Photo: Skyline of Auckland, New Zealand, from Westhaven Marina
With about 31 per cent of New Zealand's population the Auckland metropolitan area is the largest in the country. Auckland also is the home to the largest Polynesian population of any city in the world. In recent times, many people of Asian ethnicity have settled in the city.
New Zealand is situated about 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles) southeast of Australia across the Tasman Sea. Its closest neighbors are New Caledonia, Fiji and Tonga. The majority of New Zealand's population is of European descent, while the indigenous Maori are the largest minority.
The 2009 Mercer Quality of Living Survey ranked Auckland at # 4 spot in the world on its list, while World's Most Livable Cities index of 2010 published by The Economist ranked Auckland in 10th place. In 2008, Auckland was classified as an Alpha-City in the World Cities Study Group’s inventory by Loughborough University.
The City of Sails, as Auckland is popularly called, has its harbour dotted with hundreds of yachts. With around 135,000 yachts and launches, it has more yachts per capita than any other city in the world. About one in three Auckland households owns a boat.
Viaduct Basin hosted two America's Cup challenges (2000 and 2003), and its restaurants, cafes and clubs add to Auckland's vibrant nightlife. With the sheltered Waitemata Harbour at its doorstep, Auckland hosts many nautical events. There is a very large number of sailing clubs in Auckland, as well as Westhaven Marina, the largest in the Southern Hemisphere.
The up-market shopping areas Newmarket and Parnell, and Otara's and Avondale's flea markets offer a colorful kaleidoscope of shopping experience to international tourists and local visitors. The Auckland Art Gallery is the repository of many national treasures while many other historical and cultural artifacts are displayed in popular museums such as the Auckland War Memorial Museum or the Museum of Transport and Technology. Exotic animals and other creatures can be seen at the Auckland Zoo and Kelly Tarlton's Underwater World. The Waitemata Harbour has some of the best swimming beaches at Mission Bay, Devonport, Takapuna, and the west coast has famous surf spots such as Piha and Muriwai.