Auckland: City of sales

Auckland: City of sales

Get to know Auckland and you can make it a nice little earner rather than an overnight stop, says Joanna Booth

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New Zealand isn’t famed for its cities. Its Lord of the Rings-worthy landscapes of mountains, lakes, glaciers, and islands rather hog the limelight.

But most British tourists will fly into Auckland, nicknamed City of Sails for its waterside position, and this charming, low-key city can be so much more than an overnight stop on the way to the Bay of Islands or Rotorua.

Nearly one third of New Zealand’s population is concentrated in Auckland, and – beyond employment opportunities – there are plenty of reasons they choose to live in this sprawling, low-rise city punctuated by green cones that speak of the area’s volcanic geography.

There’s a striking harbour, laid-back cafe culture and nightlife, and beaches, vineyards and wilderness are within easy reach. Help your clients discover what these 1.4 million Aucklanders see in the city by building a couple of nights’ stay into their holiday, and earn some extra commission into the bargain.

WHERE TO STAY


Save: The three-star Mercure Auckland gets the thumbs up from a range of operators as a great choice for those who want to watch the pennies. A 1930s building in the heart of the central business district, it’s within walking distance of shops and restaurants, and rail, bus and ferry terminals. There’s a 24-hour reception, Sky TV, a laundry and gym.

The Copthorne Harbour City is another three-star choice, with a premium location on the waterfront, next to the bars and restaurants of Viaduct Basin. Rooms have panoramic views of the harbour.

For glitz and glam on a budget, suggest the Skycity Hotel, in a central development that includes a casino, more than 25 restaurants, cafes and bars, a theatre and the Sky Tower itself. Rooms are modern in style with huge windows, and Austravel’s current three-for-two night deal makes it particularly good value.

Spend: The waterfront Sebel Suites Auckland come recommended by Gold Medal, offering guests the independence of apartment-style accommodation with kitchenettes and laundry facilities in-room. In-suite dining is available, or the hotel has charge-back options with surrounding cafes and restaurants in Viaduct Harbour. Guests also have reduced entry fees for the neighbouring Tepid Baths, a destination spa and gym with pool, sauna and massage facilities.

Kuoni’s best-seller, the Pullman Auckland, is a large property with hotel rooms and apartments that have views over the harbour or Albert Park. There’s a cafe and bar on the lobby floor, and a spa with a 25-metre pool, hammam, Jacuzzi, sauna and treatment rooms.

Splurge: The Langham is one of the city’s most stylish choices. It has a grand lobby crowned with a vast chandelier and elegant rooms that combine heritage features with modern comforts. The main restaurant, Eight, is open 24 hours a day for à la carte dining and at set meal times with eight interactive kitchens providing everything from grills to sashimi.

Hilton Auckland is right on the water and for the ultimate panorama Anzcro suggests booking clients a bow suite for sea views on all sides. In fact, most elements of the hotel have a harbour view, from the restaurant to the cocktail bar to the outdoor heated pool.

Cox & Kings recommends the five-star property within the Skycity development, Skycity Grand. The hotel has a luxurious spa with a sauna and pool, a 24-hour gym, two in-house restaurants, a cocktail lounge and a terrace with views of the Sky Tower where guests can breakfast.

Travel 2 suggests an alternative to these central hotels to suit those who prefer peace and quiet within reach of the city. The Boatshed, a luxury boutique hotel with a nautical flavour, sits on the white sandy beaches of Waiheke Island, just a 35-minute ferry ride from central Auckland.

Auckland

WHAT TO DO


Auckland’s beautiful harbour is the hub for much of the city’s activity, from the bars and restaurants of the cosmopolitan Viaduct Basin development to the activities on offer on the water.

Depending on clients’ preferences, they could have a two-hour thrill sailing around the harbour on an America’s Cup yacht, or relax on a sedate lunch cruise (£90 and £50 respectively with Attraction World). They could even paddle about in a kayak on day, half-day or sunset tours, or take a dolphin and whale-watching safari on a catamaran (£92 with Gold Medal).

Back on land, day tours tend to visit the summit of dormant volcano Mount Eden, which has 360-degree views of the city, Auckland Domain park (set on another volcano), the Auckland War Memorial Museum and the shopping area of Parnell Village. Some, such as Kuoni’s (from £99), include lunch on a yacht.

Kiwis are famous for their adrenaline sports and there’s plenty to satisfy thrillseekers. Climbing the harbour bridge seems relatively tame in comparison with bungee jumping off it, or taking the Sky Jump off the Sky Tower, (£72, £93 and £135 respectively, with Do Something Different).

Getting out of the city centre is popular, whether it be tours out to Waiheke Island to visit boutique vineyards and art galleries, to the wilderness west of the city for rainforest and black-sand beaches, or south – to Middle Earth. The Hobbiton Express Tour takes visitors to the movie set where they can see 44 hobbit holes and visit the Green Dragon Inn (£66, £85 and £167 respectively, with Anzcro).

MOVING ON


Cox & Kings recommends initially combining Auckland with a few nights’ rest and relaxation on Waiheke Island. Another quiet option, about a three-hour drive from the city, is the Coromandel Peninsula. Less known to international tourists than to Kiwis, Brits are starting to cotton on to its charms – rainforest, secluded beaches and arty communities. Anzcro offers a range of accommodation, from beach apartments to luxury lodges.

Many clients will head north to the Bay of Islands, where they’ll find beautiful scenery, historic towns and a rich Maori culture. Austravel suggests the Ipipiri overnight cruise, a small ship that allows passengers to swim, snorkel and kayak and learn of the myths and legends of the area, from £258 including transfers from Auckland.

Heading up to Cape Reinga, the very northern tip of the island, will give clients a taste of the untouched beauty of the Northland region, and its spiritual significance for Maori people. Travel 2 offers a driving day tour from Paihia from £78 and Cape Reinga by Air excursion, a half-day tour in a light aircraft from £258.

Moving south, most travellers stop at the geothermal plateau in Rotorua, to see geysers and bubbling mud pools. Gold Medal combines Coromandel and Rotorua in its five-day Indulge tour, which can be booked as an escorted coach trip or independently with car hire.

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