Auckland is an attractive city on New Zealand's North Island, set on a narrow strip of land flanked by two natural harbours, with other major tourist spots, Hamilton and Wellington, to the island’s south. Its privileged location has blessed its citizens with idyllic sandy beaches and a wealth of beautiful islands at their doorstep, making it one of those rare places you can be kayaking with dolphins in the morning, then dancing and drinking with after-work revellers at dusk.
New Zealand’s largest city, Auckland is home to roughly a third of the country’s population. Migrants have settled here over the last two centuries from Europe, Polynesia, and most recently Asia, so the city is a melting pot of cultures. In combination with New Zealand’s rich soils and pure waters, this cultural diversity has enabled an incredible dining scene to flourish. Furthermore, North Island is where the country’s first grapevines were planted. Visitors to Auckland will discover a thriving viticulture industry barely an hour’s drive out of the city and plenty of quality local labels at any good restaurant.
As you descend into the airport, you’ll see why Auckland is the ideal destination for a self-drive holiday. Threaded by a comprehensive network of roads, the city itself sprawls out from the skyscraper-studded CBD and quickly turns into rolling hills and emerald pastures, with plenty of dark green forests descending into serene, crystalline bays. With your cheap Auckland car rental from DriveNow, you’ll be able to stop at any site of your choosing, be it the brooding black beaches of the west coast or the hip cafes and bars along Ponsonby Road.
Ray Emery Drive, Mangere, Auckland 2022
Telephone: +64 9 275 0789
Auckland Airport is located in the residential suburb of Mangere, around 21km south of Auckland
No. of Terminals: 2
Timezone: GMT/UTC +12:00
Chances are that if you’re visiting New Zealand, Auckland Airport will be your first port of call. Australasia’s fourth busiest after Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane, this airport is both a domestic and international hub for Air New Zealand, some of whose jets feature special livery inspired by the world-renowned All Blacks rugby team or scenes from “The Hobbit” film trilogy.
Auckland Airport also receives flights from all over Asia, Polynesia, North and South America, so be prepared to do some walking if you’ve got a connection to meet. The international and domestic terminals are approximately half a kilometre apart, connected by a walkway and free shuttle bus services.
If you’re in transit overnight or plan to stay and explore Auckland for a little while, then an Auckland car rental is the way to go. Service desks for Auckland Airport car hire in the international terminal are located next to the arrivals area on the ground floor. Domestic arrivals will find Auckland car rental operators on the ground floor of the multi-level carpark situated directly opposite the terminal forecourt. All major Auckland Airport car hire brands are represented in these areas including Avis, Budget, Europcar, Hertz, Go Rentals, and Thrifty.
The drive from the airport to the city takes approximately 35 minutes along the South-Western Motorway, one of the few multi-lane freeways in the country. Most of New Zealand’s roads are single-carriageway – something to be aware of if it’s your first time driving an Auckland car rental. They are also often winding or surprisingly steep due to the country’s varied terrain. You’re unlikely to go anywhere at speed anyhow, as you’ll probably spend most of your time gaping out the window at stunning coastlines or pulling over to explore ancient forests carpeting dramatic extinct volcanic cones.
No matter where you stay in Auckland, the water is never far away. Built to host the 2000 America’s Cup, Viaduct Harbour is an upscale precinct right on the harbour where super yachts are berthed. Ponsonby to the west is arguably Auckland’s hippest suburb, with fashionable cafes, stylish bars, and quirky shops set amongst charming 19th century homes. Of course, if you want to be in the CBD, downtown hotels are clustered around Queen Street, which is lined with high street retail outlets and high-end luxury boutiques. Here are some of our favourite hotels in Auckland.
Formerly the Westin, this contemporary low-slung hotel is one of Auckland’s few five-star establishments right on the harbour. All the trimmings of this sophisticated French global brand are present, from signature premium beds down to chic Lanvin amenities in the well-appointed en-suite bathrooms. There’s also a highly rated fine dining fusion restaurant onsite along with an elegant bar named after the technique Napoleonic army officers employed to open champagne bottles on special occasions. If you’re after a lovely big room, a touch of Parisian refinement and a waterfront location walking distance to all the sights of the city, this Sofitel is for you.
The best place to park your Auckland car rental overnight in Viaduct Harbour is in the covered Cooper and Company carpark on Sturdee Street. This secure multi-storey building is open 24 hours and has 350 spaces so you’re sure to find a spot for your vehicle.
This highly rated family-run property is mere minutes away from Auckland’s bustling CBD and Ponsonby’s lively main shopping and dining strip. Yet it has the feel of a peaceful, laid-back suburban motel, with its friendly staff and comfortable spacious rooms complete with handy kitchenettes. Two-bedroom suites and convenient sofa beds in some units make this the ideal choice for families or groups travelling together. Guests at Abaco on Jervois also have the advantage of free car parking on the premises – a real bonus if you’ve got an Auckland hire car.
Located in the iconic seven-storey former Farmers Department Store, the grand Heritage Auckland retains many of this historic building’s original period features including hardwood floors, high vaulted ceilings and an exquisite tearoom that was once amongst Auckland’s most prestigious places to dine. Rooms are spread between two wings – one within the charming old building, the other in a more contemporary tower. The first hotel to join the NZ Nutrition Foundation, the Heritage Auckland caters for all diners but has a special entirely plant-based food menu, fantastic if you’re a vegan, vegetarian, or simply watching your waistline. This Hobson Street property also offers convenient valet parking for Auckland rental cars and is close to the all the major attractions of central Auckland.
This corner block has welcomed visitors to Auckland since 1841. Its latest incarnation is as the Hotel DeBrett, an eclectic, colourful designer space that pays homage to both the building’s long back-story and the nation that shaped its past. Thick, striped New Zealand wool carpets line the floors, while pictures and posters by local artists adorn the walls. Statement furniture spanning the decades abound, from mid-century pieces in the atmospheric wood-panelled bar to modernist Tulip and Panton chairs in plush guest bedrooms. Step straight out onto High Street, where you’ll find the city’s finest threads as well as some of its hottest eateries.
Valet parking is available at Hotel DeBrett for your Auckland car rental; however, you can save a bit of cash by parking at one of the private garages around the city centre.
As we mentioned earlier on, Auckland’s increasingly multicultural populace has really shaken up the food scene. Asian fusion appears to be flavour of the month; however, there are plenty of other cuisines represented by top-of-the-pile eateries, including French, American and of course, Kiwiana. These are just some of the places you must try when in Auckland:
This highly awarded restaurant on Symonds Street has a nondescript entrance, a serene atmosphere and a simple mission – to make their guests smile. And beam you will, when your multi-course degustation-style lunch or dinner shows up. Chef and owner Kazuya Yamauchi grew up in Japan and spent years working in an Italian fine dining eatery in Tokyo. His culinary training and cultural roots are reflected in his divine creations – it’s not uncommon at Kazuya to start your meal with fresh baked bread and butter followed by a sushi platter or wagyu beef, then cheese or petit fours to finish.
Two minutes from Kazuya is the much-lauded French Café. Run by a husband-and-wife team, this beautiful little restaurant with soft lighting, rosy feature walls and lovely paintings has a menu to match its attractive surrounds. There are some elements of Paris in the dishes, but meals are more about paying homage to ingredients that are in season in New Zealand. However, there are two aspects that define this place as truly Gallic: its comprehensive wine list and the staff’s skill in pairing food with drink.
At the forefront of contemporary Kiwi cuisine, the fare at Clooney’s is a work in progress, constantly being tweaked to suit seasons, ingredients, and palates. Set in a cavernous concrete space that was once a derelict warehouse, the restaurant’s décor is elegant but understated enough not to overpower the simple yet outstanding tasting plates or larger mains that make dining here an experience. Food pairings are sometimes unusual but they work, and recommended wines match impeccably.
This progressive Ponsonby restaurant leads the way in innovative cooking and immersive dining, with fixed price menus and different themes for different days. On Tuesday nights for instance, guests are invited to try new flavours and textures in the “Test Kitchen”, while Wednesdays to Saturdays allow guests to see what the chefs are doing and the opportunity to interact with them as courses are being prepared. While expensive, there’s nothing quite like SIDART anywhere else so be sure to check it out!
Nobody will look twice if you turn up in jeans and a tee shirt at this casual, unpretentious Kiwiana restaurant with a somewhat American slant on Federal Street in the heart of downtown Auckland. Chef Al Brown is all about “fast, fun and fresh”. That principle applies all day, to the Havana coffee and warm beignets available until mid-morning all the way to the salty, plump Pacific oysters, generous meat board and smoked brisket tortillas served in the afternoon. There are even wines on tap for when you can’t wait for your waiter to fetch a bottle opener. If you’re planning to catch a rugby match or are meeting a group of friends, Depot is a perfect place to do either.
It would make most sense to start your explorations within the city proper, perhaps taking in the volcanic topography and urban sprawl of Auckland from its highest point – the syringe-shaped 328m-tall Sky Tower dominates the city skyline and offers views from 220m or 60 floors above ground. See if you can spot the Waitakere Ranges to the city’s west – these rugged volcanic mountains form the backdrop to the beach where titular scenes from Jane Campion’s acclaimed movie “The Piano” were filmed. For an adrenalin rush, you can don a harness and walk around the Sky Tower pergola or base-jump 192 metres down.
Attractions at street level include the Auckland Art Gallery by leafy Albert Park, which boasts over 16,000 pieces of art. Learn about New Zealand’s history from early paintings illustrating first contact between Maori and European explorers in the 1600s or admire more contemporary works by 21st century artists. The Maritime Museum at Viaduct Harbour tells a story of the country’s history through items related to seafaring such as replica early Polynesian canoes and an interactive rocking cabin to simulate the ocean journey of an early settler. If you’ve never seen the impressive Maori battle dance known as the ‘haka’, visit the Auckland War Memorial Museum. Here, you can take in a Maori cultural performance followed by a tour of the world’s largest collection of Maori artefacts.
If you have little ones with you, your first stop should be Kelly Tarlton’s Underwater World. This cutting-edge marine park has an Antarctic display with King and Gentoo penguins, as well as a number of enchanting spiny sea dragons – rarely seen by anyone but deep sea divers. Children can go behind-the-scenes to see how this enormous aquarium works and enjoy close encounters with penguins in their icy enclosure. Older kids can view sharks and stingrays from a cage submerged in the predator tank, while more adventurous adults can come face-to-face with the ocean’s most fearsome creatures.
At lunchtime, head over to Queen or High streets, where the corporate crowd rub shoulders with bearded hipsters and urban fashionistas in their search for small batch coffee, gourmet sandwiches, organic pressed juices and raw salads. This is the place to find homegrown designer clothing, get a blow wave or have your nails done in the latest seasonal shades, while narrow, pedestrians-only Vulcan Lane is a particularly good place to sip a drink and people watch. Britomart by Waitemata Harbour takes Auckland retail up another notch, with a mix of leading international and Kiwi brands from Tiffany & Co to Trelise Cooper located in some of the city’s oldest and most elegant buildings.
If your style runs more towards artistic or bohemian, look no further than Ponsonby. Brimming with character-filled buildings dating back to the Victorian era, this genteel suburb is often referred to as Auckland’s cultural heart. Indeed, many notable New Zealanders who live or have lived in Ponsonby have gone on to find worldwide fame including former Prime Minister Helen Clark and Ella Yelich-O’Connor, better known as Lorde. The new Ponsonby Central is just a short drive away in your Auckland car rental and offers great restaurants, pop-up stores, activities such as free yoga, and fresh food markets all in one area at the corner of Richmond and Ponsonby roads. More delectable dining and a whole array of trendy boutiques can be found north of Ponsonby Road, along with some of the city’s most vibrant nightlife.
If you have more than just a day or two to spare, be sure to take the ferry over to Devonport. Reminiscent of San Francisco, this pretty seaside village at the base of a volcano offers stunning views of Auckland. Things to do here include hiring a bicycle or Segway to navigate historic streets lined with some of New Zealand’s best-preserved Victorian villas built from native kauri timbers, renowned for their straight grain and even texture. You can also walk or ride to the summit of Takarunga (also known as Mount Victoria), which is a popular lookout point over the city.
Another island worth exploring is Rangitoto, which lies just beyond Devonport. The youngest of Auckland’s 48 volcanic cones, this symmetrical 5.5km-wide island can be reached by kayak or ferry. Discover ancient black lava tubes and New Zealand’s largest pōhutukawa forest as you hike up to the summit of this distinctive shield volcano. Able to live for hundreds of years, these trees put on a sensational display of scarlet blossoms in summer and are an important symbol in Maori mythology.
Waiheke Island also makes a fine day trip destination. This large island in the azure Hauraki Gulf feels like worlds away from the hustle and bustle of Auckland, yet it’s just 35 minutes by ferry from the city. There are literally a hundred white sand beaches on this “playground of the gods” as well as numerous wineries and a flourishing arts scene. Spend your time here splashing in the water, zip lining, quaffing wine, or browsing tiny galleries. You can also follow the island’s gorgeous walking trails, which snake past the swanky holiday homes of Auckland’s rich and famous, or charter a boat and sail sparkling bays where whales and dolphins are frequently seen.
Two hours south of Auckland in bucolic Matamata lies Hobbiton – the film set where Peter Jackson shot “The Lord of The Rings” and “The Hobbit” trilogies. If you’re travelling with children or are a fan of Tolkien’s stories yourself, don’t miss this extraordinary place portrayed as “The Shire”. This enchanting private farm is home to various Hobbit Holes, The Green Dragon Inn and The Shire’s Rest, which you can visit on a guided tour. Really, the only way to reach MataMata is by vehicle, so find the best Auckland car rental and campervan hire deals on DriveNow if you haven’t already made the most of cheap car hire in Auckland or Auckland Airport.
Just 45 minutes west of the city are the Waitakere Ranges, a haunting mosaic of native forest, wild rivers, and cascading waterfalls fringed by moody, windswept black sand beaches. This is where you’ll find a complex network of walking tracks passing stands of enormous kauri trees and iconic silver tree ferns on the way to luminous natural pools or to lookout points with jaw-dropping vistas of the tempestuous Tasman Sea. Karekare Beach, featured in the acclaimed movie “The Piano”, provides a real sense of foreboding on a stormy day and some insight into the trepidation early settlers would have felt when they first landed on New Zealand’s rugged shores.
So when should you visit Auckland? Really, the city is great all year-round but if you’re into sport, culture, food or the arts, perhaps you want to time your holiday to coincide with one of these fabulous annual events:
Put on your club colours and come see NRL’s biggest stars battle for a trophy and a massive cash prize at this two-day knockout tournament. There are 31 games altogether, played with 9 players per team in 9 action-packed halves. Held every February at Eden Park Stadium, which holds 50,000 fans, the atmosphere of the NRL Auckland Nines is always electric.
Long-running Pasifika is a family-friendly celebration of New Zealand’s Polynesian heritage held in March, with 11 authentic villages set up in Western Springs Park in Grey Lynn, each representing a specific Pacific Island culture. Bring a picnic blanket so you can spend the day checking out the different stages where traditional dances and performances take place. You can also try barbecued meats and take home handmade crafts such as woven baskets.
Between April and May, comedians from all over the world converge on Auckland to get the city laughing. For three weeks, at various venues around the city, expect to find a variety of side-splitting acts from stand-up routines and improv to clowns and musicals at the NZ International Comedy Festival.
Rev-heads will want to be in town in November for the ITM Auckland SuperSprint, three-days of non-stop adrenalin-pumping track action. Go trackside to experience the thrilling sound of V8 engines as drivers push them to the limit at Auckland’s Pukekohe Park Raceway. This custom-built racing facility is around 45 minutes south of the international terminal so take advantage of cheap car hire at Auckland Airport and drive straight there.
The biggest event on Auckland’s Christmas calendar, Coca-Cola Christmas In the Park is a musical extravaganza featuring performances by the country’s most famous singers and musicians. Held at Auckland Domain in December, this free community celebration is a wonderful way to bring all members of the family together.
Auckland is New Zealand's biggest city – both in terms of size and population. To truly explore this large, sprawling urban landscape, you definitely need to organise yourself a great Auckland car hire deal.
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We compare hire car deals all across this picturesque country, so if you’re considering venturing further afield, search for deals in Queenstown, Picton, Nelson, Dunedin, Wellington, and Christchurch as well.
DriveNow has made it easy for you to find the very best Auckland car rental deals. We work with leading car hire providers such as Budget, Avis, Thrifty, and Hertz to bring you a range of rental options.
All you have to do is enter your travel details online at DriveNow and we will do the hard work for you. Once we know your ideal pick-up and drop-off locations we can generate a variety of options so that you can compare the prices and vehicles that are available.
This allows you to pick the deal that is best suited to your needs. Whether you are looking for a small hatchback to get around the city for a weekend, or a big four wheel drive to venture out to the coast, there will be an Auckland car hire deal for you.
The beauty of hiring a car is that you have the freedom to head to whatever destination takes your fancy.
Those of you who are in New Zealand to soak up nature at its best will want to head straight towards the West Coast beaches. Piha, Muriwai and Bethells are just some of the spectacular stretches of coastline which will leave you wanting to come back for more.
If you'd prefer to stay close to the city, then you don’t need to venture far to enjoy a dip in the sea. The North Shore boasts some lovely beaches including Takapuna and Cheltenham, while Mission Bay is just a few minutes' drive from the CBD and a popular favourite with tourists, offering views of Rangitoto Island.
Known as the City of Sails, Auckland boasts some of the world's best sailing and sailors and was home to the America's Cup in 2003. Teams still regularly travel to Auckland to train. The Auckland harbour side offers a host of restaurants and other attractions and for those strong hearted enough there's the excitement of the Sky Walk and Sky Jump from the 328 metre Sky Tower, New Zealand's tallest man-made structure.
There are also some excellent attractions in the city centre. Get to know the history of New Zealand by visiting Auckland Museum, or soak up views from the top of one of Auckland's many dormant volcanoes.
As long as you have your Auckland car hire sorted, you will be able to go wherever you want – so explore some of the great deals available on DriveNow to organise your car rental.