance and food. Other notable options include Splore, a three-day boutique music and arts festival staged annually on the shores of Tapapakanga Regional Park, and Polyfest, now the largest Polynesian Festival in the world. Held at Manukau Sports Bowl in March every year, it features music, dance, costume and speech and is recognized as a showcase of New Zealand's diverse cultures.
What to eat
Classic Kiwi dishes (by no means limited to Auckland) are roast lamb and vegetables with green peas and mint sauce, cheese roll savories, onion dip with salty chips, pavlova desert, pineapple lumps and Jaffas (lollies). 'Hangi' is traditional Maori cuisine—it involves the steaming of meat, fish and vegetables in an underground pit. Feijoas and kiwifruit are autumn-ripening fruit that are typically Kiwi. And, of course, Auckland is renowned for fresh seafood, especially snapper.
Souvenir to take home
Pounamu, or greenstone, is a stone sacred to Maori that's carved into beautiful necklaces, rings, and earrings. Maori tradition requires pounamu to be gifted, which makes such taonga (treasures) a special and symbolic memory of your time in Aotearoa-New Zealand. Click here for details about the protocols or tikanga of choosing pounamu.
Sustainable Travel tip
Catch the SkyBus from the airport to the city and vice versa—it's cheap and faster than a taxi or shuttle because it travels in a dedicated bus lane. A good passenger ferry service operates between Devonport, Pine Harbour, Birkenhead, Riverhead, Waiheke Island, Rangitoto Island and Auckland's central city - beat the traffic, enjoy a scenic ferry ride and experience a different aspect of Auckland. Te Ara I Whiti / Lightpath or the 'Pink Path', as it is colloquially known (yes, it's bright pink), connects the upper city with the waterfront, offering cyclists a safe and efficient route to get up or downtown.
Auckland has no shortage of envious backdrops. The passenger ferries offer many a picturesque selfie opportunity from the water. Walk up Mt. Eden or head up to North Head near Devonport for 360 degree views of Auckland city, with the Pacific Ocean and/or the Tasman Sea glinting in the background. Climb to the top of Rangitoto Island or the Sky Tower for breath-taking images of the city. Or, take a selfie at the top of One-Tree Hill/Maungakiekie, at 182 meters it is the largest, most intact volcanic cone in the city (excluding Rangitoto which is an island).