Tiritiri Matangi Island wildlife sanctuary is located 30 kilometers north east of central Auckland. Access to the 220-hectare island is by ferry or private boat. One of the world's most successful volunteer conservation projects, between 1984 and 1994, volunteers planted 300,000 trees to repair the damage of 120 years of farming. All mammalian predators were eradicated and a number of threatened and endangered bird and reptile species were successfully introduced, including the flightless takahe, one of the world's rarest species, and the tuatara. If you stay overnight, you might see nocturnal wildlife such as the little blue penguin (the world's smallest penguin) and the little spotted kiwi.
Auckland is built around beautiful Hauraki Gulf amid 48 volcanic cones which provide a unique landscape and spectacular views. Emerging from the sea just 600 years ago, Rangitoto Island is the youngest volcano in New Zealand and the region's largest. An Auckland icon, it's a favourite day trip for walkers and boaties. Rangitoto Island is renowned for its rugged lava terrain, abundant native plant life and the largest pohutukawa forest in the world.
Standing 196 meters, Mount Eden or Maungawhau is the highest volcano in Auckland. From the summit, visitors can enjoy splendid 360-degree views of the city and its harbours. The large, well-preserved crater, 50 meters deep, is named Te Ipu-a-Mataaho ("The Bowl of Mataah") after the god who lives inside it, guarding the secrets of the earth. Mt. Eden Domain is protected as an archaeological site by the Historic Places Act 1980. During the period of Maori habitation, the lower slopes of Maungawhau were used as gardens and living terraces. Early Maori and European activity has drastically altered the form of Maungawhau, and what remains is a valuable record of Maori history.
Check out contemporary and historical artworks at the Auckland Art Gallery - Toi o Tamaki, the largest art institution in New Zealand. A collection of more than 15,000 works includes New Zealand historic, modern and contemporary art, and outstanding works by Maori and Pacific Island artists, European painting, sculpture and prints.
Known for its diverse music scene, Auckland became a UNESCO city of music in November 2017, joining the ranks of 18 cities worldwide. Auckland Council and the New Zealand government are also working to get the city's volcanic cones recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Best Day Trip
There's so much to do and see on the beautiful Waiheke Island just a 30 minute ferry ride from the city, you could spend months exploring the place. The Matiatia Headland Walkway takes you to the top of a ridge overlooking sparkling bays and down to pretty Cable Bay with its impressive Stephen Mulqueen sculpture, Rua-Kuriwao, the Red Bush Dog. History buffs will love exploring Stony Batter Historic Reserve and learning about the fascinating history of the WW2 military installations at the far northeastern end of the island, while wine enthusiasts can enjoy a winery tour around some of the 30 boutique wineries dotted around the island, many with breathtaking views.
Off the Beaten Path
Tawharanui Regional Park is a predator-free, open wildlife sanctuary at the end of a peninsula, but it is much more remote and wild with rocky headlands, beautiful white sand beaches, and regenerating native forest and wetlands. Choose one of eight excellent walkways like the north coast track to the spectacular rocky Tokatu Point. You will see magnificent pohutukawa trees on the coastal cliffs and hear bellbirds and tui on the ecology walkway. The park is 82 kilometers or about an hour and a half drive from Auckland.
Most Iconic Attraction
For those truly seeking a thrill, jump off the Sky Tower and plummet 192 meters at SkyJump, New Zealand's highest jump and only Base Jump by wire. Or, for a calmer experience, walk up One-Tree Hill/ Maungakiekie, which at 182 meters is the largest, most intact volcanic cone in the city (excluding Rangitoto which is an island). The tree that gave the hill its name was vandalised and later died in 1999 but others have been planted in its place.
Auckland's nightlife offers everything from chilled-out pubs and backpacker joints to swanky bars and award-winning restaurants run by celebrity chefs. If you're in a dance mood, Auckland's top resident DJs perform at lively bars dotted around the Viaduct Harbour, off Queen Street and Britomart. Don't miss Karangahape Road, or 'K-Road'. The kilometer long strip is home to an eclectic array of shops, galleries and eateries by day and by night offers a diverse range of after-dark entertainment in cocktail lounges, corner bars, indie music venues, nightclubs, adult cabaret and some of Auckland's finest restaurants.
With 30 bars and restaurants on a prime waterfront location, the Viaduct Harbour is a primo place to wine, dine and people-watch. The place is always humming but reached fever pitch recently with the arrival of the Volvo Ocean Race fleet. Once the 36th America's Cup gets under way in 2021, this small stretch of water will become people-watching nirvana. Meanwhile, wander around the super yachts moored in the marina and after dark enjoy the city lights reflected in the still waters of the harbor. It's also a perfect spot to watch the city's dazzling New Year's Eve fireworks display.