New Zealand’s largest city offers choices in all directions
The Northern Explorer operates from Auckland Strand station, Ngaoho Place, Auckland 1010, in the heart of Auckland.
A city built by volcanoes, Auckland came to life when some 53 of the rumbling mountains were created between 60,000 and 140,000 years ago, and the vibe of New Zealand's largest settlement is every bit as exciting as you might expect from a town born this way. Auckland has practically everything to offer both the domestic and international traveller, with every street, nook and cranny offering something new to discover. With more boats per head than anywhere else on Earth, Auckland is known as the City of Sails - and you'll be sure to sail through the city's finest delights with this indispensable guide to its best bits.
If there's one building that truly conjures fond imaginations of Auckland, it has to be the Sky Tower. At a height of 328 metres, this iconic structure can be seen from practically anywhere in the city, welcoming travellers arriving by car, New Zealand rail and plane. A visit to Auckland is never complete without travelling up the Sky Tower, which you can do in one of its speedy, glass-fronted lifts. From the viewing decks, you can see up to 80 kilometres in any direction on a clear day - perfect for planning your next move!
Built in 1959, the Auckland Harbour Bridge crosses the mighty Waitemata in an effort to quell the city's congestion. Though it may not have fully realised its initial goal, the bridge remains a landmark well worth visiting. Carrying just shy of 200,000 vehicles a day, the span can also be climbed, granting excellent views of the city, sailed under, or even jumped off - with a bungy cord attached to your feet, of course!
For a truly unique dining experience, head back up the Sky Tower and take a table at Orbit 360. Aptly-named, this restaurant features broad, floor-to-ceiling glass windows, offering unrivalled views of the city and its wonderful surrounds below. That's not all, though - the restaurant itself actually rotates, so you don't need to worry about where your table is situated. You're assured of the best view, wherever you are!
If steaks are your game, Angus Steak House is the name that you should be looking out for in Auckland town. Serving the finest cuts of cow for over 40 years, the Angus Steak House is unique in that you have the option of actually cooking your sirloin or rump yourself - the staff will deliver a miniature grill so that you can cook it just to your liking. This way, you can't complain to the chefs that your steak is overdone, as you're in charge!
One of the hippest bars to open its doors in the competitive Auckland hostelry arena is The Glass Goose, tucked down an alleyway behind the Sky Tower and up a flight of rustic stairs. You'll find yourself in a classy rooftop bar, replete with fairy lights, the Sky Tower looming overhead and, if you're lucky, a sumptuous full moon. Head inside to the ambient covered section of the bar if the weather takes a turn for the worse, sit back, and enjoy a drink or three.
For an authentic Friday night experience, be sure to pay a visit to The Fiddler, just across the way from The Glass Goose. Featuring a range of craft ales, lagers and all manner of spirits for you to sample, this pub really captures the spirit of a hedonistic night on the town. With live bands and solo artists regularly performing, as well as a pool table and popular balcony, there's never a dull moment at The Fiddler.
The highest point in Auckland isn't actually the tip of the Sky Tower's antennae, it's the summit of Mount Eden, or Maungawhau, to give it its Maori name. Rearing to a height of 186 metres, this extinct volcano is actually pretty easy to climb - a long but gentle scenic route circles the mountain, with another path that leads directly to the top. It goes without saying that you'll again be treated to expansive, panoramic views of the city, but you can also gaze in wonder at the 50 metre-deep, sacred cone.
Laid out in the shadow of One Tree Hill, Cornwall Park is a fine space to spend a few hours lounging in the sun. Sheep, horses and cows roam free throughout, minding their own business as people relax by picnicking, jogging, birdwatching or simply walking. Be sure to visit the obelisk at the summit of One Tree Hill - a Maori pilgrimage.
Just a few minutes' walk from the CBD, you'll come across Ponsonby Road. This bohemian strip of swanky bars, boutique shops and charming cafes make for a vibrant Auckland experience, and the road itself features many side streets where you'll happen across a myriad of quirky shops selling goods that simply cannot be found anywhere else. The road also hosts the annual Pride festival each February.
At the southern end of Ponsonby Road, you'll find Karangahape Road, known locally as the 'K-Road.' This long stretch is chock-full of independent shops, cafes and licensed premises, and especially comes alive in the evening.
If you thought that the days of the outdoor cinema were over, think again. During the spring and summer months, the operators of Silo Park project a mixture of classic and new films on the great grey wall of the disused monolith. Stretch out on a bean bag, lay back with a beer and hotdog from one of the numerous vendors and watch the action unfold as the stars twinkle overhead.
KiwiRail Scenic's Northern Explorer, which runs to Wellington and back again, begins its journey at Auckland Strand station, so why not explore the city before taking in the wonders of the North island via the magic of NZ rail? Alternatively, you could indulge in one of our Auckland City Breaks - in this town, you can't fail to have an entertaining time!