Auckland is New Zealand’s largest city, built on a narrow isthmus between two harbours and surrounded by extinct volcanoes and picturesque islands. The city is known as the ’City of Sails’ because of a great number of yachts that sail in the harbours and the adjoining Hauraki Gulf. Auckland has a wide range of accommodation, ranging from the fabulous to the fairly ordinary. There are a few 'top of the line' hotels and lodges and many in the next tier down, holiday homes (vacation rentals), hotels, motels and bed and breakfasts. From five star hotels like SKYCITY and the Heritage, to cozy B&Bs like Braemar on Parliament and hostels like Attic Backpackers, there are many options to suit all tastes and budgets.
There are lots of activities to enjoy in Auckland. The Auckland War Memorial Museum is the best way to learn about Maori culture and New Zealand natural and war history as well. Three times a day the museum has a Maori performance, a show of dances and chants that is highly recommended. After leaving the museum building it’s good to stop at the Winter Gardens next door, where a fantastic collection of gigantic ferns, lotus and tropical flowers grow in two beautiful Victorian glass houses. New Zealand also produces some of the best wines of the world, so visiting vineyards is a must-do. There are a lot of interesting wine zones in both North and South Islands, and a guided tour with someone that knows about the subject is very advisable. It’s also well worth exploring the Maritime Museum, the America’s Cup Yacht harbour, and the Sky City / Sky Tower Observation Deck while you’re there.
Auckland is an eclectic city offering a variety of dining ranging from some of the best Chinese food you'll find outside of Hong Kong to contemporary Pan-Asian cuisine to the staple kiwi "Fish and Chips" (great if you're dining on a budget and want to picnic on a beach). Try wandering down lane ways to find tiny dining halls packed with locals tucking into bowls of noodles, barbeque pork and duck and other delicious dishes. It'll be the best $8-$10 you've ever spent on dinner. The Viaduct area, although a bit of a tourist trap, offers waterfront dining, the best pick being the Soul Bar and Bistro. Ponsonby Road provides a variety of restaurants and cafes, and this is where you'll find the locals socializing with friends, sipping cappuccinos and reading the paper, and soaking in the New Zealand good life. Zarbo Cafe & Deli in Newmarket is a fabulous place to go for coffee and cake or a light lunch. Stock up on Zarbo's own prepared food goods - everything from gourmet chutneys, marinades, jams and honey, fruit pastes, imported cheeses, meats, and lots more. Herne Bay is a great spot to watch the trendy locals - close to Ponsonby, Jervois Road provides a variety of cafes, delicious delis and fine dining. Mount Eden is a village area with cafes and a very good fine dining restaurant, Molten.
Auckland is a metropolitan sprawl of many neighbourhoods. Ponsonby is the bohemian part of Auckland, located about 5 minutes drive west of the CBD. This area has interesting boutique shopping and has (probably) the highest concentration of cafes and restaurants in Auckland, so is a good place for dining. Newmarket is the main shopping area - this suburb has everything from local designers and brands (including Karen Walker, The Stockroom, Taylor Boutique, and RUBY) to big multinational brands such as Country Road and Witchery. Devonport is a quaint seaside suburb on the North Shore that has a village feel. In Mount Eden, it’s good to get up high and see the view from the top of the mountain, then head into the 'village' and visit one of the five or six cafes or over a dozen restaurants. Mount Eden also has a couple of good bars (De Post and The Horse & Trap) which do food as well.
Although it is a long flight from North America or Europe, getting to Auckland is not difficult. The city has its own Auckland International Airport (AKL), a very modern facility with a shopping centre, recreation facilities, wireless Internet, dining, and an area for children. Several forms of ground transport are available from the airport into Auckland city and its surrounding area, including rental cars, buses, taxis, shuttles and limos. The CityLink bus service circles the inner city section of Auckland. One other option for visitors who are interested in getting around is the Auckland Explorer Bus, an on/off bus where passengers can get unlimited rides anywhere in the city the bus travels (the major tourist attractions).