Looking across the harbour at Auckland city

If you're travelling in New Zealand, chances are you'll end up in Auckland at some point during your trip. Here's a few key things you should know before you visit the country's biggest city - from a local's perspective.

1. It’s a summer city

If you visit Auckland in winter, you’re going to be disappointed. It rains a lot throughout the year, but more between April and September... and a grey coastal city is always a bit miserable. Instead, visit in summer with the gulf sparkling blue and all the boat sails on the horizon… then you can really see Auckland at its best.

The harbour in Hobsonville Point, Auckland
Boats at the harbour in Auckland
Looking at Rangitoto Island from Auckland's North Shore

2. People will complain about house prices

It’s the local pastime and a general conversation starter. You’ll hear how terrible the housing market is, how first home buyers will never be able to afford their own house, that the next generation will grow up in apartments… and that the government better not introduce any additional taxes on property, all in the same breath. Just smile, nod and try not to get drawn into the conversation – unless you enjoy a good debate.

3. Approximately 50% of Aucklanders were born in another country

This means that you’ll find a huge array of cultures and languages in the city – and some people who seem like foreigners may actually have been living here for a long time. Auckland is a multicultural city and you can see that in its festivals and events – from Matariki festivals for Māori New Year to huge celebrations for the Lunar New Year and Diwali. And, of course, there is also a good range of global cuisine available.

Dragon lanterns at the annual Auckland Lantern Festival
A food stall at Diwali Festival in Auckland
Performers at the Pasifika Festival.

4. There is a LOT of good food on offer

If you find yourself in Auckland for a few days, be sure to try some of the great food on offer. It’s definitely not the cheapest place to eat in the world, but you can try a range of different cuisines and many are quite authentic. If you enjoy Chinese food, Dominion Road is a great place to start. You can sample dishes from many of the different regions of China at a price that’s quite affordable by Auckland standards, while Sandringham has excellent Indian food. Closer to the city, Auckland Fish Market is a great spot for lunch and, for fine dining, try at least one of the Auckland institutions on Ponsonby Road and in Britomart. For a gourmet take on a traditional Māori hangi, head out to the beautiful Te Henga (Bethells Beach) and visit the Hangi Master on the way.

5. It's worth getting out of the city centre

You can’t really get a good feel of Auckland if you spend all your time in the city centre. Instead, venture a bit further afield. Take a ferry to Devonport and a bus to the North Shore. Go either west or south to a farmer’s market and explore some of Auckland’s lovely beaches. Do day trips to forests and beaches and treat yourself with a long lunch at a winery. There’s plenty to do in Auckland, but it’s not all in the city.

A beautiful day at Piha Beach
The beautiful, isolated Whatipu Beach
Manukau Heads Lighthouse in Awhitu Peninsula

6. Public transport is a bit hit and miss

Many large cities have a metro or similar bus network. Auckland is still building its first subway system. Saying that, visitors will be able to explore central Auckland via the Link buses which regularly loop through the central suburbs. There are also a few arterial train and bus routes, heading north and south. Overall, though, while Auckland’s public transport system has greatly improved in the last few years, if you want to really see the city, you’ll need to hire a car. Here’s hoping that changes in the future.

7. Auckland is the city with the largest Pasifika population in the world

If you can’t make it to one of the South Pacific islands yourself, take the opportunity to discover more about the history and culture of this fascinating region. If you happen to be in New Zealand around April, time your visit for the annual Pasifika Festival to experience the foods, colour and culture of the Pacific. There are also other events during the year which celebrate the different Pacific cultures and languages. Or, for something a bit different, catch one of Black Grace's performances. The internationally-renowned contemporary dance company has a Pasifika twist and their performances are energetic and mesmerising to watch.

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Roxanne de Bruyn

Author - Roxanne de Bruyn

Roxanne is the founder and editor of Faraway Worlds. She is a freelance writer and guidebook author and has written for several travel publications, including Lonely Planet and The Culture Trip. With a background in communications, she has studied ancient history, comparative religion and international development, and has a particular interest in sustainable tourism.

Originally from South Africa, Roxanne has travelled widely and loves learning the stories of the places she visits. She enjoys cooking, dance and yoga, and usually travels with her husband and young son. She is based in New Zealand.

Last Updated 10 November 2022

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