Waitemata Harbor, popularly called the Auckland Harbor, provides the main sea access to the city. Along the downtown area of Auckland, it will remind you how close the city is to the sea. The 1020 meters long 8-lane Auckland Harbor Bridge with 7 spans connects the wharf with the Westhaven Marina. The smaller Bayswater Marina is on the other side of the bridge. The Manukau Harbor on the southern side has shallower waters. The harbor connects the Hauraki Gulf to the main Auckland port.
There is a lot to see and do in and around the harbor area. For instance, you can visit the many islands close to the harbor on a day trip. There is also a harbor sightseeing cruise for some of the highlights, lunch and dinner cruises, sailing trips, and even dolphin and whale watching cruises. You will get amazing city views from the water. There is also the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park, which also offers good Auckland city views. You are sure to love its open nature.
Waitemata Harbor enjoys unique protection against the fierce Pacific winds from the sheltering Hauraki Gulf and Rangitoto Island. The harbor has been functioning long before the European settlers came to Auckland. In fact, the land has been reclaimed since the city was founded. As of now, the edges of the harbor are marked by tidal mudflats, salt marshes, and mangroves.
Waitemata Harbor – Quick Facts
|Waitemata Harbor||Popularly referred to as Auckland Harbor, this provides the city its main access to the sea.|
|Area||180 square kilometers or 70 square miles|
|Landmarks||Auckland Harbor Bridge, Devonport, Bean Rock Lighthouse, Rangitoto Island, Mission Bay, Waitemata Golf Club, Cheltenham Beach, Chelsea Heritage Park|
In Maori language, Waitemata means ‘sparkling waters’ because the water shines like volcanic glass. The harbor had an earlier Maori name – ‘Te Whanga-nui o Toi’, after the Maori explorer Toi.
There is a boat rock in the middle of the harbor, just off Kauri Point. The name Waitemata also refers to ‘Te Mata’, or this rock.
- Sailing trips
- Lunch and dinner cruises
- Dolphin, Whale watching cruises
- Island visits
- Harbor Bridge bungee jumping
- Harbor Bridge climb
There are many cruise operators offering luxury cruises. For a short trip, you can do the 1.5-hour cruise to see the iconic sights with expert commentary from local guides. For a romantic experience, you can also do a dinner cruise with drinks. There are also lunch tours and sunset cruises. For a longer and more extensive experience, you can visit the islands just off the city. This will be a day trip with lunch.
You will have fantastic views of the city from all the cruises. Read our detailed travel guide for Auckland here.
Top Sights At The Waitemata Harbor
Auckland Harbor Bridge: Iconic bridge that links Auckland city to the North Shore area. It is the longest bridge on the North Island of New Zealand. You can climb it or even do bungee jumping. Cruises sail beneath it.
Bean Rock Lighthouse: Built-in 1871 this heritage lighthouse has a keeper’s quarters at the bottom. The lighthouse has now become automated and does not need any human intervention.
Rangitoto Island: As you sail through Waitemata Harbor, you can see the popular Rangitoto Island. It was formed as a result of the last set of volcanic eruptions in the Auckland region.
North Head: This is an artillery battery from 1885. Located at the mouth of the harbor. There are still tunnels and gun emplacements you can explore.
Chelsea Sugar Refinery: A sugar mill and historical landmark from 1884. Set in beautiful park grounds.
Devonport Naval Base: This was the Naval Base when Auckland was New Zealand’s capital. It is still a significant base for the Navy of New Zealand.
Westhaven Marina and Viaduct: This is the biggest marina in the southern hemisphere with a capacity to berth 1800 boats. The Viaduct is a happening area where the super-yachts come to dock.
Auckland Harbor Bridge
An iconic bridge at the harbor. Sail below it on a cruise. You can do more –
Bridge Climb – Climb the bridge from its base and reach the summit with a guide. Pass the gently curved arches. This is an easy climb, but for additional safety, you can also be clipped on to a safety rail. In the climb, you will get a panoramic view of the city and the entire harbor area. Sight popular landmarks. You will get a personalized certificate after the climb. The Auckland Bridge Climb usually takes around 2.5 hours.
Bungee Jumping – This is the only ocean-touching bungee jumping in the country. You will jump 40 meters from the bridge. You can even take a dip into the water if you like. Sometimes there are whales – so watch out. But before that, you will be given safety instructions and have all the necessary safety gear. You must then walk 600 meters into the bridge.
The harbor is a must-visit in the city. It will certainly make it to the list of the top 10 places to visit in Auckland.