Bucket List This: 24 Hours in Auckland, New Zealand

Once known as a place to do business, the country’s most populous city is now gaining a reputation for being vibrant, creative and welcoming, day and night.

North by northwest on the North Island of New Zealand, this “city of sails” has been steadily shaking off its more corporate, conservative reputation of late. Once known as a place to do business – and not really much else – the country’s most populous city is now gaining a reputation for being vibrant, creative and welcoming, day and night.

Top chefs such as Peter Gordon and Nic Watt, with their unique takes on Pacific Rim cuisine, have made their culinary homes here, top drawer hotels such as The Langham has an outpost here (and the hotel’s Chuan Spa, a must-do for relaxation) and, yes, all the banks and big business have remained here. Gordon is also the chef of choice for Air New Zealand’s business class menus, so you’ll get a taste of the city’s culinary culture even before you set foot on Auckland turf. (The airline is also introducing their updated aircraft with a new premium economy, on their flights via Vancouver.) And, if you can’t decide, you can head to Ponsonby Central, street-food sellers and casual laneway eateries housed in an eclectic indoor/outdoor warehouse-style space.

Some of the growth could be accredited to the South Island’s earth quake that devastated Christ Church a few years, having many of its citizens moving to the North Island – and Auckland (its mild climate helps, too, with average temperatures here ranging from 15 to 24 degrees Celsius, depending on the season, and it’s also one of the sunniest city in the country). Once there, they helped build a lively arts and culture scene, one that now rivals its North Island sister, Wellington.

For water babies, fans of sailing appreciate the city’s wealth of marinas in the Hauraki Gulf – hence its nickname, city of sails – and its island-studded bay. Take a cruise or, if wine is more to your palate, take the 35-minute ferry to Waiheke Island, for a choice of 30 wineries (don’t miss tasting the Pinot Gris or the Syrah), and beach combers can easily access one of Auckland’s West Coast beaches, most within an hour or less from the city centre, some of them, including the black sands of Piha, where the Tasman Sea comes ashore on the west coast less than an hour from the city. One such beach, Karekare, was made famous for its location appearance in the Oscar-winning film, The Piano. And, speaking of Oscar-winning, let’s not forget that New Zealand is the home of Middle Earth, from the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films.

Here, how to spend a day in Auckland, in pictures.

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City of Sails: Auckland’s harbour and Hauraki Gulf
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Check in to The Langham Auckland. And don’t forget a tipple in the lobby bar in the beautiful Palm Court
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Take a cruise, or a sail, in the city’s harbour, part of the Hauraki Gulf
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Take a ferry, have a wine tasting, and take in the view of Auckland and its volcano Rangitoto, from Waiheke Island
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Back in Auckland, take pause at the Michael Joseph Savage Memorial, commemorating the creation of a Maori Parliament, and acknowledging the former Prime Minister’s contribution to the cause
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Have a civilized afternoon, with afternoon tea at The Langham Melbourne’s Palm Court
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Experience the Pacific Asian Fusion of chef Nic Watt at Masu for dinner
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And don’t forget Watt’s dessert – like eating an artfully built mixed media painting.