Top places to visit in Auckland

Best Auckland Activities: Your guide to New Zealand’s largest city

Auckland is the most populous city in New Zealand which is often mistaken for a capital (The capital of New Zealand is Wellington). 

Known as “The City of Sails,” Auckland is a harbor famous for its scenery, outdoor activities and rich cultural heritage. If you are visiting Auckland for the first time, I suggest taking a bus tour of Auckland to get a grasp of the city’s history and check out some of the main highlights. However, doing all the fun Auckland activities on foot will do just fine.

PRO TIP:  If you are visiting Auckland for the first time, you can also take advantage of numerous city tours around Auckland. Get Your Guide is one of the best websites to book a tour in Auckland. 

auckland activities

Arriving in Auckland

Most visitors arrive to New Zealand via Auckland, home to the largest airport in the country that offers domestic and international flights.

To get to Auckland from the airport, take the Skybus, a 24-hour bus service. You can get your ticket right at the airport from one of the kiosks or from the bus driver. 

You can also check the schedule and buy your ticket online.  

Where to stay in Auckland

The city is spread out and doing popular Auckland activities can involve a lot of walking or commuting from place to place by public transportation. 

If you are short on time, book an accommodation in central part of Auckland, so you can get around on foot instead of having to rely on buses or Uber rides. 

PRO TIP: Auckland was built on a volcanic field, which means exploring the city involves a lot of climbing up and down the hills. Make sure to take a water bottle and wear comfortable walking shoes when you do Auckland activities. 

Best Auckland activities

Devonport Village

To get the best view of Auckland’s skyline, take a 12-minute ferry to Devonport village. This quiet bayside village has everything that a traveller might need: souvenir shops, traditional New Zealand pubs and friendly locals. 

Take a hike to the top of Mount Victoria, one of Devonport’s most famous landmarks and the best vantage point in the Auckland area. 

It’s a short but a relatively steep hike. From the top of the hill you will be able to see the city’s skyline and countless boats dotting the blue waters of the bay. Auckland’s nickname is the City of Sails, and once you get to see the city from the top, you really understand why. 

You probably wouldn’t guess this but Mount Victoria was used as a Maori defense outpost and later developed by European settlers as a military outpost for a possible Russian intervention.

Best places to visit in New Zealand

Ferry Building

I also recommend checking out the impressive Ferry Building after you arrive from Devonport Village. Besides being a beautiful piece of architecture it provides a connection between the city and the outlying suburbs. 

Best places to visit in Auckland

Auckland Sky Tower

Your trip wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Sky Tower, the tallest building in Auckland that stands at 220 meters!  Here you can also unleash your inner daredevil and bungee jump 192 meters down the building.

However, even if you are not feeling the adrenaline rush, you can still have plenty of fun here because Sky Tower boasts superb views of the city and some great dining options. It is located at the corner of Victoria and Federal Streets in downtown Auckland. 

You can buy your tickets to Auckland Sky Tower at the ticket office on the first floor or online

Queen Street

Part of Auckland’s Commercial Business District (Often referred to as CBD), Queen Street is home to stores, restaurants and the Civic Theater. It’s one of the best places to shops and dine in Auckland. Not far from Queen Street you will also find Aotea Square, a big paved public area that is often used for concerts, markets, rallies, and other public events. 

One Tree Hill

Hiking Mount Eden is one of the best free Auckland activities. 

One Tree Hill is a historic location in the middle of a beautiful countryside. An important memorial side for Maori, the indigenous people of New Zealand, One Tree Hill is the largest intact volcanic cone in Auckland. 

It’s a perfect place for an afternoon hike or a picnic thanks to the sprawling views of the city and the surrounding green hills. The entry to One Tree Hills is free. You can reach it by foot or by bus is you get off at 641-643 Manukau Road.  

Cornwall Park

One Tree Hill is located near the well-known Cornwall Park, Auckland’s version of Central Park.

The park is lush with greenery and has some interesting features such as old Maori fort. And although many travelers come here to see the views from One Tree Hill, you should take a walk through the park, if you have enough time.

Parts of the park are populated by sheep and cows, and parts have picnic areas, jogging and hiking trails and several gardens. 

Cornwall Park is about 4 miles away from Mount Eden, so it’s a good idea to combine these two places into one trip. The park is open every day, however hours vary depending on the season. Entry is free. 

Mount Eden

Since Auckland is home to many volcanoes, there’s nothing wrong with visiting a few of them on your trip! 

Mount Eden is the largest dormant volcano in Auckland (which stands at 196 meters) famous for its massive grass-covered crater at the top. The walk to the top only takes about 10-15 minutes from the bus stop depending on your pace. When you do the hike, you should stick to the main road despite the fact that people have made numerous small trails on a side. 

And don’t forget to check out Mount Eden’s village that has many great coffee shops and restaurants. 

Auckland War Memorial Museum

If you want to get a taste of history, this museum is one of the best Auckland activities!

Built in 1929, this neoclassical building was originally dedicated to New Zealanders who fought in World War I. Today, it also has several exhibits showcasing the history of New Zealand back from its Polynesian origin to today’s date.

PRO TIP: Since Auckland War Memorial is located in the Auckland Domain, the city’s largest park, it’s a good idea to combine these two places into the same trip. 

Waiheke Island

Wine lovers should spare at least a day for Waiheke, a paradise with rolling green meadows and lush vineyards.

 Even if you are not into wine, you should definitely take a 40-minute ferry ride to Waiheke Island from Auckland because this island also has plenty of opportunities for kayaking, swimming and beach relaxation.

If you want to stay for more than just a day, rent a house or if you travel on a budget, stay in a hostel. Getting around the island is pretty easy. You can always hop on a bus that drives around the island or rent a bicycle or scooter.

Hit the beach

Another advantage of New Zealand’s Northern Island is its beautiful beaches. 

The Auckland area has a number of beaches that are great for swimming, picnicking and surfing, so make sure to visit at least one of them. If you decide to take a trip to the beach, I’d recommend setting aside about half a day. 

– Takapuna Beach – one of the most popular sun-bathing places on the eastern coast of Auckland.

– Milford Beach – Not far from Takapuna Beach but considerably less crowded.

– Pihai Beach – Auckland’s most dramatic beach with black volcanic sand that’s also a top spot for surfers.

– Muriwai – Another popular surfing location near Auckland. Muriwai also has a gannet colony nearby that’s worth checking out.

– Te Arai Point – More well-known among locals, Te Arai Point is one of the best surfing spots in the Auckland area. 

Explore nearby islands

There are tons of islands around Auckland. 

The bad news is that can take you a while to explore all of them. The good news is that you can’t go wrong even if you pick just one. From the famous Rangitoto and Waiheke Islands, to the least well-known ones, there are plenty of small and big islands near Auckland with tons of activities from wine tasting to kayaking. 

Here’s my breakdown:

  • Waiheke Island – Take a 40 minute ferry ride ride from downtown Auckland to enjoy Waiheke’s lush vineyards, sprawling beaches and beautiful scenery. 
  • Tiritiri Mantagi Island – A wildlife sanctuary for endangered native birds and reptiles.
  • Rangitoto Island – Auckland’s youngest volcano popular with hikers and kayakers.
  • Great Barrier Island (Aotea) – Home to the only multi-day wilderness walk in the Auckland region.
  • Kawau Island – Perfect retreat for those who want to enjoy a quiet atmosphere and get a glimpse of New Zealand’s history.
  • Coromandel Peninsula – One of the best weekend trips from Auckland, Coromandel is a must on your New Zealand itinerary.

Why you should start your New Zealand trip with Auckland

Auckland is located at the tip of New Zealand’s North Island and because of its strategic location, it serves as a popular starting point for travelers who come here. After visiting Auckland, many tourists head south to explore places like Wellington, Lake Taupo before making their way to South Island.

Take at least a few days exploring the biggest city in New Zealand before continuing your trip down south.

Read my blog post to plan your adventure from Queenstown to Milford Sound, one of the best road trips in New Zealand! 

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