Aucklanders have it good. New Zealand's largest city and major international transport hub might not be the capital of the country, but it acts like it in every way. Home to nearly 1.5 million people (over 30% of New Zealand's population), Auckland is a vibrant, cosmopolitan city that continually gets voted one of the most livable cities in the world.
One of the main reasons for this is the easy access to the stunning beaches, bays and mountains in the city's backyard. This area that the Māori people called 'Tamaki Makau Rau' (‘a maiden with a hundred lovers’) has attracted visitors – both friendly and hostile – ever since the Māori settled here around 1350. The waves of immigration over centuries has seen Auckland become the world's largest Polynesian city with more people of Pacific Island descent than Māori, and a growing Asian population that further flavours its multicultural vibe.
While the greater city of Auckland is a sprawling affair, the harbourside-located city centre is the main focus for visitors. While the retail hub around Queen Street has the big name international brand stores, High Street is the hub for idiosyncratic shops, chic boutiques and local designers such as Zambesi, as well as buzzy cafes and bars. The recently redeveloped Britomart precinct, with its restored heritage buildings is the hippest location for bars, cafés and restaurants that open well into the night, as well as being home to the Saturday morning City Farmers’ Market, where stalls overflow with fresh seasonal local produce.
The recently redeveloped Wynyard Quarter's Auckland Fish Market and restaurant is another superb spot to go for fresh New Zealand seafood. From here you can head to Wynyard Crossing, a bridge that connects Wynyard Quarter to Viaduct Harbour. The Viaduct is rightly famous for its waterfront seafood restaurants, as well as the Voyager Maritime Museum. The Viaduct is the launching point for popular boat cruises and charter yachts, including former America’s Cup sailing yachts, which berth at Westhaven Marina.
Away from the city centre, Auckland’s suburbs have their own distinctive character. Ponsonby, based around Ponsonby Road, is home to funky cafes and boutiques. Kingsland, home to New Zealand's spiritual home of rugby, Eden Park, has had a renaissance with many new hip shops. Newmarket is New Zealand's fashion Mecca where local designers work and is great for homewares and bookshops, while charming Parnell, with its Victorian-era buildings is best for art and antique shopping.