Ahh, Auckland. The City of Sails gets a bit of a bad rap, but only because it’s New Zealand’s biggest smoke, and too many a clueless tourist heads straight for the inner-city hostels for beer pong and the confines of the CBD. No, we reckon Auckland (or Tāmaki Makaurau in Te Reo Māori) has got a whole lot going for it, and no trip to New Zealand would be complete without a visit.
Auckland, perched on an isthmus between two harbors at the narrowest point of the North Island, New Zealand, is a magnificent spot, packed full of character. It’s New Zealand’s most diverse metropolis, filled with arts, events, culture, food and glorious coastlines. It may be the country’s largest city, but this is still New Zealand, which means you’re never far from the bush, beach or world class walks. In fact, Auckland is surrounded by hundreds of stunning beaches, from the rugged beauty of the west coast to the gentle, golden sanded east coast. The place has an incredible volcanic heritage, and is just a stone’s throw (okay, a ferry ride) from some of New Zealand’s most special islands.
There are endless things to do in Auckland, whether you’re an urban culture vulture, park lover or sandy sun worshipper, the trick is to leave enough time for the city to start whispering its secrets to you. We can let you in on a few, too.
What is Auckland well known for?
While the image of Auckland’s size and diversity are what makes it stick out against the rest of New Zealand, it’s got its fair share of natural attractions. Let’s start with the second unofficial name, the City of Sails. On a fine day, this one’s no mystery: both harbors come alive in a flurry of sailboats, from tiny to monstrous. So yes, this is a water-based town, which also means the beaches are world class, and there are countless options to choose from.
Aside from the ocean, Auckland is also a tribute to New Zealand’s (ongoing) volcanic history. The place is dotted with grassy hills, which on closer inspection, turn out to be dormant volcanoes. There are 50 of them around the Auckland area, and a visit to the top of any of them rewards with glorious views.
Then, of course, there are the post card attractions that most people would know Auckland by – the Auckland Harbour Bridge and the Sky Tower being the most famous. You can throw yourself off both of these with a bungy cord around your ankles, if you’re looking for a way to really etch them into your memory.
What can you do in Auckland alone?
Whilst it may not have the alleyways of Melbourne or the raw creative expression of San Francisco, Auckland is still a fabulous place to explore solo. Wander by foot, ferry, train or bus, letting the city take you to into its slipstream and surprise you at every corner. Auckland is full of art, delicious food from all over the world and a surprising number of natural attractions that do their part to shape the feel of the place.
Take a slow walk through central Auckland with its abundance of dining establishments and cafes and delight those curious taste buds. Get your hipster on and wander down Ponsonby Road, or the more recently gentrified but still gritty Karangahape Road, sampling brilliant coffee and thrift shops.
Go on a guided walk of Auckland, which will take you on a tour through all the hotspots of uptown and downtown Auckland, from the best food joints and street art to the Sky Tower and the Auckland Art Gallery, which is said to be the world home of New Zealand art. Or, make your visit to the Auckland Art Gallery a solo trip; if you’re a true lover, going at your own pace is the only way to do it.
For 360 views, take a trip up the Sky Tower. In fact, why just go up? You can bungy jump off the Sky Tower these days. It’s a great way to make friends, and there’s a revolving restaurant up there to buy yourself a congratulatory feed (or sooth your nerves). Who said you can’t have fun on your own?
What can you do in Auckland for free?
Whilst many things on offer in Auckland City carry a price tag, there are also plenty of things to do and visit for free if you’re on the ol’ shoelace. You could walk up one of the many volcanoes, the most popular of which is probably Mount Eden, with its huge grassy volcanic cone. It’s probably one of the best places in Auckland for a picnic, particularly as the sun goes down, and it’s completely free.
Speaking of picnics, Cornwall Park is an absolute oasis to visit, complete with cows, sheep, plenty of trees, barbeques and, of course, a volcanic hill. There’s a café, an ice cream shop, plenty of trails to cycle and get your jog on, and the park plays host to live music and festivals, too. You may not leave for days.
Still have energy? You can actually walk from the Pacific Ocean to the Tasman Sea in four hours in Auckland city, and it doesn’t cost a penny.
What is there to do in Auckland on a sunny day?
In the sunshine, a day in Auckland spreads out before you like a blank, sandy canvas. While there are plenty of the fun things to do in Auckland on a beautiful day, everybody heads for the beach, and for good reason. Auckland’s surrounds are home to some of the best beaches in the North Island, if not New Zealand.
Head for the rugged, black sand beaches of the west, or for a mellow, golden sanded urban beach like Takapuna, where you can practically order a drink from the water. For an ‘overseas’ adventure, catch the ferry out to Waiheke Island, where the weather’s always that little bit better, and the beaches are just dandy. There are a whole lot of vineyards on Waiheke Island, too, of which an afternoon tour leads very nicely into a sleepy ferry ride home.
For an even more intrepid adventure, visit Great Barrier Island. It’s 90km from Auckland, but is a whole other world – the native birds and forests well outnumber the people, and throwing a shaka at every car you pass is an obligatory local custom. It’s best to leave a few days to visit the island, as it’s a 3.5 hour boat journey across, and you’ll want time to drop into island time.
How many beaches are in Auckland?
There are over 80 beaches to explore, so make sure you bring your togs and get ready to park up. Togs, in Kiwi speak, means bathing suit. Oh, and your sunblock – the sun is ravaging in New Zealand, and takes no mercy.
What is the best beach in Auckland?
Probably the most iconic beach in Auckland, if not the North Island, is Piha, on the west coast – though they’d hardly call themselves an Auckland beach. Piha is typical of the west coast, with black sand and wild waters, and is the perfect place to let the wind and sea spray blow the city gunk right off you. On a good day, the waves are legendary, and Piha was actually the site of the birth of modern surf culture back in the 50’s, when a couple of Americans turned up with long boards under their arms.
For a short but rewarding walk, try the Mercer Bay Loop walk, which is just 45 minutes return but offers iconic Auckland cliff top views down to Mercer Bay and up the whole coastline.
Is the Auckland Museum free?
It’s only free for New Zealanders, and for international travelers it’s about $30NZD. It’s well worth it though, and make sure to give yourself hours to explore the ever-changing exhibitions, events and the magnificent war museum, which tells the stories of some of the most important events in New Zealand’s history.
The museum is on the outskirts of the central city, and perched in the middle of The Domain (or Pukekawa in Te Reo Māori), Auckland’s oldest city park. It is, of course, the remnants of an old volcano, and is well worth a visit on it’s own simply to sit under the shade of a mighty tree and put your feet on the grass. Hands down one of Auckland’s most relaxing destinations.
How much does it cost to go to the Auckland Zoo?
The Auckland Zoo is one of the better things to do in Auckland on a rainy day, and it’s not-for-profit, so the money from your ticket goes towards wildlife conservation and other good things. Adult passes are around $25, kids around $15, and it’s a great place to learn about both native and international wildlife.
What is there to do in Auckland in winter?
While it’s not exactly one of New Zealand’s winter wonderland destinations (snow bunnies, head for the south of the country), this is a thriving, bustling city, people – the show goes on, rain or shine. There are an abundance of things to do in Auckland in the winter, off the street and out of the cold, from exhibitions and shows to ramen bowls just begging to be hugged. If you sampled every restaurant for a night you’d be well on your way to tasting every corner of the globe – and you’d need a hella lot more time than one winter.
If you’ve had enough of the inside world, Piha Beach really comes into its own in truly awful weather. It’s wild and rugged and the pounding surf makes you feel like a tiny speck. Isn’t that what beaches are for?
Where can I go at night in Auckland?
Welcome to the best place to party in New Zealand! If it’s great ethnic food you’re after, head for Sandringham or Dominion Road. If it’s some pinky-raising, cocktail-sipping fun you’re looking for, visit one of the shiny bars in Parnell or the Viaduct in central Auckland. For a good old fashioned gig, pay K Road a visit anytime past 10pm. You’ll get all sorts, but mostly a high concentration of good live music events.
How do I spend a weekend in Auckland?
Start with drinks in Ponsonby on Friday night, where you can take part in (or watch and be entertained by) the after-work peacocking hour for Auckland’s young professionals. The vibe is high, especially if the sun’s out. Start the next morning with a visit to the Parnell farmer’s market, where freshly baked croissants, great coffee and rows of shining kale are on offer. Stock up on dips and bread to make up a picnic, and it’s time to visit the beach. While there are plenty of spectacular options, the west coast region is off the charts. As well as the iconic volcanic black sand that the beaches like Piha, Bethell’s and Muriwai offer, there’s also great access to the Waitakere Ranges, home to some of the best walks in the North Island.
On Saturday night, explore Sandringham and fill your belly with the most authentic Indian food you’ll find in New Zealand, and we’ll bet you a garlic naan you won’t see another tourist. This is life like a local. If there’s still gas in the tank, check out the events calendar at the Basement or Civic Theatres, or get an ice cream and take an evening stroll through Albert Park.
Come Sunday, jump on the ferry to Rangitoto Island, the pyramid-like volcano which is synonymous with the image of Auckland. The Rangitoto ferry takes about half an hour from the ferry building in downtown Auckland, and exploring it (which includes walking up to the summit and a visit to the caves) takes about half a day. Rangitoto, located in the Hauraki gulf, is the closest of the islands around Auckland.
How do I spend a day in Auckland?
For the best combination of inner city and beaches, start the day in Devonport. The gentle seaside village is a great place to feel like you’re well out of Auckland, when you’re actually a 15 minute ferry ride away and the image of the city’s skyline makes for a constant backdrop. It’s the site for a lot of interesting local war history, and life has a slower pace over this side of the harbor. Grab some fish and chips for lunch and earn it by walking up North Head, the local hill (and volcano) next to Cheltenham beach.
Get the boat back across to town and spend the afternoon visiting the Art Gallery and the Auckland museum. There are plenty of guided tours, too, if you want someone else to make the decisions and still know you’ll still get to all the destinations and any events of note happening in town.
Is Auckland a walkable city?
If you’re staying in the city’s center, then walking to any number of restaurants, cafes and events should be no problem. However, Auckland is sprawled over a fairly massive area, which is a lot of walking if you don’t have much time. Plus, there are a number of different transport options that can give you access to destinations across town. For those places that are located off the beaten track, a rental car is the way to go.
Is Auckland safe?
Compared with most big cities around the world, Auckland is fairly safe and in keeping with New Zealand’s harmless image. Having said that, it’s still a big place and crime happens. Walking much further than a few blocks at night probably isn’t a good idea – best to play it on the safe side and choose public transport or take an Uber.
How many days is enough in New Zealand?
You could spend a year in this country and still have a list that grows faster than it shrinks. So, the answer to that? As many as you can spare. And make sure to add Auckland to that list of destinations – it’s worth far more than an airport stopover.
So is Auckland worth visiting?
Hell yeah. Ask any local why they live there – there’s over a million of them.