New Zealand’s natural wonders often steal the limelight for tourists venturing to the land of the long white cloud. Though the country’s cities are far from lacking. Auckland has become something of a culinary and cultural destination, showcasing the exceptional talent New Zealand has to offer, meaning a short break in the city can equally be one of galleries and long lunches as days exploring the region’s plethora of wilderness attractions.
Auckland Art Trail
Auckland boasts almost 100 gallery spaces championing both local and international art. The Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki, located in the city centre, was established in 1888, and is worth a visit for its extensive collection of national and international art. Just around the corner, Gow Langsford is also one of Auckland’s most influential galleries. A short walk up the hill to the suburb of Newton will lead you to a cluster of the city’s galleries, including Artspace, Two Rooms, Ivan anthony and Ozlyn. A trip outside of the city centre can be rewarding too. The TSB Bank Wallace arts Centre, located in historic Pah homestead, is just a 20-minute drive from the CBD, and hosts contemporary exhibitions from the Wallace Art Collection. 45-minutes northwest of the city you’ll also find the Kaipara Coast Sculpture Gardens, a one-kilometre trail through various garden experiences and past 60 sculptures by emerging and established New Zealand artists.
Best known for its acclaimed vineyards and fine dining, Waiheke Island is the perfect day trip destination from Auckland. An easy 40-minute ferry from Auckland Harbour, once you arrive on the island you’re spoilt for choice with excellent public transport and tour operators. For wine tastings and lunch with a view take the Vineyard Hopper shuttle bus, which will take you to the island’s best wineries. In the main town of Oneroa you’ll find a string of quaint boutiques, cafes and excellent restaurants to pass the time in. Be sure to stop in at the Waiheke Community Art Gallery too, which specializes in local artists and hosts a biennale event Headland Sculpture on the Gulf, New Zealand’s largest outdoor art exhibition.
For a more active exploration, discover the island on one of the many walking trails around its lush coastline. Or if you’re looking for something a little more thrilling try a jet ski tour of some of the island’s most beautiful and difficult to reach areas of the northern coastline.
More Auckland Inspiration
Chasing Waterfalls and Waves in Piha
It might be Auckland’s most popular west coast beach, but Piha’s dramatic black sand and rugged coastline lend a sense of isolation and untouched wilderness. Just 40 kilometres from Auckland city, Piha is an easy half or full day trip. Winding through the dramatic Waitakere Ranges, you’ll find numerous walking tracks suitable for all levels. When time is limited, the Kitekite Track, which takes about 45 minutes each way, is an easy walk through rainforest to the beautiful Kitekite Falls. At Piha Beach you can also climb Lion Rock, for views over the arresting volcanic coastline.
Views from Mt Eden
Auckland’s highest volcanic cone and a sacred crater, Mt Eden is both a historically interesting site and one with excellent views over the city. Known as Te Ipu Kai a Mataaho – the food bowl of Mataaho, the god of things hidden in the ground - you’re not allowed to enter the crater, but from its rim the remains of ancient food storage and terraces are clearly visible. You can access the mountain from six different locations, and the easy walk to the summit takes no more than 10 minutes.
Heritage and History
Auckland is littered with historical buildings and sacred Maori sites. In the city centre you can learn about the region’s history at the Auckland War Memorial Museum and the New Zealand Maritime Museum. Architectural enthusiasts will enjoy the historic 19th century cottage museums of Ewelme Cottage, Kinder House and Highwic in the inner city suburb of Newmarket. While a short ferry ride or drive across the harbour to Devonport will take you to both the Torpedo Bay Navy Museum and the historic Maori pa (village fortress) at North Head. Finish off the day in Devonport with afternoon tea at one of the town’s popular cafes or pubs.