With two harbours and around 50 extinct volcanoes in the region, you don't need to go far to get a stunning view of Auckland city. The Sky Tower is the obvious city landmark to get your bearings, as well as the Auckland Harbour Bridge and Rangitoto Island in the Waitemata Harbour.
Mt Eden (Manugawhau)is the closest volcano to the CBD (10 minutes' drive) and the highest, at 196 metres. The summit is an easy 10-minute walk from the car park left of the roundabout or if you park to the right of the roundabout it's a slightly steeper 5-minute walk. The harbour reveals itself as you walk around the mount so when you reach the top it's a wow moment as you soak in unadultered 360-degree views of the city. You can walk the circumference of the 50-metre-deep crater but the cone is tapu (Maori for 'sacred') so entering it is forbidden. Remains of kumara pits and pa (fortress) terraces are dotted around the summit. Sports fans may get a kick out of seeing Eden Park stadium from above. Families will also enjoy the playground at the base of the mount, featured in Best City Fringe Playgrounds in Auckland.
Where: 250 Mt Eden Rd, Mt Eden. There are also walkways off Clive Road, Glenfell Place, Batger Road, Hillside Crescent, Rautangi Road and Owens Road. When: Open 7am-8.30pm during summer and 7am-7pm during winter By bus: Catch a 258 or 267 outside St James Theatre, Queen St, and get off at 40 Esplanade Rd, 300m from the entrance on Mt Eden Rd or catch the 277 from 36 Symonds St, CBD, and get off at 272 Mt Eden Rd, 85m from the entrance
View from Mt Eden summit: Sky Tower on the left and Rangitoto volcano on right
Made world famous by the U2 song of the same name (in memory of their New Zealand roadie who died in a motorcycle accident in Dublin), One Tree Hill was indeed once populated by trees on the summit but the last one was attacked by a Maori activist in 2000. Ironically, the 1948 obelisk that remains at the top was conceived as a memorial to Maori because patron Sir John Logan Campbell expected the Maori race would die out. It's Auckland's largest volcano (Maungakiekie) apart from Rangitoto and was the centre of Maori occupation in pre-European times. "None Tree Hill", as it's sometimes called now, is situated almost in the middle of the isthmus so you can easily see both the Waitemata and Manukau harbours at the summit. The domain joins up with Cornwall Park, making it the largest parkland in Auckland City, where cattle and sheep still roam the undulating greens. It's a mighty pleasant walk/run up the mount but you can also park your car right at the base of the memorial.
Where: 670 Manukau Rd, Epsom When: Open 7am-8.30pm during summer and 7am-7pm during winter By bus: Catch the 312 from outside the Civic Theatre, Queen St, towards Onehunga and get off at Manukau Rd near Haydn Rd, at the entrance to One Tree Hill Domain. The summit is 750m away.
High above Tamaki Drive, the road that hugs the coastline towards the eastern suburbs, is Bastion Point (Takaparawhau). It was the site of Maori protests in the 1970s but the land was returned to the Maori by the New Zealand Government in the 1980s. Michael Joseph Savage, New Zealand's first Labour Prime Minister, died in office in 1940 and is buried at Bastion Point. A memorial obelisk and reflecting pool was opened in 1943 and the reserve is a popular spot to view to harbour, go kite flying and take wedding photos. You can make a day of it by visiting Kelly Tarlton's Sea Life Aquarium (15 minutes' drive from the CBD and 500m from Bastion Point) then have lunch and a swim at Mission Bay.
Where: 9 Hapimana Street, Orakei. There's also a steep walkway from the western end of Mission Bay. When: Car park opens 6.30am-8.30pm. Pedestrian access is 24 hours. By bus: Catch any bus from Tyler St, CBD, heading to Tamaki Drive, and get off opposite Hapimana St, 200m from the memorial.
Savage Memorial, Orakei: great place for wedding pics
Head to Auckland's North Shore for spectacular views of the city, Waitemata Harbour, Rangitoto and inner Hauraki Gulf. You can walk up Mt Victoria (Takuranga) behind Devonport's high street in 10-20 minutes or drive up to the top. The grassy summit is dotted with cute painted mushrooms (actually vents for a water pumping station under the mountain) and there's plenty of room for picnics and sunbathing. There are also old artillery concrete bunkers around the mountain, one of them is now the home of the Devonport Folk Music Club.
North Head (Maungauika) was a military base from 1885 to the 1950s, but never involved in war. You can now wander around the gun batteries, searchlights, numerous tunnels and bunkers – bring a torch too. The Department of Conservation upkeeps the North Head Historic Walk, a self-guided loop around the mountain. Start at the old stone kitchen near the summit, which shows a short film history daily from 8.30am-4pm. If you're driving over the Harbour Bridge it can take 30 minutes or more to get to Devonport along the heinously busy Lake Rd but be patient, the views are worth it.
Mt Victoria Where: Kerr St, off Victoria Rd, Devonport When: Open daily from 7am-8.30pm in summer and 7am-7pm in winter, Pedestrian access is 24 hours. By ferry: Catch the Devonport ferry from the Auckland Ferry Terminal; Mt Victoria is 1.3km from Devonport Wharf
North Head Where: Takarunga Rd, Devonport, also pedestrian access from Cheltenham Beach When: Open daily 6am-10pm; vehicle gates 6am-6pm By ferry: Catch the Devonport ferry from the Auckland Ferry Terminal; North Head is 2.3km from Devonport Wharf.
This quiet reserve not far from the Harbour Bridge has a large playground, exercise stations, toilets, barbecues and picnic tables and great views of the bridge. There's safe swimming at high tide and at low tide you can explore the mudflats. Nearby Le Roys Bush Reserve offers a bush/wetlands walk from the beach up to Birkenhead village (Highbury).
Where: Council Terrace, Birkenhead By bus: Catch the 922 from Wellesley St W outside the Civic Theatre to the first stop in Sylvan Ave, 1.4km from the bay or catch any Birkenhead bus from Fanshawe St by Victoria Park to 58 Onewa Rd, 850m from the bay.
View of Auckland Harbour Bridge from Little Shoal Bay, Birkenhead