Having written a couple of weeks ago about the magic of travel, I thought I would spend the next few weeks writing about various travel destinations.
Visitors to New Zealand’s largest city of Auckland (home to just over a third of the country’s population and long rated among the top cities of the world for lifestyle) soon learn just why this cosmopolitan city with its Polynesian, Asian and European heritage has achieved such an enviable reputation.
There are some attractive heritage buildings here as well as pretty gardens (like the picture perfect Parnell Rose Garden), beautiful beaches and impressive volcanoes - all situated in or within a short drive from the city centre.
If you feel you would like to take things easy, a leisurely walk through the CBD takes you to down to Prince’s Wharf for a view of the Waitemata harbour. You can shop for beautiful merino or possum wool sweaters in Queen Street – or board one of the hop on/hop off buses to take in the city’s many attractions.
Auckland Museum, founded in 1852, has probably the best collection of Pacific Island exhibits anywhere in the world – in addition to a very good natural history section and a whole floor devoted to New Zealand’s war history. You can explore here the diversity of Pacific peoples and also learn about the culture of the Maori, who were the original inhabitants of this country before European colonization. A highlight for overseas visitors is the Maori cultural performance that takes place three times each day.
If you are more adventurous, you can walk to one of Auckland’s best known landmarks, the sandstone and granite Edwardian baroque Ferry Building on Quay Street and take a ferry ride across the picturesque harbour. Or you may decide to take a sightseeing tour of the Hauraki Gulf, a spectacular marine park to observe whales and dolphins at play. You may even choose to do a day trip to the many nearby islands. One of the most popular destinations is Waiheke Island, a half hour ferry ride away, which has some pretty beaches as well as olive groves and vineyards (with some excellent vineyard restaurants!).
Another Auckland experience is a trip out to Rangitoto Island – which not only boasts, growing out of the volcanic rock, a large forest of Pohutukawa trees that become a colourful sea of red flowers in summer, but also Auckland’s most photographed dormant volcano. This has a cone so symmetrical you could imagine it having been fashioned by a giant potter on his wheel! You can walk to the top (the hike takes about an hour) for some breathtaking views across the water.
For 360 degree views over the city, catch the high speed lift in the 328 metre Skytower and enjoy a meal in the revolving restaurant at the top.
And if you are really adventurous, you can try taking a Skywalk or a Skyjump. With a safety harness strapped on, the intrepid can take a walk on the platform that surrounds the top of the Skytower – or even perform a bungy jump off the platform.
After all, this is the land that invented bungy-jumping!
More information is available at: www.aucklandtourism.co.nz