If you're planning a trip to Auckland, it will be helpful to gain a better geographic understanding of the city before you arrive. It's the largest city in the country, with a population of around 1.5 million and a metropolitan area of 5,600 square kilometres. Throughout this article, we'll take a look at the geography of Auckland, including its harbours and volcanoes, as well as suggesting some of the best ways to enjoy Auckland's geographic sites, such as in a NZ jet boat.
The waters of Auckland
Located at the north of New Zealand's North Island, Auckland was built on a narrow isthmus -- less than 2km wide at its narrowest point -- between Manukau Harbour and the Hauraki Gulf. The city is centred on the Waitemata Harbour, the westernmost point of the Hauraki Gulf, with the iconic Auckland Harbour Bridge forming a man-made boundary between the Harbour and the rest of the Gulf. The bridge connects Auckland City with the North Shore, an area that has seen rapid growth since the bridge was built.
The districts of Auckland
Auckland was once split into seven districts, with the aforementioned Auckland City and North Shore being two of these. The seven districts are as follows:
- Rodney District, the northernmost part of the city, centred on the suburb of Red Beach;
- North Shore, directly north of the Waitemata Harbour;
- Waitakere City, west of the Waitemata Harbour, centred on the suburb of Henderson;
- Auckland City, located at the entrance to Waitemata Harbour and extending south to the narrowest part of the isthmus;
- Manukau City, directly south and then east of Auckland City and often referred to as South Auckland;
- Papakura City, a small district to the south of Manukau;
- and Franklin District, the southernmost part of the city, centred on the suburb of Pukekohe.
In late 2010, however, it was decided that the separation of these governing bodies was holding Auckland back and, as a result, the seven districts were formalised into a single local government now known as Auckland Council.
The volcanoes of Auckland
Aside from its harbours, inlets and gulfs, Auckland's other most defining geographical feature is its location on a large volcanic field, with the city in close proximity to about 50 volcanoes. These volcanoes take various forms, including cones, lagoons, islands, lakes and depressions, with the largest and most iconic, Rangitoto, forming an island just a few kilometres away from the CBD. All of Auckland’s volcanoes are considered extinct, though the volcanic field itself is dormant.
The islands of Auckland
While not officially part of the Auckland metropolitan area, many of the islands in the Hauraki Gulf are administered as part of Auckland City. Waiheke Island, for example, has a population of over 7,500 people, while Great Barrier Island further north has a permanent settlement of almost 1,000. Many of the islands are zoned as recreational open space, while some are major iconic landmarks, including the aforementioned Rangitoto Island, as well as Motutapu Island.
Seeing Auckland from the water
One of the best ways to see Auckland and get a feel for its geography -- in particular the majestic Waitemata Harbour -- is to get out on the water itself. Whether it's through a day cruise, ferry or jet boat, there's plenty to see from this perspective.