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Auckland, New Zealand

Auckland City Skyline from the Auckland Harbor Bridge
Auckland City Skyline from the Auckland Harbor BridgeAnna Carlson

Auckland is known as the industrial and financial city of New Zealand. The city offers a lot to a traveler looking for almost anything: thrills, education, shopping and food. It is also a good jumping-off point for other kiwi adventures.

Arguably the biggest tourist attraction in Auckland is the Sky Tower where you can go 328 meters (1076 feet) up into the air for a stunning view of Auckland and the surrounding bay. Thrill seekers will be pleased to know that you can base jump off the top of building, or, for those feeling a little more tame, there is the Sky Walk, a brisk walk around the outside of the top of the building. To truly experience all the thrills Auckland has to offer, the Auckland Bridge Bungee (Bungy in New Zealand) is also a must. The jump is 40 meters (131 feet) from the bridge into the bay below. Options include: ankle tie, harness, or tandem jumps, touching, dunking or not touching the water below, and photo and DVD optional packages.

The Auckland Museum is a great place to educate anyone about the people, the geology, and the plants and animals that are native to New Zealand and specifically the area around Auckland. There are daily Maori cultural performances as well as permanent exhibits on how the Maori came to the islands, and how they lived. The natural history of New Zealand is unique as the collection of islands have about 50 volcanoes around the Auckland area alone. Starting from the formation of the islands, the exhibit instills the importance of not bringing foreign soil or seeds into the country to preserve the flora and fauna of the isolated islands.

A great little street to eat and shop is Vulcan Lane. Just off Queen St, Vulcan Lane has small boutique shops and eateries. The Vulcan Cafe has a great burger and fries that feel healthy and light. There's outdoor seating almost everywhere you go and everyone is enjoying it. If you want to stick with your American chain restaurants, there is a Starbucks about every-other block. New Zealand doesn't have an individual type of food (i.e. Indian, Chinese, Japanese, etc.) and is mainly influenced by the British who colonized them and still maintain a constitutional monarchy with Queen Elizabeth II being their reigning monarch.

Just walking around the city, you get the feel that the Kiwis are a nice and helpful people. They appreciate that you are visiting their little country and know the flights are long and pricey and want you to truly experience and enjoy your stay in New Zealand. Auckland is a good starting point and a good sampler of the island nation, but shouldn't be the only place in New Zealand you visit. Even the Kiwi's would agree with that.