Auckland is New Zealand's largest city and, as the site of the major international airport, most visitors' first view of the country. Planes bank over the island-studded Hauraki Gulf and brightly spinnakered yachts tack through the glistening waters towards the "City of Sails", but don't be fooled. Auckland looks best from air or sea, its skyscrapered downtown dominated by a Skytower that attracts the eye. Truth is the downtown area is relatively small, surrounded by the grassy humps of some fifty-odd extinct volcanoes that ring the Waitemata Harbour, and low-rise suburban sprawl that extends as far as the eye can see. Beyond the central business district little rises above two storeys and prim wooden villas surrounded by substantial gardens set the tone.
If Auckland stakes a claim to fame, it is as the world's largest Polynesian city. Around twelve percent of the population claim Maori descent while thirteen percent are families of migrants who arrived from Tonga, Samoa, the Cook Islands and other South Pacific islands during the 1960s and 1970s.