I’m going to be honest, despite its sneaky rolling hills and spotty weather, exploring Auckland is best done on foot. Your feet will never forgive you, but your eyes will thank you. Whether you choose to live vicariously through these photos or take in these breathtaking vistas yourself, let this be your guide to enjoying the best sights of Auckland.
Mt Eden (Maungawhau) Domain
The Mt Eden Domain is a dormant volcanic cone about five minutes outside the CBD. Due to its proximity and height (it’s the tallest volcanic feature in the area), it has some of the best views of the city, much like our own Punchbowl in Makiki. Depending on your fitness level, you can reach the top after a 10-minute walk from the car park or about 15 minutes from the bus stop on Mt Eden Road. The surrounding suburbs offer a great mix of restaurants and cafes if you plan to make an afternoon out of this excursion.
250 Mt Eden Road • Mt Eden • www.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz
Piha & West Coast Beaches
If there was one absolute must-do on my Auckland list, it was to see the West Coast black sand beach of Piha. From driving through the Waitakere Ranges to getting lost with no sense of time, it was a nice shift from everyday life – discovering a new place without obligation defines my version of pure joy. We drove out west after lunch at Mary’s to explore a bit outside the city. It was one of the highlights of our short stay.
19 Marine Parade South • Piha • regionalparks.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz/piha
Kitekite Falls Track
While I was in Piha I decided to detour to Kitekite Falls. A “hike” is the only way I can describe New Zealand’s equivalent to Manoa Falls, only with a better ending (sorry Hawaii, this Kiwi waterfall has you beat!). Kitekite Falls Track is a short 1.1 mi / 25-minute (1-hour roundtrip) walking trail in the Piha Regional Park that follows the Glen Esk Stream, winding through the forest of Waikatere Ranges. It’s paved with gravel for most of the way so it’s fairly suitable for the entire family and there are a few benches along the way to take a breather. At the end of the track, you’re presented with the majestic three-tiered Kitekite Falls.
Glenesk Rd • Piha • regionalparks.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz/piha/track/kitekite%20track
Mt Victoria (Takarunga) Domain
You know, I really wish the SuperFerry stuck around. Man, those boats were awesome; carrying people and their vehicles to the main islands for a reasonable price. One thing I loved about Auckland was the different transportation options it offered, from trains to buses and of course ferries. Waitemata Harbour is a major shipping port, but it also accommodates smaller vessels like the ferries many take to and from work in the CBD. One route I took was to Devonport, on the north side of the harbor just 15 minutes away. From there, I explored the main streets of the little port village and wandered up the hill to Mt Victoria or Takarunga in Maori, another dormant volcanic feature that has been converted into a park with sweeping views of the harbor and out to the Hauraki Gulf.
Victoria Rd • Devonport • www.devonport.co.nz/Mt-Victoria-North-Head
The Auckland waterfront is the perfect spot to take a walk at any time. Although I avoided it, the dining scene at the wharves is very lively and home to a few of the city’s top restaurants. There are a few museums to check out, including the Auckland Maritime Museum at Princes Wharf; and besides being the water gateway to the Hauraki Gulf, there’s a ton of activities to do shoreside. I just enjoyed watching the people as I nommed on Whitman’s hokey pokey chocolate bars and Haribo gummies.
Quay Street / Wynyard Crossing • Auckland CBD • www.waterfrontauckland.co.nz/
In a sense, I saved the best for last. During my final hours in Auckland, I took in the city from 60 floors (over 720 ft) above at the Auckland Sky Tower. This metallic beacon defines the Auckland skyline, much like the Space Needle in Seattle and the CN Tower in Toronto – it would have been a shame if I didn’t make it to the observation deck during my stay. I’ve always been a fan of observing cities from above and this was the cheapest thrill I could find without hiring a private helicopter (although I need to look into that). The great thing about the Sky Tower is that it’s pretty empty in the evening and there’s no time limit for your stay (it costs $28 NZD / $19 USD for the elevator ride up). I had time to kill, so I spent a good five hours up there drinking New Zealand wine and eating delicious local cheeses as well as charging up my gadgets before the long flight home.
Victoria Street • Auckland CBD • www.skycityauckland.co.nz