Yes, Auckland is an excellent place to live: it has an urban vibe to it, it’s very international, offers many different places to eat, has a quite lovely and quirky bar and restaurant scene, interesting little shops (especially second-hand shops), although, overall the city is not too big to get lost.
But what makes Auckland a fantastic place to live is its location! It’s situated in the north half of New Zealand’s north island, right between the Hauraki Gulf and the Manukau Harbor, which opens towards the Tasman Sea. Mountain ranges to the southeast and northwest complete a perfect landscape. Auckland is everything else but flat. Streets are steep, and the terrain is generally hilly. That is because the city sits on a volcanic field that consists of at least 53 small volcanic centers. Many of these are craters of extinct volcanoes that are prominent landmarks in the cityscape. For instance, walking up Mt Eden (Maungawhau) south of CBD (Central Business District) is a nice little walk and part of the coast-to-coast walk that is part of the Te Araroa. A concrete road and a few narrow paths lead you up to the summit, from where you have impressive views over the downtown and Hauraki Gulf towards Rangitoto Island.
Rangitoto is a shield volcano that erupted about 600 years ago, making it the youngest volcano in the area. It’s uninhabited, but a regular ferry service brings you from Auckland City Center to the island within about 25 minutes. There are plenty of hiking paths, and it’s an excellent way to get away from the city quickly and without a lot of hassle.
Tāmaki Makaurau, as the city is called in Maori, lies in the subtropical zone, which makes summers warm and winters very mild. That and its location close to the ocean make it super attractive to spend your time on beaches. I have never been a beach person. I prefer to spend time actively in hilly areas and mountain ranges. But ignoring Auckland’s amazing beaches would be outrageous! Don’t expect white sandy South Pacific Island beaches with palm trees, but think turquoise water, dramatic coast scenes, rocks, and cliffs. There are narrow, long, wide, black, and white sandy beaches. The beaches and bays on the east coast are calmer, whereas the beaches along the west coast are exposed to strong winds blowing in with mighty waves from the Tasman Sea. New Zealanders seem to like to spend time at the beach, but barely anyone lies around and sunbathes. You see people walking and jogging along the water line, swimming in wetsuits, stand-up paddle boarding, kayak, paddle, or sitting together in big groups and having a BBQ. I joined a waka ama (traditional Polynesian outrigger canoe) paddle group from time to time. This is a fantastic way to get to know the culture and the people and spend time at the beach, on, and afterward in the water. It was the first time I took a dip in the cold South Pacific after having paddled for an hour at Takapuna Beach, which is only a 25 minutes bus ride from my apartment. I am still amazed that several beaches are only a ride on a public bus away.
Another time I went with colleagues to Piha. That’s another fantastic beach on the west coast, about 40 kilometers from my place. You’d have to drive over the Waitakere Ranges, whose highest peaks are around 470 meters above sea level. After some time, while switchbacking down to the blackish beach, you get the first glimpse of the expansive beach, you can already spot the white foam crowns on top of the waves, and you see massive boulders in the water. The closer you get you eventually hear the roaring of the sea. We quickly changed into bathing suits and ran towards the water. There was a team of three lifeguards at the beach, and you were only allowed to go into the water between two flag poles. The marked-out area was only 50 meters wide, enough for the very few people to dip into the Tasman Sea. We couldn’t go much further than up to our knees. The waves came rolling in with an incredible force, and we had to fight hard to keep upright in this powerful element. With wet hair from high waves and many smiles, we returned to the little parking lot. Next to it was a food truck. They had loud house music and probably served one of the best ceviche dishes I had in a long time.