Top 10: Auckland, New Zealand

In the 4th installment of our Top 10 series here at Study Abroad Spotlight, we’re headed to the “City of Sails” – Auckland, New Zealand!  Intern Kristin Uyl suggests ten things that will leave you saying “sweet as, bro!” and experiencing some of the best things the “Land of the Long White Cloud” has to offer.  Want to get the full kiwi experience?  Take a little road trip and check out one of Kristin’s favorite bonus spots, just outside of Auckland!

Viaduct Harbour

Viaduct Harbour

1. Viaduct Harbour: Located in the heart of the city, the viaduct is a must-see while in Auckland.  Make sure to check out the hundreds of gorgeous yachts, and you’ll definitely understand why Auckland is dubbed “The City of Sails.”  It has been said that there are four boats for every Aucklander, and visiting the viaduct definitely helps to prove this point.  Plus, with over thirty bars and restaurants to choose from (Trench Bar and Danny Doolan’s are some of my personal favorites!), the viaduct is the perfect place to people-watch, relax and fully enjoy the beautiful atmosphere that Auckland has to offer.  And don’t forget to check out the America’s Cup Yacht, which is one of the huge reasons the viaduct is like it is today!

2. Ponsonby Road: Dubbed “Auckland’s Hippest Strip,” Ponsonby Road is a hub of shopping, dining and galleries and is truly one of the coolest spots in all of Auckland.  My awesome Kiwi roommate (love you, Mel!) always seemed to be bringing me to Ponsonby Road – whether it was at 6am for a Bikram Yoga class, mid-afternoon for some coffee and people-watching, or late at night hanging out at Chapel Bar or the Ponsonby Social Club, Ponsonby Road never seemed to disappoint.  And…if you just so happen to be in Auckland over Christmas a.k.a. the middle of summer, make sure to check out the lights on Ponsonby’s Franklin Road.  It’s an awesome display of some of the most extravagant Christmas spirit, and in my opinion, it doesn’t get any better than checking out Christmas lights while wearing flip flops (can you tell I’m from the cold and snowy Midwest?!).

3. Mission Bay Beach: The perfect place to be able to check eating “fush ‘n chups” on the beach off your bucket list, Mission Bay is one of Auckland’s best beaches.  Looking for the perfect way to spend a summer day?  I suggest an afternoon of rollerblading along Tamaki Drive, having dinner on the balcony of De Fontain’s Belgium Beer Café, and watching the sunset over the water with some ice cream from Movenpick.  Mission Bay is also home to Kelly Tarlton’s Underwater World – where you can check out the Antartic Penguins (who aren’t too far from home in NZ!), go on a shark dive (without a cage if you want…yes, really!), or fall in love at the Seahorse Kingdom.  I’m still trying to figure out how I can have Seahorses as pets someday.

Sheep World

Sheep World

4. Sheep World:  Have you ever imagined what Disney World would be like if there were farm animals instead of Mickey, Minnie, Donald Duck and Goofy?  No?  Well, even if you did – you no longer have to just picture it, as Sheep World brings that idea to real life!   Sheep World provides great insight into how New Zealand farms their sheep (remember, this is a country with approximately 4 million people and over 40 million sheep…more than 10 sheep for every person!)  You’ll find yourself amazed at the precise training of the sheep dogs, get an up close and personal look at how they sheer the sheep for their wool, and even get to feed and hold the baby lambs (say it with me…awww!)  Back in 2009, there were also some pink sheep running around.  Yes, you heard me correctly…there were HOT PINK sheep.  Are they still there, four years later?  I’d be so appreciative if you went there and provided me with a full report! :)

5. Auckland Domain:  A massive park in the suburb of Grafton, Auckland Domain contains almost 200 acres of land within the crater of the Pukekawa volcano.  I’d definitely recommend checking out the Auckland War Memorial Museum – it’s a great way to learn about the incredible story of New Zealand, and Auckland specifically.  Otherwise, if you’re in the mood for some true-kiwi recreation, you should check out the cricket grounds and maybe even join in on a match!  The Wintergardens are also one of the domain’s best attractions.  Rare and spectacular plants can be seen in each of the two barrel vaulted Victorian style glass houses, which lookout over a beautiful courtyard.  One house is heated and shows off lush tropical and heat loving plants, while the other displays temperate plants changing with the seasons, making the Wintergardens a sweet spot for nature lovers!

6. Queen Street: Oh, Queen Street – what can I say about you that’s not totally cliché?  Touristy…yes.  Busy…insanely.  The street where many of my greatest Auckland memories were made…absolutely.  This major commercial street runs uphill (great workout!) from the Queens Wharf at the Auckland Waterfront up to Karangahape Road, which is a thrift store lover’s paradise.  Queen Street obviously features hundreds of restaurants and shops…so many that you could probably eat at a different place every single day for a while and never go to the same place twice.  Plus, Queen Street is home to the Event Movie Theatre (my favorite in all of the city – plus they have an AMAZING food court…seriously, you wouldn’t think that a food court in a movie theatre could be one of the best places ever, but this will forever change your mind!)

Sky jumping...not for the faint at heart!

Sky jumping…not for the faint at heart!

7. Sky Tower: Just up the hill from Queen Street is the iconic Sky Tower.  At 1076 feet (or 328 meters for those of you really looking to get into the Kiwi spirit!), the Sky Tower is the tallest building in the Southern Hemisphere and offers breathtaking views up to a mile in every direction.  The tower is part of the Sky City Casino Complex, so it definitely offers something for everyone!  Travel up in the glass elevators to one of three awesome viewing platforms, and make sure to grab some upscale grub at Orbit – Auckland’s only 360-degree revolving restaurant (think the Space Needle in Seattle…but you’re much more likely to get a sunny day in Auckland!)  If you’re the thrill-seeking type, SkyWalk and SkyJump are definitely ways to get your adrenaline pumping!  However, I speak from experience in saying that the SkyJump is often only the beginning (don’t say I didn’t warn you!)  After you do one of the highest base jumps in the world, you’ll be inspired to try bungy jumping and skydiving in cities like Taupo and Queenstown!

8.     Rangitoto Island:  A volcanic island in the Hauraki Gulf near Auckland, Rangitoto Island is the largest, youngest and one of the least modified of about fifty volcanic cones and craters in the Auckland volcanic field.  It last erupted from the sea in a series of dramatic explosions about 600 years ago…but don’t worry, it’s an extinct volcano now.  Fun fact that will impress the locals – the volcanic fireworks that accompanied the eruptions inspired local Maori tribes to name it “Rangitoto,” or “Sky of Blood.”  Today, Rangitoto dominates the local seascape and is a public reserve managed by the New Zealand Department of Conservation.  If you love to hike and want to enjoy the clean NZ air on a picture-perfect day, Rangitoto is definitely a place that you must visit.

9. Parnell Shops:  Saved from demolition by the efforts of one individual, this restored historic village has specialty and antique shops, cafes, pubs and restaurants and is a trendy nightspot.  I absolutely love the quaint vibe of Parnell – it reminds me a lot of what you’d see in East Grand Rapids, Michigan (should out to my home state!)  Make sure you visit the Chocolate Café (Bill Clinton once did!), pamper yourself with a spa day at many of the salons along Parnell Road, and unwind with some of the top sporting events on the big screen at The Paddington (have no fear…they sometimes open at 5am due to the time difference from the U.S. and Europe!).

One Tree Hill

One Tree Hill

10. One Tree Hill:  Also known as Maungakiekle, One Tree Hill is the volcanic peak above Auckland that inspired U2’s song of the same name (named for their band member who hailed from NZ, Greg Carroll, who died in a tragic motorcycle accident), and in turn, the popular American television drama, One Tree Hill.  The second highest volcanic peak in Auckland, One Tree Hill offers breathtaking views of the city and is a great place to get your bearings.  It’s a great place to have an afternoon picnic or go for a long walk – so make sure to bring your camera, lots of yummy food, and some comfortable shoes!

Bonus Spot:



Piha: About a 45 minute drive from Auckland, Piha is one of the country’s best beaches that is 100% worth the trip!  The drive over through the Waitakere ranges is absolutely out of this world, and even though you’re so close to the big city, you’ll feel like you’re worlds away.  Piha is an absolute surfer’s paradise, but even if you don’t like to “hang ten,” there’s still plenty to see and do.  The black sand and lion rock provides opportunity for some really cool photos, so make sure to clear out your memory card and turn your photos into some of the most beautiful postcards your friends will ever see!

Study Abroad Spotlight intern Kristin Uyl studied abroad for a summer in Asti, Italy and a semester in Bangkok, Thailand.  Post-graduation, she worked for AUT University in Auckland, New Zealand.  She is currently pursuing her master’s degree in College Student Personnel at the University of Tennessee and is the Graduate Assistant in the Programs Abroad Office.  Learn more about Kristin by checking out her Spotlight here!  You can also find her heading up Sparky’s Pinterest account and sending out the eNewsletter on Sparky’s behalf, so make sure to subscribe if you haven’t already!

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