Auckland, New Zealand

VISITED: January 2018

Located on the North Island, Auckland is the largest urban area in New Zealand and is the main point of entry for visitors into the country. The city is a pulsating multicultural hub of cuisine, art, and culture, which combines all the energy of a bustling metropolis with the allure of its surrounding natural beauty. Exploration of the region provides nature lovers with endless hiking trails and beautiful island escapes, while those who are looking to lose themselves in the country’s cultural experiences will be overwhelmed by the quality of the local cuisine and cultural events. It only takes one visit to Auckland’s attractions and landmarks to see why people from around the world have fallen in love with the area and rated it as being one of the most livable cities in the world. Some of my favorite local hotspots and points of interest are the following:

Mount Eden – Mount Eden, referred to by the Māori as Maungawhau, is an inactive volcano located just outside of the city’s center and is the highest non-manmade point in Auckland at 196m tall. From the summit, visitors can enjoy mesmerizing 360-degree views of the city and its harbours, as well as the 50-meter deep crater that is within the summit cone. Since 2016, cars, motorbikes, and scooters are not permitted beyond the automated vehicle bollards at the beginning of the summit road over concerns that they were damaging the cone’s archaeological heritage. These vehicles may park at the lower car park on Puhi Huia Road and then proceed on foot or bicycle along the paths to the summit. The Mount Eden Road and Tahaki Drive entrances to the park are open from 7am-8:30pm during the summer and 7am-7pm during the winter.

Viaduct Harbour – The Viaduct Harbour, formerly known as the Viaduct Basin, is a residential, commercial, and entertainment hub in the heart of Auckland CBD. The area boasts over 30 unique bars and gourmet restaurants that create a buzzing night life in one waterfront destination. For a more relaxing experience, visitors can stroll along the harbor while marveling at the various luxury yachts and dazzling views of the Viaduct Harbour. For the quintessential picture of the Viaduct Harbour, head to the New Zealand Maritime Museum. From there you can either shoot the harbour from ground level or pay the $20NZ entrance fee and head up to the second floor for an elevated vantage point. Keep in mind that the New Zealand Maritime Museum is open Sunday-Saturday from 10am-5pm, with final public admissions at 4pm.

Wynyard Quarter – The Wynyard Quarter is Auckland’s newest neighborhood and was established on a reclaimed section of land on the Waitematā Harbour, just west of the Viaduct Harbour. Although a majority of the area is still covered with petrol and liquid chemical storage facilities, an extensive transformation is underway to turn the quarter into a bustling, mixed-use residential/commercial/retail area. The Wynyard Quarter showcases leading urban design, captivating art sculptures, and innovative architecture that make it a pivotal part of Auckland’s Waterfront. Whether it’s watching a free movie during the summer at Silo Park, indulging at one of the many café’s or restaurants, or photographing the view from the gantry, there is something for everyone to enjoy.

Westhaven Promenade & Beach – The Westhaven Promenade is a wooden boardwalk that winds its way alongside the water’s edge, connecting the Auckland Harbour Bridge to the city center. Since it opened in 2015, the promenade has become a prominent feature in the heart of the Westhaven Marina, being utilized by cyclists, runners, and walkers every day. There are plenty activities to do and see along the walkway, whether it’s relaxing on the sands of St Mary’s Bay, watching yacht races, or photographing the boats moored along the docks. Some of the best photography locations are from St. Mary’s Bay and next to the Sails Restaurant, where each location offers a unique perspective of the boats that are tied up to the dock. St. Mary’s Bay features a rocky shoreline as the foreground and the boats and Auckland skyline commanding the backdrop, whereas the Sails Restaurant location highlights the Auckland Harbour Bridge as its focal point through rows of boats that are fastened to the docks.

Sky Tower – The Sky Tower is a 60-story landmark that boasts unparalleled panoramic views, thrill-seeking activities, and an elegant revolving restaurant with views of up to 80 kilometers (49-50 miles). The attraction measures 328 meters (1,076 feet) tall from ground level to the top of the mast, which makes it the tallest freestanding structure in the Southern Hemisphere. Weather permitting, the Sky Tower is open 365-days a year and is open from 8:30am-10:30pm (last tickets sold at 10pm) Sunday-Thursday and 8:30am-11:30pm (last tickets sold at 11pm) Friday-Saturday. General admission is $29NZ for adults ($12NZ for children 6-14 years old and free for children 5 years and younger), where each ticket holder has access to the Sky Café, Main Observation Level, and the Sky Deck Viewing Platform via the glass-fronted elevators; however, an additional ticket must be purchased for those looking for a more exhilarating experience with the SkyWalk or SkyJump. No trip to Auckland can be considered complete until you have experienced the 360-degree views from the top of this monolithic structure.

Nelson Street Cycleway (The Lightpath) – The Lightpath, or Nelson Street Cycleway, is the translation of Te Ara I Whiti, which is what the Māori have named the quirky and modern landmark. The hot pink pathway connects Upper Queen Street to Nelson Street over the Northern Motorway and is shared by bicyclists and pedestrians. This iconic and vivid piece of infrastructure has gained notoriety since being constructed and has become an immensely popular venue. The Lightpath truly comes to life at night when the strings of soft colored lights lining the barrier walls highlight the bright pink runway. The best place to photograph the cycleway is from the sidewalk along Hopetoun Street, as it crosses over the Lightpath and Northern Motorway, since it provides photographers with an elevated vantage point of the structure with the city in the background.

Britomart – Nestled between the Waitemata Harbour and Auckland’s city center, Britomart is a district of heritage buildings, environmentally-friendly new developments, and intimate public spaces. Once a neglected and rundown area, Britomart underwent a revitalization to create a place that celebrates its rich history as Auckland’s first mercantile center, while creating a welcoming environment that embraces its future. In doing so, it has created a vibrant mixed-use community that has provided a fundamental link between the past and present by implementing the best aspects of various cultures. The Britomart neighborhood is street-based and pedestrian-focused with a diverse mix of award-winning restaurants, eclectic bars, and designer boutiques that are set within some of Auckland’s oldest buildings and newest architecture. The surrounding city space is adorned with strings of fairy lights, inspired fountains, and open-air cafés that come to life when day turns to night.

Stokes Point Reserve – The Stokes Point Reserve is located at the mouth of Little Shoal Bay under the north side of the Auckland Harbour Bridge. It is an ideal location for photographing the Auckland Harbour Bridge from underneath the structure, as well as a beautiful panoramic of the Auckland skyline and boats in the harbour. If visiting by car, there is a parking lot next to the reserve, but there is also the option to arrive by ferry via the Northcote Ferry Terminal. Due to its location at the tip of Northcote Point, the Stokes Point Reserve experiences gusts of high winds, so be sure to have a reliable and sturdy tripod when taking those night shots!

Cyril Bassett VC Lookout in Devonport – Tucked away at the end of Stanley Point on the southwestern point of Devonport, the Cyril Basset VC Lookout, previously known as Stanley Point, is another premium location for photographing the Auckland waterfront and port. For those visiting without a car, the round-trip ferry ticket from Auckland to Devonport runs $11.50NZD, but then you will have to either take a car service, bus, or walk the remaining distance to the overlook. The vista point is most impressive on clear, tranquil evenings, when the lights from the city appear to dance along the water in the Waitemata Harbour.

* A FUN SIDE TRIP OUTSIDE OF AUCKLAND: *

Hobbiton – Hobbiton, which resides southwest of the North Island’s town of Matamata in Waikato, became a permanent tourist attraction after it was constructed for The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies. The real-life film set of The Shire was built on a picturesque private farmland, which included iconic locations such as the Hobbit Holes, The Mill, and The Greed Dragon Inn. The end result was a masterpiece that brought the vision of JRR Tolkien’s famous books to life and created a location that has become synonymous with Middle-earth. A variety of tours are offered, but for the basic Hobbiton Movie Set Tour tickets the price of an adult admission ticket is $79NZ when departing from Matamata and $114NZ if arriving from Rotorua. There are also a plethora of tour companies that provide packages for a trip to Hobbiton from Auckland, Rotorua, or Matamata, in case you are visiting New Zealand and do not have any means of transportation.

Recommended Local Eateries:

Odette’s Eatery – 7am-3pm (Monday), 7am-9:30pm (Tuesday & Wednesday), 7am-10pm (Thursday & Friday), 8am-10pm (Saturday), and 8am-3pm (Sunday)- (90 Wellesley Street W, Auckland, 1010, New Zealand) – A stylish, contemporary locale with inventive dishes and a creative menu for any meal. My favorite was their breakfast and their Honey Granola paired with an Odette’s Smoothie (berries, yoghurt, and honey).

Fokker Bros – 11am-11:30pm- (Viaduct Harbour, d/95-99 Customs Street W, Auckland, 1010, New Zealand) – A pub-like atmosphere complete with creative appetizers, burgers, and shakes. No visit can be considered complete until you try one of their Freakshakes - the Chocolate Lovers Freakshake is a chocolate shake that is topped with a chocolate donut, chocolate ice cream cone, whipped cream, Kit Kats, and chocolate pretzels, absolutely amazing!

Burger Burger – 11:30am-9:30pm (Sunday-Thursday) and 11:30am-10pm (Friday & Saturday) - (4 Brown Street, Ponsonby, Auckland 1011) – American-style hamburgers (your choice of beef, fish, chicken, lamb, pork, and veggie) and sides like Kumara Chips, Curly Fires, Onion Rings, which are created using organic, locally-sourced, and seasonal ingredients.

Besos Latinos – 12pm-2pm/ 5:30pm-LATE (Tuesday-Friday), 5:30pm-LATE (Saturday), & 1pm-8pm (Sunday) - (39 Elliot Street, Elliott Stables, Shop M16, Auckland, New Zealand) – Traditional Latin American gourmet delights using a combination of locally sourced food with products imported from South America and Mexico. Try their Cricket Quesadilla (Oven roasted crickets tossed with garlic and spread between two quesadillas that are coated with guajillo chili and melted cheese) or their Fiery Jalapeño Poppers x 3 (Mexican jalapeño chilies filled with cheese, breaded and deep fried).

La Zeppa – 12pm-10pm (Sunday-Tuesday), 12pm-11pm (Wednesday), 12pm-2am (Thursday), 12pm-2am (Friday and Saturday) - (33 Drake Street, Auckland, 1010, New Zealand) – Rooftop bar that boasts comfortable booths, colorful lanterns hanging overhead, and wonderful city views. Order one of their delicious ciders and find a spot to soak up the summer vibes at this memorable venue.

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