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A Cruise to Auckland

Auckland, New Zealand

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Some outsiders sneer at Auckland for its preoccupation with boats, beaches and barbecues. Others dismiss it as 'The Big Smoke'. But the 1.2 million inhabitants - the city is home to almost a third of New Zealand's population - are probably right to reckon they're just jealous. One of the first things you’ll notice about Auckland as your cruise ship slips into the harbor is just how much this city is devoted to sailing and all things related to the sea.

The Auckland skyline is dominated by New Zealand's tallest building - let yourself be whisked 328 meters up in forty seconds to the top of Sky Tower in a glass-floored elevator - not an experience for the faint-hearted. New Zealand gave birth to the sport of bungee jumping and adrenaline junkies really shouldn't miss the opportunity to jump from Sky Tower - this is definitely one to boast about back home! Another good choice for the adventure-minded is the two-hour guided climb over the Auckland Harbour Bridge - the twists and turns will surprise and thrill you. A truly innovative urban tourist experience and you won't have to visit a single museum!

Auckland's most popular attraction is Kelly Tarlton's Antarctic Encounter and Underwater World. Jump aboard a Snow Cat to travel past colonies of penguins in their own habitat. The underwater tunnel takes you on a trip through different marine habitats - you'll see plenty of fish and up this close the sharks can be pretty intimidating. If you won't have time to get out and about and see New Zealand's amazing and often unique wildlife in a wild setting Auckland Zoo is a great place to see the colorful bird species and strange reptiles that have made New Zealand their home. There's a Kiwi house devoted to New Zealand's national emblem.

To get a feel for the city, stroll down Queen Street, which offers some of the best shopping in New Zealand. The districts of Parnell and Ponsonby are also great to wander through - Victorian buildings, atmospheric narrow streets, boutique shops, galleries, gourmet restaurants and trendy cafes - chic city style at its relaxed best. In Southern hemisphere summer the Parnell Rose Gardens are a gorgeous sight in full bloom. Amble through the Victorian gardens of Albert Park - admire the fernery and planetarium - to the Auckland Museum for an introduction to the culture of the Maoris - New Zealand's indigenous people. Their decorative carvings depicting myths and history are remarkable. The museum also has natural history exhibits, including mementoes of some of New Zealand's now sadly extinct species such as the moa. The National Maritime Museum, down on the waterfront boasts an 80 ft long Maori war canoe - and will make sure you know exactly how New Zealand won the America's Cup as well as telling you all about Polynesian migration. You can take short cruises on some of the historic vessels.

If it's a fine day and you want to stretch your legs after being onboard a great way to see the city and its surroundings is the Coast to Coast Walkway. This crosses from Waitemata harbor on the Pacific Ocean to Manukau harbor on the Tasman Sea via Auckland's highest point, the extinct volcano Mount Eden. The 360 degree panoramic view from the top of is particularly dramatic.

Auckland is City of Sails and there's a wide range of sailing boats to be chartered if you feel it's time you took charge on the water. Good windsurfing can be had at Point Chevalier, close to the city centre. Surfers should head for the west coast beaches, but be wary of the serious rips and tidal changes. If all you want to do is relax the long, white sandy beaches on Waiheke Island are only an hour from Auckland by catamaran and life here is wonderfully laid back.

Golfers will enjoy the stop off in Auckland. First choice is probably the Titirangi course, designed by Alister McKenzie, who helped designed the course in Augusta, Georgia (home to the US Masters - as if you didn't know). The setting, in an area of native forest alive with birds, is very special and the views are outstanding. The Gulf Harbour Country Club course further north hosted the 1998 World Cup and is one of the country's finest.

When you're dining out do try New Zealand's world-famous lamb or the fabulous seafood. The wines are also world renowned: crisp fruity Sauvignon blanc is a particular strength and New Zealand is one of the few places to produce Pinot Noirs to rival the great old world Burgundies. Not a wine snob? No worries, New Zealanders are among the world's biggest beer drinkers so the choice is good. By time you sail away you'll agree with Aucklanders that complaining about their city is just sour grapes!

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