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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. 

Auckland NZ

Giapo Ice-Cream

 12 Gore Street, Auckland Downtown

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!

Auckland Sea Plane NZ

Auckland Sea Plane NZ

WaterSports

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!

Auckland-Bridge-Bungy-3

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.

Piha Beach New Zealand

Piha Beach New Zealand

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.

Island New Zealand

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.

OUR FAVORITE NZ TRAVEL GUIDES. CLICK TO LOOK INSIDE ↓

New Zealand Travel Guide

Lonely Planet Guide to New Zealand 

New Zealand Travel Guide

National Geographic Traveler

New Zealand Travel Guide

101 Coolest Things to Do in New Zealand

INSPIRED? PIN THIS TO YOUR TRAVEL PINTEREST BOARDS ↓

Megan is an Australian Journalist and award-winning travel writer who has been blogging since 2007. Her husband Mike is the American naturalist and wildlife photographer behind Waking Up Wild; an online magazine dedicated to opening your eyes to the wonders of the wild & natural world.

Having visited 50+ countries across all seven continents, Megan’s travels focus on cultural immersion, authentic discovery and incredible journeys. She has a strong passion for ecotourism, and aims to promote responsible travel experiences.

    

    36 Comments

  1. As I read these words Meg; I drool. 15 minute walk from Giapo LOL. Gotta see the place and have some ice cream! We are here for a few days before heading back to NYC. Gotta do a bit as I am getting busier and busier with online work. You know the drill of course. Amazing city and rocking post my friend.

    • Sounds like I caught you just in time then Ryan – you should definitely visit Giapo before you fly home – let me know which ice-cream you choose! They’re INCREDIBLE!

  2. This is a very informative blog, Actually I am planning a trip to New Zealand hope it will help me out there.

    • Thanks Stephen, I’m glad the post was helpful for you 🙂 Have a wonderful trip to NZ!

  3. Didn’t know that there’s free guided tour in Auckand. I’d love to try the jump at the bridge not sure if I’m brave enough haha.

    • There is indeed! It’s pretty good too! Maybe you can line up the bungy, and then head to Giapo afterwards; ice-cream as a treat for making the jump 😀

  4. Can’t agree with you more. I have been there last month and it was remarkable.

    • So glad you had a fabulous trip Rogerio! Auckland is really special 🙂

  5. I always love all things volcanic.

    • Same! It’s so fascinating!

  6. The bungy jumping and sea plane sound like great fun.

    • They’re so exciting! I can highly recommend both of them … and then some ice-cream at Giapo after 😀

  7. Sadly didn’t have the chance to explore much in Auckland itself, but New Zealand is amazing and I feel I’ll be back someday, so next time!

    • Perfect excuse to plan another trip 😀

  8. My home town. Be sure to check out my fave restaurant Citizen Park in Kingsland, close to Eden Park.

    • Thanks for the tip Steve! Will make a note for when we head back again 🙂

  9. Those ice-cream cones look incredible – is that a gold coating on the cone??!! Mental note of Giapo.

    • I believe so! Seriously, the best ice-cream I’ve ever had … probably the best ice-cream in the world 😀

  10. Good nature, good adventure, good icecream. My type of city.

    • Pretty good combination right!

  11. You seem to have a habit of jumping off things …

  12. Auckland sounds AMAZING! We were thinking of flying into Wellington and just doing a road trip around the South Island, but you’ve convinced me it’s worth spending some time in the north as well. I don’t usually make a plan to visit big cities as nowadays they’ve morphed into carbon copies of each other and once you’ve seen one you’ve typically seen them all. But Auckland definitely sounds unique. Love that there’s so much accessibility to nature. Cool post, glad I read this before our trip 🙂

    • It’s a really fabulous city, I can highly recommend spending some time, maybe at the end of your time in the South Island you could fly north before flying home 🙂

  13. I’ve never seen a black sand beach – your photos are stunning! Adding Piha to the bucketlist – are there local board rentals for surfing?

    • Piha is incredible, I didn’t see any local surf shots in the area, but I’ve quickly googled it and it sounds like there’s a family run shop called Piha Surf Shop. Located at 122 Seaview Road 🙂

  14. Oh wow, captain is really not wearing any shoes! I read that in Maori culture going barefoot means that you connect with nature. NZ seems like a more casual country than the rest of the world anyway – or maybe they have some hidden hobbit genes haha – if so many people go barefoot I would assume that the streets are pretty clean then?

    • Took us by surprise initially, but you’re right, it’s a cultural tradition, and perfectly suits the laid back attitude of the country 🙂

      Yes, the streets are really clean throughout Auckland!

  15. Giapo is amazingggg! Suggested by a friend, we decided to visit it on a wednesday evening. From outside it looked like a small ice cream shop, nothing special. Then we noticed the queue, there were atleast 6-7 people waiting ahead us and few of them sitting and waiting for the order.

    The staff was serving free tasters of their ice cream which gave the hint that yes this place was different.

    After waiting for around10mins we were welcomed by a polite lady who was our personal assiatant there. Yes!! This place has personal assistants who make us taste various flavours, help us in deciding the flavour and also answers queries regarding their ice creams.

    We ordered Hockey- Pockey and NZ blackberry in red velvet- white choco cup. And then waited for our order to arrive.
    The kitchen was big and ice creams were being prepared right in front of our eyes. The staff was regularly making rounds sometimes with ice cream tasters, sometimes with chocolates, water and tissues.

    Then came our ice creams. The best I have ever tasted. Huge servings super duper taste, fresh toppings. It was out of the world.

    This place is a must must visit when you are in Auckland.
    The team is fantastic! Good work guys.. you have an amazing place.

    • So glad you had a fabulous experience at Giapo Shweta! Totally agree, it was the highlight of my time in Auckland too – a really awesome experience!

  16. NZ is one of my fav places in the world! (And for me, that’s saying something) 😉

    • It sure has a way of stealing your heart doesn’t it! So glad you had a fabulous time also Nora 🙂

  17. Thanks for sharing! Hope I can find cheaper fares from Dubai to Auckland for next year.

    • You’re welcome, hope you find a great deal! Check out Skyscanner, it’s a great way to compare flight prices across different airlines 🙂

  18. Wellington is a much better NZ City IMO

    • I haven’t yet made it to Wellington, so looking forward to hopefully checking it out in the near future 🙂

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