The best things to do in Auckland
New Zealand’s largest metropolis balances the wildness of nature with a buzzing cultural and culinary scene and a rich Māori heritage
Parnell Gallery is delighted to have been featured in a recent article by The Telegraph, UK, highlighting the best things to do in Auckland.
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New Zealand’s largest city fuses the bustling cosmopolitanism of neighbourhoods such as hip Ponsonby, upscale Newmarket and historic Devonport with stunning landscapes woven into the very fabric of the city.
Striking parkland such as Auckland Domain, fashioned around the cone of an extinct ancient volcano, complements a sweeping city shoreline whose two giant harbours – the Manukau and the Waitematā – mean Auckland faces the Tasman Sea on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other. The majestic Hauraki Gulf, meanwhile, stretches 250km to the north and south.
Nearby islands are ripe for exploration, most famously the lush, vineyard-dotted Waiheke, just 35 minutes by ferry from the city centre. Complementing its plethora of beautiful galleries and local craft boutiques are great restaurants such as Mudbrick Vineyard and Restaurant, serving fine food with superb views over the Hauraki Gulf.
Back amid the city pulse on the mainland, more than 40 new restaurants opened in Auckland last year alone, enriching a culinary melting pot where superb local ingredients and Pacific Island culinary traditions come together thrillingly. Gourmet enticements extend into the city’s green borderlands at places like Rothko at Sculptureum in Matakana, which pairs an award-winning vineyard with sculpture-filled gardens.
Auckland’s outstanding cultural beacons add to the metropolitan mix, led by the Auckland Art Gallery/Toi o Tāmaki, which showcases NZ artists whose names may be unfamiliar, but whose works rank with the world’s best. Right across the road, Gow Langsford Galleryexhibits global A-List names alongside NZ stars, while the University of Auckland’s Gus Fisher Gallery is a great space to see work by rising local artists.
For the city’s cultural cutting edge, however, head to Silo 6, which hosts happenings as well as exhibitions inside giant old industrial silos at Auckland Viaduct. The most beautifully located gallery in town is the Parnell Gallery, overlooking the sea facing the volcano island of Rangitoto. Another short ferry ride from the city centre, hiking to Rangitoto’s summit provides one of the city’s most celebrated outdoor experiences.
In a country renowned for its sporting ardour, an exciting new attraction is the All Blacks Experience, which opened in December 2020, and provides a richly interactive chance for visitors to tap into the nation’s rugby passions – including a towering screen that puts you in a face-off against a fearsome Test-match haka.
Auckland is one of the world’s finest yachting paradises – dubbed the City of Sails – and you can get your adrenaline flowing offshore by booking a sailing experience aboard a genuine America’s Cup racing yacht, speeding across the Auckland waves in exhilarating style.
Away from the laidback city beaches – try Mission Bay, Cheltenham or Judges Bay – Auckland’s wild west coast is home to a clutch of dramatic dark sand strands backed by native bush, including Karekare, Piha, Te Henga (aka Bethells) and Muriwai – the latter renowned for its seabird colonies. Expert swimmers and intrepid surfers can brave breakers and surging tides, while land-lubbers can soak up breathtaking vistas sat in homely beachside diners.
Discover some of the hidden secrets of Auckland’s dormant urban volcano, Mount Eden, via Māori-guided tour of a mountain whose tribal name is Maungawhau. Ascend its slopes with a kaiarahi (guide) to hear ancient tales of this once-thriving Māori pā (strategic stronghold). Complete the experience by visiting the marae (meeting house) of the local iwi (tribe), the Ngāti Whātua, on Waiheke Island.
Delve further into Auckland’s sizeable Pacific Islander heritage by timing your visit for the dazzling cultural and culinary extravaganza that is the Pasifika festival across three weekends in June. Any time of year, though, you can get a taste of the vibe at the colourful weekly Saturday morning outdoor market in Otara. Discover contemporary Pacific artists at Tautai Pacific Arts Trust on Karangahape Road, or pick up eye-catching Pacific Island fashion, such as a bold organic print or a classic Samoan puletasi two-piece, at MENA in the city’s colourful, creative Grey Lynn district.
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