Car Hire in New Zealand: Auckland’s Top 5 Attractions
Tucked between twin harbours, Auckland is framed by more sandy beaches and beautiful scenery than any city has a right to be, so if you rent a car in Auckland, you will never be stuck for something to see. But if you would like some ideas to get you started on your car hire tour of Auckland, here are some of our favourites:
Auckland Art Gallery
Built in 1888 and restored and extended in 2013, the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki is New Zealand’s largest art institution. Now with a stunning glass-and-wood atrium attached to its already beautiful original French chateau frame, the gallery is a worthy showcase for significant pieces by luminaries including Pieter Bruegel the Younger, Picasso, Cezanne, and Matisse.
It is home to some 15,000 works in total, from early Maori portraits and New Zealand landscapes to modern works and world-class touring exhibitions. You will find some of New Zealand’s best art here, including Charles Goldie’s 19th-century portraits of tattooed Maori subjects and Colin McCahon’s text-scribbled paintings. The gallery operates free tours three times daily.
The Auckland Museum is impressive enough from the outside, before you ever set foot inside. A magnificent Neoclassical temple from the 1920s topped by a modern dome crafted from copper and glass makes a fitting repository for the extensive selection of Pacific Island and Maori artefacts within.
Outstanding displays include a 25-metre war canoe, an extant carved meeting house, and an Egyptian mummy. There is also an absorbing exhibit on the volcanic field, including an eruption simulation. Upstairs is devoted to the building’s role as a war memorial. Every year, at dawn on April 25, Auckland’s chief ANZAC commemorations are staged at the cenotaph in the museum’s forecourt.
Auckland overlooks the Hauraki Gulf, a body of water scattered with beautiful motu (islands), some of them just minutes from the city via ferry. Take a day trip to Waiheke, with its subtropical climate and 100km coastline. Enjoy a picnic, tour the many vineyards, stroll through historical Stony Batter or just lounge on the beach.
Auckland is built on an incredible 50 volcanos, and the last one to erupt was Rangitoto, in the Hauraki Gulf. It really should not be missed. The Hauraki Gulf Maritime Park encompasses 47 islands, and the gulf is an important transit point for marine mammals. Watch out for sei, minke and Bryde’s whales, as well as orcas, bottlenose dolphins, and even the odd humpback.
Waiwera Thermal Spa Resort
Rent a car in Auckland and drive 35 minutes north to Waiwera Thermal Resort, one of the capital’s biggest attractions. Every year, more than 350,000 visitors take to the waters of this thermal park, which is located on the stunning Hibiscus Coast.
Forget all your aches and anxieties as you soak in the warm pools, let the kids loose on the hydra-slides, or enjoy a massage. The natural pools are sheltered by the Waiwera valley’s native bush and rolling hills, making them the ideal place to relax.
One of the world’s most progressive zoos, Auckland Zoo is home to the country’s biggest collections of animals. Hire a car in Auckland, and the zoo is just a five-minute drive from the city centre, on the edge of the beautiful Western Springs Park. You’ll find 120 different species represented by more than 750 animals in this 17-hectare oasis of rolling parkland.
Te Wao Nui showcases indigenous flora, fauna, and culture. Red Panda Encounters are a popular addition to the perennial favourites – elephants, giraffes, and chimps. The zoo has also organised behind-the-scenes experiences for visitors to get closer to species such as lemurs and elephants. The zoo is open every day, except Christmas Day, from 9.30am to 5.30pm in summer (September 1 to April 30) and until 5pm in winter.