New Zealand’s largest city, Auckland is the entry point for many visitors. It’s well-known for its beautiful beaches, volcanic mountains, and plentiful activity options. Make sure you make the most of your time in Auckland with our top 10 tips on places to see and things to do in Tamaki Makaurau.
1. SEE AUCKLAND FROM THE WATER
The city of Auckland sprawls across a narrow isthmus towards the top of the North Island with the Manukau Harbour on one side and the Waitemata Harbour on the other. The Waitemata leads out into the Hauraki Gulf, a massive maritime playground dotted with islands of all sizes. With this stunning natural landscape on its doorstep, it’s no wonder Auckland is known as the City of Sails. Aucklanders love nothing more than to get out on the water for sailing, fishing and other water sports.
A trip out on the water, then, is a must-do for all visitors to Auckland. Sailing around Auckland harbour gives impressive views of the city skyline, and theislands of the Gulf are a series of treasures just waiting to be explored. From tiny Browns Island and sand-fringed Motuihe to iconic Rangitoto, the ultimate weekend destination of Waiheke with its vineyards and great beaches, and massive Great Barrier at the mouth of the Gulf.
Board the Hauraki Blue overnight cruise and immerse yourself in the beauty of this spectacular marine park – cruise around the inner islands, kayak and snorkel, and spend the night at sea.
2. EXPLORE AUCKLAND’S WATERFRONT
While you’re in the downtown and harbour area there are plenty more top Auckland attractions to visit. The Britomart transport precinct, Viaduct Harbourand Wynyard Quarter have all been redeveloped in recent years to provide cool urban spaces where you can eat, drink, shop and party. Intriguing public spaces like Silo Park, Britomart’s Takutai Square and North Wharf are great places to sit and people-watch. The Viaduct Harbour is also home to theVoyager New Zealand Maritime Museum where you can learn about New Zealand’s seafaring history.
3. GO UP THE SKY TOWER
For the best views of Auckland you can’t beat a trip up the Sky Tower in the CBD. At 328 metres high, the Sky Tower is the tallest building in New Zealand – and the Southern Hemisphere. Take the lift to the observation deck and enjoy 360 degree views around the city, looking out across the harbour to the North Shore, westward to the Waitakere Ranges, east along the bays towards Howick and Maraetai, and south to the Bombay Hills. If you’re feeling brave you can even suit up for a walk around the outside – or even jump off it!
4. ENJOY TOP AUCKLAND CULTURAL ATTRACTIONS
Auckland is home to a host of great cultural experiences. Get an understanding of New Zealand’s history with a visit to the Auckland War Memorial Museum, and explore a range of historic and contemporary art the Auckland Art Gallery.
Auckland’s theatre precinct can be found towards the top of Queen Street around Aotea Square. Enjoy a show in sumptuous historic surroundings at the Civic, or see theatre, comedy and dance in contemporary style at Q Theatre or the refurbished Aotea Centre.
5. VISIT AUCKLAND’S BEST MARKETS
For a uniquely Auckland experience take the bus or train out to the Otara Markets in South Auckland. Held every Saturday morning, these markets date back to the 1970s and are a great way to experience Auckland’s unique blend of Polynesian cultures. Everything from fresh produce and fast food to bric-a-brac, housewares and souvenirs can be found here.
In West Auckland the Avondale Markets are also popular for fresh produce and a range of other offerings, while in Central Auckland the La Cigale French markets in Parnell are the place to go for gourmet delicacies, fresh baking, organic produce and smallgoods.
6. BLACK SAND BEACHES: AUCKLAND HAS THEM ALL
Being surrounded by coastline, Auckland has almost every type of beach imaginable: surf beaches, family-friendly calm bays, white sand, shelly coves – but our famous black sand beaches on the West Coast are probably the most impressive. Visit Piha, Muriwai, Bethells or Karekare and experience the volcanic black sand and powerful surf for yourself. (Make sure you swim between the flags as the waves can be dangerous!)
7. TAKE A STROLL ALONG PONSONBY ROAD
The inner-city suburb of Ponsonby is one of Auckland’s oldest suburbs and has a rich history. Over the years, the stately homes and picturesque villas of prosperous settlers gave way to an ethnically diverse bohemian community. Today Ponsonby is an intriguing mix of high-end boutiques, organic cafes and iconic nightclubs. Wander along the main road and you never know what you’ll find – a priceless antique, edgy designer fashion, or a group of Kiwi celebrities eating lunch!
8. GO HIKING
Auckland is so much more than just a city. Built on a series of volcanic cones, there are hills aplenty for those who like to hike. Head out to the Waitakere Ranges to the west or the Hunua Ranges to the southeast and walk through native forest – or walk the Coast to Coast Walkway from one side of the city to the other.
9. GET UP CLOSE TO NEW ZEALAND WILDLIFE
Auckland is home to two innovative wildlife experiences: The Auckland Zoo and Kelly Tarlton’s Sea Life Aquarium. Forget dingy cages and sad animals – the Auckland Zoo is a leader in conservation initiatives and has won awards for its research work and sustainability. Visit hundreds of species of exotic and native wildlife in beautiful surroundings and get up close and personal – you can even choose one of their special behind the scenes encounters and feed the animals!
Kelly Tarlton was a New Zealand marine archaeologist and diver who invented a revolutionary new way to see marine life. In 1985 he built his Underwater World on the Auckland waterfront, using unique acrylic viewing tunnels so visitors could travel through as if they were on the sea bed. Today you can travel through the tunnel and see sharks, stingrays and other fascinating sea creatures, as well as explore the Antarctic with a new experience, seeing penguins on the ice.
10. FREE THINGS TO DO IN AUCKLAND
The great thing about Auckland is how much of it can be enjoyed for free! Public spaces like parks and squares are great places to experience Auckland life and enjoy the scenery.
The Auckland Domain is one of the city’s oldest and largest parks. Just outside the city centre, it’s a green oasis of wide open spaces, sculpture displays, native bush and formal gardens. It’s home to the Auckland War Memorial Museum and also the Wintergardens – tropical indoor gardens that are free to enter.
Another of Auckland’s impressive volcanic cones is Mount Eden. Climb to the top for great views around the city, then stroll down to the village below for a spot of shopping or a bite to eat. On the North Shore, Mount Victoria and North Head are great vantage points – and the WWII gun tunnels at North Head are fun to explore.
Back downtown, Silo Park lies at the end of the Wynyard Quarter precinct. This urban park has been reclaimed from the surrounding industrial areas and has retained its edgy feel, with overhead gantry walkways, spray-painted silos, playgrounds and water features. During summer there are free movie screenings and night markets held here.