Loaded with cosmopolitan stays and cultural experiences while also offering up a rich spread of gourmet delights, Auckland is the easy getaway you didn’t know you needed. Base yourself in the vibrant centre to explore the city and its surrounds – Matakana, Waiheke Island and the West Coast beaches are all less than an hour away. Alongside sweeping ocean views and welcoming hosts, Auckland delivers bespoke restaurant experiences for food lovers, while film fans and art-lovers have galleries, cultural tours and the next-level Wētā Workshop Unleashed to explore. Meanwhile the can’t-sit-still types can climb (or leap from) bridges and sail yachts across the glorious harbour. Auckland’s your oyster – all that’s left is to choose your adventure.
For the food lover
New Zealand is heaven for food lovers and in Auckland you’ll find a smorgasbord of flavours. Get your bearings with The Big Foody’s Tastebud Tour – their knowledgeable hosts will introduce you to the city’s growers, winemakers, chefs and bakers between “endless tastings”, which guarantee full bellies upon conclusion. For sustainable seafood, don’t miss kingi in Britomart where you’ll find creative dishes such as breakfast-time rosti with smoked kahawai, poached egg and nduja hollandaise; kina (sea urchin) and pancetta on toast; and snapper-head terrine. Gilt Brasserie, within historic Chancery Chambers, is the latest venture from chef Josh Emett, who has worked in Michelin-starred kitchens and Gordon Ramsay restaurants around the world, building an impressive Instagram following along the way. Try dishes such as king crab pappardelle ricce with brandy bisque crème fraîche or roast duck frites with sauce l’orange and judge Emett’s skills for yourself. Order excellent local produce such as New Zealand crayfish and Mt Cook Alpine Salmon at Katsura Japanese Cuisine within the Grand Millennium hotel. From Wednesday to Saturday there are two seatings for the fêted grand seafood buffet, while Tuesday is teppanyaki night – book ahead. For more favourites, check out Iconic Auckland Eats, an annual list of the top 100 dishes in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland as voted by the locals.
Gourmet wanderings continue when you check into The Grand by Sky City. The hotel offers some of Auckland’s best vistas and restaurants within its precinct, including Metita, where a reimagined Pacific menu matches corned-beef buns with lardo and caviar, and fire-roasted tua tua with okra and harissa. Don’t miss New Zealand’s highest watering hole, SkyBar, on the 50th floor. Take high tea to new heights (182 metres off the ground, in fact) with Sky Tea, or preface dinner with an Aoraki cocktail – Central Otago riesling with honey and pink grapefruit, garnished with 360-degree views. QT Auckland is a more intimate choice, with opulent rooms to complement its topnotch food. Savour the harbour views and relaxed vibe with live music while picking your way through Spanish-style small plates, mezze platters and a tipple under the night sky at Rooftop at QT. Or make a booking at Sean Connolly’s onsite restaurant Esther, where chefs working in the open kitchen turn out regional hits, from slow-cooked lamb to burnt Basque cheesecake.
For the culture hunter
In Wētā Workshop Unleashed, Auckland has its own award-winning movie and TV special-effects experience. A storyteller guides you through the workshop’s animatronics, prosthetics and robots on a 90-minute tour that brings horror, fantasy and sci-fi to life. Creative workshops feature expert crew teaching the basic tricks of the trade to help you turn your imagination into reality. Find artistic endeavours new and old on a free guided tour of the gorgeous Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki. Discover the nexus of culture, history and nature with Explore Group’s excursions to Tiritiri Matangi Island bird sanctuary before embarking on a Tikapa Moana whale and dolphin wildlife cruise on the glorious blue-green waters of Hauraki Gulf. Back on dry land, TIME Unlimited’s small-group and private day tours take you from the city to the rugged West Coast, swinging by black-sand beaches and ancient volcanoes to SkyTower and the Harbour Bridge. Aucky Walky Tours’ Artwalk Auckland trail reveals the stories behind the city’s sculptures, murals and landmarks as you meander through the city.
Continue your cultural Kiwi crash course at Our Land is Alive, Cordis Auckland’s inhouse bar, which serves up “New Zealand in a glass” (local wine and cocktails) as well as a tongue-in-cheek menu that includes the irresistible Sweet As: choc-caramel skillet cookies served with ice-cream and apple compote. From there, it’s just a short waddle to your room in Pinnacle Tower, the newest wing of the five-star Cordis Auckland hotel, which features 17 storeys of light-filled rooms and suites, many with knockout harbour views. For those who are always on-the-go, make new favourite Sudima Auckland your base and you’re footsteps to most of the city’s cultural drawcards – not to mention shopping, dining and nightlife precincts. Rooms are stylish and modern and award-winning restaurant East serves up a plant-based-but-you-wouldn’t-know-it menu that visitors and Aucklanders love.
For the outdoor adventurer
AJ Hackett, the original Kiwi bungy company, offers two adrenaline-heavy options in the heart of Auckland. The Auckland Harbour Bridge Climb and Bungy provides the opportunity to do just that – climb the bridge then leap 40 metres, with the option of New Zealand’s only Ocean Touch experience, whereby at the end of your plunge your head is dipped into the harbour (rather than stopping just short). Appetite for adventure whetted? Sign up for SkyJump and SkyWalk and you'll inch around the ledge of Sky Tower – the Southern Hemisphere’s second tallest building – then leap 192 metres off it, plummeting into space at speeds up to 85 kilometres an hour attached to the bungy cord. Ride to the top of Sky Tower for the less heart-pounding but equally exhilarating view – can you spot all of Auckland’s 53 non-active volcanoes?
For two-wheeled tours, embark on a Power to the Pedal electric-bike ride along Auckland’s extensive cycling network. It’s an easy, guided sweat-free 25-kilometre ride around the city. It’s the perfect way to orientate yourself and see the key sites, include Te Ara I Whiti, Auckland’s distinctive pink path. Weekend dinghy racers can make dreams come true aboard a real America’s Cup-class yacht tacking up Waitematā Harbour with Explore Group’s two-hour America’s Cup Sailing Experience. Take the helm or get on the grinder, humming Down Under as you hear about the race’s history (1983 is a highlight for Australians, and yes, there have also been some highlights for New Zealanders), or simply watch the crew and other guests do the work. No judgement!
Within the centrally located and lovingly restored 1914 Art Deco building, Heritage Auckland is resort-style property with spacious family rooms and appealing facilities including a heated rooftop pool with panoramic city and sparkling Waitematā Harbour views, two gyms and an all-weather tennis court. In an equally convenient position, the Scandi-sleek M Social Auckland looks out to Princes Wharf and is steps from Viaduct Harbour and Sky Tower. In-house restaurant Beast & Butterflies operates all day, serving up dishes such as Korean Fried Chicken with caramelised chilli, pickled cucumbers, peanuts, chives and sesame and Wagyu Beef Burgers until 9.30pm.