The City of Lovers & Sails

Imagine an urban environment where everyone lives within half an hour of beautiful, secluded beaches, rural hiking trails and dozens of enchanting islands. Add a sunny climate, a background rhythm of Polynesian culture and a passion for outstanding food, wine and shopping – and you’ll begin to get a picture of the South Pacific waterside city of Auckland.

Surrounded by lush subtropical forests, volcanic hills and peaceful islands, Auckland boasts a naturally stunning location adjacent to the spectacular Hauraki Gulf. Basking on a thin stretch of New Zealand’s North Island, the city is surrounded by the Pacific Ocean on almost every side.

In the Maori language, Auckland is known as ‘Tamaki Makau Rau’ – ‘the city of 100 lovers’. The city earned this name because it was a place desired by all and conquered by many. The districts of New Zealand’s largest city follow the curves of the shoreline, utilising the many bays that are ideal for water sports, swimming and yachting – the favourite Kiwi obsession that gives the city its modern-day nickname: The City of Sails.

The City of Sails has five distinctive geographical regions: Central, North, South Auckland, West Auckland and the Hauraki Gulf. And they are all a pleasure to explore…

Central Auckland

Central Auckland, which embraces the Waitemata Harbour (Waitemata meaning ‘sparkling waters’), includes the central business district and the city’s most picturesque residential areas in Remuera, Epsom, Ponsonby, Parnell and the waterfront areas of St Heliers and Mission Bay.

Central Auckland boasts some of the city’s top attractions, including the Auckland Museum with it’s collection of Maori ‘taonga’ (treasures), the largest art gallery in New Zealand, the Sky Tower, which is the tallest structure in the southern hemisphere, the nautical treasures of the New Zealand National Maritime Museum, and the Viaduct Harbour, which was the base of the America’s Cup regattas in 2000 and 2003. And if all that doesn’t get you excited, you could always bungy jump off the Auckland Harbour Bridge!

North Auckland

The North Shore City is all about lifestyle. It has more than 20 beautiful beaches, lush native bush land and unspoiled sea views – all just a short 10-minute ferry ride or a trip across the Harbour Bridge from Central Auckland.

Just a stroll from the wharf, the historic Devonport district bustles with cafés, restaurants and shops. A heritage delight, Devonport is easy to explore on foot and has a village-like atmosphere, cafes, art galleries, elegant villas and interesting boutique shops.

At nearby Takapuna you can enjoy great views of the volcanic island of Rangitoto, or head for the picturesque freshwater Lake Pupuke, which provides a beautiful venue for rowing, sailing and canoeing.

The Rodney District, with its two distinctive coastlines and spectacular scenery, has earned the reputation of ‘Auckland’s Playground’. Rodney has many attractive beaches from the calm, safe waters of its golden east coast, to the awesome surf of its rugged west coast.

South Auckland

The southern part of the Auckland region includes Manukau City and is characterised by a large expanse of beautiful rolling farmland. Vibrant, diverse and unique, Manukau is New Zealand’s third largest city, and home to people from more than 150 different cultures.

This rapidly expanding multicultural city offers an appealing blend of urban and rural spaces, quality shopping and entertainment centres, markets, cultural festivals, nine golf courses and seven local wineries.

Manukau’s 320 kilometres of coastline are wild and rugged in the west and Pohutukawa tree-fringed in the east. To the south the magnificent Hunua Ranges with their forests, lakes and waterfalls provide a dramatic backdrop to the gently rolling farmlands of Clevedon.

West Auckland

To the west, Waitakere City is blessed with the magnificent rainforest of the Waitakere Ranges, the spectacular west coast surf beaches and picturesque vineyards.

The Waitakere Ranges rise high and sharply above the surrounding sea and land, and thanks to their hard rocks and the works of erosion, they are clear-cut and often dramatic. Thickly clad in lush native forest, the 8,000 hectares of the Waitakere Ranges offer some of the best bush tramping and camping in New Zealand.

Hauraki Gulf
With its opportunities for sailing, boating, fishing, kayaking, swimming with dolphins and island escapes, the Hauraki Gulf region is Auckland’s aquatic playground. Stretching between the Waitemata Harbour and the Coromandel Peninsula, the Gulf’s sheltered waters are studded with over 50 idyllic islands and islets.

The two largest islands on the Gulf are Great Barrier and Waiheke. Waiheke Island is only 35 minutes from downtown Auckland and its beautiful beaches and native forest reserves harmonise with its cafés, vineyards, olive groves and art studios.

‘Waiheke’ translates as ‘cascading waters’, which refers to the waterfalls in the island’s Whakanewha Regional Park.

The Maori originally called the Great Barrier Island ‘Aotea’, meaning ‘white cloud’. The island is one of the last great wildernesses of the Auckland region, with its spectacular ridges rising to the highest peak Hirakimata, at 621metres. To the west forest-covered ranges meet the coast, while to the east there are sweeping white sands and surf beaches, often backed by tidal creeks and wetlands.

With its winning blend of island paradises, ancient rainforests, Polynesian culture, glistening harbours and modern urban environment, it’s no surprise that Auckland provides the kind of lifestyle that is ranked as one of the highest in the world.

Sky Blue Vickie is a travel and tourism storyteller located in Vancouver. Come with her as she travels the world! Follow her on Instagram @SkyBlueVickie

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