The natural grandeur of our landscapes is what New Zealand is most famous for – our cities tend to fly under the radar. And although it’s true they don’t have the old architecture and heritage of more mature cities, what they lack in history, they make up for in their quirky, distinctly New Zealand approach. It’s this aspect combined with locations that work with, rather than against, the natural landscape that makes New Zealand’s cities such enjoyable places to work, live and play.
From the coastal beauty of Auckland, where you’re never far from a beach, while the gardens of Christchurch sit right on the doorstep of mountain adventures - many of New Zealand’s cities lie in beautiful locations. This, as well as a thriving food and wine scene, bustling shops and public spaces and a commitment to living sustainably makes visiting our cities a thoroughly pleasant and unforgettable experience. If you’re planning a New Zealand holiday, chances are you’re going to visit or pass through one of our metropolises. Below is an overview of what each of our largest cities are about, along with a few ‘must-do’s’ if you’re planning on visiting.
Our largest and most diverse city, Auckland is the country’s main transport hub and many international flights land here. It’s a place where everybody lives within half an hour of beautiful coastline and beaches, and this, combined with a sunny climate, means that Aucklanders love the outdoors. Walking, hiking, running or cycling – the city is passionate about fresh air and being outside. It’s also the largest Polynesian city in the world, adding an island-like rhythm to everyday life.
Auckland offers something for everyone. Getting out on the water here is highly recommended – a boat cruise on Auckland Harbour, or a ferry ride out to one of the many emerald islands in the Gulf, gives you a different perspective on the city. The native rainforests and black sand beaches of the West Coast make for an impressive contrast. If you’ve worked up an appetite, Auckland’s foodie culture is unique, fresh and delicious – cafes and restaurants offer interesting takes on cuisine from all over the world. You’ll also find a range of shopping on offer. From designer wares to colourful markets and everything in between, favourite spots include Britomart, Wynyard Quarter, Parnell and Newmarket. Auckland’s lifestyle is ranked as one of the highest in the world; the city makes a great place from which to begin your New Zealand holiday.
Recently named the ‘coolest little capital in the world’ by Lonely Planet, Wellington is a city known for its heritage, culture, theatre, arts and natural beauty. Surrounded by rolling green hills and bordered by a large, sheltered harbour; Wellington is naturally spectacular. The city’s pulsing cultural scene means nights come alive with theatre shows, gallery exhibitions and movie premiers, while days are filled by relaxing at Oriental Bay – Wellington’s inner-city golden sand beach – lunching at cafes in the sun or hiking the nearby forested hills.
Don’t miss heading to the waterfront and visiting New Zealand’s national museum, Te Papa Tongarewa, for an insight into the country’s culture and heritage. Take the cable car to Kelburn for spectacular views over the city and beyond, and experience endangered New Zealand wildlife close-up in Zealandia. For Lord of the Rings fans, Wellington is home to Peter Jackson’s Weta Workshop and Weta Cave – a magical place to visit for an insight into movie-making magic. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, Wellington’s cafes, restaurants and delicatessens will not disappoint. This is New Zealand’s culinary capital, and the fine wines and gourmet food offer deliciously and enjoyable dining experiences.
A vibrant, resilient city that is the gateway to the South Island, Christchurch has bounced back after a series of earthquakes and today is better than ever. It’s a rapidly changing city nestled halfway down the East Coast of the South Island, and locals are known for their love of gardening and cycling. Known as the ‘Garden City’, its well-established and expansive parks and public gardens provide inner-city havens full of birdlife and walking tracks. The River Avon is lined with poplars and weeping willows, and its grassy banks are popular for picnics. Within two hours of Christchurch lies world-class skiing, whale watching, golf courses, surfing, wineries and gardens – the accessibility to this active, outdoor lifestyle makes Christchurch a great place to live and visit.
There’s plenty to do and see in Christchurch. Visit the Re: Start mall, an innovative shopping experience in the heart of the city, where you’ll find an exciting selection of cafes, food carts, boutique retailers and more stores working from brightly coloured shipping containers. Go hiking for the day on one of the many paths that wind through the Port Hills, and when you’ve worked up an appetite, a number of restaurants and bars serve delicious local fare along with craft beers and award-winning kiwi wine. The International Antarctic Centre is an old favourite – learn about the wildlife and plant systems of this fascinating continent. The landscapes that surround Christchurch are breath taking; explore Kaikoura or the stunning grandeur of the Southern Alps – all only a few hours from the Garden City.