Auckland is one of the world’s most unique cities; a bustling cosmopolitan set on a sparkling harbor, surrounded by landscapes that vary from rainforests, thermal springs, sprawling parks and volcanic cones.
This is one of the only places in the world where you can go from skyscrapers to white sand beaches, or combine galleries and museums with hiking through lava fields: Auckland seamlessly blends majestic scenery with the hustle and bustle of city living.
Culturally, Tamaki Makaurau (as it is also called) is the largest Polynesian city in the world, and has become hugely multicultural, which is reflected in the dynamic dining scene and museums that pay homage to a rich Māori heritage.
While many visit Auckland as a gateway to a land of fine wine and Lord of the Rings scenery, this sub-tropical destination has many exciting things to do in it’s own right. So if you’re traveling to New Zealand make sure you plan at least a day or two.
Things to do in Auckland
Free City Walking Tour
One of the best introductions to Auckland is with a free city walking tour; this is a great way to see Auckland down town, learn some interesting facts about the city, the maori culture, and best of all, get local tips on where to return for eating and shopping after the tour!
Taking off from Auckland’s downtown, the walk heads up through Britomart Transport Centre, taking you through the city’s pedestrian laneways and right up to the recently renovated Auckland Art Gallery. You’ll then wander through the historic Albert Park and University of Auckland, before heading back down to Auckland’s new and thriving Britomart Precinct.
Guides will often reroute their tours to make you don’t miss an experience or exhibition that is only temporarily on in the city so don’t be alarmed if it takes a different shape than you though – they constantly edit their tours, especially so to provide a drier experience if it’s raining!
Tours start downtown Queen Street every morning at 10 am. At the end of your tour, happy walkers can offer their guide a ‘koha’ or donation, to thank them for their time. But there’s no pressure to.
The cult status of Giapo Ice Cream did not happen by chance. From the very first moment you enter until you leave, you are up for an ice-cream experience unlike anything you’ve ever had before!
These days it’s easy to stumble across gelaterias serving wacky creative flavours, but Giapo is on another level. You’re be able to sample and choose from an exciting lineup of creative, seasonal local ice cream flavours which you probably never heard of, and watch as the kitchen prepares your order.
The detailed presentation of each ice cream has most patrons Instagramming before they eat; from edible masterpieces in the shape of Sky Tower to heart shaped couples ice-cream, it’s a complete revelation about what ice cream can be.
A variety of options makes Giapo just as delicious no matter your dietary requirements or sense of adventure: you’ll find milks made from almond, macadamia or coconut plus as well as cows milk, you’ll find buffalo, sheep and even deer milk (yes, it’s a thing!) on the menu. And the menu is Vegan and Halal approved.
Catch a Sea Plane
With over a million hectares of sparkling blue waters dotted with emerald islands, taking a seaplane over the Hauraki Gulf offers some of the most incredible views in all of Auckland!
Seaplanes were once the epitome of glamorous air travel in New Zealand. Fast forward to today and an eight-seater 1961 de Havilland Beaver seaplane can be seen taking off and landing in Auckland Harbour.
Auckland Sea Planes offers incredible experiences, whether you’re interested in a 40 minute scenic flight of the city and surrounding islands, or an hour and a half exploring the bays of the Pacific Ocean and rugged coasts of the Tasman Sea.
Fun fact: It is completely acceptable in New Zealand to walk barefoot. You will find people all over central Auckland not wearing shoes. Even our seaplane pilot went without them!
With countless water activities and island adventures so close at hand, it’s no wonder Lonely Planet named Auckland harbour and the Hauraki Gulf the best experience in New Zealand.
Jet boating, kayaking, fishing, sailing and more – you’re spoilt for choice in Auckland. Relax on a harbour cruise, or help race an America’s Cup yacht. Island hopping is a favourite pastime for Auckland ‘boaties’ and ‘yachties’ and many of the islands are also accessible by ferry.
Though if there was one water sport to not miss in Auckland, it would be AJ Hackett Auckland Bridge Ocean Bungy. Speaking of …
Jump off the Harbour Bridge
There aren’t many places in the world you get such an exhilarating experience with one of the most iconic landmarks. The Auckland Harbour Bridge has stood in the harbour since 1959, and this is your chance to take it in from an angle only those with a sense of adventure get to see!
Not only can you climb to the top of the Auckland Harbour Bridge, but you can also jump from it attached to a Bungy cord. You can even to choose to dip your head in the water. You don’t have to. But you probably should!
Sky Tower SkyWalk
Standing at 328 metres, Auckland’s Sky Tower is the Southern Hemisphere’s tallest building. It offers a main observation deck, sky lounge, and revolving restaurant, and, if you didn’t get enough adrenaline from the bridge bungy, you can jump off this building too!
Sky Tower offers both the SkyWalk and Sky Jump experience; with Sky Walk, you make your way along the edge of the Sky Tower’s pergola, securely harnessed nearly 200 metres in the air.
Sky Jump offers even more adrenaline pumping action as you base-jump off New Zealand’s tallest man-made structure by way of a safe guide-cable-controlled system where you can reach speeds of up to 85kph.
Would you jump?
Photo courtesy of Sky City Entertainment Group
Head to the Beach
Auckland has 29,000 kilometers of coastline, and that means hundreds of beaches, all within easy reach. And they’re all very different, from idyllic white-sand beaches to rugged black sand plains.
Of the best beaches in Auckland, make sure you don’t miss Piha. Piha is part of the remarkable west coast, and what makes it stand out is it’s contrast between green wild nature, pristine water and volcanic black sand.
Lion Rock splits Piha Beach into two distinct sections, and is quite popular among landscape photographers, rising from the sand. Strong currents attract adventurous surfers, and long white fronded waves crash into shore. For music fans, you might even bump into pop icon Lorde.
Hike a Volcano (Rangitoto Island)
Just a 25-minute ferry ride from downtown Auckland, Rangitoto Island is a volcanic island known for its superb hiking trails and 360-degree panoramic views.
Take the one-hour Summit Track through rugged lava fields and forest, and stop off to explore the lava tunnels and caves on the way – bring a torch. If you’d rather not make the climb you can join a guided tour on the 4WD road train to the top.
Rangitoto is the youngest volcano in New Zealand, and has become an Auckland icon. It has long been a favourite day trip for walkers, and a much loved boating destination. You can take a guided sea kayaking trip out, or even try a night kayak if you fancy paddling in the dark under the stars.
A regular daily ferry service from either downtown Auckland or Devonport Wharf makes getting to Rangitoto easy and convenient. Round-trip ferry tickets cost 33 New Zealand dollars (about $24) per adult and NZ$16.50 (approximately $12) for each child.
The Voyager NZ Maratime Museum
From the first Polynesians to arrive in New Zealand, to the discovery and settlement by Europeans, right through to their present day yachting success and the inspirational story of Sir Peter Blake, visit the Museum to discover the stories that have shaped New Zealand’s identity as a seafaring nation.
Along the way you can try your hand at yacht design, relax in a kiwi style bach, hoist the sails, hear the cannon fire, and batten down the hatches in the rocking cabin.
There’s plenty of opportunity to get out on the water too. The Museum’s fully-restored heritage scow Ted Ashby sets sail six days a week taking visitors on a one hour voyage of the harbour with great views of Auckland’s skyline and the Harbour Bridge.
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