As a brief introduction Auckland, New Zealand is where I grew up and the largest city in New Zealand. In fact it is the 5th largest city in Oceania. As I was a child Auckland was largely populated by people of English, European decent and local Maori. Today things have changed dramatically, with over 31% of its population being of Asian. Interestingly though, with its still large population of Pasifika New Zealanders, the city is also home to the biggest ethnic Polynesian population in the world.
For me, returning once a year in Summer is always a huge highlight. Catching up with friends and family is of course a big part of this but truth be told Auckland itself and its many beaches have a certain magic to me.
If you plan to visit Auckland, January through to beginning of April are the nicest months weather wise. Depending on how long you intend on staying it is probably worth looking at renting some form of car as things are very wide spread with no public transport taking you to many of the more beautiful spots to visit.
This article highlights my 7 favourite things to do whilst in Auckland, New Zealand. Being a native one could say these are more insider than typical top tourist tips.
My 7 Favourite Things to do whilst in Auckland, New Zealand
I’m going to start by sharing my 3 favourite beaches with you. Each one has Its own special charm and reasons for visiting.
Tawharanui Regional Park
Tawharanui Regional Park is an easy one hour drive from Auckland. Entry is via a bird reserve and is not suitable for pets! Keep your eyes out for the Pukeko on the side of the road as you enter the park.
I call it our Christmas beach as traditionally we go there on Christmas Day to eat left overs from Christmas Eve as a beach picnic. There is no cafe so you need to bring along whatever you want to eat or drink. Plenty of beautiful grass areas for setting up your spot for the day.
The beach on the northern side of the park is considered one of the best swimming beaches around Auckland and there are also some great ecology trails.
2. Muriwai Beach
Muriwai beach is an impressive long beach with black sand. Make sure to wear something on your feet on hot days! The surf can get very rough so it is advisable to stick to swimming close to the coast guards.
There are stunning cliff-top trails to a huge gannet colony, with easy access and viewing platforms that let you get up close.
There is a surf school at Muriwai beach and you can hire blokarts, bikes and kites. So plenty of fun for the family – smile. Not to forget the cute beach cafe where you can buy ice creams or hot chips etc…
Only a 45 minute drive from central Auckland.
3. Omaha Beach
Omaha Beach would have to be one of the most stunning surf beaches I know of.
It is a pretty holiday home destination with plenty of dream beach homes and perfect gardens to drool at. In fact over the years Omaha has become so popular that many Aucklanders’ have moved and now are permanently based there.
Shops, vineyards and a farmers market are just minutes away.
Beautiful white sand and crystal clear waters – be sure to wear your bikini in preparation for the best body surf out!
I still recollect the first time we visited Omaha beach – before any houses were built there. The history of the whole development is a super interesting read – see here.
4. Matakana getaway
Matakana is also aproximately 45 mins – 1 hour drive from Auckland. A lovely little village full of specialty shops and art galleries. The Matakana market is famous amongst Aucklanders’ for its fresh, local, artisan produce.
Be sure to visit the Morris & James Pottery which has become a Matakana institution. Morris & James was established in 1977 by Ant Morris, and today is run by over 15 artisans dedicated to producing works that you’ll treasure for a lifetime.
There are also plenty of vineyards and lovely places for lunch around Matakana. Try the Glass House Kitchen at Brick Bay. There is also a pretty sculpture trail you might like to do before or after lunch.
A pretty place to stay overnight in Matakana is the Plume Villas. Beautifully constructed villas set in the prettiest of gardens.
Devonport, at the very southern point of Auckland’s North Shore, was one of the earliest settled areas of Auckland and has a rich Māori and maritime history. We love going to North Head, explore the tunnels and soak up the fabulous skyline view of Auckland city.
Fun fact – Devonport was the first suburb on the North Shore to get electricity when the Devonport power station was built in 1914.
The Esplanade hotel in Devonport town is a real Auckland landmark. As a teenager I spent many a Saturday night there listening to up coming live bands.
Catch the ferry into central Auckland – the trip takes around 14 minutes and tickets cost around $8 one way. See the timetable here.
6. Commercial Bay Shopping and Eating
Commercial bay, pictured to the left in the picture above, is Aucklands newest hot spot for shopping and fun dining. It is just across the road from the ferry building so you could also do a spot of shopping at Commercial By and then take the ferry to Devonport (mentioned in point 5. ) for a fun day out.
My favourite shops:
AJE – fabulous Australian fashion house.
Laura Jane – an awesome Kiwi active wear label.
Creative & Brave – the best place for locally created New Zealand souvenirs to take home.
My favourite place to eat:
Ahi – All indoor seating with a fabulous view out onto Auckland harbour. Let award winning New Zealand Chef Ben Bayly treat you with his fabulous culinary delights. Fine dining quality meets laid back sophistication.
7. Auckland Zoo
Auckland zoo is home to at least 144 different species and over 1400 animals. It is one of the most interestingly designed zoos from an architectural point of view. Check out the interesting towers especially built for the Orang-utan further down.
It’s a super friendly zoo, very focused on doing what is best for the animals. The only zoo I know of where the zookeepers take the time to come up to you and explain things on their own initiative.
If you are planning a trip to New Zealand and would like more insider tips feel free to send me an email.
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