For most travelers, flight delays and layovers are annoying, but the extra time doesn’t mean you have to confine yourself to the airport’s duty-free shops. It may only be three hours, but consider this your vacation bonus to see Auckland, New Zealand.
First Hour: Getting to and from the airport is quick and easy by taking an airport bus or taxi. Once you’re in downtown Auckland, the major landmarks are all within a 10- to 15-minute walking distance. After a 30-minute drive into Auckland from the airport, get a bird’s-eye view of the city from the 1,076-foot (328 meters) high Sky Tower, the largest man-made structure in New Zealand. Adventurous travelers with extra time can walk the perimeter of the tower or even base jump off the building, though locals concede most adventurous visitors take the bungee plunge off the Harbour Bridge.
Second Hour: After taking in the views of New Zealand’s largest city, try the freshly shucked oysters at Depot, one of the hottest tables in Auckland. Celebrity chef Al Brown, the Wellington chef who just released the book Get Fresh based on his television show, opened Depot in August 2011 next to the Sky Tower. No reservations are taken, but tables turn over quickly. The emphasis here is on small plates and fresh New Zealand cuisine like the aforementioned oysters and the tender lamb ribs. After lunch, take a short walk and stroll through Britomart, a cluster of restaurants, bars, and shops located inside restored heritage buildings. A work-in-progress — nine of the planned 18 historic buildings have been restored and opened — the area is the largest restoration project in New Zealand.
Third Hour: Just to the west of Britomart is Viaduct Harbour, a marina with ferries to wineries and quaint bed-and-breakfasts on Waiheke Island and more than 30 bars and restaurants on the waterfront. If you’re still hungry after Depot or want a memorable dessert or a refreshing cocktail, like a kiwi margarita, stop at Kermadec. Finish your three-hour tour by heading west toward Auckland Fish Market and peruse the stalls that sell a range of seafood like snapper and green lip mussels. If you have more than three hours in Auckland, consider embarking on Big Picture Wine’s wine experience, a virtual tour of Auckland’s wineries held in the courtyard of the fish market. The tour begins in the interactive aroma room, where the wine-making process and aromas are explained. The tour continues with a 30-minute film about either red or white wine followed by a tasting flight of six red or white wines.
Lauren Mack is the Special Projects Editor at The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @lmack.