We flew into Auckland en route to Bora Bora for our honeymoon, however it is also the most common entry point for international travellers visiting New Zealand, either to explore the North Island by car or even head south to the world class skiing and adventure "hot spots". Whilst Auckland can be a destination of its own, we found that a stop over of a couple of days is definitely worth-while if you are travelling through.
Auckland International Airport receives flights from many destinations including USA (LA, Houston, Honolulu), Japan, China, Dubai, Thailand, Australia and several Pacific Island nations. The airport is a little way out of central Auckland and there isn't really a direct public transport route to the city. There is a skybox service that costs $18 and takes you via 2 different routes to the CBD. The road between the airport and city can get quite congested with traffic and there isn't a direct motorway. Taxis are available but quite expensive. It would certainly be wise to keep this in mind when you re booking your accomodation and airport transfers. If your hotel offers a free airport shuttle, it is a significant advantage in Auckland. We did find a taxi company that was much more reasonably priced than the others - Discount Taxis Ltd (phone: 5291000), they were polite, prompt and clean.
Where to Stay:
We actually stayed over in Auckland on the way to and from Bora Bora, and chose quite different options for each.
On the way there we decided to go 5 star and stayed at Hotel Sofitel Viaduct. This is a fantastic location in terms of being close to a lot of the popular tourist features and within walking distance of the marina and shopping districts. When booking, request a water facing room, as these have much better views than the ones facing the bus terminal. The room service menu and quality was fantastic. The fitness centre was fantastic with a gym, heated pool and sauna. One thing we did find a little strange was that it had a very French theme, with staff offering welcomes in French - its not something i have noticed the other Sofitel properties despite the French ownership.
On our way back, we had a late overnight stop and decided to go with a low-cost nearby option. We stayed at (>>>>>>>) and found it to be really comfortable. It had free airport shuttles and the rooms were really comfortable. It is quite a way out of the city, with its advantage being the convenience to the airport. The rooms are relatively small, but very suitable if you are wanting to stay close to the airport for a night.
What To Do:
Auckland is not a great walking city, particularly in July when it can be pretty chilly close to the water. But in general, it doesn't have an area that has a host of tourist attractions, sites and places to eat all in close proximity.
The Waterfront and Viaduct area, known as the Wynyard Quarter, is a great place to spend a morning or an afternoon. The marina is the largest in the Southern Hemisphere and when you see huge fleet of yachts, you can quickly appreciate where Auckland gets the name "City of Sails". The Maritime Museum is really interesting and worth visiting - auckland has a rich and proud maritime history, from the Maori fishing boats, through to their achievements in America's Cup yacht racing. I couldn't understand why entry was free only for local residents, as I always think places should be encouraging tourists to visit their attractions. That said, I was happy to have paid the $25 entry fee for the hour or so walk around. There Wynyard Quarter also has some nice children play areas, sculptures and a fish market. The fish market was closed when we went (Saturday morning), so maybe check the opening times if you are keen to go to this.
Queens Street is the main shopping area and whilst it doesn't compare to the shopping districts of some of the bigger cities in the world, its still a nice walk up from the water near the viaduct to the top near the (>>>>>>). Unfortunately there aren't really a lot of nice cafes or restaurants along Queen St, which is a shame. The shops are mostly mid-range casual stores, but if you have a few hours to spare its not an unpleasant walk.
A really nice area to visit in Aukland is Ponsonby. The main street has a few boutique shops and there are several nice restaurants (Mekong Baby) and cafes (Dizengoff). I would suggest coming here for breakfast and a morning walk along the strip of boutique shop.
The Sky Tower is a popular tourist attraction in Auckland, offering 360 degree views of the city and surrounding area. There are several price options, but we just went for the observation deck, which was $29. You can choose to walk around on an outside platform or even base jump from the tower. The views give a really good perspective and you can see quite a distance on a clear day. From the observation deck you can watch people jumping from the floors above. Compared to some other city observation decks around the world, Auckland as a city is quite small and without a skyline that compares to larger cities, so don't be too devastated if you don't get here.
Where To Eat:
There are a large number of restaurants around the Wynyard Quarter. We were actually really surprised that several of the restaurants were closed around the Viaduct on a Saturday evening and there was very little atmosphere. Admittedly it was in july and quite cold, but it was strangely quiet. We went to one of the restaurants, Danny Doolans, and left not long after - the service was really poor to the point we just got frustrated and left before even ordering. The North Wharf has the best variety of restaurants and we ate at Pescado Tapas Bar and it was really good. Would definitely give this a visit - very casual spanish style with good range of drinks! There were a couple of other places close by along the North Wharf that also looked quite good - Live Fish and Urban Turban might be worth a try!
If you visit Ponsonby, definitely think about going for breakfast at Dizengoff. I have an unashamed bias towards Melbourne when it comes to cafe breakfasts and this place is on par! The menu is very trendy and has a wide range. Importantly the coffee is really good, which to be honest, wasn't easy to find in Auckland. I had the eggs benedict, salmon and avo and it was good, but the best was the side of mushrooms - whatever you rode get the side of mushrooms in the gravy, its incredible! I know a few places are going with the "no wifi" and suggesting it encourages people to eat and socialise, but for travellers, its a big negative! They also didn't have brown sugar or water on the tables which I found odd. Overall, this was a really great start to the day, very enjoyable.
We also had breakfast at 21 Viaduct Cafe on the water, just near the Sofitel. The food was ok and the coffee passable. To be honest, unless you were in a rush, I would make the effort to get out to Ponsonby and go to Dizengoff!
Number 1 Travel Tip:
If you are staying near the Viaduct/Wynyard area, make a point of visiting the Information Centre! We met a lady called Michelle and the advice she gave was all absolutely spot on. It will definitely help you make the most of your time and decide what best suits your interests! She knew a lot about the local architecture, points of interests and p;aces to eat.
5 Word Travel:
Well worth a quick stopover