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Auckland – New Zealand’s biggest city

New Zealand has a total population of just 4.4 million people, of which 1.4 million live in New Zealand’s biggest city, Auckland.

The Capital City, Wellington located at the southern end of the North Island has a population of just 400,000 people, Hamilton 212,000 and Napier 125,000 while Christchurch on the South Island has about 370,000 people and Nelson just over 60,000 people. Together Auckland and these other five cities represent over 56% of the New Zealand’s total population.

New Zealand’s population is spread out across the two main islands, but there are hundreds of other islands too – 144 islands in the Bay of Islands alone.

The North Island is where Auckland and Wellington are located and the South Island is where Christchurch, Dunedin and Invercargill are located as well fiordland and the Franz Josef and Fox glaciers. A ferry service links Wellington on the North Island to Picton on the top end of the South Island – a great trip that takes about 3 hours to travel the distance of around 92 kilometres.

Planning your trip –
Planning a trip to New Zealand depends a lot on how much time you have, and what you would like to see during your stay. The coldest months are June and July and the hottest months are December and January. Being an island country, New Zealand’s southern location and closeness to the sea with high mountain peaks means that the country has mostly a mild maritime climate so it can be wet in the summer months and also very cold in winter. The further north you are the warmer it will be and the more south the colder it gets- and certainly if you head higher to any of the mountainous areas it will be cold and may have snow too. In the mountains the weather can change very fast, so you need to be prepared for both cold and rain, but also the possibility, depending on where you are for snow or sleet. The climate however makes New Zealand one of the best places to grow food – and the overall greenness of the countryside makes it quite beautiful.

New Zealand caters for many different interest groups – from high adrenalin adventure activities (heli-skiing, snow-boarding, bungy jumping, sky diving, scuba diving, jet-boat rides, horse riding and other activities); to cultural city activities (shopping, music, shows, museums, art galleries); sporting events (skiing, horse racing, yachting, cricket, football, golf, netball, tennis, surfing); to outdoors adventures (fishing, camping, mountain climbing, nature walks, rainforest and alpine walking trails); food and wine ( restaurants, coffee, cooking classes, farmstays, wine tasting, markets); driving tours, bird watching, whale watching AND the list goes on and you can do any and all of these activities here in New Zealand.

THE MUST SEES – Rotorua to see the boiling mud, geysers and steam baths (and smell the sulphur fumes!) and seeing the Franz Josef Glacier, Milford Sound and Queenstown – but there are so many more great places. New Zealand, particularly the South Island rivals Norway in terms of great scenery.

Getting to know Auckland –
The two biggest cities are on the North Island – Auckland in the north and Wellington in the south but they are about 680 kilometres from each other – a long way, but also a great journey either by road or on the ‘Northern Explorer’ train.

Auckland – is called the ‘City of Sails’ and no wonder given the number of yachts and boats that are here in the harbour. The city is surrounded by extinct volcanos, around 48 of them, the biggest being Mt Eden (Maungawhau) which is 196 metres high. Another volcano is Manungakiekie (One Tree Hill) which is 183 metres high and has three crators – only one of which is still intact.

The city itself is located on an Isthmus (like a narrow peninsula) surrounded by waterways, the main city centre being right on the side of Waitemata Harbour with its many bays and inlets which connects to the Pacific Ocean, while Manukau Harbour on the west side connects to the Tasman Sea. The isthmus from coastline to coastline (Pacific Ocean to Tasman Sea) is 85 kilometres wide with the main Auckland city in-between, but from Harbour to Harbour (Waitemata to Manukau) the distance is just 16 kilometres. To get a bird’s eye view of all these waterways and the city – ask for a window seat when you fly into Auckland, or head to the 328 metre high ‘Sky Tower’ in the City. The airport is about 45 minutes from the City Centre with all the normal options of taxis, hotel buses, airport buses or hire cars. There is no train service to the airport.

The city is criss-crossed by the main North South Motorway and spreads out around the Harbour – with the city’s CBD centred in and around Auckland’s main street, Queen Street. Here you will find the big hotels, business high rise buildings, theatres, art gallery, museums and the ‘Britomart Transport Centre’ for trains and buses on Quay Street opposite the Ferry wharves.

There are a number of Ferry Wharves side by side – Princes, Queens, Captain Cook and Marsden Wharf – where ferries arrive and depart to various points around the Harbour including Devonport (15 minutes away) and out to Waiheke Island and Rangitoto Island. Trips to historic and trendy Devonport and also Waiheke Island are highly recommended to get a great feel for the city and its waterways, with Waiheke island famous for the number of boutique wineries located there.
To gain a quick feel for the city, head to Britomart and catch a ‘Tourist Explorer’ bus that will take you to many of the landmark attractions around the City.

Some of the attractions you might want to see are listed here –

  • Sky Tower – Cnr.Victoria and Federal Streets)and Sky City Casino (under Sky Tower)
  • Eden Park Stadium – (sport and events) edenpark.co.nz Tel: 9-815 5551 Reimers Avenue
  • Civic Theatre aucklandlive.co.nz Cnr. Queen and Wellesley Streets

    Tel: 9- 301-2677 Check to see what shows are happening. Also check Town Hall too.
  • Auckland Zooaucklandzoo.co.nz Motions Rd near Western Springs Park
  • Kelly Tarlton’s Sealife Aquariumkellytarltons.co.nz 23 Tamaki Drive Orakei Tel: 9-531 5065
  • Museum of Transport and Technology (Motat) motat.org.nz 805 Great North Rd Western Springs Tel: 9 – 815 5800
  • Maritime Museum – maritimemuseum.co.nz Cnr. Quay and Hobson Streets
  • Skydome – skydome.org.nz 670 Manukau Rd Epsom Tel: 9- 624 1246
  • Auckland Art Gallery – aucklandartgallery.com Cnr Kitchener & Wellesley Sts, Tel: 9 – 379 1349
  • Botanical Gardens- 102 Hill Rd Tel: 9-267 1457
  • Auckland Domain (75 Hectares of parklands), Park Rd, Grafton.
  • Duder Regional Park – (162 Hectares of parklands) 889 N.Rd Whitford, Howick Tel: 9-366 2000
  • Ellerslie Racecourse – (Horse racing) ellerslie.co.nz 80 Ascot Avenue. Tel: 9- 524 4069
  • War Memorial Museumaucklandmuseum.com Auckland Domain, Parnell.
  • Guy Fisher Gallery – 74 Shortland St Tel: 9-923 6646
  • Mt Eden (Maungawhau) and Eden Gardens
  • Rainbows End Theme Park – rainbowsend.co.nz Tel: 9-262 2030 2 Clist Crescent Manukau
  • Maungakiekie (One Tree Hill) for views, park and history
  • Onehunga Blockhouse Forts – in Jellicoe Park
  • Acacia Cottage and Huia Lodge – Cornwall Park
  • SUBURBS – Parnell (oldest suburb+ weekend markets), Ponsonby (food and fashion), Grey Lynn (Farmers Market), Kingsland, City: Queen Street (main street), Wynyard Quarter (& SILO kids park), Viaduct Harbour (waterfront areas), Aotea Square.
  • BEACHES – There are small beaches in and around the Harbour. The West Coast has the big waves and also Black sand beaches, while the East Coast beaches have the white sand and there are lots of beaches up and down the coastline depending on how far you want to drive.
  • SHOPPING - in the CBD head to Queen Street, High Street, Briitomart, the waterfront areas, and if you like fish – head to the Fish Market (Seafood Central) 22 Jellicoe Street.
  • WALKS - in Auckland the most famous is the ‘Coast to Coast’ ‘Harbour to Harbour’ walk – 16 kilometres long that starts next to Princes Wharf on Waitemata Harbour and heads through the city, past the University and Domain/One Tree Hill, to Jellicoe Park and on the Beachcroft Avenue on the side of Manukau Harbour.

UNIQUE THINGS TO DO –
If you define ‘unique’ as s omething amazing and memorable that you have never seen before then these are two of the places that fill that definition –

  • Muriwai - Seeing thousands of gannet birds that weigh up to 2.5 kilos and have a wing span of up to 2 metres landing on an almost vertical rocky cliff side to nest. The Gannets come to Muriwai on the West Coast (about an hour from Auckland) and lay their one egg there between August and March. It is amazing sound and spectacle as they take off, dive, land, squawk and carry on. Looking down from the cliff side you can spot surfers catching waves, and then see the coastline that stretches away from you. The Gannets are however the ‘centre stage’ entertainment.
  • The Coromandel Peninsula – is where gold was discovered in the 1850’s and it is located about an hour south of Auckland – and you can get there by driving or by ferry from Auckland (360discovery.co.nz). On the peninsula you find great small towns like Coromandel (cafes, and nearby the Driving Creek Railway) and Paeroa (Antiques), the Karangahake Gorge with its suspension bridge, the Hauraki Rail Trail and at Miranda the Miranda Hot Springs, BUT it is Hot Water Beach where you can dig in the sand and let the hot water springs rise through the sand to create your own bath. Incredible! Equally amazing and spectacular is Cathedral Cove and the cliffs that you can visit from the water on a small boat – the Hahai Explorer that leaves from Hahei Beach. (See www.haheiexplorer.co.nz Tel: 7- 866 3910.

Auckland is the biggest Polynesian city in the world, and this cultural and ethnic mix makes it a great place to spend time getting to know. Auckland is also the business centre of New Zealand, and you will find lots to do, as well as excellent food, coffee and activities to enjoy.

Happy Travelling!
Geoff Stuart

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