Auckland is New Zealand’s largest city and home to the largest groups of Polynesians. Polynesian culture is intrinsic to the heart and soul of this diverse and vibrant city. Enclosed by hilly rainforest and dormant volcanoes on one side, and ocean harbors on the other, Auckland is known as the “City of Sails” where you can explore the marinas and beaches at leisure.

Despite its size, the coastal setting lends the city a laidback reputation, rather than a city with lots of “hustle and bustle” that one expects of the country’s largest city. So slow down and experience Auckland like a local: stroll through parks, explore the marinas and boats and relax. We suggest a visit to Mount Eden/Maungawhau, just a short distance from downtown, where prehistoric earthworks are on view. Another option is a 25-minute ferry from the city center, which brings you to an iconic hike – Rangitoto Volcano –that’s particularly exciting for bird lovers. If you want more time near the water, the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park encompasses 1.2 million hectares of coast, sea and islands. Sit back and relax on a harbor cruise; or charter a fishing boat for a more hands-on adventure. Get even closer to the water on kayaking, surfing and scuba diving excursions. Here, the marine life is plentiful. Keep an eye out for dolphins and whales. Be sure to check out Waiheke Island, within the bounds of the marine park. Choose from 30 boutique vineyards and wineries surrounded by lush agricultural land and sandy beaches. It’s the perfect place to unwind with a drink in hand.

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Jamie Mehrotra