Auckland may not be the capital of New Zealand, but it can certainly be considered a major cultural and social centre. When you arrive in New Zealand, you'll probably get off the plane here. So head straight for a sightseeing tour around Auckland, where you'll find plenty of places of interest within easy reach!
This small island just off the coast is definitely worth a visit if you like snorkelling and are a fan of the marine world. Goat Island is located off the town of Leigh just north of Auckland. Don't have your own diving equipment, but still want a glimpse of what lies in the depths? You can take a glass-bottomed boat tour, which runs regularly around the island during the summer months, just be prepared for a pretty hefty price tag – $28.
If you have the time, you shouldn't miss the walk along the coast, which will take you to the University of Auckland's laboratory studying marine life. The trip will take you 1.5 to 2 hours. Another opportunity to walk will be at low tide, which will reveal a beautiful beach with views of Goat Island. On the way back, stop in Leigh for fish and chips.
If you are a lover of long and easy walks, this beach is just the right one for you. You can enjoy beautiful views of the open sea and the surrounding hills with grazing sheep. You may even meet horse riders who visit from time to time. In fact, you can also ride a horse yourself if you visit one of the nearby farms and talk to the locals who organise rides for the public.
A lovely place to visit is the village of Matakana, also north of Auckland. This place wakes up from its quiet and sleepy atmosphere every Saturday morning, when people from all over the area flock to the very popular market. Music greets you from afar, and all sorts of aromas of roasting meat, fresh coffee and pastries tease your nose. You can buy almost anything from clothes, fresh vegetables, to home-made cheeses and artisanal products.
Near the village of Matakana is another amazing beach, Omaha Beach, which is not as quiet and deserted as Pakiri Beach, but is definitely worth a visit. Many wealthy Aucklanders have summer homes here and come here on weekends to relax. The beach is ideal for beginners and advanced surfers alike. There's a local surf school just off the car park, where they'll lend you all the equipment and you can pay for lessons in the waves with an instructor.
There are several regional parks around Auckland that protect areas of native vegetation and wild coastline. Tawharanui Park is a short drive from Omaha Beach and is situated on a small peninsula. You can drive directly to the park where there is parking, toilets and information. You can choose from several trails of varying difficulty and themes. If you have time for about a two-hour walk, take the white trail, the North Coast Trail, which takes you to the end of the peninsula with great views of the beaches and wild coastline of the park.
On the way back, you can walk through the rainforest on the Ecology Trail, with unfamiliar trees and typical New Zealand ferns that will amaze you with their size. At the end of the trip, we recommend a refreshing dip in the ocean at the beautiful Ocean Beach, which is part of the regional park. Take care of your belongings while swimming, especially if you have any food in your bag. The local cheeky seagulls are capable of crawling into your backpack for a piece of food.
The village of Piha lies west of Auckland, its black sand beaches washed by the waters of the Tasman Sea. The road here takes you over unexpectedly high hills with steep drops but stunning views. The first thing to catch the eye of visitors is the rock towering just off the coast, known locally as Lion Rock. Indeed, when viewed from the side, it looks like the silhouette of a reclining lion.
Dozens of surfers can be seen on the beaches. It was in Piha in 1958 that the first people in New Zealand rode the waves on a surfboard. There are various hiking trails around the town. You definitely shouldn't miss the short climb up Lion Rock for a spectacular view of the sea below and the black beaches.
Another popular trek is named after one of the world's most famous climbers, Sir Edmund Hillary. The Hillary Trail was opened on the second anniversary of his death and is considered one of the more challenging trails you can do in NZ. It takes a total of 4 days to complete, but you can choose to tackle only parts of it. Piha in particular was Hillary's favourite place to go to relax and unwind.
Devonport is a suburban area of Auckland, situated on a peninsula at the mouth of Waitemata Harbour, the main harbour of the whole area. The well-preserved Victorian houses will delight the eye of architectural admirers and the uninitiated alike. A short walk along the coast takes you to the summit of one of the two volcanoes of North Head and the easy hike to the top is not to be missed, especially if the weather is fine. From North Head, you'll get an unexpectedly beautiful view of not only Devonport, but also the harbour and the whole of Auckland city centre with its main landmark, the Sky Tower, the tallest building in the southern hemisphere, which lights up at night.
North Head and the second volcano, Mt. Victoria, were formerly Maori pa (forts), and later in the 19th century bunkers and tunnels were dug to defend the harbour against the impending Russian invasion. The entire tunnel system was expanded during the First and Second World Wars, equipped with cannons and various sniper equipment to defend the entrance to the bay and harbour.
If you don't have your own car or don't want to spend time in traffic around Auckland, you can also get to Devonport on one of the ferries directly from the main harbour in the centre.
The village of Puhoi lies about 50 km north of Auckland. It is home to the popular Puhoi Valley, a valley that produces some of the best cheese in New Zealand. The picturesque village of Puhoi was founded by 82 Bohemian immigrants in 1863 who were allocated land around the banks of the Puhoi River.
If you are after a hard trip, it’s a rainy day and you want to spend it in an unconventional way, or you just need to regenerate your body, then Orewa and the Waiwera Thermal Resort & Spa's hot pool complex is just right for you. This resort was founded in 1863 and is officially the first of its kind in the southern hemisphere. There are 12 thermal pools varying in temperature from 24 to 40 degrees, water slides and even a pool where they show movies. And a little tip for the end: if you're on a budget, arrive 2 hours before closing time, i.e. 6 pm, and you'll get a 50% discount on entry.