Auckland is one of the world’s most alluring cities, built on a narrow isthmus between Manuka and Waitemata Harbours and sprinkled with over 50 volcanoes. The city is surrounded by stunning views and streets are lined with a variety of restaurants and cafes, museums and shops, boutiques and cinemas, as well as bars. Without a doubt, there are plenty of entertaining things to do in Auckland, and any New Zealand itinerary should include at a minimum, a quick trip through Auckland.
One Day in Auckland
Despite being one of New Zealand’s most recognizable cities and the largest city on the North Island, you can see and do a lot with one day in Auckland. Put on a comfy pair of shoes, this itinerary includes a lot of walking and packs a lot into one day.
The first two stops for your Auckland itinerary are two famous parks in Auckland that are apart of the Coast to Coast Walkway that stretches 16km across Auckland. The full walk features incredible views of the city, the harbours, islands, volcanoes, and the local flora and fauna.
The walk is broken into three parts, the first being the city to Auckland Domain, which typically takes about an hour from Viaduct Basin and is the part featured in this itinerary.
The first stop is Albert Park, an important park in Auckland for its history as it used to be a Maori village and it’s also a volcanic field. A notable place to stop in Albert Park is at the Victorian fountain and at the Queen Victoria Statue.
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Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki
At the edge of Albert Park you’ll find the Auckland Art Gallery which houses over 15,000 art pieces, making it the largest art institution in New Zealand. It features a mix of local, Maori, and international art. If you’re an art lover, consider booking a tour of the museum to learn the details and inspiration behind some of the pieces.
Continue walking the Coast to Coast Walkway until you reach the Auckland Domain, Auckland’s largest and oldest park. Head to the duck pond to see, well, ducks. They populate what was Auckland’s first water supply. The main stop in the Auckland Domain is the Wintergardens, 2 Victorian-style glasshouses that house gorgeous and rare plants that you can view.
If you love history, make a stop at the Auckland War Memorial Museum which is in the middle of the park. You can take guided tours or walk around on your own learning about the Maori people and culture. The ground level explores the indigenous people and origins of New Zealand, the first level explores the evolution of New Zealand’s landscape and animal history and level 2 is dedicated to the countries military history as well as a War Memorial for anyone who has served in the military.
Grab lunch or something light at the Wintergardens cafe or have a bite to eat in the Graton area to power up for the afternoon.
The second part of the Coast to Coast Walkway takes you from Grafton (where the Auckland Domain is) to Maungakiekie and takes about 90 minutes to walk. You’ll walk to the summit of Mount Eden, the highest natural point in Auckland where you will be rewarded with endless views of the surrounding areas.
If you prefer not to walk up (there is a 196m elevation change which is quite doable!), you can always grab an Uber or the bus which will take you up most of the way.
Opt to walk back down or catch a ride to the Sky Tower where you can get even more views of Auckland or if your timing is right, you can catch a great view of the sunset. If you’re adventurous, you may want to skip Mount Eden so that you have time to do the SkyWalk instead.
Head over to the waterfront at Viaduct Basin where there is an abundance of restaurants and bars. This area comes alive at night so you can grab food and drinks and opt to party the night away by the water.
Two Days in Auckland
Ideally, you’ll be able to spend more than a day in Auckland so you can experience more of what this gem of a city has to offer.
If you only have 2 days in Auckland it’s recommended that you go on a day trip on your second day. Waiheke Island, Hobbiton, Whangamata, and Piha Beach are recommended as the top choices (with more details below). Though if you’re headed to Rotorua, a stop at Hobbiton is easy as a half-day trip.
If you have 3 days in Auckland, follow this itinerary below and then do a day trip on your third day!
A favourite activity for locals and tourists alike, Rangitoto is an easy visit as it’s just a quick ferry ride from Auckland’s CBD. Rangitoto Island is a 600-year-old volcano that emerged from the sea, making it both the youngest and largest volcano in the Auckland region.
This popular day trip is ideal for hikers and nature lovers as you have the option of hiking or taking a 4WD vehicle up to the top of the summit track. It’s about an hour’s walk each way and you can stop at the black lava caves to explore. The views from the top are, of course, spectacular as you can see as far as the Waitakere Ranges.
Be sure to have snacks and water though as there are no stores on the island! You also have the option of kayaking to the island or even doing a night kayak for the sunset.
Sailing around the Harbour
Auckland is lovingly called, “The City of Sails” because 1 in 3 Aucklanders own a boat. Adding a relaxing cruise to your Auckland itinerary gives you a whole different perspective of the city. Your captain will take you past Sky Tower, Auckland Harbour Bridge, and the rest of the city skyline while you sip on beverages and snack on light refreshments. You can sit back and relax the whole time or you can help the crew out while they teach you to sail. There are options for both morning or afternoon boat trips.
If you want to get some shopping done while in Auckland, spend a couple of hours on Queen Street (if time allows), Auckland’s most prestigious shopping street. While you’ll find high-end brands here such as Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Prada, and more, you’ll also find a diverse range of shops so you won’t just be window shopping.
Auckland’s Night Markets
For the evening be sure to check out one of Auckland’s night markets. There’s a different night market every night, so make sure to check the website to see where to head out to.
Auckland Day Trip Options
There are many awesome day trips from Auckland but these are a few of the top choices to consider if you’re limited on time in Auckland.
Waiheke Island is one of the most popular day trips from Auckland City and is almost always included in everyone’s Auckland itinerary. Waiheke Island is best known for its vineyards and wineries laid out against the gorgeous backdrop of rolling hills and the surrounding sea. Small-group tours are available that will take you to some of the best wineries for samples of wine paired with fresh, tasty food. You’ll take the ferry to and from the island and have a knowledgeable tour guide with you. You can also visit the island on your own and do your own DIY tour of the wineries and beaches.
Most people who visit New Zealand are fans of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy and can’t leave the country without making a trip to Hobbiton. The Hobbiton Movie set will take you down Hobbit Holes, The Mill, and the Green Dragon Inn. Movie magic comes to life on this day trip from Auckland.
About 2 hours south of Auckland is a cute little beach town called Whangamata. Despite its small size, there are hundreds of things to do here. There are two different waterfalls you can hike to called Wentworth Falls and the Wahrekirauponga Track Falls, you can learn to surf or you can kayak or stand up paddleboard to Donut Island, relax on the beach, play mini-golf, go shopping, or go snorkeling.
Opoutere Beach or Onemana Beach are top choices, but Pokohino Beach is a secret beach that you can ask any local about. There are some really good cafes and restaurants with mouth-watering coffees and food too. While this town is easily accessible when you have your own car it’s a bit difficult to get to with public transport.
Piha Beach is dramatically gorgeous. This black sand beach is protected by high rugged cliffs and is popular with the locals and surfers. In the warmer months, there is a lifeguard on duty and you can easily take surf lessons and swim in front of the guards. You can also climb up Lion Rock and look out at the endless expanse of the Tasman Sea and towards the north end of the beach, you can hike the Marawhara White Rose Laid Thompson Track. This track takes about two hours and leads to white-sand beaches and more stunning views of the wild west coast of New Zealand.
There are loads of other things to do in and around Piha Beach too. You can go abseiling through Piha Canyon down gushing waterfalls flowing to the nearby ocean. There are also caves and gorges as you make your way back through the canyon. You can take a hike to KiteKite Falls, where cascading falls are 40m high and consist of several tiers. There endless things to do on this day trip from Auckland.
Where to Stay in Auckland
If you have just a short time like 24 hours in Auckland or a weekend in Auckland, staying in the CBD (Central Business District) is your best bet. This leaves you close to everything that you need, including public transport, shopping centres, food markets, and restaurants, plus all that is listed in this Auckland itinerary.
These are the best places to stay in Auckland within the CBD for all budgets.
Luxury: Hotel DeBrett
The Hotel Debrett will leave you feeling pampered and pleased. Close to the Sky Tower and other top Auckland attractions, Hotel Debrett treats you to modern luxuries and a fabulous location.
Mid-Range: The Quadrant Hotel and Suites
These suites give you an excellent view of either the harbour or the city and are conveniently located close to all the best cafes, restaurants, and bars that Auckland has to offer.
Budget: Base Auckland
One of the best hostels in Auckland, Base Backpackers provides a friendly atmosphere with plenty of tips for where to travel to next.
Continue planning your trip to New Zealand!
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- Best Places to Stay in Wellington
- New Zealand Travel Tips & Guides
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