Waitemata Harbour is the real name for what is often just called Auckland Harbour. It means “sparkling waters” in the Maori language, which is a very fitting name. Numerous islands dot the harbor, and a day spent on the water, with city views in the background, is a memorable way to tour Auckland.
You can clearly see why Auckland’s nickname is “City of Sails” once you glimpse Waitemata Harbour. Landmarks around the harbor, include the Auckland Harbour Bridge, Bean Rock Lighthouse, Devonport, Mission Bay, and volcanic Rangitoto Island. These can be seen from many high points around Auckland, particularly from the Sky Tower in downtown Auckland, as well as closer on a boat or walking tour.
Tours of and around Waitemata Harbour take many forms. From active water sports, such as kayaking, to the more sedate, such as ferry crossings and cruises, all travelers can spend some time enjoying the beauty of Waitemata Harbour.
Things to Know Before You Go
Waitemata Harbour offers an excursion for every kind of traveler, so find a trip that best suits your desired level of activity.
If you don’t want to go out onto the water, harbor views can be enjoyed from a high spot, such as Sky Tower’s viewing platform or One Tree Hill.
You can easily get burned with New Zealand’s notoriously strong sun, especially from the glare on the water. If you’re heading out on a boat, wear plenty of sunscreen and a wide-brimmed hat to prevent sunburn.
How to Get There
Tours around the harbor start from various points and usually include round-trip transportation from central Auckland. Ferries to the North Shore and islands in the Hauraki Gulf (which is the water body just beyond the harbor) depart from the Downtown Ferry Terminal, as do some cruises.
When to Get There
Despite a generally warm climate, Auckland experiences frequent rain at any time of year. Summer is best for water sports, such as kayaking and sailing, but cruises can be enjoyed year-round. Although temperatures in the winter aren’t too cold, the chance of rain and cold winds is high. The harbor hosts a number of festivals, including the Tamaki Herenga Waka Festival and Auckland on Water Boat Show.
Motu Manawa Marine Reserve
Active travelers wanting to experience Auckland’s natural treasures will enjoy a kayak or other small-boat tour of Motu Manawa (Pollen Island) Marine Reserve. Southwest of the harbor, the 1,235-acre (500-hectare) protected reserve, including salt marshes and mangrove swamps, provides a habitat for numerous varieties of wading and sea birds.