Three ways to spend the weekend near Auckland

At a loose end in Auckland this weekend and need ideas for a trip out?  Why not take to the water?  Here are three Auckland harbour cruises which are great ways to spend a day without straying too far from New Zealand’s largest city.

Auckland Harbour Cruises

Have a leisurely lunch at a vineyard

Waiheke Island is only a thirty-five minute ferry ride from Auckland’s CBD and ferries run an hourly service at weekends.  Approaching the island, you’ll arrive in a scenic cove where private yachts and cruisers bob on the waters of this sheltered harbour.  Once there, you are a world away from the big city bustle on this tranquil island packed full of beautiful beaches perfect for enjoying the warm, dry microclimate.  It’s this microclimate, plus decent soil, of course, that allows the island’s many vines to flourish.

Auckland Harbour Cruises: Goldwater Vineyard, Waiheke Island
Goldwater Vineyard,Waiheke Island: photo by Trakesht CC BY-SA 3.0

Vineyards abound, many offering enticing restaurants and breathtaking views back to the city.  With nineteen to choose from, there’ll be no difficulty finding one that suits: the Mudbrick Vineyard, Goldwater Estate and Te Whau Vineyard are popular choices.  If you can drag yourself away, the island is also home to a thriving artistic community.  End your visit at one of the many art galleries to find a souvenir of your day.

Explore historic Devonport

A shorter ferry ride, just ten minutes from Auckland, takes you to Devonport, crammed full of heritage buildings and boutique shopping.  Begin at the fascinating naval museum, housed in a nineteenth century submarine mining station.  Permanent exhibitions explain the history of the Navy’s contribution to New Zealand, focusing on the core values of commitment, courage and comradeship.

Auckland Harbour Cruises: The view from Mount Victoria over Devonport, with Auckland in the background by Follash (public domain)
The view from Mount Victoria over Devonport, with Auckland in the background by Follash (public domain)

Devonport is also blessed with world-class views.  Make sure you admire the volcanic cones of Mount Victoria, offering spectacular views over the Auckland area, especially at sunset.  If you’d rather stroll on level ground, the many art galleries, cafes and shops that Devonport has to offer are bound to delight – check out the handmade chocolate shoes at Devonport Chocolates on Wynyard Street, the eclectic range of jewellery on offer at Mother’s Cupboard on Victoria Road or Nord, the only Swedish-owned gift and homeware store in the country.  Take stock of your packages over a coffee and a cake at the Devonport Stone Oven Bakery on Clarence Street before heading back to the city.

Auckland Harbour Cruises:  Pride of Auckland
Pride of Auckland Sailing on Waitemata Harbour: Photo LSI Auckland CC 2.0

Cruise the Hauraki Gulf

If you need to sit back and relax, then opt for a cruise around the Hauraki Gulf rather than a ferry trip.  There are a range of cruises available, from wildlife spotting to fishing excursions.  On the Auckland Whale and Dolphin safari which departs from Auckland’s Viaduct Harbour, you’re promised a 90% chance of sighting dolphins and a 70% chance of seeing whales such as Bryde’s whales and orcas.  If you don’t get lucky on your first cruise, you’ll be offered a second free of charge.

Auckland Harbour Cruises: Dolphin Watch
Dolphin Watch: Photo LSI Auckland CC 2.0

If adventure’s more your thing, then why not try your hand at sailing an authentic America’s Cup yacht, used for racing in the world’s most prestigious and best known sailing regatta?  Don’t worry if you have no previous experience as full instruction is given.  As you steer, you’ll learn the techniques and tactics needed to slice through the water with a backdrop of the City of Sails itself.

Auckland Harbour Cruises: Americas Cup Sailing
Americas Cup Sailing: Photo Nomads Hostels CC 2.0

About JuliaHammond

Website: http://www.juliahammond.co.uk

Julia Hammond is a Geography teacher turned travel writer with a passion for places. Winning Mail Travel's Deep South competition was the catalyst to write for a diverse range of publications including Bradt's Bus Pass Britain Rides Again. She’s written Kindle guides to Cape Town, Peru and London for Unanchor and advice on Savannah for Wanderlust. When not travelling, she can be found at home in Essex planning her next trip, her two golden retrievers curled up at her feet.

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