If you're just visiting Auckland as a stopover, there's no need to hire a car. If you intend doing some exploring, however, wheels are almost a must. Try Beach Road for hire car firms, including Avis, Budget, Hertz and Thrifty. Other North Island destinations include Whangarei in Northland (2.5 hours), Rotorua (3.5 hours) and Wellington (9.5 hours).
Plenty of the world's big airlines, including the well-respected Air New Zealand (www.airnewzealand.com), fly in and out of Auckland, often to or from Australia or the States. Domestically, Air New Zealand flies to most other NZ cities from Auckland. The airport is 21km south of the city: catch a taxi into town for about NZ$70 or catch the AirBus (www.airbus.co.nz) for NZ$15 single or NZ$22 return, which departs every 15 minutes for the 45-minute ride.
Only one train operates out of Auckland, from Britomart station, on Quay St, the largest diesel train station in the world. The Overlander runs daily to Wellington via Hamilton and Palmerston North (www.tranzscenic.co.nz).
Country code for New Zealand: 64. Auckland: 09 (drop the zero if you're dialling from overseas)
Witi Ihimaera, considered one of NZ's greatest living writers, reimagines the country's colonial history through Maori eyes in The Matriarch. Hibiscus Coast by Paula Morris is a fast-paced, fictional view of world of art forgery in Auckland and Shanghai.
Do go / Don't Go
The warmer months (November to April) are perfect for enjoying life outdoors, though you should avoid the weeks after Christmas when NZ kids are on school holiday. June to August is the winter high season for ski bunnies on the South Island, so factor in a few days in Auckland to get an urban fix.
Auckland is fiercely proud of its food and wine, and with reason. Best described as Pacific Rim fusion, the style of cuisine brings together elements from South-East Asia and the surrounding Pacific nations with Mediterranean and European traditions. What that means is that you can eat virtually any style of food you can dream of. Plus, the produce is first rate, much of it produced locally and using environmentally sustainable methods.
Hail one or head to a rank. If you're travelling from your hotel or a restaurant, ask the concierge or maitre d' to call one for you (particularly if it's cold!). They're not the cheapest way to get around the city but definitely one of the easiest. Auckland Co-Op Taxis (+64 9-300 3000; www.cooptaxi.co.nz) is a good bet.
It's by no means obligatory (although some places do add a service charge) and employees in the hospitality industry don't rely on them as a source of income. Of course, if you experience excellent service a tip of five to 10 per cent is appreciated.
New Zealand dollars (NZ$)
Kiwis will tell you Neil Finn wrote the Crowded House hit Four Seasons in One Dayabout Auckland (actually, it's about Melbourne) and that should give you a hint. Take something warm, something for a hot day, something for a glam night out, something for a day on a yacht.
With all the Pakeha (white folks) around, it can be easy to forget that Auckland has a Maori history dating back 800 years. The Auckland Museum (www.aucklandmuseum.com) has an excellent display of artefacts and cultural performances each day. If time is on your side, join independent tour company Potiki Adventures (www.potikiadventures.com) for the insightful and memorable trip through contemporary Maori life.
Auckland's iconic Sky Tower is the southern hemisphere's tallest structure at 328m. Enjoy the scary but unmissable views down through the glass floor panels at the observation deck - it's NZ$28 to visit the top (www.skycityauckland.co.nz).
Fashion is coming to the fore in Auckland, where edgy locals are taking on the big international names. Ponsonby Road plays host to labels you may know - Zambesi (No 169, +64 (0)9 360 7391; www.zambesi.co.nz) and World (No 97, +64 (0)9 378 0897; www.worldbrand.co.nz) - as well as some you may not. Storm (No 161, +64 (0)9 360 1040; stormnz.com), Carlson (No 122, +64 (0)9 361 2137; tanyacarlson.com) and Marvel Menswear (No 143, +64 (0)9 376 4204; www.marvelmenswear.co.nz) are all worth tapping. For cool Kiwiana, try The Garden Party (No 71, +64 (0)9 378 7799; www.thegardenparty.co.nz). Running off Ponsonby, is the famous K Road (short for Karangahape). It's the perfect destination for lovers of vintage fashion, and big kids at heart should check out the comic book store, Heroes For Sale (No 277, +64 (0)9 307 0682; www.heroes4sale.co.nz). The suburb of Newmarket is home to Karen Walker (6 Balm Street, +64 (0)9 522 4286; www.karenwalker.com) and Kate Sylvester (1 Teed Street, +64 (0)9 524 8872; katesylvester.com), two major NZ fashion talents, as well as other local, Australian and European labels and cool boutiques.
Sleep in, then head to Takapuna Beach Café (www.takapunabeachcafe.co.nz) on the North Shore for the all-day breakfast. The banana hotcakes with bayberry compote, mascarpone and anise syrup or the roasted portobello mushrooms with thyme and grana padano cream on sourdough are enough to tempt anyone from their bed, but add the views of Rangitoto Island and the harbour and it's the perfect morning option.
For a taste of local life, head to Otara Market. The world's biggest Polynesian market, held every Saturday morning, is hidden in the city's southern suburbs. Exotic fresh fruit and veg, woven baskets, tapa cloth, paua shell jewellery and cheap eats (go for the pineapple and coconut buns) abound, but the crowd - from men in traditional dress to the beat-boxing Maori teens -- is as interesting as anything you could buy.
March Pasifika Festival (www.aucklandcity.govt.nz/whatson/events/pasifika/default.asp), celebrating the diverse cultures of the region, is the biggest free community event in the South Pacific, with music and performances that range from traditional to contemporary held in Auckland's Western Springs Park. March (on odd years) Auckland Festival (www.aucklandfestival.co.nz), the country's biggest arts festival, showcasing theatre, dance, music and visual arts from around the world, takes over the city. May The NZ International Comedy Festival (www.comedyfestival.co.nz) runs for three weeks, when comedians from all over the world infiltrate the city's theatres, clubs and pubs. July The increasingly popular New Zealand International Film Festival (www.nzff.co.nz) features local productions as well as retrospectives, world cinema and animation. September Air New Zealand Fashion Week (www.nzfashionweek.com) may be largely an industry event showcasing New Zealand's top designers, but the rest of us can enjoy sales, shows and seminars on the weekend. September During the two weeks of Heritage Week (www.aucklandcity.govt.nz/whatson/events/heritage/default.asp) unique aspects of the city's history are explored, with a series of popular events including high teas, open days at maraes (Maori meeting places), heritage pub tours and concerts.