New Zealand’s cities all too often are overlooked as great travel destinations. While it’s hard to compete with the likes of Aotearoa’s impressive mountains, rivers, beaches and glaciers, we think our cities punch well above their weight when it comes to things to do and see. From heritage sites to hip cafes, you’ll find the urban offerings here are world class. Surprised? Check out these great things to do in five of New Zealand’s cities:
Did you know that about a quarter of New Zealand’s population lives in Auckland? While the city has all the assets you’d expect of a metropolis its size (great restaurants, bars, museums and shopping), there are also a few ‘Only in Auckland’ hotspots: Otara Market on Saturdays offers a slice of the city’s Polynesian culture; the Auckland Museum is wonderful; and outdoor movie nights at Silo Park reflect the creative energy behind shaping the city’s future.
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Auckland’s urban sprawl is a cause for complaint among some residents and visitors, mostly in regards to the commute between destinations. But one positive outcome of the sprawl is the development of distinct city suburbs, many of which deserve a visit. Parnell and Newmarket are fun stops for boutique shopping and dining, while Devonport retains a cute, coastal village feel despite being just across the harbour from the CBD.
Wellington is, according to Wellington, the coolest little capital in the world. It’s hard to argue with them though: the city is nestled in between a picture perfect harbour and a semi-circle of forested hills. Climb, drive or take a bus up Mount Victoria for a postcard-worthy view before you start exploring the dynamic little city.
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When the sun is out, a walk along the waterfront can pass an entire day. You can join the crowds diving into the blue harbour waters, or just watch from a park bench. Pedi-carts and rollerblades are available for rent, as are paddleboats and kayaks. Cafes, bars and restaurants abound, not to mention the museums and galleries along the way. Te Papa, of course, is the area’s most famous attraction and well-worth spending half a day perusing.
Our hometown! We could write a book on things to do in Christchurch, but to keep things short, we’ll just suggest you hop on a Hassle-free Tours bus for a Christchurch City Tour. The tour will take you to many of the city’s best attractions, giving you a good feel of Christchurch’s heritage at sites like the Canterbury Museum, as well as a vision for the city’s future at the shipping container mall.
Away from the city centre, the beach suburbs of Sumner and New Brighton are great spots for a sunny afternoon rounded off with a dinner of fish and chips. The Port Hills are great for walking and mountain biking—you can take the city bus up to the Sign of the Takahe for access to Victoria Park.
Once upon a time, during the Otago gold rush, Dunedin was the wealthiest city in New Zealand. Those years of opulence are still visible in the architecture: check out the old train station and the stone buildings of the university. Fittingly, the town is also home to the only castle in the Southern Hemisphere: take a tour of Larnach Castle for a well-preserved look at life for the wealthy during Dunedin’s boom years.
But there’s more to Dunedin than a rich history. It is, above all else, a university town, and the nightlife reflects this. Take your pick from a surprising number of tasty (affordable) restaurants and poke your head into the bustling bars. Dunedin’s local music scene is legendary in New Zealand—see if you can find a live show and who knows, you may be watching New Zealand’s next rock star.