Auckland's city centre clings to the southern shores of the Waitemata Harbour
, with Queen Street
, the main drag, striking south through a downbeat business district largely sustained by banks and insurance companies, as the ascendant inner-city suburbs - trendy Ponsonby, affluent Parnell and go-ahead Newmarket - continually erode its mercantile dominance.
Queen Street meets the harbour at the Ferry Building, hub of ferry services to the North Shore, the maritime suburb of Devonport and to the islands of the Hauraki Gulf. One of the best ways to begin your exploration of the city is on foot, following the Coast-to-Coast Walkway which starts here and winds up through the city past many sights . Skirting Albert Park , wedged between the University and the Auckland Art Gallery , the route then veers towards The Domain , an extensive blanket of parkland that represents Auckland's premiere green space, laid out around the city's most-visited attraction, the Auckland Museum . The Domain divides the city from the inner-eastern suburb of Parnell , ecclesiastical heart of the city with the Cathedral , one of Auckland's oldest churches and a couple of historical houses, both associated with clergymen. The walkway finishes beside the Manukau Harbour, after climbing to two of Auckland's highest points, Mount Eden and its more diverting kin, One Tree Hill with its encircling Cornwall Park .
To the east of Parnell, the harbourside Tamaki Drive runs past Kelly Tarlton's Underwater World to the city beaches of Mission Bay and St Heliers. West of the centre, the suburbs spread out beyond the reclaimed basin of Freeman's Bay to Auckland's most concentrated cluster of superb restaurants and cafés along Ponsonby Road , and out to Western Springs, home to the Auckland Zoo and the transport museum commonly referred to by its abbreviated name, MOTAT .
Aucklanders with time on their hands and a penchant for thundering breakers leave the stresses of city behind and head to the surf beaches of the West Coast but there are local spots for a more impulsive dip, particularly compact and often-crowded coves along Tamaki Drive and the more expansive strands on the North Shore near Takapuna .