How To Spend A Long Weekend In Auckland

15 September 2014

There's a lot to love about Auckland: rolling volcanic cones tempt your inner child to roll down their grassy slopes; man-made structures coax out the adrenaline junkie in even the most timid traveller; and inner-city precincts brim with chances to shop, sip and savour.

Our kiwi counterpart certainly is a well-rounded city, with the harbour-bound beauty of Sydney, the coffee-soaked culture of Melbourne and the sunny, serene ambiance of Brisbane. Three days in Auckland isn't just doable, it's downright easy! If you're longing for a chance to get back to nature without straying too far from the urban sprawl, a long weekend in Auckland is waiting just across the ditch.

 Kia Ora Auckland!

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Day 1

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Morning

Meet Tamaki Makaurau - the lass so alluring centuries of war were waged to claim her affections. Tamaki Makaurau is Auckland's Maori name, and this multicultural city wears her eclectic identity with pride. Get to know Auckland's cultural side by paying a visit to the newly refurbished Auckland Art Gallery, which recently took out the "World Building of the Year" award at the World Architecture Festival.

If the way to your heart is through your stomach, you'll quickly fall in love with Auckland's local markets. La Cigale French Market in Parnell runs every Saturday and Sunday until lunchtime, spruiking smoked and cured meats, artisanal baked goods and free-flowing coffee. The City Farmers' Market at Britomart is another Saturday institution where you can sample the North Island produce and rub shoulders with the locals.

Afternoon / Evening

Spend a balmy afternoon exploring Auckland's city centre, getting your retail fix along Queen and High Streets and take a detour down the connecting Vulcan Lane. The main thoroughfare Queen Street traces its roots back to 1840, lending itself to cobbled lanes and a European sensibility.

When you start to feel those grumbles of hunger, venture down to Viaduct Harbour. Fine dining, fancy cocktails and dancing after dark are all routine in Viaduct. Suit up and head to Spy Bar to kick off the evening, continuing on to Soul Bar for a stylish seafood sit-down. If you're seeking a foodie experience outside the CBD, follow the locals to Auckland's "hippest strip" - Ponsonby Road.

 Auckland city from the lush volcanic peaks of Devonport

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Day 2

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Morning / Afternoon

For your second day in the City of Sails, it's time to get out onto the water. Auckland straddles two harbours - Waitemata and Manukau - making the waterfront an attraction in its own right. When the weather is warm on any given weekend, thousands of sailboats glide out into the Hauraki Gulf, earning the city yet another moniker, "The City of Sails".

There are plenty of ways to take to the water in Auckland, and a number of islands within a stone's throw of the shore that are perfect for a half-day excursion. Hop on the ferry and wade out to Waiheke Island, where Bordeaux-esque vineyards meet Sicilian-style olive groves. At just 40-minutes from downtown Auckland, you will have plenty of time to stroll the sandy beaches of Oneroa or Onetangi, or simply sit back and soak in the views with a glass of Waiheke Chardonnay at the Mudbrick Vineyard.

If you'd prefer to inject your island escape with a little action, consider taking a sunset sea kayak journey out to Rangitoto Island - the youngest and largest volcano in the area. Once you've put your upper-body strength to the test, the grand sunset finale from the lava-carved peaks of Rangitoto will be your reward. Professional guides lead you back in the calm of night, with the sparkle of city lights and the glimmer of stars lighting your way.

Evening

Once you're back on the mainland - and if you haven't filled up on too much wine and cheese from the cellar doors on Waiheke Island - venture down to Britomart for a casual evening out. Conveniently located next to the main ferry piers, this once neglected port hub has squeezed a string of new cafes, bars, restaurants and boutiques between its rough brick warehouses.

More low key than neighbouring Viaduct, you can feast on small plates bursting with Southeast Asian flavour at Xuxu Dumpling Bar, or sample the tunes and tastes of America's south at Orleans. Wash it all down with a local pint from Brew on Quay or shochu cocktails at Fukuko.

 Beached as on Auckland's Piha Beach

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Day 3

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Morning / Afternoon

Don't try to resist Auckland's natural charisma! Experience the best of both worlds by heading out to the Waitakere Ranges National Park, just half an hour from Auckland city. Here, lush native rainforests drape surf-swept coastline, defining the so-called 'wild west'.

A number of walking tracks will lead you to towering silver tree ferns, black sand beaches, and cascading waterfalls, where you might spot a feathery local. New Zealanders love their native feathered friends; listen out for the singsong Tui, the curious Weka, the hoo-ing Ruru, and the tiny Toutouwai.

Swapping the forest for the foreshore, there are five west coast beaches sprinkled with volcanic sand that are perfect for surfing and sunning: Whatipu, Karekare, Piha, Bethells and Muriwai. On Muriwai, you can kick things into gear with a Beach Blaster Quad Bike Safari, exploring up to 55 kilometres of forest tracks in a very memorable way!

Evening

Finish your long weekend in Auckland on a high note from atop the Sky Tower. Even the glass-bottom lift ride up is an adventure - watch the street level fade away as you rise some 328 metres. If you visit before 6pm, you can test your limits with the SkyWalk or SkyJump - hey, if it's good enough for Beyonce...

More than just an eye-catching structure, the SkyTower is also home the Peter Gordon's restaurant 'The Sugar Club' on level 53, and the rotating restaurant the matches modern dining to the panoramic views, Orbit 360. You're allowed to have high expectations when it comes to dining in Auckland!

Ashton Rigg

When I'm not at home in Brisbane, you’ll find me wanderlusting around hipster bars, eclectic boutiques and arty nooks. From bagels in Brooklyn to strudel in Salzburg, I believe the best way to experience a destination is by taking a bite! Tweets & 'grams at @AshtonRigg