Auckland has got to be the most misunderstood city I have ever been to. Not a day goes by that I do not hear “you only need a couple of days to see Auckland” or “ah I can’t wait to get out of Auckland”. What is most baffling is why people do not think there are many things to do in Auckland or that somewhere else in New Zealand that they haven’t yet visited will automatically be better?
Before I arrived in New Zealand, when people asked me whereabouts I was going to be based, every single response to ‘Auckland’ was a slightly disappointed “oh right”. The majority of those people had never even considered going to New Zealand, yet Auckland’s reputation carries a long way.
Big Little City
Please don’t get me wrong, Auckland is never going to offer its visitors the big city experience like Sydney, London or Los Angeles will. But has it ever really promised its visitors this experience or do we assume that as a city Auckland will compete with the rest of the world? Straight up, you can walk around the CBD of Auckland in roughly an hour, if you walk fast. And the shopping is mediocre if you ever visited another major city. However, it could be argued that Auckland offers its visitors a city that reflects the rest of New Zealand. As the main gateway to New Zealand, Auckland gives people a sneak peek in to what to expect from the rest of a fresh, relaxed, scenic country.
The Hauraki Gulf
The Hauraki Gulf appears to be invisible to most backpackers in Auckland. Is it that special? Well, you can hike up a volcano on Rangitoto Island, you can visit endemic, native, protected birds on Tiritiri Matangi Island. You can taste the finest wine and see World War II bunkers on Waiheke Island and you can become completely isolated on your very own beach at Great Barrier Island. If that isn’t enough, in the Hauraki Gulf itself you can kayak, sail, and spot dolphins, whales and plenty of other diverse marine life. So why, I ask, do people seem intent on leaving so quickly? You are only missing out on some of the world’s most stunning volcanic islands!
Living by the Sea
If anything should we not encourage praise of a city on the water? I come from the coast and haven’t really ever strayed from the coast so I may be biased but is there really anything better than fresh seafood and a glass of local wine whilst watching the boats and birds? Not to mention the amazing fresh air that kindly comes with living by the water. Arguably, certain places (some of the bars on the Viaduct!) could make the experience a little more affordable for backpackers but still, doesn’t it sound lovely?
Apart from the Hauraki Gulf, Auckland and its surrounds offers backpackers some great things to do including bungy jumping, skydiving, canyoning, Segway tours, the awesome Auckland Zoo, Kelly Tarltons Underwater World, Auckland Museum, some fantastic parks and gardens and the worlds only SkyJump (yes you really can jump off the tallest building in the Southern Hemisphere!)
The Greater Auckland Region
What about the outskirts as well? Within an hour of the city are some of New Zealand’s most beautiful places to visit. How many cities do you know where you can reach both rainforest and coastline within half an hour? The Waitakere Ranges National Park is one of New Zealand’s most popular with options of swimming, surfing, kayaking, fishing, horse riding, walking and general all round relaxation. Piha and the Kitekite falls are two of the popular spots within the Waitakere Ranges National Park. They offer you some adrenaline pumping canyoning through waterfalls and then relaxation on one of New Zealand’s stunning beaches.
Food and Wine
After all that fresh air, you can return to the city for some good food and a glass of wine. And just a short (and very cheap) bus ride from the city centre is Mission Bay which offers amazing views of Rangitoto Island as well as award winning Fish and Chips and ice-creams! In short, Auckland is a great base in order to visit New Zealand’s other top destinations. A little bit like going home to your mum’s for a bit of comfort.
I’m not suggesting that all visitors to New Zealand remain here for the entire duration of their stay. But just to consider the opportunity of spending a little extra time to experience the Hauraki Gulf and some of those extra special places Auckland keeps hidden.
Relaxed, attractive, modest and full of surprises. If you met a guy or a girl with those qualities you would most definitely give them a second glance, so why not do the same for Auckland, New Zealand’s, and the world’s, most misunderstood city to date.
More about Auckland
- On a budget? Free or Cheap Things to Do in Auckland
- Want a bit of adventure? What to Do in Auckland
- Bit chilly? Auckland Indoor Activities to do on a rainy or winter days
Main image: Auckland by night across water Credit – Sky City