Geographically blessed between two harbours, Auckland is consistently voted as one of the best places in the world to live. The city sits on a narrow two-kilometre isthmus between the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean, with a litter of volcanic cones populating the encompassing landscape (48 to be precise!) Each offers its own beautiful view of the city and surrounds.
The biggest (and youngest) volcano, Rangitoto, sits dominantly on the Hauraki Gulf skyline, its last eruption only 600 years ago. A 25-minute ferry ride to Rangitoto Island takes you to the 5.5km island where you can walk to its crater.
However, the real jewel in the Hauraki Gulf is Waiheke Island. Best known for its wine and vineyards, this idyllic retreat is little over half hour from Auckland and yet feels a million miles away from city life. In 2015, Conde Nast Traveler named it fourth in its Best Islands in the World List, and it remains a popular retreat with celebrities while in Auckland for concerts. Ferries depart every half hour from Queen’s Wharf – and a half day wine tour comes highly recommended.
With the water never far from sight, it isn’t difficult to guess the origin of Auckland’s nickname, “City of Sails”. One in three households owns a boat. In 2000 and 2003 the Viaduct Basin was host to the America’s Cup and you can now experience the thrill of sailing for yourself.
In the heart of the city, visitors will find theatres, concert venues, shopping and a lively night scene. Auckland’s dining reflects the impressive diversity of its people, with 220 ethnic groups recorded living in the region (more than London or New York!) Families won’t be disappointed with the Zoo, which includes New Zealand's largest collection of native and exotic species, and the Auckland Museum is a great choice for a rainy day.
It is relatively unusual to have such an urban environment within an hour of such diverse natural landscapes; head west and you will find dense rainforest and dramatic black sand beaches set under rugged cliffs. Piha is the most famous, but Murawai, Karekare (pictured) and Bethells Beach are also spectacular – Bethells is particularly known for its feature in several music videos (most recently Taylor Swift). There are wildlife, walks and surf to satisfy any outdoor enthusiast.
For the best way to see the layout of the city, consider a helicopter trip, scenic flight or seaplane ride.