Auckland is a marine environment with idyllic islands that invite you to kick back and relax. It’s also a geographical wonder, with 48 volcanic cones and two ancient rainforested mountain ranges.
KAWAU ISLAND - A FASCINATING MIX OF STATELY LIVING AND WILDERNESS
The elegant, historic Mansion House of Kawau, with links to Sir George Grey (one of New Zealand's first governors), has been turned into a marvellous museum. During his time on the island, Governor Grey imported many exotic plants and animals - some remain today. The island has walking tracks leading to beaches, Maori pa sites and old copper mines. Kawau Island is only a short ferry ride from Sandspit - about one hour's drive north of Auckland.
PARKS, WALKS AND HIKES IN EVERY DIRECTION
There are 22 conservation parks within easy reach of downtown Auckland. Between them they offer more than 500 kilometres of walking tracks. The Waitakere Ranges (Auckland's largest regional park) provide the perfect backdrop for walking. The Arataki Visitor Centre, at the Titirangi end of Scenic Drive, provides information about the parks, beaches and walking tracks in the area.
The west coast surf beaches of Whatipu, Karekare, Piha, Bethells and Muriwai are unforgettable for their soulful beachscapes. Be sure to check out the avian aviators at the Muriwai gannet colony.
Put on your mask and snorkel to meet the friendly locals at Goat Island Marine Reserve - follow the signs to Leigh from Warkworth (north of Auckland).
SPECIAL PLACES TO FIND IN AND AROUND AUCKLAND CITY
Take the ferry from downtown Auckland across to the seaside suburb of Devonport and enjoy a light café lunch and a spot of shopping. Alternatively, walk to the summit of Mount Victoria or North Head for 360° views. Ferries to and from Devonport depart every half hour.
If you're feeling energetic, do the Coast to Coast Walkway - a unique walk joining the east and west coasts of Auckland. It takes you to many of the city's scenic icons. Enquire at the Visitor Information Centre in the city for a brochure on the walkway.
MAUNGAWHAU AND MAUNGAKIEKIE
The highest volcano on the Auckland isthmus is Maungawhau (Mount Eden). While the lower slopes of the mountain are disguised by housing, Maori pa (fort) features can still be seen on the grassy upper reaches. Food storage pits, terracing and house sites are evidence of Maori settlement dating back to the 13th century.
Maungakiekie, also known as One Tree Hill, is one of the largest volcanoes in the Auckland field. It was also one of the largest Maori pa sites in New Zealand - the terracing and kumara pits are plain to see. An archaeological trail leads you around the major points of interest.
THE MYSTERIOUS VOLCANIC ISLAND OF RANGITOTO
Rangitoto Island, the most unforgettable feature of Auckland's inner gulf, pushed its way through the ocean floor around 600 years ago. The volcanic fireworks that accompanied it inspired local Maori tribes to call it 'Sky of Blood'.
Take a train to the top or hike up the 260 metre high summit to witness the spectacular 360° views of the Hauraki Gulf and Auckland cityscape. The island also has lava caves, unique rock formations and pohutukawa forests. Rangitoto can be enjoyed as a guided tour or visitors can walk to the top independently.
THE FOREVER-SUMMER LIFESTYLE OF WAIHEKE ISLAND
You'll lose ten years the moment you step ashore on Waiheke Island. Considered by many to be the most magical part of the Auckland experience, and easily accessed by ferry, Waiheke's beautiful beaches and native forest reserves harmonise delightfully with the cafés, vineyards and art studios.
This island is perfect for a day's shopping and wine tasting or several days of indulgent relaxation.
Waiheke is renowned for its burgeoning wine industry, exclusive accommodation and for the many prominent New Zealand artists who have chosen to make it their home. Almost anything is possible on Waiheke, from horse riding and farm tours to sea kayaking and mountain biking.
TIRI TIRI MATANGI ISLAND - A CONSERVATION SUCCESS STORY
Around 20 years ago, this 220-hectare island was largely barren farmland. In a unique partnership between the government and conservationists from Auckland, it was designated an open sanctuary, cleared of predators and planted in over three million native trees.
Tiri provides an opportunity to visit a genuine open wildlife sanctuary. The island is home to many species of endangered New Zealand bird life, including the kiwi and takahe. Guided tours are available to help you enjoy this very special island, which is administered by the Department of Conservation.