48 Hours In: Auckland

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The Independent Travel

WHY GO NOW?

The British and Irish Lions are on tour in rugby-mad New Zealand, and Auckland is the venue for the final Test on 9 July.

TOUCH DOWN

Air New Zealand (0800 028 4149; www.airnz.co.nz), flies daily from Heathrow to Auckland; you must to clear US immigration at the refuelling stop in Los Angeles. Asian, American or Middle Eastern airlines offer connections; Emirates (0870 243 2222; www.emirates.com) has the widest range of UK departure points: Gatwick, Heathrow, Birmingham, Manchester and Glasgow.

Auckland airport is 21km south-west of the city centre. The Airbus (00 64 9 375 4730; www.airbus.co.nz) leaves every 20 or 30 minutes, 6am-10pm, for NZ$15 (£6), and stops at most major hotels and backpackers' hostels. If you don't have a room booked, get off at Sky Tower (1), on the corner of Victoria and Federal Streets, and visit the Auckland i-SITE Visitor Information Centre (00 64 9 3676009; www.aucklandnz.com) at the foot of the tower - open 8am-8pm daily.

GET YOUR BEARINGS

Auckland is set between two harbours: Manukau to the south and Waitemata to the north. The city is built on and around dozens of volcanoes, mostly dormant rather than extinct. A Link bus service (00 64 9 309 6269; www.stagecoach.co.nz) does a circuit of most of the areas of the city you'll want to see for a flat fee of NZ$1.30 (50p) a ride.

CHECK IN

Mollies Boutique Luxury Bed and Breakfast (2) at 6 Tweed Street (00 64 9 376 3489; www.mollies.co.nz) charges an impressive NZ$790 (£300) a night for a villa suite including evening canapés and aperitifs, and a gourmet breakfast. For sea views you can't beat the Hilton (3), at the end of Princes Wharf (00 64 9 978 2000; www.auckland.hilton.com). A room in low season costs NZ$416 (£160) excluding breakfast. If you are on a budget, the well-named Auckland Central Backpackers (4) is on the corner of Queen and Darby Street (00 64 9 358 4877; www.acb.co.nz); dorm beds start at NZ$22 (£9), without breakfast.

TAKE A VIEW

The 328m-high Sky Tower (1) (00 64 9 363 6000; www.skytower.co.nz) is the tallest tower in the southern hemisphere, open 8.30am-11pm daily (to midnight on Friday and Saturday), admission NZ$18 (£7). The really keen can "sky jump" (00 64 9 3681835; www.skyjump.co.nz) from near the top for NZ$195 (£75).

WINDOW SHOPPING

South Auckland Otara Markets (5) on Newbury Street opens 6am-12noon on Saturdays. for fresh fruit and veg, Polynesian music, crafts and clothes.

LUNCH ON THE RUN

With a big Asian population, Auckland has plenty of sushi places and noodle stores. For a one-stop Asian dining experience check out Food Alley in the Asian food hall (6) at 9 Albert Street. You'll be hard pushed to spend more than NZ$10 (£4) on lunch.

TAKE A HIKE

For a walk with a difference, join a Harbour Bridge Experience tour (00 64 9 361 2000; www.ajhackett.com). It takes you under, in, through and over the Auckland Harbour Bridge (7), providing fine views of the Hauraki Gulf, Viaduct Harbour and Auckland's cityscape. Tours operate 9am-5.30pm daily from the Harbour Bridge Adventure Centre (8), and cost NZ$65 (£25).

AN APERITIF

Coast Bar and Lounge (10) is oddly situated in level seven of an office building: the Hewlett Packard Building on Princes Wharf (00 64 9 300 9966; www.coastbar.co.nz). The unprepossessing exterior hides a stylish bar with 360-degree views of Auckland's harbour lights twinkling.

DINING WITH THE LOCALS

Viaduct Harbour offers more than 20 cafés, bars and restaurants including Soul (11) on the corner of Hobson and Customs Street West (00 64 9 356 7249; www.soulbar.co.nz). Another local favourite is French Café (12) at 210b Symonds Street (00 64 9 377 1911; www.thefrench cafe.co.nz), just named 2005 Auckland Restaurant of the Year. For something less formal, Gina's Pizza and Pasta Bar (13) is at 209 Symonds Street (00 64 9 302 2061; www.ginas.co.nz).

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