When I was planning my round the world trip and decided to include New Zealand, lots of people told me to get out of Auckland as quickly as possible. Supposedly it’s not worth staying there for too long. I ended up being in Auckland twice, once right after my time in Wellington, and again after going to Rotorua. While I can’t say it was one of my favorite cities in the world, I certainly enjoyed my time there, and I think it’s worth spending a few days to explore.

A Little Bit of City and A Little Bit of Nature

New Zealand is well-known for outdoor adventures, getting closer to nature, and extreme sports like bungee jumping. So maybe people who go to New Zealand looking for those types of experiences are disappointed with Auckland. It’s a city, the biggest one in the country, and is a stark contrast to places like Milford Sound. But what about those of us who want to see New Zealand’s beautiful landscapes but aren’t into camping and jumping off of high things while attached to a giant rubber band? People like us need a little city time to offset our outdoor time, and Auckland is just the place.

I took this picture of the Auckland skyline from a boat. Since Auckland is known as the city of sails, Andy and I thought a scenic boat trip (though not on a sailboat) would be a nice way to spend a few hours. Aside from the skyline, we also got to see some of the nearby islands, some of which are volcanoes, and a wide variety of boats that shared the water with us. It was a fun, relaxing afternoon, and a nice combination of city and nature.

Auckland University

While wandering around the city, we decided to check out the university. It’s up a hill a few blocks from the center, and we saw lots of green space and lots of interesting buildings. On a nice day, it’s a great place to relax and enjoy the sun.

Auckland Sky Tower

One of Auckland’s biggest attractions is the Auckland Sky Tower. It is the tallest man-made structure in the southern hemisphere, and it has amazing views of the city. You can also do the Sky Walk, where you walk around the outside at 192 meters, fully harnessed of course, or the Sky Jump, where you base jump from 192 meters. We are not the types to even consider these adventurous activities, but we did see others participating.

For NZ$28 you can go to Main Observation Level at 286 meters, the the 220 meter high Sky Deck, and the 182 Sky Lounge Cafe and Bar. You can pay NZ$3 less  if you don’t want to go to the 220 meter Sky Deck, but it’s such a small extra charge that we decided to go for it. We also had a couple drinks at the bar after the sun went down, and we were surprised that the prices weren’t any higher than a normal bar.

Certain sections of the floor of the Main Observation Level are made out of glass so you can see straight down. Though this might freak some people out, the sign assured us it was completely safe.

You can walk around both observation levels to see a great 360 degree view of the city and nearby islands from above.

I highly recommend going up the tower in the evening, early enough to get pictures during daylight hours, but late enough to enjoy the sunset. It was hard to take good pictures up there, especially of the sunset, because of the thick (and sometimes dirty) glass, but it was still really great to see.

Food

The other thing we really enjoyed about Auckland was the food. We found some great pubs with nice outdoor seating, although some closed really early around the holidays. While we were in Dunedin, we found a place called Velvet Burger that we just fell in love with. We were so happy to find that they had another location in Auckland. Probably some of the best burgers and best garlic aioli sauce we’ve ever had. The other place we loved was Sal’s Pizza. I just happened to be staying at a hostel on K Road across the street from it, and the people in my dorm recommended it. It was authentic NY style pizza (they actually import all their ingredients) and I was in heaven. I ate there twice a day sometimes. I miss that pizza.

Don’t skip Auckland. The city has a lot to offer, even if your main objective is to explore New Zealand’s natural beauty. It’s not like the rest of the country since it is a big city, but I really enjoyed it. I think it would be a shame to not even spend a few days exploring Auckland before you head off into the woods, mountains and lakes.

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31 comments on “Auckland is Not Typical New Zealand – And That’s OK

  1. Jennifer

    LOVE the photo of the butterfly!

    I don’t think I would be brave enough to bungee jump either. Can you really trust a rubber band? I would walk around the outside of the Sky Tower though. I wonder if they let you watch the sunset from out there? ;)

    1. Ali Post author

      Thanks Jennifer! The Sky Walk has specific hours, and I think they stop before the sun goes down, at least in the summer. Not sure about winter though since the sun sets much earlier.

  2. fotoeins | Henry

    Yes! Another fan of Auckland! Personally, I like the feel of Auckland.

    Might I also add:

    * 1. a visit to the Food Alley in the City proper at 9-11 Albert St. It’s huge, and when people from the respective ethnic groups are here to eat, this is where I want to be.
    * 2. Auckland War Memorial Museum, which I call “The Museum of Auckland in the War Memorial Museum Building.” :-) It’s so much more than NZ’s involvement in past worldwide conflicts; the Maori exhibits are very good, if you can’t get to Wellington’s Te Papa.

    As a bit of a geology geek, the one thing I wanted to investigate was the number of cinder cones in and around the Auckland area. Of course, Rangitoto in the harbour is a dormant volcano only some 600 years old, which is a mere “zygote” by geologic timescales.

    1. Ali Post author

      Thanks Henry! Yep, plenty of places I didn’t even get to. We did see Rangitoto from the boat and from the Sky Tower, but we didn’t have time to go exploring any of the volcanoes. Food Alley sounds great, I wish I had gone there. I think we found our two places we fell in love with and just kept eating there! The museum sounds good too, though I did get to Te Papa in Wellington and I did enjoy that.

  3. Andrea

    People not liking Auckland is news to me – we loved it and spent quite a bit of time there, actually. Nice round-up! =)

    1. Ali Post author

      Thanks Andrea! So many people told me to get out of Auckland as quickly as possible, that it wasn’t worth my time. So glad I at least had a few days there though!

  4. Beverley | Pack Your Passport

    Ali, we arrived in Auckland yesterday and already I think we’re going to like it. It just has a nice feel, I can’t understand why people wouldn’t like it except for the fact that it’s maybe not your typical New Zealand ‘out-doorsey’ type place.

    Great post and cool to see some pictures of places we’re planning to visit :-)

    1. Ali Post author

      Thanks Beverly! I hope you enjoy Auckland, you’ll get to see lots more than I could in the few days I was there. It really did have a good feel to it. Good luck!

  5. Scott

    Totally agree with you as you know! I love AKL and not afraid to admit it!

    1. Ali Post author

      I was so happy when you went there and liked Auckland too. I don’t understand why so many people told me not to spend any time there. Great city!

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  7. Andrew

    As you mention, Auckland is at such odds to the typical outdoorsy New Zealand image. It is a city and what people seem to expect from NZ is the rugged landscapes and hiking trails, which Auckland doesn’t have downtown. Despite which, there is plenty of outdoors within easy range of the city. The islands and various peninsulas.

    1. Ali Post author

      Right, there was plenty of good stuff to do there, including outdoorsy nature stuff. It was a really nice city with a lot to offer. Wish we could’ve spent more time there.

  8. Simon P

    It’s nice to see someone stick up for the City of Sails. I’m from Whangarei, roughly two hours north, and while I could never say I love visiting Auckland it’s still uniquely NZ. Besides, after four years in London it may be the only place in NZ big enough to hold me when I go back in September!

    1. Ali Post author

      Ha, Auckland is definitely not London! No, Auckland wasn’t one of my favorite cities, but I certainly enjoyed it there. I didn’t have time to go any further north than Auckland, but I’ve heard great things. Next time!

  9. Christy @ Technosyncratic

    I really like big cities, so I’d definitely spend some time exploring Auckland. I know New Zealand is primarily about the natural outdoors, but I feel like you can learn a lot about a country from its cities as well. :)

    1. Ali Post author

      Thanks Christy, I totally agree! The cities say a lot about NZ too, plus there’s still a good amount of nature in NZ’s cities.

  10. Christy

    I like that photo of the university. I think it’s great that you found things to love about this city. I’m not a city person, but sometimes I can appreciate things they have to offer.

    1. Ali Post author

      Thanks Christy! Good thing about Auckland is that there is plenty of nature within the city and nearby with all the islands and volcanoes.

  11. fotoeins | Henry

    I suppose I already knew in the back of my mind that Auckland presents a different view than the “all prevailing outdoorsy nature” of New Zealand. I favour cities, and I like asking questions about how another city deals with typical urban issues. So, in addition to the recommendations above, the reasons start to add up why I like Auckland. Having said that and with plans to explore the rest of the “undiscovered country”, it’ll be interesting to see how I fare in the rest of NZ without an urban environment upon which to rely. :)

    1. Ali Post author

      Thanks Henry! I prefer cities too, which I’m sure is why I really liked Auckland. Even though I’m not much of an outdoorsy person, I love seeing nature, so the non-urban areas of NZ really impressed me. I think you’ll enjoy it too!

    1. Ali Post author

      Thanks Cole! I guess if you’re from NZ but not from Auckland, you tend to not like Auckland!

  12. Erik

    As always, Ali, you have nailed it here.

    Auckland was the very last place I visited, and after a month of the rest of NZ, it seemed so out of place. I didn’t hate it, but I also didn’t love it. It just seems so out of place in that country.

    Skytower was cool, but I was also disappointed with the pictures I took because of the dirty glass.

    It’ll be hard for me to write about Auckland- I was so exhausted from pushing myself everyday for a month, that Auckland didn’t really get a fair look. (I’m using that as one of the many reasons to go back.) :-)

    1. Ali Post author

      I think for me it helped that I saw Auckland for a few days towards the beginning of my stay in NZ (Wellington was my first stop) and then again for a few days at the end. I’m also much more a city person than an outdoorsy person, so I usually enjoy cities, no matter how much I love photographing nature. And I totally agree with you about the pictures from the Sky Tower, the glass was too dirty, and taking pictures through glass isn’t great anyway.

  13. ChinaMatt

    Aside from the glass floor, it looks amazing–that’s a beautiful skyline. Wish I could afford the flight right now. Maybe I’ll just apply for a job in New Zealand instead.

    1. Ali Post author

      It was a great view from the tower! It is expensive to fly to New Zealand from just about anywhere except maybe Australia. If you’re under 35 (I think) you can apply for a work-travel visa!

  14. Lawrence Michaels

    Great photos of a beautiful city. That pizza looks really good right now, but maybe that’s because I haven’t had decent pizza in a few years.

    1. Ali Post author

      Thanks Lawrence! Trust me, it really WAS great pizza! And I grew up on NY style pizza. YUM!

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