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People refer to Auckland in the north of New Zealand as 'The City of Sails', because it is home to an enormous number of yachts. It is very much a multicultural city: next to the (descendants of) Western immigrants there is also a large population of the indigenous population of New Zealand, the Maori, but there are many Asians and people from Polynesia too that have made Auckland their new home. This cultural diversity is reflected in the many festivals that are organized in the city. Most festivities take place on Aotea Square in the center of the city, next to Queen Street, the main street of Auckland.
The Auckland Domain is a large park on top of an extinct volcano (like the whole city is built on extinct volcanoes). In this park you can find the War Memorial Museum, a misleading name, because the museum doesn't only offer armaments. It offers an extensive and beautiful collection of art and objects from the Maori and from Polynesia. The largest collection of national and international art is housed in the Auckland Art Gallery.
The Sky Tower is, with its 328 meters, the highest tower on the Southern Hemisphere. Obviously you'll have a fantastic view from the top of this tower. Daredevils do the bungee jump from the Sky Tower. Although, not from 328 meters high but "only" 192 meters.
Auckland is a sprawling city and many neighborhoods have little charm. An exception is the cozy Tamaki Drive. Here you will also find the Antarctic Encounter and Underwater World, a large aquarium that includes an underwater tunnel which you can walk through whilst whales and sharks swim around you.
On Saturday you can not miss the flea market in the Otara Shopping Center. The Otara district has a large population of Maori and Polynesians and this is reflected in the products on offer. A particularly colorful and fragrant experience, as there are many food items for sale.
The volcanic landscape is visible everywhere, both in and around Auckland. For example, the little volcanic island Rangitoto Island in the Hauraki Gulf, which was created by an explosion over 600 years ago. It is now covered with the largest pohutukawa forest in the world. The pohutukawa is a tree that stands out by its red, long flower stamens.
Auckland is the center of winemaking in New Zealand. Excellent wines originate from this country and you should definitely try the local wines. For example on Waiheke Island, which you can reach with a car ferry. The vineyards on this island aren't particularly huge, but the quality of the wine is superb. Several tours are organised along the vineyards. Olives are grown on the island as well and of course you can buy the delicious, fragrant olive oil here. But there is more to Waiheke Island. There are beautiful beaches along the northern coast, you can make beautiful hikes here, kayak on the sea or do some deep sea fishing.
Another island very well worth visiting, but a little further away, is the Greater Barrier Island with again beautiful beaches, rugged nature and invigorating hot springs. This island is also accessible by car ferry. In the Glenfern Sanctuary you can see and hear rare birds. You can make a 'tree top walk' here as well.
There is a lot to see and explore around Auckland, especially for nature lovers and sports enthusiasts. For example, stroll over the Awhitu Peninsula and enjoy the rugged coastline, snorkel at Goat Island Marine Reserve, take a boat trip through the breathtaking Bay of Islands, discover the caves of Waitomo, or go and enjoy windsurfing near Raglan.
Auckland has a wide range of accommodation. Backpackers can stay in simple hotels and pensions, but there are five-star resorts and hotels too.
The busiest period to visit is between the months November and March, when it is summer in New Zealand.
It is not difficult to find your way in and around Auckland with a rental car. However, finding a parking space in the center of the city might cause problems. You can (for a fee) park on the street. Note the instructions on the signs: in some streets you can not park during rush hours in order to promote traffic flow.
Parking on the street is cheaper than in a garage, but in the city center you can only park for a maximum of 1 hour. Fortunately, there are parking lots and garages around the center.
Auckland's airport is located about 20 kilometers south of the city center. The airport is easily accessible with a rental car. From the city center drive over Gilles Avenue to the Southern Motorway. The route towards the airport is clearly signposted.