Auckland in 2-3 days
Head to Ponsonby Road and take your pick from the multitude of cafes and bars which serve up hearty breakfasts and super-strong espressos. Afterwards, wander down K Road (Auckland’s red-light area), which by day is lined with chic shops and cafes. Head down Queen Street towards the Sky Tower (see Highlights) and take the elevator to the top. The view from the observation deck is simply breathtaking. If you’re feeling adventurous, bungee jump www.skyjump.co.nz back down to terra firma.
Waiheki Island lies in the Hauraki Gulf and is about a 40 minute ferry ride from downtown Auckland. For decades the island has been a getaway for Auckland’s arty types, and makes a brilliant day-trip (see Highlights). For those after a bit more rustic seclusion, head to Great Barrier Island for the night (or longer if you have time). The island is a three hour ferry ride from downtown Auckland.
If you are in Auckland on a Saturday then the Otara markets cannot be missed (see highlights). Other good markets in Auckland include Victoria Market www.victoria-park-market.co.nz, located near the city centre. Numerous Asian markets, food halls and commodity stores are dotted around over the city and are great for exploring.
Auckland in one week
Start with the 2-3 day itinerary.
If the sun’s shining then it’s time to hit the city beaches. Head east along Tamaki Drive to Mission Bay or St Heliers Bay. For the risqué – continue further east of St Heliers to Ladies Bay, a secluded nudist beach. If the sun’s hiding, head to Kelly Tarlton’s Antarctic Experience and Underwater World www.kellytarltons.co.nz on Tamaki Drive to see the sharks and penguins, a fantastic subterranean aquarium.
It’s time to hire a car and hit the road. Two hour’s drive southeast of Auckland lies the Hauraki Planes and the foot of the Coromandel Peninsula. While the planes are largely rural, the peninsula is steep and hilly and largely covered in subtropical rainforest. Head around the peninsula and stop in one of Coromandel township’s rustic pubs for the night.
Continuing around the Coromandel Peninsula, head straight for Hot Water Beach. On first inspection, it looks like an ordinary Kiwi beach, but venture down to the low-tide mark (Good idea to check tide times before setting out www.mercurybay.co.nz/activities/hotwaterbeach.php)and you’ll soon discover a difference – geothermal heated water rising up through the sand. Bring a shovel and dig a pool to lie in as the cold sea water washes over your steaming body.
As Auckland is perched more or less at the top of the country, it’s easy to instinctively head south to continue your Kiwi experience. However, an hour’s drive north of Auckland is Cape Rodney where New Zealand’s first marine reserve www.doc.govt.nz/templates/podcover.aspx?id=33851 was established in 1975. Don a snorkel and a pair of goggles and check out the spectacular sea life along the scenic coastline. Afterwards retire to the Sawmill Cafe www.sawmillcafe.co.nz and microbrewery for dinner.