A beginner's guide to New Zealand's cities

If you’re planning a trip and want to include at least one of New Zealand’s cities; it can be hard to choose which. This New Zealand cities beginners guide gets you started on what to expect from the five largest; and will help you work out which is best for you.

New Zealand Cities Beginners Guide

Best for taking to the water … Auckland

New Zealand Cities Beginners Guide, Auckland, Harbour, Waitemata
Pride of Auckland Sailing on Waitemata Harbour: Photo LSI Auckland / CC BY 2.0

Not for nothing is Auckland nicknamed the City of Sails. There are plenty of operators who will show you the ropes and get you afloat, with or without assistance. If you have a few hours to spare, join the crew for a sample America’s Cup sailing experience in beautiful Waitemata Harbour. Alternatively catch the sunset from a sea kayak as you paddle to Rangitoto Island, the largest and youngest of Auckland’s volcanoes. If you prefer to stay on dry land, at least visit the New Zealand Maritime Museum to understand more about the country’s rich maritime heritage.

Best for craft beer … Wellington

New Zealand Cities Beginners Guide, wellington, craft beer,capital
The craft beer capital of NZ….Wellington

Wellington is a craft beer enthusiast’s heaven. From a Bloodhound red beer at Parrot Dog to the Dog Father American pale ale at the Black Dog Brew Co, you’ll be spoilt for choice. Time your visit for August to coincide with the city’s Beervana festival. Download a map from the craftbeercapital.com website and take your time savouring the many unique ales and lagers from New Zealand and beyond. You’ll need to drink a few to appreciate just how many decent beers are brewed here, but of course it goes without saying space them out to ensure you drink responsibly.

Best for inventiveness … Christchurch

New Zealand Cities Beginners Guide, restart mall, christchurch
The Re:Start mall in Christchurch

After the devastating 2011 earthquake, Christchurch’s adaptability and creativity manifested itself in a number of projects aimed at getting the city back on its feet again. Though Re:Start container mall has now closed; you’ll find many of its independent traders still scattered across the CBD. If you’re looking for a quirky place to stay, then try Jailhouse Accommodation, which has repurposed what was the Addington Prison into hostel rooms with a twist. If you’re stuck for ideas about what to do while you’re there, staff members are more than happy to suggest jailbreak ideas for you.

Best for nature … Hamilton

New Zealand Cities Beginners Guide, waitomo,glowworm caves
Waitomo Glowworm cave: Photo by 2il Org / CC-BY-2.0

Hamilton’s a green city that’s perfectly situated to take advantage of several nearby attractions that showcase the best of the natural landscape. Waitomo Caves, one of the country’s most extensive networks of limestone caverns, is justifiably famous for the glow-worms that light up its interiors. They’re well worth the hour-long drive from Hamilton. Back in the city, the excellent Hamilton Gardens is worth a visit. Hamilton’s newly unveiled Concept Garden joins old favourites like the Indian Char Bagh Garden, Italian Renaissance Garden and Japanese Garden of Contemplation.

Best for getting your beach fix … Tauranga

New Zealand Cities Beginners Guide,surf beach, mount maunganui, tauranga
Mount Maunganui Surf Beach

Tauranga is New Zealand’s fifth largest city, though it still has a small town feel. With its coastal location and chilled out vibe; Tauranga is the perfect choice if you want to have the facilities of a city without sacrificing that holiday lifestyle. The shoreline is dominated by Mount Maunganui, known to the Maori as Mauao. Take a hike up to its summit to see the pa, an ancient fort site. Look down and you’ll see that The Mount separates two beaches. They’re great for surfing, thanks to an artificial reef submerged offshore, and are packed with families on hot days. Take a break in one of the many cafés which line Marine Parade.

What’s your favourite New Zealand city? We’d love to hear which and why!

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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