1 CONE HEADING Visible from almost anywhere in the city, Rangitoto Island is not only an Auckland icon but also a scenic reserve and a popular place for day hikes. A 30-minute cruise aboard Fullers ferry gets you to the very young island, a perfect volcanic cone created just 600 years ago. Shiny black lava is evident as you hike (or take a relaxing ride in a tractor-drawn tram) to the 850-foot summit for a panorama of the Hauraki Gulf. Back in Auckland, an outdoor table at Cin Cin on Quay (right at the Ferry Building) is the perfect place to raise a glass to a fine afternoon’s outing.
2 FERRY LAND Auckland is a city of water, and a very good way to experience a fresh ocean breeze and some beautiful views is by boarding a commuter ferry to the seaside suburb of Devonport (about $3 round-trip). During the day a boat leaves every 30 minutes from the Ferry Building on Quay Street. In Devonport you can stroll the galleries, shops, and caf¿s that line Victoria Road, or make the 30-minute trek up the trail to North Head to get a look at the city skyline, rising, of course, from the water.
3 GOING UP More than 1,000 feet tall, Auckland’s needle-nosed Sky Tower provides the best overview of the city and its surroundings. Glass-fronted elevators in the lobby of the Sky City complex zip you up to the observation level on top in 40 seconds flat. There, touch-screen stations make it easy to ID the landmarks below, including offshore islands and Rangitoto, which used to be Auckland’s highest point. Step onto the transparent floor for a, well, plunging look at the city below.
4 MEET A MAORI For a primer on New Zealand’s first people, head to the Auckland Museum. Check out the ornate carving on the canoes and the traditional meetinghouse in the Maori Treasures Gallery, then catch a cultural performance that includes songs, dances, and a demonstration of a haka, the intimidating dance known for its fierce facial expressions and vigorous tongue-wagging. The “warriors” will then teach you a few words you’re likely to hear during your stay in the land the Maori call Aotearoa, The Land of the Long White Cloud.
5 THE GIFT OF (PUB) GAB You haven’t been to New Zealand until you’ve been to a pub, where Kiwis lose their inherited British reserve and let their sense of humor and gift of gab run wild. The Loaded Hog is a hugely popular spot right on Viaduct Basin, home of the America’s Cup Village. Grab a microbrew, listen to sailing tales, and enjoy the remarkably unnautical decor. Away from the water on Parnell Road, check out The Bog, an Irish pub, and Iaguaçu, its sophisticated neighbor across the street.
6 HERCULES SURFS HERE Aucklanders love to escape for a day to the black-sand beaches on the west coast, about 45 minutes from the city. The dramatic cliffs attract film and TV producers, while surfers come for the powerful waves. To get there, follow Scenic Drive west from suburban Titirangi, across the Waitakere Range. Take Piha Road to the turnoff for Karekare Beach, where The Piano was filmed, and to Piha Beach, location for Xena: Warrior Princess and Hercules: The Legendary Journeys.
7 CRUISE THROUGH THE PAST New Zealand’s history is bound up with the sea, and the two-story National Maritime Museum, which sprawls across Hobson Wharf, has the whole story, from the Polynesian explorers and the whaling era to the latter-day campaign to capture – and keep – the America’s Cup. Follow up with a harbor cruise (noon and 2 p.m.) aboard the Ted Ashby, a replica of the sailing scows that supplied New Zealand’s coastal settlements before roads linked them.
8 A VINE TIME A century ago a handful of Croatian immigrants started New Zealand’s award-winning wine industry. Today the nearly 20 wineries around Kumeu and Waimauku (about a 30-minute drive from the city center) let you see the past and taste the present. Don’t miss the chardonnay at Kumeu River Wines, or the sauvignon blanc at Matua Valley Wines, the first to produce this famously crisp varietal here. Take a long lunch break, or enjoy afternoon tea at the popular Hunting Lodge restaurant. (Book well ahead.) Or pick up sandwiches at Blossoms, an espresso caf¿ in Kumeu, for a picnic among the vines.
9 KIWI STYLE New Zealand isn’t all sheep and seascapes. To see the latest in fine local products, follow the BMW crowd to the attractive shops, many with colonial facades, that line Parnell Road. H¿glund Art Glass wows shoppers with striking colors, and Textures Gallery features contemporary Kiwi arts and crafts. Of course, there is some wool, most notably at the Tolaga Bay Cashmere Company, which sells wraps woven from local cashmere, and Woolly For You, for the ultimate wool sweater.
10 FOODIE CENTRAL A colorful cross-section of Aucklanders assembles every Saturday morning at the Otara Market. The city’s large Polynesian population comes to stock up on taro, kumara, and plantains sold by expat Fijians, Samoans, and Tongans; Asian vendors hawk Chinese turnips and exotic greens; area chefs and sophisticated home cooks come to snap up the best, most unusual local produce.