Like any major city, there are plenty of things to do in Auckland – so much so that you might need a little guidance as to what’s worth visiting and what isn’t. Luckily for you, we at Orbzii have followed the tourist trails and gone off the beaten path to discover the very best of the city, as well as finding out what you can give a miss given the time constraints of a holiday. If you’re looking for a bunch of great ideas for your trip, read ahead for our guide for the best 10 things to do in Auckland.
The actual city of Auckland is on an isthmus (a narrow stretch of land separating two larger landmasses) and because of all the volcanic activity around the area, there are many nearby islands to visit.
Waiheke Island is a short ferry from Auckland proper, and is full of natural splendour while also overlooking the metropolis, meaning some great sunset views. There’s everything from secluded beaches to vineyards on this small landmass, as well as plenty of winding walks that will show you some of the best of New Zealand’s wildlife. If you’re looking for a little more adventure, Wild on Waiheke combines great food and drink with activities like archery and shooting.
There are other great islands to visit, like Rangitoto. Much less developed than Waiheke, it’s more for geology nerds and nature lovers, with black lava caves and lots of unique wildlife calling the island home. The best thing to do is to climb up to the summit of the volcano, where you’re again granted spectacular panoramic views of the Auckland skyline.
Catch the Sun on the Peak of Maungawhau
In the suburb of Mount Eden lies the dominating volcanic peak of Maungawhau (Mt Eden in English), the highest natural point in the city limits. The area itself has plenty of history, as it was once a fortified Maori village, but nowadays it’s an affluent suburb home to some cool little shops and eateries, most of which are on the dearer side.
However, there’s no cost to climbing Maungawhau – and that’s pretty much the best thing you can do here. The treks up aren’t too strenuous, and at the top of the extinct volcano you can get onto the viewing deck and stare down into the bowels of the earth. However, we’d heavily recommend going for sunrise or sunset and looking out over the city. It’s a truly magical experience.
Spot the Amazing Marine Wildlife
While New Zealand’s land animals are considered wonderfully unique, their sea-life is just as special. This is true even in the largest city in the country. Lovers of all things wild can go whale and dolphin watching in the Hauraki Gulf. There are plenty of organisations to do this via, but Whale Watching Auckland are probably our favourite company thanks to their friendly, knowledgeable staff, reasonable prices, and eco-aware philosophy.
There are other options for the intrepid too: Goat Island is a marine reserve where you can snorkel with stingrays or dive down past underwater cliffs. The entire region is protected, though, so you have to be careful not to upset the balance of the delicate ecosystems: look, don’t touch is always a good rule of thumb.
Frolic on the Beaches of West Auckland
If you head out to the rugged West Auckland area, through the mountainous, forested regions that border it, you’ll reach some truly wild and beautiful beaches. No matter what kind of beachgoer you are, you’ll find somewhere you love: there’s shoreline with powdery white sand and gentle, lapping tides, and black volcanic sand beaches where the swells would make any surfer salivate. While there are numerous pedestrian beaches a bit closer to the centre of town, heading out west is still definitely worth putting on your list of things to do in Auckland if you want something a bit special.
Staying in the City
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki
If you prefer your city breaks to be more intellectually stimulating than physically strenuous, a visit to New Zealand’s biggest and most important public gallery is a must-do. Even if you’re not so much of a culture vulture, this should be one of the top items on your list of things to do in Auckland. Home to over 15,000 works, they exhibit a combination of classic and contemporary pieces, from both Kiwi and international artists. Without a doubt the best way to understand the cultural heart of this young (and old) country.
Meander Through Markets
New Zealand’s natural splendour means it’s home to some phenomenal produce, and the best place to sample a lot of this in Auckland is at local markets.
La Cigale is a French-inspired market that should be on everyone’s top 10 things to do in Auckland list. There are two venues, one in Parnell and one in Britomart, and both run during the weekend only. There are a range of stunning products from New Zealand and abroad, as well as food and drink stalls so you can make a day of it.
Auckland Night Markets are another must-visit. With seven locations, these venues are reminiscent of the gigantic markets in Asia that sell everything you could want. There’s tonnes of things to splash your hard-earned cash on, as well as live music and other performances to keep shoppers entertained.
Wander around Mission Bay
This gorgeous Auckland suburb is replete with cute, boutique stores, artisan cafes, and stretches of white-sand beaches. Even the journey from the centre of Auckland to get here is wonderful, cutting through bays and oceans to deliver stunning panoramic views of the city and surrounding water.
There’s plenty to do for the active holiday-maker too, with beach paths to jog on and cycle rentals readily available (although it is quite hilly, so you might end up working a little harder than planned!). Families will also have plenty to keep them entertained, with Auckland’s oldest cinema in the suburb, as well as plenty of parks, playgrounds, and other kid-friendly activities.
Duck Through Old Army Tunnels at Maungauika
Maungauika, or the North Head Historic Reserve, is one of the best things to do in Auckland for any history buff. The Reserve has a series of simple 1km walks that take you round and show you what was once an important base for protecting New Zealand from potential Russian invaders.
Just a short drive or ferry ride from downtown Auckland, there’s old armaments and other battle structures, as well as tunnels you can explore. A great half-day out, and worth putting on anyone’s top 10 things to do in Auckland list.
Auckland War Memorial Museum
Although called the Auckland War Memorial Museum, this cultural institution delivers so much more than information about New Zealand’s military past. There’s plenty of exhibitions on offer about the country’s Maori heritage, the wonderfully distinctive flora and fauna that make up this biodiverse nation, and contemporary Kiwi art and design. If you’re into prehistory, there’s also exhibitions on the country’s natural past and the ancient animals that once called this island nation home. A definite must visit for anybody who wants to learn more about all kinds of New Zealand history.
Climb the Sky Tower
We’ve put this last on the list as we believe it’s one of the last things you should do during your Auckland adventure. This isn’t because it isn’t worth it – far from it. The views are absolutely jaw-dropping. It’s just more satisfying to look out over the Auckland skyline and be able to point out all the things you’ve seen and done, instead of staring out onto another unfamiliar metropolis.
Adrenaline junkies can take part in the aptly named SkyJump or SkyWalk at the Sky Tower. Both are absolutely thrilling, and definitely not for those with weak stomachs.
If your group is split between the intrepid and those who prefer to take it easy, it’s easy to split up as the tower has restaurants and bars with great views to pass the time in. You might even see your friends fly past as part of the SkyJump!