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24 Hours in Auckland

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Even in a short visit, there’s a lot to see and do in Auckland. Here’s my pick of some of the best.

Wake up and smell the coffee

With virtually every cafe serving some of the best coffee in the world, you’re almost spoilt for choice. L’Assiette at 9 Britomart Place makes one of the best flat whites in town and fresh, flaky croissants and other French goodies. Scarecrow at 33 Victoria Street East is another good choice, very popular with Aucklanders. Most cafes serve excellent coffee and breakfast goods, including pastries and savoury muffins.

Get on the water

As a city that’s on two separate oceans, Auckland is one of the sailing centres of the world. Reflecting the heritage in ocean racing, Americas Cup Sailing at Viaduct Harbour gives you the chance to sail and crew in a racing yacht. Sailing daily, the two-hour cruise will see you steering and work the winches or ‘grinders’. This is a thrilling and very hands-on experience of ocean sailing and should be on your to-do list. The cost also includes entry to the NZ Maritime Museum, which houses a fascinating collection of sailing history and Kiwiana, including a ‘bach’ – the quintessential NZ beach house.

Another option is a ferry trip to the foodie suburb of Devonport, or the laid-back island of Waiheke, known for art, food and vineyards. Ferries to both run regularly from the ferry terminals on Quay Street.

See the history

The Auckland War Memorial Museum in Auckland Domain covers everything about New Zealand history. The extensive Maori galleries house war canoes and a number of buildings, including a carved meeting house. The permanent wartime display covers conflicts within New Zealand and overseas, exhibits include both Allied and Japanese fighter planes. There is also much to see about the growth of Auckland from a small port town to being the largest city in New Zealand, despite the ever-present threat of volcanoes and earthquakes. The Volcano Experience should not be missed – it’s a dramatic simulation of a volcanic eruption in the harbour area, complete with news reports, earthquakes and ‘live’ footage. It concludes with a chilling demonstration of what happens if you’re close to a volcanic blast – essentially, you get killed by superheated air and hot flying rocks.

Get high (up)

New Zealand has a strange fascination with being on tall objects and then jumping off them. The SkyTower (Federal and Victoria) is the tallest structure in New Zealand and offers the chance to walk around the outside of the revolving restaurant, or a controlled jump to the ground. Either way, you’re safely harnessed while taking in the view from 220m up.

For the less brave, the Orbit revolving restaurant offers the same views, but without the fear and with gourmet food and an excellent wine list. The set lunch at $55 / dinner at $75 includes entry to the SkyTower, which is normally $29.

A cheaper option for airborne thrills is the SkyScreamer reverse bungee ride on the corner of Victoria and Albert. For just $100, you and a friend can be launched upwards at 200 kph for a few moments of uncontrolled bouncing, somersaults and general free-fall mayhem.

Get fed

Auckland abounds with excellent restaurants, and virtually every cuisine imaginable is available here. As well as Orbit (above) the Skytower also hosts the upmarket Sugar Club restaurant, with prices from $90 per person. Ima on Fort St provides very good Middle Eastern food, and Wildfire on Viaduct Harbour is a lively Brazilian churrascaria steakhouse, with all-you-can-eat meats carved at your table and great cocktails in a waterfront setting.

That’s my pick of the highlights of Auckland, but what have I missed?

Tell us all in the comments below.

Tony travelled by Emirates and stayed at the Langham Hotel.
A keen traveller, Tony blogs on travel sites and cycling fora.

Tony Simister