If you’re visiting Auckland for the first time, the 90 minutes cruise around Waitemata Harbour gives you the perfect introduction and shows, why Auckland is nicknamed the “City of Sails”. In only 1.5 hours, you get to know the harbour, as the commentary lets you in on stories and fun facts about Auckland, the city’s architecture and its residents.
The tour is offered by Fullers, the leading ferry company in Auckland. Our journey started off on pier 4 of the Auckland Ferry Terminal. As soon as we got on the boat, it maneuvered out of its parking space.
We first headed right, cruising along the port, where all the container and cruise ships land. The huge ships make you feel like a dwarf on a little toy boat and are very impressing.
Next, we drove past Orakei and Mission Bay, towards Bean Rock Lighthouse. Captain Bean found the rock literally “by accident” in 1840. To make sure no more boats crash on the rock, a wooden lighthouse was built on top of it. In the beginning, the fire was lit with kerosene. Nowadays the tower it is run on solar power.
By now, the voice on speaker told us that the cafeteria is open and that we’re invited to complementary tea or coffee and a muffin. We happily munched our muffin and kept listening to the interesting stories about Auckland’s harbour.
The tour continues towards Rangitoto, the youngest island and volcano in the greater area of Auckland. The volcano erupted around 500-600 years ago, leaving a perfectly cone-shaped island. It’s covered in rough lava stones and the largest Pohutakawa forest in the world (although you should know Pohutakawa trees are endemic to New Zealand, which makes it a bit easier to be the largerst ;-D).
Next on our route is Devonport, Auckland’s oldest suburb. The pretty town boasts with a lot of charming cafés and restaurants, old houses and a boutique cinema. Mt. Victoria offers the most amazing view over Auckland Downtown, while the other volcanic cone, North Head, tells the history of the city’s defense in WWII. The canon, bunkers and tunnels are not to miss.
On the way towards the Harbour Bridge, we cruise past Devonport’s Naval Base, which has been operating there since 1841!
The Auckland Harbour Bridge itself has only been built in the 1950s. Before, it was only possible to reach the city from the North Shore by car ferry. The bridge opened a lot of opportunities for the (back then) few people living on the Shore and only 10 years later, the 4-lane bridge was upgraded to the 8-lane bridge it now is.
Behind the bridge is a very cool old orange factory. We learned in the commentary that this is the Chelsea Sugar Refinery, which has been established in 1884 and is still New Zealand’s Number 1 sugar supplier.
We drive past the Wynyard Quarter, which has been newly built for the 2011 Rugby World Cup and Viaduct Harbour with their countless restaurants, bars and giant yachts as the Harbour Cruise slowly comes to an end.
Other day trips from Auckland by boat
There is an abundance of islands in the Hauraki Gulf. Many of them can be reached by ferry and make perfect day trips from Auckland.
Waiheke Island is probably the most popular of them and is famous for the many wineries and walks with amazing views. The beaches are just stunning and leave you believing that you you are so much further away from the big city. Just maybe leave your bike at home ;-) Click to read more about a perfect day on Waiheke
An island that can't be overseen is Rangitoto. It's iconic volcanic cone is visible from almost everywhere on the eastern side of Auckland. Rangi is Auckland's youngest volcano of about 51 and is "only" 600 years old. A walk through the volcanic landscape to the top is a must-do when visiting Auckland.
Another, lesser known, island in Hauraki Gulf is Tiritiri Matangi. The island is home to the oldest operating lighthouse in New Zealand and used to be farm land before volunteers turned it into a paradise. It is now an open sanctuary for birds and other rare native animals. Click here for more info about Tiritiri Matangi.
Duration: 90 Minutes
Cruising time: every day 10:45am and 1:45pm from Auckland Ferry Terminal
Price: please see Fullers website
Included: commentary and complimentary tea/coffee and muffins
Bookings: please click here