The Auckland region lies between two coastlines, and beaches are within easy reach. To the west, the Tasman Sea pounds rugged beaches such as Piha. To the east is the Pacific Ocean coastline, with sheltered, sandy bays. Here too is the Hauraki Gulf, dotted with islands including Waiheke and Rangitoto.
Auckland city is on a narrow strip between two harbours: the Waitematā and the wide, shallow Manukau. Further north is the Kaipara Harbour, a habitat for wading birds.
Volcanic cones mark the skyline, and the Waitākere Ranges rise steeply in the west. The major river is the Waikato in the south.
Among the Māori names for the Auckland isthmus is Tāmaki-makau-rau (Tāmaki of a hundred lovers). Ngāti Whātua, Ngāti Pāoa and other tribes settled there, growing kūmara (sweet potatoes) in the fertile soil. European traders and missionaries arrived in the 1820s. In 1840 Lieutenant-Governor William Hobson set up the town of Auckland at Tāmaki. It was the country’s capital until 1865.
Pākehā hunger for Māori land led to war in the 1860s, and tribal claims for compensation for loss of land continue today.
From the 1870s the region began to grow, exporting gold, kauri timber and kauri gum.
During the 20th century Auckland city grew faster than other centres, and became New Zealand’s main city. New motorways encouraged urban sprawl and a reliance on private cars. Traffic congestion is a chronic problem.
Auckland is home to one-third of New Zealanders – 1,415,550 residents in 2013. Most immigrants choose to settle in this multicultural region. Asians, Pacific Islanders and Māori form 48% of the population.
Whether born in New Zealand, Britain, Korea, Somalia or Samoa, Aucklanders express their diverse culture and heritage through music, art, festivals, churches, markets, theatre and other activities. The city has important museums, orchestras and art galleries, and is the centre of the film, music and publishing industries. Well-known artists have included hip-hop musician Che Fu, dance group Black Grace, and the late painter Colin McCahon.
Sport and leisure
Yachting on the harbour is a favourite pastime – Auckland is known as the City of Sails. There are 100 beaches within an hour’s drive of the central city, for swimming, fishing, or having a barbecue. Top-level rugby and cricket matches are played at Eden Park, and tennis is a popular summer sport.