Auckland, on the north island of New Zealand, is a spectacular checklist of a city.
Its nearby natural bounty and pristine environment mean an impressive #24 spot on the planet in our multilayered Place category—a combination of Crime Rate, Neighborhoods & Landmarks, and Parks & Outdoor Activities. What’s particularly astonishing is Auckland’s #68 overall finish. Clearly, natural bounty rules here as far as visitor and resident perception is concerned.
Given these attributes, it’s no wonder this remote metropolis is coveted globally as a new home town.
But the inflow is more rich than refugee—from PayPal cofounder and Trump donor Peter Thiel to Chinese and Australian billionaires, the world’s wealthy have been buying up property all over the region, driving up home prices and, in the process, creating home ownership rates and affordability challenges for residents. These nouveau New Zealand investors view the country’s isolation as sanctuary from potential nuclear conflict, terrorism and general zombie apocalypse. The ninth-best air quality on the planet (according to our data) certainly helps, too.
Foreign investment got so bad, the country’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, declared an outright ban on the sale of existing homes to foreigners.
Fortunately, the original inhabitants are not going anywhere, given that Auckland is home to the largest Polynesian population of any city in the world. The Māori language name for Auckland is the wonderful Tāmaki or Tāmaki-makau-rau, meaning “Tāmaki with a hundred lovers”—a reference to the desirability of the fertile land at the hub of waterways in all directions. Auckland Museum houses than 1,000 taonga (“treasures”—anything from a thoughtful poem to mother of pearl)—the largest collection of its kind in the world.
But Auckland is also its neighborhoods. Parnell is for food lovers, markets and ‘made in NZ’ design. Downtown’s Ponsonby has a New York West Village vibe and good restaurants, including the international phenom Little Bird Organics.
The city’s Parks & Outdoor Activities rank #7 globally, with almost too many to count despite the city’s diminutive size. Roam the paths leading to one of the 48 dormant volcanic cones, many of which offer spectacular views, or cross the island on foot (just a five-hour hike)—just to be able to brag that you swam on one coast and surfed on the other, all on the same day.
Closer to town, beaches like Matakana attract visitors and locals. And the wineries! Chardonnays, pinots and classic reds are produced everywhere.
In Auckland, we’re okay declaring that sipping the local bounty while overlooking the twinkling harbor in one of the world’s most livable cities counts as an outdoor activity any day.