Auckland is a young, vibrant and energetic city [that is] well set up for tourists,” says Rebecca Emery at the Auckland Media Design School. A major student centre, Auckland has a large multicultural population that gives it “an international flavour and many cultural appeals”, she highlights.
Martin Quietzsch at Academic Colleges Group notes that the city combines influences from Western, Polynesian and Asian countries. She observes, “The wide diversity of nationalities is wonderfully shown in terms of shopping, eating [and] cultural experiences.”
As New Zealand’s economic hub, Auckland is a bustling, cosmopolitan centre. But, at the same time, comments Hamish Weir of New Zealand Language Centres, it has “the laid-back kiwi way of life”. The weather is favourable, and the city enjoys a sub-tropical climate “without extreme weather swings across the year”, Quietzsch points out. Furthermore, says Study Group’s Nicola Conway, “Living costs are not as high as in cities in Australia,” and it offers “a beautiful environment for living, relaxing and study, with parks, harbours, beaches and forests nearby”.
Within the city is the Auckland Domain, the city’s oldest park formed of a volcanic cone, as Weir relates. Here, students can go on bush walks and take in the views. The park is also home to the Auckland Museum, where, he says, “Students can learn about Maori culture and see a live Maori performance, which includes the world-famous haka [war dance], as well as exploring New Zealand’s rich history.”
As Quietzsch notes, “The city’s most famous street, Queen Street, is full of shopping facilities and interesting sights such as the Auckland Town Hall, Aotea Square and the Civic Theatre.” Andrea Harbourne at Epsom Girls’ Grammar School recommends a trip to Smith & Caughey on Queen Street: one of the country’s oldest department stores dating back to 1880. For those who love markets, she also highlights La Cigale (French), Otara and Takapuna.
Close to the end of Queen Street is the Viaduct Basin, which offers plenty of restaurants and bars in a maritime environment. “The former commercial harbour experienced a complete makeover for the 2000 America’s Cup, and has turned into a sophisticated area for dining and events,” Quietzsch comments.
The city has its share of cultural attractions too. Auckland Art Gallery, in the city centre, gives free entry to the main gallery and is “packed with historic New Zealand art, new works and internationally renowned pieces”, says Emery. Furthermore, remarks Weir, “There is always a great number of fantastic events, from Pacific cultural performances to major concerts.”
Year-round, Auckland hosts many festivals. Quietsch highlights the Pasifika Festival, celebrated each year by the Polynesian community, which offers food and cultural presentations from all over the South Pacific. He also recommends the Lantern Festival, which represents the Asian influence on the city “and comes with plenty of delicious food and a cosy atmosphere”. Representing the European influence, meanwhile, is the Scottish Highland festival.
One attraction that definitely should not be missed is Auckland’s Sky Tower. In the city centre, this is one of the tallest man-made structures in the southern hemisphere, and is, says Weir, the best way for students to get their bearings. “Students love the 360-degree view of Auckland,” adds Conway, “and, if they are game, can try the sky jump or sky walk for an extra thrill.”
However, Auckland is not just about city-based experiences. As Weir points out, located between two harbours, it has nearly 50 volcanic cones (or small hills) and is surrounded by beautiful forest and acres of farmland. “The colours of the city, sea and bush-covered ranges and islands make for a pretty impressive view,” he remarks.
For a scenic getaway, Weir suggests students take the ferry to Devonport, “a quaint area where students can stroll down the main road and pop into cafés, bookshops or the famous Devonport Chocolate Boutique. Or they have the option of strolling up Mount Victoria, where the view rather than the incline will leave them breathless.”
Auckland is surrounded by beaches and offers a magnificent harbour, with island getaways just a short ferry ride away, highlights Emery. “The harbour is also home to whales, dolphins, penguins and fish.”
Just a stone’s throw from the harbour, lie two beautiful islands, Rangitoto and Waiheke Island. “The first one is a volcanic island with nice bush walks and a stunning view from the top of the volcanic cone,” says Quietzsch. “Waiheke Island,” he adds, “is a larger island with a population of about 8,000 and well-stocked with beaches, art shops and wineries.”
Nick Arnott at Unique New Zealand notes that students are struck by “the blueness of [Auckland’s] sky, combined with the sparkling water and beaches”, and, “Many of our students like to sit on the beach and in the beach reserve after classes. Photos of the beach and sea always get great comments on our Facebook page and usually these are from ex-students telling us how much they miss Auckland,” he relates.
When it comes to beaches, visitors are spoilt for choice. High on Arnott’s list of recommendations is a trip to Mission Bay, which, he says, “showcases what Auckland is all about: good food and calm, sparking water. This is a classic weekend excursion for families and Aucklanders,” he adds.
For a day trip away from the city, the black sand beaches of the West Coast are also highly recommended. These offer extreme surfing, beautiful bush walks and “some of the most dramatic scenery in the North Island”, Emery comments.
“A visit to the black sandy beach of Piha with its majestic Lion Rock is a unique and amazing experience for students,” Conway adds. “This coupled with a visit to the Aratakei Visitor Centre in the heart of the stunning Waitakere Ranges and a bush walk in the green, lush forest, is something our students never forget.” Also within comfortable day-trip distance is the famous Coromandel Peninsula. “Coromandel is a lovely place to hang out,” says Quietzsch, “and is also accessible by ferry from Auckland harbour.” A must-see area is the peninsula’s west coast, he reports.
Quietzsch also highlights the opportunity to go to New Zealand’s South Island on holiday, taking “a relatively cheap flight ticket during semester breaks, or have a quick visit to Australia”, he adds. “And, as Auckland is hub to the South Pacific, there are [also] many offers to one of those ‘paradise islands’ such as Fiji, Tonga or the Cook Islands.”.
“Saudi students find that they feel comfortable in Auckland. They find the city is organised and it’s easy to move around they get used to public transport quite easily. They find local people are friendly and helpful, which makes them feel welcome. They do not perceive any discrimination based on their nationality. In addition, Saudis are able to travel to New Zealand without applying for a visa and stay for up to 12 weeks on an automatic tourist visa.”
Bridget Egan, Global Student (inbound agency), New Zealand
“I think the most frequent comments that we receive about Auckland are about how relaxing a place it is. Students say they feel very safe and comfortable there, which is also a main reason why they choose to study in Auckland over other destinations. They really love the close proximity to the ocean, as well as the abundance of nature in the areas surrounding the city. Students often comment on the ease of life in Auckland, which is related to both the environment as well as the friendliness of the people there.”
Keiko Kurisu, Gio Club Study Abroad, Japan
“Our students choose Auckland because it is a metropolitan city in New Zealand, but not as crowded and fast-paced as other big cities in the world. The people are friendly, they can meet many other students from different countries and there are also lots of activities. Though the living expense might be a bit more expensive than other cities in New Zealand, in general, students choosing Auckland as their study destination always think it’s more convenient in every aspect (flight, public transport, etc.), which is important to them. Fresh air, clear skies and reputable schools/institutions are also mentioned. The total expense in New Zealand is still relatively cheaper than other English-speaking countries, and it is also a factor driving students to go there.”
Terry Wang and Andy Chang, New Oz Consulting Corporation, Taiwan