The sparkling waters of Auckland’s Waitemata Harbour play an integral part in forming the character and undeniable attraction of Auckland – New Zealand’s largest city. Often referred to as Auckland Harbour, the popular harbour area provides access and anchorage for both boat enthusiasts and port and ferry services to Auckland city from the sea, as well as a focal point for local entertainment, attractions and activities.
Part of the larger Hauraki Gulf, the Waitemata Harbour spans an area of roughly 180 square kilometres with many Auckland hot spots spread along it shores including popular Auckland waterfront areas like the Viaduct Harbour, Wynard Quarter, Queens Wharf and Princes Wharf. The Devonport Navel Base, Ports of Auckland and beautiful Te Atatu Peninsula are also found along the edges of the Waitemata Harbour.
Spanning the narrowest point of Waitemata Harbour is the iconic Auckland Harbour Bridge. Opened in 1959 and at just over 1 km long it provides a much needed link between the central city and Northcote Point, on the North Shore.
While driving across the bridge can be done at any time, taking a guided tour is the only way to gain pedestrian access to the Auckland Harbour Bridge – a once in a life time experience. The walk takes you along custom engineered walkways while the guides share with you some of the bridge’s colourful past, architectural features while pointing out some of the best nearby sights of Auckland.
The bridge also offers the opportunity to take part in an iconic New Zealand adventure activity; “Bungy Jumping”, an act that involves leaping from a specially designed jump ramp while connected to a large elastic cord. The cord stretches down to the water and recoils, leaving you bouncing up and down. For thrill seekers this is simply a ‘must do’ while you are in the city of Auckland.
Auckland Harbour’s North Shore is home to Devonport, a mecca for beach goers with the popular Cheltenham and Devonport beaches always drawing a crowd. Harbour side cafes, restaurants and galleries as well as boutique shopping and of course a good dose of New Zealand Naval action at the Devonport Naval Base add to the Devonport mix.
Grab the ferry from Downtown Auckland, or make you own way by rental car across the Auckland Harbour Bridge, either way the trip to Devonport is definitely a must do. Don’t miss exploring the underground military tunnels and historic gun emplacements at the North Head Maori Pa site. The prominent volcanic cone provides visitors with incredible 360 degree views of the Waitemata Harbour, Rangitoto Island, the city and beyond.
Looking for a fun way to explore the Devonport historic village, its volcanic cones and military forts? Why not take a Devonport Segway Tour. The professional team at Magic Broomstick Tours offer anyone over 13 who is able the opportunity to ride their Segway Personal Transporters for family funs rides, up Mount Victoria and around North Head.
The waters of the Waitemata Harbour lead out into the vast depths of the Hauraki Gulf, home to a wide selection of nearby Islands just waiting to be explored. From Browns Island and the popular scenic reserve; Rangitoto Island, to Waiheke Island, known for its boutique wineries, olive groves and golden beaches there is plenty to see and do. These islands provide the perfect opportunity to escape the hustle and bustle of the city.
For something a little different head out to the Island with no roads – Kawau Island. A scenic one hour coastal drive to Sandspit near Warkworth will get you there with the addition of one of the regularly timetabled ferry services running daily or a water taxi shuttle.
The opportunity to explore this interesting lesser known Island of the Hauraki Gulf is thanks to the Department of Conservation who has restored and preserved the Historic Mansion of Sir George Grey, its tropical gardens and inhabitants. Be aware large parts of the Island are privately owned so please respect others property while on Kawau Island.
One of the outer most Islands of the Hauraki Gulf and the largest, Great Barrier Island allows visitors to discover a tramper’s paradise, try kayaking, paddle boarding, horse riding, snorkelling or just relax and enjoy a night on the Island.
One of the best ways to experience Great Barrier Island is to take a tour. There are a good selection of these available on the island, but for something a little bit different try the Crazyhorse Trike Tours. Enjoy a comfortable ride in the back of a three seater motor bike while seeing the sights; design your own journey or choose from one of theirs.
Great Barrier Island is accessible from Auckland by a 30 minute scenic flight, or by ferry or further up the coast by water taxi at Sandspit. Fishing and diving charters are also available on the island along with some pretty amazing coastal tours.
Getting out on the water is the best way to experience what Auckland is all about. There are so many things to do out on the Waitemata Harbour and plenty of tour options for taking in the extensive Harbour views.
Sailing enthusiasts will know the Waitemata Harbour was twice home to the America’s Cup in 2000 and 2003, with the 2021 cup set to be held in Auckland as well.
Although the excitement of having the Americas Cup here again has yet to build, there is the opportunity to experience the thrill of sailing aboard an authentic America’s Cup racing class yacht on the Auckland Harbour. Take the helm, be part of the crew or just soak up the harbour views as you pass under the Auckland Harbour Bridge.
Another great way to get out on the soak up the sights while immersing yourself in some of New Zealand’s history and culture is to take part in a traditional Maori Waka sailing on Waitemata Harbour.
The Waka is a large double-hulled canoe that the Maori’s Polynesian ancestors originally used to migrate to New Zealand. Crewed by expert Maori sailors, you are able to learn a bit about Maori and Polynesian sailing traditions, their boat building techniques and historic journeys.
Have a need for speed? See the sights and experience the thrill and excitement of a jet boating tour on the Waitemata Harbour. Departing from the Auckland waterfront area, Auckland jet boat tours are available from several local operators.
Booking in advance is advised due to the limited capacity of the boats, life Jackets are supplied, along with protective sea spray ponchos.
Probably the most common way of seeing the sights of the Auckland Harbour, sightseeing cruises are a great way to relax and just enjoy the ride. The Waitemata Harbour is home to a hive of activity from yachts, fishing vessels, ships, ferries and some pretty impressive cruise liners, all even more exciting when seen up close on board a tour vessel.
Choose from eco tours, educational tours, harbour highlights tours and much more. For something a little out there why not take a land and sea amphibious tour of the Auckland Harbour with the team at Auckland Adventure Duck.
No visit to Auckland is complete without exploring the delights of Auckland Harbour and the Hauraki Gulf. Make the most of Auckland’s glorious weather and mild temperatures and get out on the water today!
Need transportation to make the most of the area? View our full range of affordable Auckland Central rental cars and explore the best of Auckland city at your own pace.
Check out our blog for more New Zealand travel and holiday advice.
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