New Zealand is a destination that features high on most bucket lists. Whether you are visiting for thrills, culture, nature or a blend of everything, you will be certain to spend at least a couple of nights in the nation’s largest city, Auckland. When you visit any major city for the first time, you can be a little overawed at the sheer choice of things to do and places to see. Auckland is no different, so to help you along, we have selected nine attractions that you really shouldn’t miss.
War Memorial Museum
Like every city, Auckland has no shortage of museums. But this one is a little different to the rest. It’s located in one of the city’s most iconic buildings, a neo-classical palace that would not look out of place in Athens or Rome. As the name suggests, the main focus is on military campaigns, but the enormous facility also has some fascinating exhibits on Maori culture, as well as some amazing artworks.
One Tree Hill
No, it has nothing to do with the TV series. Back in the 1700s, One Tree Hill was the city’s main fortress. Today, its 182-metre obelisk serves as a memorial to Maori warriors of generations past and to all New Zealanders. It’s a truly atmospheric spot for a few minutes of quiet contemplation, and one not to be missed.
The Sky Tower
At 328 metres, the Sky Tower is impossible to miss as it dominates the Auckland skyline. The rotating restaurant is a wonderful place to kick back after a long day and enjoy 360 degree views of the city. But it is the SkyCity Casino that is the Sky Tower’s biggest draw.
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The city of Whangarei is about a two and a half hour drive north of Auckland. It’s well worth a visit in its own right, but the real draw here is Whangarei Falls. It’s a picture-perfect example of a curtain waterfall, and despite its spectacular size, it is one of the area’s most popular swimming spots. The paved road and a well-maintained path mean that it is also highly accessible, even to visitor with limited mobility.
Auckland is surrounded by about 50 islands that formed through volcanic eruptions. The youngest is Rangitoto – in fact, it has only existed for about 600 years. Lava fields, lava tubes and forests give the island a landscape like nowhere else on earth. It’s one of the best places to experience New Zealand’s unique ecology, and it’s only a 25 minute ferry ride from Auckland.
Who doesn’t love a trip to the zoo? The one at Auckland is sure to please visitors of all ages. It is approaching its centenary year, so you can be sure there will be some extra special events going on. Even on a regular day, however, there are plenty of shows, feeding events and exhibitions to educate and inspire.
Auckland is surrounded by beaches, so if watersport is your passion, you really are spoiled for choice. Piha Beach is famous for its black sand, rugged landscape and absolutely perfect surf conditions. Lion Rock is Piha’s most photographed natural feature. And that’s right, this is where those scenes in The Piano were filmed!
Kelly Tarlton’s Sea Life Aquarium
If you prefer to admire the marine life without getting your feet wet, then Kelly Tarlton’s Sea Life Aquarium on Tamaki Drive is the place for you. The aquarium’s founder was a legendary diver and marine archaeologist, and he opened the aquarium in 1985, just weeks before he died at the age of 47. The aquarium features a breathtaking underwater tunnel that snakes along the city’s waterfront, giving you a fishes-eye view of thousands of different species. At present, visitor numbers are being restricted for obvious reasons, so make sure you book in advance.
Finally, back to dry land, and something a little different. Although New Zealand is mostly associated with nature, there are also some man-made wonders to enjoy. The Museum of Transport and Technology is the perfect destinations for those who love all things mechanical. There are always plenty of interactive demonstrations and exhibitions going on, in which the kids (or the big kids) can get involved.