Experience Auckland like a local
With mighty Rangitoto Island overlooking the picturesque Hauraki Harbour, the City of Sails is a stunning natural playground waiting to be explored. And no matter your age, or your budget, Auckland has plenty of hot spots and entertainment to enjoy. With so much on offer, it’s easy to get into the groove of café hopping, beach walks, hill climbs and nightlife.
So whether you’re there to relax, or you’re up for some light adventuring, Auckland is sure to get you going. To make planning your getaway easy, we’ve outlined some of the best things to do in Auckland that are sure to leave a lasting impression.
Where to stay in Auckland
If you’re arriving via the Northern Explorer train, you’ll arrive at The Strand Station, which has plenty of great accommodation options close by. Here are a couple of easy access hotels, closely situated to all the best activities in Auckland.
Cordis Auckland is a stylish and incredibly accommodating hotel in Auckland’s CBD. With a heated outdoor pool and Jacuzzi, it’s the ideal spot to unwind after getting amongst the hustle and bustle of the city.
Parnell Pines Hotel is perfect if you’re after a more affordable option, without compromising on luxury. Surrounded by delicious eateries and only a short stroll to the Auckland Rose Gardens, it’s a great spot to potter around.
And if you want to stay a little further from the CBD, but still close enough to the action, why not check out some apartments on Airbnb in beautiful Mission Bay? With a range of prices and sizes, there’s plenty on there that tick all the right boxes.
Must do Auckland activities
There's so much to do in the 'city of sails' but why not start the day by delving into the history that makes this diverse city so interesting. Then catch a show in the evening to top off a fabulous first day in the big smoke. Here are a few of the best things to do in Auckland’s CBD.
Auckland War Memorial Museum
Auckland War Memorial Museum tells the story of New Zealand and its people. With unmatched Māori and Pacific collections, and major military records and exhibitions, you’ll leave the Museum informed and humbled by New Zealand’s remarkable history. Plus, it’s situated in the heart of Auckland Domain, where the well-maintained grounds and exotic Winter Gardens are sure to delight.
New Zealand’s largest city gets all the best shows. And there’s nothing quite like seeing one live at The Civic. Built in 1929, The Civic has an atmosphere unlike any other theatre. With the Southern Hemisphere, sky-scape floating above and the classical design adorning the walls, whatever show you see will stay with you long after the final applause. Have a look at which shows are on so you can get your tickets well in advance.
The view from the top
If you visit Auckland and don’t take a trip up the Sky Tower, did you even go at all? At 328m high, it’s the city’s defining icon, and has one of the most incredible views of the harbour and other surrounding landmarks. And if you’re feeling extra fancy, dine at Orbit – the Sky Tower’s own 360˚ revolving restaurant. It’s one of the most romantic things to do in Auckland as a couple.
Eat like an Aucklander
From the many gems along Ponsonby Road, the Fish Market at Wynyard Quarter and the Depot I the CBD, Auckland has an abundance of delicious eateries. But to do it like a local, here are a few of Auckland’s must-try foodie spots.
If you like your meal with a view, then take a walk around Auckland’s stunning Viaduct. This lively strip of bars and restaurants has so many dining and drinking options, you’ll be spoilt for choice. We recommend the Auckland Fish Market, known as the heart of New Zealand seafood since it was first established in 1904. Whether you’re after some Japanese cuisine, local craft beer or the freshest seafood you can find, the Auckland Fish Market has something for everyone.
Parnell French Markets
Every Saturday morning for the past 11 years, an assortment of artisan food and produce connoisseurs have been congregating at the Parnell Farmer’s Market, no matter the weather. Try some of the delicious baking from Bread and Butter or stock up on organic relishes, salmon and cheeses for a picnic later in the day. And if you’ve got a sweet tooth, be sure to check out the Grown-Up Donuts stall for some of the most heavenly donuts known to man. They’re so popular they often sell out, so be sure to get there early.
Get out of the city and view Auckland
After you’ve spent some time putting together the perfect picnic or cheeseboard at the Parnell Farmer’s market, explore Auckland and find somewhere to enjoy it.
Devonport day trip
Just a 12-minute ferry ride from the main ferry terminal on Quay Street, Devonport is one of Auckland’s most alluring suburbs. Home to two of Auckland’s sleepy volcanic mountains, there are plenty of hidden pockets dotting the hillside to enjoy a picnic. And aside from the ferry ride, exploring Devonport is one of the best free things to do in Auckland.
Whether you want to walk or drive, Mount Victoria has gorgeous 360-degree panoramic views awaiting at the summit. At 87 metres above sea level, it’s the highest volcano on the North Shore and one of the best places to enjoy the sunset as it illuminates the City of Sails.
And if you’re up for some history, take a self-guided wander around North Head Historic Reserve. Once a military coastal defence base, you’ll love exploring the tunnels and bunkers dotted all over the hillside. Visitors can catch a film documenting the history of North at the old stone kitchen at the top of the hill. But with such a deep history, it might be worth learning more before you go.
Explore Rangitoto Island
Can’t get enough of Auckland’s volcanic landscape? Then the iconic Rangitoto Island, guarding the Hauraki Harbour, is a must-see. Just a 25-minute ferry ride from the CBD, visitors can either walk to the summit or jump onboard the 4WD road-train. A reasonable level of fitness is required to take on this climb, although it can be done in half a day.
It takes around an hour and 45 minutes to get there on foot. But the track is well maintained with unique flora decorating the pathway from the dock, all the way up to the crater. And for those extra intrepid explorers, check out the rugged caves carved out by hot lava hundreds of years ago.
If you choose to get the 4WD road train package, you’ll be treated to a compelling commentary surrounding the Māori tribal settlements, the batch communities of the 1930s and the powerful eruptions that formed the island.
Your insider guide to Auckland
From climbing volcanoes to catching a show at the Civic, it’s easy to get into the swing of the Auckland lifestyle. And If you’re coming from Wellington to Auckland, check out our Northern Explorer timetable. That way you can enjoy some of the incredible scenery that puts New Zealand on the map internationally. This is just a slice of what our biggest city has to offer, so take the time to plan your holiday so you know the ins and outs of local living before you get there.