When we started out as full-time travelers, we knew we wanted to travel as far away from our home in New York City as possible and after thirty plus hours of travel, we found ourselves in Australia and New Zealand. We were excited for both destinations, but Auckland, New Zealand was the location we knew the least about, but left us the most satisfied after visiting. 🙂 So, here is our Auckland Travel Guide for you all!
When we travel to a new location, our interactions with its culture and people are just as important to us as visiting the “must-see” locations. Two cultural aspects that really impressed us the most about Auckland, New Zealand as a whole is just how prominent of a role the Maori and women play in its everyday society.
Arriving in New Zealand from eastern Polynesia roughly 700 years ago, the Maori people are New Zealand’s indigenous community. Currently, the Maori people make up over 15% of New Zealand’s total population. In modern New Zealand, compared to other countries with respective indigenous cultures like the United States, New Zealand has done a much better job of acknowledging its past missteps and fully incorporating the Maori into everyday life.
If you are a bit short on time like we were, you can have a Maori cultural experience right in Auckland at the Auckland War Memorial Museum. The ticket price to enter the museum is $25NZD and they host several Maori Cultural shows each day for an additional $20 NZD. The Maori show at the museum is very similar to the shows in Rotorua village. The Maori people introduce you to their history, culture and perform their cultural songs and dance, including the infamous Haka! They also make sure to stick around after the show and talk to anyone who is interested in learning more of their culture. We were so excited about this opportunity and had a blast. They even taught Steve how to hold and use a Maori weapon!
Before visiting New Zealand, we knew New Zealand was one of a handful of countries with a female leader. The youngest ever elected Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern has garnered world attention for how well she and New Zealand have handled the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, being one of the first countries to fully reopen.
New Zealand goes much further with regards to inclusion and encouragement of women’s rights than by just having a female Prime Minister though. While in Auckland, we learned New Zealand was actually the first country in the world which gave women rights to vote back in 1893! There are plenty of monuments around the city dedicated to women, but you can see the encouragement for women most in Auckland’s people. We were amazed by how many non-traditional female jobs in Auckland, such as in the construction industry, were held by women. It is something we had never seen before and were so impressed and inspired by it.
Places to Visit
Auckland is known as the “city of sails”, boasting the most yachts per capita in the world and any visit to the city must start along Auckland’s beautiful waterfront along Waitemata Harbour (commonly known as Auckland Harbour). There are many restaurants and bars along the waterfront to take in a sunset, ranging from cheap eats like burgers and fries to more high-end options depending on your budget.
Auckland also has plenty of parkland and a few great parks. The Auckland War Memorial Museum is also located within the Auckland Domain, so you could visit both at the same time. The War Museum also included a World War 1 section and New Zealand’s involvement at the Battle of Gallipoli which captured Gokce’s attention!
Auckland’s skyline is also punctuated by its most famous building, the 328-meter tall Skytower, but be prepared to spend money when visiting. Just to take the lift up to the observation deck, you will need to pay $32 NZD even before sitting down for food or a drink. If you are an adventure seeker, you could try out the skywalk around the top of the tower or sky jump from the tower, but either will cost you at least $150 NZD though. We are from New York City though, and have seen our share of tall buildings before, so passed on the tip to the top.
With regards to food, Auckland favorites include lamb and seafood, though we can recommend one of the beaten path spot that skewed local near the Skytower, the Brewers Co-Operative. It has a more laid back vibe with casual eats and great craft beer at affordable prices for the city, costing a little less than 2 Sky Tower lift tickets for 2 beers each and dinner.
Steve was most excited to visit New Zealand’s north island for the chance to visit the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings Movie Set. The Hobbiton set was constructed permanently for the Hobbit trilogy and can be visited by fans of the books and movies throughout the year. It is located on the Alexander Farm which is approximately two hours south of Auckland. Tickets to visit the movie set are $84 NZD per person, roughly $54 USD if booking directly through the website.
Other possible day trips include visiting Maori villages in Rotorua, which is one hour from the Hobbiton movie set by car. You can also hop on a ferry from Auckland and head to Waiheke Island. This island is well known for having some of New Zealand’s best wineries.
We wanted to leave you off with some interesting fun facts about Auckland and New Zealand:
- Auckland is located in and around approximately 50 different dormant volcanoes. These volcanoes have helped shape the city, making it very hilly, so wear comfortable shoes. There’s only about a .01% chance of any eruption though, so do not worry!
- The most common form of coffee in New Zealand is the flat white, something they share with Australia and it is similar to a latte.
- The kumara potato is a New Zealand special sweet potato brought to it by the Maori people originally and modified in the 1850’s thanks to European settlers.
- The “kiwi burger” is a McDonald’s special New Zealand burger introduced in 1991, but it contains no actual kiwi in it.
- In New Zealand, like the UK and Australia, you drive on the left side of the road. Steve drove on the wrong side of the road a couple of times at the start, but got the hang of it quickly! Unfortunately, since it is an island country, everything is expensive, including gas which was over $2 NZD per liter when we visited!
We are Gökçe and Steve, a married Turkish and American full-time travel couple. We left behind our New York City office jobs and our home to experience the world and all its wonderful cultures.
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