Auckland: Waterborne in the City of Sails

With twin harbours and a rich maritime heritage it’s no surprise that Auckland also wears the title of ‘City of Sails'.

On any given day a plethora of boats and sails dot the Auckland harbour, giving true meaning to its title.

The Manukau Harbour - New Zealand’s second largest harbour - feeds out westward into the Tasman Sea, while the Waitemata Harbour connects the city’s main port and the city waterfront before opening into the Hauraki Gulf with its abundant marine wildlife and the Pacific Ocean beyond.

America’s Cup success

The Viaduct Harbour is the dynamic heart of Auckland and the city has New Zealand’s illustrious success at the America’s Cup, one of the most coveted yacht races in the world, to thank for that.

New Zealand won the America’s Cup in San Diego in 1995 - before successfully defending the race in front of a passionate crowd on home soil in 2000 and 2003 - and it was these victories that helped transform the Viaduct into the thriving hub that it is today.

Auckland is still the home of the New Zealand yachting syndicate Emirates Team New Zealand and the team's success in the competition has seen the city become the base for some of the best boat builders and super-yacht refitters in the world.

Take a stroll around the vibrant Viaduct Harbour - overlooking a city of bobbing boats - brimming with residential, commercial properties, luxury accommodation options. With over 30 restaurants and bars to choose from, it’s the perfect Auckland spot to relax and watch the world go by. 

On-the-water activities

The success of New Zealand on the water has also spawned some thrilling on-the-water activities and, even on days when most of the city’s residents are at work, Auckland’s harbour is alive with people sailing, fishing, kayaking, paddle-boarding or exploring one of the many islands of the Hauraki Gulf.

Visitors can try their hand at America’s Cup sailing on the Waitemata Harbour on one of Emirates Team New Zealand’s retired racing yachts, or learn about New Zealand’s seagoing history and adventures at Voyager New Zealand Maritime Museum, located right on the water’s edge in the Viaduct Harbour.

Those who feel the need for speed can take a spin on an Auckland Jet boat or dive into the glistening harbour with a bungy jump off the iconic Auckland Harbour Bridge.

A whale and dolphin safari in the expansive Hauraki Gulf opens up a whole new world. A ferry trip to volcanic Rangitoto Island or a wine tour on Waiheke Island is another way to experience Auckland’s bountiful seafaring adventures.

The newest across-water experience is on a classic seaplane over the crystal waters of the Waitemata Harbour and over the volcanic crater of Rangitoto for an altogether different perspective, or across the Hauraki Gulf for a landing on Waiheke Island.

Vibrant harbour

Take a stroll around the vibrant Viaduct Harbour - overlooking a city of bobbing boats - brimming with bars, restaurants and apartments, and Auckland’s love affair with the sea is hard to miss.

The newly regenerated Silo Park and the ever-expanding Wynyard Quarter offer new perspectives on the old seafaring history, with an eclectic and exciting array of bars, restaurants, markets and gallery spaces.

Silo Park is an open space that has become one of Auckland’s favourite spots to relax with family and friends. The site hosts over 50 events, including the giant St Jerome’s Laneway Music Festival held each January and the open-air Silo Cinema, where films are regularly projected onto the side of Silo7. Each weekend the park area is a hive of activity with markets on Friday, Saturday and Sunday and the monthly Silo Sessions showcase a variety of local and international musical talent.  

The Wynyard Quarter is home to Auckland’s iconic Fish Market, seafood cooking school and a variety of great little restaurants and bars with flavours from the sea and around the world. The waterside area also includes the city’s Viaduct Events Centre – host of many major city events including the annual three-day Auckland Seafood Festival and the Auckland Stopover of the mighty Volvo Ocean race.

A restored 1920s heritage tram loops through the Wynyard Quarter, and there are two bike hire stations – free for the first two hours.  Biking around the Auckland waterfront is a wonderful way to take in the harbour at a leisurely pace.

New Zealand’s expertise in superyacht refitting is well documented and Silo Marina is becoming the South Pacific home for these impressive vessels. 

Next to Silo Marina is Westhaven Marina, the largest of its kind in the southern hemisphere. Home to 2,000 boats, Westhaven Marina is Auckland’s hub for all things nautical. With four yachting clubs and numerous charter boat operators, Westhaven Marina is known to have played a pivotal role in helping develop some of New Zealand’s most celebrated yachtsmen and sailors.