Auckland. Have you heard of it? Our best tip for a visit to the Big Smoke is to make like an Aucklander and get a car. Sure, you'll be putting more traffic onto the already congested city roads, but as someone wise once said: 'if you can't be part of the solution, be part of the problem'.
Seriously though, a car is the best way to see Auckland's cool secrets. Wandering around the Viaduct and going up the Sky Tower are all very well, but you'll get better memories travelling out of the CBD and into the surrounding suburbs. Mount Eden, for example, is free to climb and it's the same height as the Sky Tower. If only there was a casino inside it.
Mt Eden the suburb is brilliant, with plenty of interesting shops, but then most of the city fringe is like that: Ponsonby, Parnell, Newmarket. Each has its own flavour, and can definitely justify a morning of shopping followed by some lunch. Or, if you're feeling more adventurous, take a trip over that beautiful harbour bridge to Takapuna - it's like Ponsonby but with a decent beach, and fewer actors.
Speaking of beaches, it's worth including a day trip to Auckland's west coast while you're here. Rugged surf, black sand, awesome views - Eddie Vedder from Pearl Jam likes it, and when it comes to beach endorsements, he's pretty much your go-to guy.
There's plenty on the drive north of Auckland too. Call us infrastructure nerds but we really like the drive on that new motorway bypass of Orewa. Long tunnels, massive bridges, fresh black tarseal… guys? Guys, come back!
About an hour north is Matakana wine country, with a decent Saturday market and enough retail outlets to keep the poshest JAFAWAG happy. And if you love wine you must head over to Waiheke Island while you're here. Take the car, convince some fool to be the sober driver and explore one of the best boutique wine regions in the country (we're just kidding by the way, being a sober driver is REALLY COOL - say that to them, see if that works).