The Most Important Things to Do in Auckland, New Zealand
Auckland is the largest and the most diverse city in New Zealand. Having more beaches than any other coastal cities in the country, Auckland lives up to its nickname – “The City of Sails”. Auckland has endless things on offer – from volcanos, islands and diverse Beaches to wildlife, wineries, adrenalin activities and hiking trails. Moreover, Auckland is most famous for its picture-perfect landscapes and it is the best city for yacht lovers.
Auckland is the perfect place from where you can explore the scenic coastlines and hidden coast of the diverse north island. There are a number of things to do in New Zealand, but while you are in Auckland, you cannot miss these 16 most important attractions in and around the city.
Take a ferry to Waiheke Island
Auckland’s Waiheke Island is adored by the locals as well as tourists from around the world. Its renowned viticulture, beautiful white sand beaches and thrilling adventure activities make it one of the major tourist attractions in New Zealand. So, take a Waiheke island ferry from downtown Auckland. It doesn’t take more than 40 minutes in a ferry to reach Waiheke island, which is located at the Hauraki Gulf.
Fringed by hundreds of stunning white-sand beaches, Auckland’s Waiheke Island is a place to enjoy a warm and breezy microclimate. Waiheke is the most important Auckland island as it offers an array of activities to tourists. Take a food and wine tasting tour or a self-guided jet-ski tour, or simply opt for sightseeing and nature walk, Waiheke island will never cease to amaze you.
The island is home to over 30 wineries and olive groves. If you love vines, the Waiheke Island wine tours and a visit to the award-winning Obsidian and Mudbrick vineyards are something you cannot miss.
There are many other things to do in Auckland’s Waiheke Island. firstly, the Island has a particular bohemian flair to it. Secondly, having many artists and creative minds as the residents of this place, art walks and galleries are very much a part of its appeal.
Waiheke island accommodation is also quite affordable as a number of hotels are available all over the island.
Explore the volcanic landscape of Rangitoto
Auckland’s biggest landmark is Rangitoto Island. The graceful volcanic cone of Rangitoto Island can be seen from all over the city. It is located in the Hauraki Gulf. This 600 years old unique volcanic landscape of this Auckland island is home to several lava caves, shipwrecks and a breathtaking crater rim.
To get to the island, Rangitoto ferries are frequently available from Fullers. Take a Fullers Ferry from Auckland’s waterfront and you will reach Rangitoto island within 25 minutes. To explore closely, you can either take a Rangitoto island walk tour or take a four-wheel-drive road train.
If you are more adventurous, you can book a twilight kayaking trip to Rangitoto with Fergs Kayaks for a trek to the summit.
Discover Viaduct Harbour in the heart of Auckland
The trip to Auckland would remain incomplete without a visit to Viaduct Harbour in the heart of the city. Twenty years ago, was a shabby collection of rustic fishing boats and warehouses. Now, Viaduct harbour is home to several touristy bars and restaurants and the marina is filled with yachts and launches. However, the transformation began following New Zealand’s victory in renowned America’s Cup Yacht race in the year 1995.
The new Sofitel Auckland Viaduct Harbour Hotel at 21 Viaduct Harbour Avenue provides a stunning panoramic view of the Waitemata Harbour. Round off your trip to Viaduct Harbour with a visit to the renowned Sabrage Champagne bar, where you can have the exhilarating experience of lopping the top off your Champagne bottle with a sword.
Enjoy the Coast to Coast Walkway from Waitemata harbour to Manukau
Take the 16-kilometres long coast to coast walkway in Auckland. This famous walkway is a link between Waitemata Harbour on the east and Manukau Harbour on the west of Auckland. It is recommended to complete the trail in 2 days. So, on day one, start from Princes Wharf i-SITE and trek along the walkway until you reach the Viaduct island. Then, start the next phase of your journey from Viaduct harbour to Manukau Harbour.
The walkway runs through the sights including Auckland Museum, Auckland Domain, Auckland University’s gorgeous old buildings and Cornwall Park among many other interesting sites to explore. Don’t forget to fuel yourself at the restaurants of the lovely Cornwall Park in between. There are also several Viaduct restaurants for dining and you can also book a night stay at the Sofitel Auckland hotel which is one of the biggest hotels in Viaduct Harbour.
Unleash your adrenalin rush in SkyCity Auckland
The tallest manmade structure in the Southern Hemisphere, Auckland Sky Tower is the best place to take 360-degree views of the great harbour city. The 328 metres high structure has many restaurants, bars and gift shops. However, it is most famous for Orbit, the rotating restaurants and the Skycity Casino.
You can be more adventurous and push your limits by walking the outside of the viewing platform. However, the real thrill is to jump off from the 192 meters above Auckland’s CBD. However, you can also stand on the ground and watch the adrenaline junkies leap from the SkyJump or watch people inching their way around the observation decks on the SkyWalk. If you want to stay in Sky tower Auckland, there are a number of sky city hotels to stay in.
Take a stroll around Ponsonby Road
One of the best parts of your Auckland trip would be to explore the major attractions of the city just outside the Central business district. One such must-see touristy area is Ponsonby. So, the trendy shops and restaurants on Ponsonby road should be an important part of your city tour. Ponsonby is one of the hippest locations in Auckland.
A hub of shopping, dining, drinking and gallery-hopping, Ponsonby is packed with boutique fashion stores, chic cafés, restaurants and bars. Treat yourself with retail therapy and have a quick look at designer clothes, cool collectables, vintage and retro trinkets and handmade jewellery at the Ponsonby Road Market. You can also try local cuisine in Ponsonby restaurants. Ponsonby is just 10 minutes away from Auckland city centre.
Enjoy a day at Silo Park
Silo Park is rocking and buzzing with crowds all year round. With markets, food trucks, and street performers, it is undoubtedly one of the best free places to visit in Auckland. The industrial design and waterfront view are in sharp contrast with vines of greenery. The park is surrounded by cafes and eateries and a number of events take place during summer making it a favourite place among tourists and locals alike.
Pose in the golden frame at Arataki Visitors Centre
Do you want to experience something different? Head west to the Arataki Visitor’s Centre. It is the gateway to the Waitakere Ranges, a lush stretch of mountains massively lying between Auckland and New Zealand’s west coast.
As you go up, the beautiful view of Auckland’ Waitakere Ranges will mesmerize you. Don’t forget to pose for a photo in the golden frame at the Arataki visitor’s centre.
Discover the beauty of Awhitu Peninsula on the Manukau Heads Lighthouse
Take a drive along the stunning Awhitu Peninsula and climb the 120 stairs of the historic Manukau Heads Lighthouse, located in the Franklin district. There are only a few lighthouses that are open to public and Manukau heads is one of them. The views from the lighthouse, protruding from the peninsula, is amazing.
Take time to enjoy the tranquil bays and the rolling pastures of Awhitu regional park or relax in the white-sand beach. If you’re lucky enough, you can spot the Maui Dolphin, one of the rarest mammals in the world.
Enjoy the stunning beaches of Auckland
With its 64 official beaches, Auckland truly lives up to its nickname “the city of sails”. Beach lovers find Auckland quite unique as it straddles two coasts with different types of beaches. On the east coast, Auckland has calm white-sand beaches on the Pacific Ocean, while on the West coast, there are wild black-sand beaches on the Tasman Sea.
Tourists love the west coast beaches to explore the pounding waves on the black-sand beaches with impressive cliffs, high rugged dunes and brooding skies. Do not miss Piha beach which is the most famous beach for surfing and Karekare where the movie “The Piano” was filmed.
The other important Auckland beaches include Kariotathi beach in the Southeast region, Orewa beach, Maraetai beach etc. However, it is recommended to avoid the Cornwallis beach as it is considered to be one of the most polluted beaches by Auckland Council’s water quality monitoring system Safeswim.
Take pictures in the fantastic world of Hobbiton
Whether you are a lord of the rings fan or not, the Hobbiton film set is a must go. The film set is two and a half hours drive south of Auckland. It’s a movie set of the fantasy world where there are a restaurant and a function centre named “the Green Dragon” and 44 hobbit holes and grass-covered mini houses.
Located in the beautiful North Island town of Matamata, this picturesque movie set lets you wander around the charming world of the Lord of the Rings. Have a quick peek inside the home of Bilbo Baggins and Frodo, visit the famous Shire or you can even lie down beneath the “Party Tree”. At the end of your Middle-earth adventure, try hand-feeding some adorable lambs and pay a visit to the Shire Store to take home some exclusive Hobbiton merchandise.
Acquaint your kids with the wildlife at Auckland Zoo
The largest number of exotic animals can be found in the Auckland zoo of New Zealand. Auckland zoo spreads across 17 hectares of lush Parkland and just a few minutes from central Auckland.
In the zoo, there are plenty of things to see like animal encounters, events, behind-the-scenes experiences and so on. A visit to the Auckland zoo is a must because every visit to the zoo helps build a better future for the wildlife as the money from the ticket sales is contributed to the work done towards providing a safe haven for the animals.
Explore history and culture in Auckland Museums
A trip to Auckland remains incomplete without watching a haka Performance. The ancient tongue-poking and skin-slapping Haka dance, which was traditionally used to prepare a war party for battle, can be enjoyed at the Auckland Museum. The museum provides a glimpse into the life of Maori people if you are interested in anthropological explorations.
The Maori dance performance is followed by a tour of the Maori gallery with the world’s largest collection of Taonga (ancestral treasures of Maori people). This museum also has a Volcano Gallery, where you can witness what could happen if Rangitoto ever erupted in the “volcano eruption room”.
If you are someone who loves museums, you should also visit Auckland War memorial museum for a glimpse into the New Zealand’s community, natural and military histories.
Find your best Instagram moment in Auckland Domain Winter Gardens
The trip to the Museum remains incomplete without a visit to the Winter gardens next to it. As the oldest park in the city, Auckland Domain is a treasure of great historic interest. Get lost in the lush and beautiful greenhouses and take a picture with the four gorgeous statues of the Goddesses overlooking the beautiful pond. It is famous for the presence of innumerable picturesque locations inside the Auckland Domain Winter Gardens.
Shop at Sunday markets in Auckland
If shopping is a part of your Auckland tour, stroll along O’Connell Street and High Street. These areas have the largest number of designer stores. There is a French Provincial-style farmers’ market which runs every Saturday and Sunday morning in Parnell.
From seasonal fresh fruit and vegetables, fresh-baked artisan bread and French pastries, cheese from the fromagerie, home-made preserves and confectioneries, freshly brewed coffee – the list of delectable treats goes on. Choose from a variety of French antiques and clothes, and a little Parisian-style cafe, complete with wicker chairs and red gingham tablecloths.
The Weekend market at La Chile is quite popular among tourist and locals alike. It’s a famous French market in Auckland. Britomart market, which is a small market is very dynamic.
If you go further in the north, there is the weekend market in Matakana that attracts visitors from all parts of the city. The renowned Avondale Sunday Markets are undoubtedly a local treat for the locals in the Western part of Auckland.
If you are a night owl and a foodie at the same time, you must visit the ever-evolving Night Markets in Auckland.
Try quirky food in Auckland
Between jumping off tall sky tower to exploring native New Zealand culture, you must taste the amazing foods in Auckland. Here is a list of interesting and quirky foods try in in Auckland:
Aucklanders are crazy about their coffee. To complement the coffee culture of New Zealand, there is Miller’s Coffee – a hidden gem in central Auckland. The best part of Miller’s coffee is that they roast their own coffee in a huge roasting machine. The machine is at the back of the coffee shop.
Auckland restaurants are famous for their tender and juicy meat. Among them, Firehouse is the most famous smokehouse and grill restaurant in Auckland. If you are a meat lover, this is the best place to visit.
The Hangi Shop:
Want to try traditional Maori food in Auckland? The Hangi Shop is the place to go. To reach there, head off to Otahuhu, a suburban area to the southeast of Auckland. The Hangi shop is probably the only place to eat authentic Hangi in the city.
Hokey Pokey is a flavour of ice cream originating in New Zealand. It consists of plain vanilla ice cream with small and solid balls of honeycomb toffee. So, Hokey pokey is a must-try while you are in Auckland. If you really love quirky food, visit Giapo for a delicious and innovative ice cream treat.
A traditional New Zealand biscuit, made of butter, flour, sugar, cornflakes, chocolate icing and a half walnut, Afghan biscuits are another must-try item that you can bring home from Auckland to gift to your friends and loved ones.
The best restaurants in Auckland are quite expensive. However, there are plenty of cheap eats in Auckland that are minimal on the coin but maximum on deliciousness.
New Flavour Restaurant at Balmoral, Mamak at Chancery & Takapuna, big J’s Takeaways at Mt. Wellington, Better Burger at Britomart, Mt. Eden, Sylvia Park and Auckland City. Also, visit the GoGo Music Cafe in Balmoral and Wairau valley. All these are the most famous cheap eats in Auckland.
To Wrap Up!
In Auckland, if you hear people greet you with “Nau mi Tamaki Makaurau”, don’t be confused. It simply means “Welcome to Auckland”!
“Tamaki Makaurau” is Auckland’s Maori name, which means “a land desired by a hundred men”. The city’s history, untouched nature, family-friendly attractions, and easy-going lifestyle, indeed makes Auckland a desired destination for millions of tourists, every year. The best time to visit Auckland is between March and May, and from September to November. During this time, you can find pleasant weather, sunny days and relatively fewer tourists in Auckland.