Sky Tower and Auckland
Auckland and Sky Tower. Taken by Flickr user Ronnie Macdonald.

The land of the long white cloud – Aotearoa – New Zealand; whatever you want to call it, it’s magical.

The first port-of-call for most travellers to New Zealand will be Auckland, New Zealand’s biggest city, but not the capital – as is often mistakenly assumed.

Auckland is actually an amalgamation of three separate cities, which, until recently, were individually planned and managed, giving Auckland an incredibly diverse cultural landscape. From the sophisticated yuppy culture of Central and Northern Auckland, to the pacific island stylings of South Auckland, all the way to the hippie culture of the Western coastal communities. This means Auckland has something for everyone, and everyone finds something they love about Auckland.

Although it is the largest city in New Zealand, both by land area and population, Auckland is still relatively small in global terms. With around 650,000 in the main city and 1.2 million in the greater Auckland area, Auckland maintains a small town feel while providing plenty to keep you entertained.

The natural beauty of New Zealand becomes supremely evident from the moment you fly into Auckland, with the city perched on a narrow strip of land between two pieces of gleaming blue ocean. The rugged, black-sand beaches of the West Coast contrasts starkly with the beautiful, golden sands of the eastern beaches, with one providing that tropical holiday feel and the other an inexplicably contented, while lonely, isolation.

But, when you grow tired of the beaches, it’s only a short (and beautiful) drive back into the city where you can enjoy some of the world’s best coffee, beer, or wine, depending on how the mood strikes you.

The viaduct basin was the scene of New Zealand’s successful defending of the America’s cup (yachting) and has since been maintained as a popular spot to sit by the harbour and indulge in your choice of poison, and some uniquely New Zealand food. Take a wander along the harbour and you end up in the Britomart precinct which has become a popular hangout for the young professionals; providing a sophisticated, yet relaxed atmosphere in the afternoon, before transforming into party central in the late evening.

The great thing about the central city is the compact size and ease of accessibility, meaning you can easily move from culture to retail therapy to relaxation as the feeling (or occasionally the weather) moves you.

It’s a smooth introduction to a wonderful country, where you can begin to savour the natural beauty and friendly Kiwi nature before heading out into the not-so-vast, but still completely captivating, beyond.

Jason is a 26-year-old, New Zealand-born-and-bred, compulsive traveller, always seeking to discover new experiences both within New Zealand and further afield. When not on the road, Jason can be found working in marketing for a New Zealand robotics company – providing a whole other kind of adventure.

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