Whilst on your travels to New Zealand you are bound to start or end in Auckland. It’s the gateway into New Zealand, serving affordable national and international flights. Although, it’s not the capital it’s the biggest city in New Zealand and is where a lot of the business hubs are. As a tourist, you’ll find an abundance of things to do in Auckland which is why I have created the ultimate list for you to use on your travels here.
1. Walk from coast to coast
The best way to see a city or region I find is walking! There is a fantastic walk called ‘coast to coast‘, which starts at the Waitemata Harbour and finishes in Manukau. The walk is 16km long and takes you through some 600-year old Maori settlements as well as giving you fantastic panoramic views of the city. You walk from one ocean to another which is a pretty unique experience in itself! If you have a full day in Auckland, then I highly recommend doing this walk. Bring a picnic with you and spend the day exploring the city on foot. Approximate time to finish the walk is 5 hours.
2. Taste the best ice cream in the world
Yes, you read that right! Giapo takes the experience of eating an ice-cream to another dimension. There’s no doubt that Giapo is the best ice cream in New Zealand and perhaps the entire world! It all started with Giapo Grazioli and his wife Annarosa having an idea to turn traditional gelato into something weird and wonderful. They take their art of making ice cream seriously. I don’t think I have seen more beautiful ice cream in my life! Giapo has to be one of the most innovative ice cream kitchens in the world, taking the art and creativity of something we enjoy on a sunny day to something more than that, an art form. Coming straight from Giapo’s mouth – “It’s the most popular dessert food in the world and it didn’t seem right that it always had to look the same in cones and cups, or on sticks.”
Giapo also has a design studio onsite where 3D models are created and refined until the designs are absolutely perfect. To give you an idea of how creative these ice creams are, imagine eating an ice cream that looks like an Antarctic colossal squid, or one that looks like the Auckland Skytower. How about an ice cream that looks like a cupid or a selfie ice cream cone?!
If you want to dive further into the ice cream experience, then you can take one of their masterclasses and learn how to create a beautiful ice-cream creation. You can also opt for a kitchen tour to learn more about the behind the scenes of their masterpieces. You will get to meet the people who are behind Giapo and see the thought process first hand.
3. Blue Springs Te Waihou Walkway
This is by far one of the most beautiful springs in New Zealand. It’s where 70% of New Zealand’s bottled water comes from so you know it’s a quality spring! The water is so clear that you can see right to the bottom. The walk to the spring goes through wetlands, waterfalls and native bush. Its approximately 4.7km long and will take you around 3 hours to finish the walk. From Auckland CBD the drive is about 2.5 hours but totally worth the trip to see this beautiful Instagram worthy spot.
4. Trip to Waiheke Island
Waiheke is a must-do on your trip to Auckland. This island is only a 35-minute ferry away making a great option for a day trip. Waiheke is known for its world-class wines, food, and views. Although the island is small you could easily spend the day exploring each of the wineries, little beaches, and coves as well as world-class food and even eco-tours.
If you would like you can stay the night in one of the most luxurious accommodations such as Azure or Hauraki Villa. Whilst on the island you must visit the Man O War vineyard. The tasting room is set in the best location for a winery on the island, right on the beach! Enjoy a glass of world-class New Zealand wine outside and take in the beautiful view.
5. Relax at Queens Wharf
This is the trendiest part of Auckland CBD. You will find an abundance of cool bars and great restaurants in this area. If it’s a sunny day make sure you walk around the docks with a delicious ice cream from Giapo and soak in the Auckland culture.
Throughout the year there are plenty of events that happen here. From live music to festivals there is always something going on. If you’re wanting a place to chill out and people watch then Queen’s Wharf is the one! They have sun loungers and plenty of public spaces for you to relax.
6. Piha Beach
Piha beach is so popular that it has its own tv show! This black sand beach is known for its rugged coastline and strong currents, the reason why it has its own tv show. The surf lifesavers are always on the lookout keeping you safe on Piha beach. It’s a popular local spot in the summertime. There are a few walks around Piha beach also so it’s great to spend the day exploring the area and relaxing on the beach. or taking on the often-strong currents. You can also take surfing lessons or if you’re brave enough you can parasail down the Piha canon.
7. Take an electric bike tour of the city
Power to the Pedal provides electric bike tours of the city. It’s a great way to explore if you’re maybe a little tired of walking everywhere and want to see more in a short amount of time. It’s a great way to get your bearings of the city. You have a few different options of tours including a classic tour, the inside loop (which takes you around the most vibrant neighbourhoods in Auckland), and a city lights tour which will take you through Auckland at night visiting some of the best vantage points of the city.
8. Hunua Falls
Just a 45-minute drive from the Auckland CBD you will find one of the most beautiful waterfalls. Just a short walk from the carpark you can swim in Hunua falls and reap the rewards of the beautiful nature of New Zealand. You can relax in the falls or you can take one of the walking tracks to get a view from above. There is also the option to camp near the falls which is another beautiful experience!
9. Mount Eden
This is one of the best things to do in Auckland by far. Mount Eden gives you beautiful panoramic views of Auckland because it’s the highest volcano peak in the region! Auckland is built on volcanos, there are 48 volcano cones scattered around, and that’s just in Auckland! The last eruption of mount Eden was 15,000 years ago leaving a 50-metre-deep crater behind. The crater is considered extremely tapu (sacred) in the Maori culture so please do not enter.
The best thing to do is the crater walk. It takes approximately one hour to get to the top and offers the most stunning panoramic views of the city. It’s one of the best things to do in Auckland in my opinion.
10. Jump off the Skytower
The Skytower is the highest building in New Zealand so obviously you must jump off it! The Skyjump is a great option for the adrenaline junkies. Does Jumping 192 meters to the bottom held only by a wire and travelling 85km an hour sound good to you? If not, there is another option for you, the Skywalk! Still quite scary, you can walk around the parameter of the Skytower with no handrail. It’s more slow-paced and you’ll get to enjoy the 360 degree views a little more than the jump.
Make sure you book online for either experience here. The Skytower is located in Auckland downtown.
11. Explore Rangitoto Island
Only 600 years ago Rangitoto rose from the sea. It’s the youngest volcano in New Zealand. You can reach the island by taking a 25-minute ferry or if you want a more luxurious option you can even helicopter over the island getting the most stunning views. It’s a New Zealand must-do!
When reaching the island, you must do the hike to the top which takes approximately one hour by foot. You can also take a 4wd road train if you don’t fancy the walk. On the way up to the volcano, you can explore the black lava caves. This has to be one of the most unique things to do in Auckland.
The last eruption was said to be over 500 years ago. In about 2014 geologists explorde the volcano in further depth and found that another eruption is very unlikely (about a 0.1% chance in fact).
Rangitoto is also home to the largest pohutukawa forest in New Zealand. Pohutukawa is a unique New Zealand tree dubbed as the NZ Christmas tree. It has beautiful red flowers and is very strikingly beautiful. Unfortunately, I’m horribly allergic to them as are many people!
12. Visit a cat café
We all love a furry friend so why not have your coffee with a bunch of cats. Do you know of a more perfect way to start your day? The Cat Lounge was the first ever cat café in New Zealand. There’re 20 resident cats who have all been rescued from rescue charity organisations. You can come here just for a cuddle and a drink or bring your laptop and do some work with a cat on your lap! Its recommend that you book first to make sure you grab a spot in the cat café as its quite a popular place. You can book here.
13. Watch Gannets at Muriwai beach
From August to March every year you can see over 1200 pairs of gannets nesting. Muriwai is only an hours’ drive from Auckland and is one of the most unique things to see in New Zealand. There’s a viewing platform where you can watch all the birds in their habitat.
14. Visit Goat Island
One of my favourite things to do when I’m in Auckland is to drive to Goat Island – about an hour’s drive from Auckland. You can snorkel, take a glass bottom boat or just enjoy the beautiful scenery. Snorkelling or scuba diving is highly recommended. Expect to have the most beautiful fish which come right up to your goggles. You will also get to see big stingrays and other beautiful wildlife here. Make sure you bring a picnic with you as you could easily spend the entire day chilling, swimming and enjoying the beautiful scenery. Goat Island is a Marine Reserve which means fishing is absolutely prohibited so the marine life is flourishing. In my opinion, this is one of the best spots in the entire country to snorkel. You can also take a glass bottom boat if you don’t want to get in the water or you can hire a glass bottom kayak to see the fish from below. Don’t miss out on coming to Goat Island if you are visiting Auckland!
15. Mingle with the rich in Ponsonby
The Ponsonby district is where the rich and famous are situated. Here you will find lots of beautiful houses (and the most expensive) as well as trendy cafes and some of the best restaurants. The Ponsonby district is a beautiful place to hang out and people watch some of the richest in New Zealand.
16. Queen street nightlife
No visit to Auckland is complete without a night out on Queen Street. During the weekend Queen Street is buzzing with people (mostly drunk). If you’re looking for a real kiwi pub experience, then take a visit to the QF Tavern or if you want an iconic Irish pub then Father Teds is an entertaining place to be. Just walking down the heart of Auckland in the weekend is an experience in its own. Prepare to ‘party hard bro’.
How to get to Auckland
Auckland hosts the main airport in New Zealand. Auckland airport has endless flights to New Zealand and throughout the country as well. Wellington (the capital) has a runway too small for most international carriers which is why Auckland is the main airport to fly into if you’re coming from overseas. You can grab some affordable flights to other New Zealand locations with Air New Zealand using their site Grab-a-seat. If you prefer to ride by bus, then companies like InterCity and Naked bus are a good option. Sometimes they have fares for just $1! Make sure you read this post on what you need to know before you arrive into New Zealand.
Where to stay in Auckland
Airbnb is a fantastic option if you’re looking to stay in Auckland. There are hundreds of great properties to rent and they are affordable too. There are lots of unique options as well. You can stay in a luxury house right on the beachfront or you can take a retreat in the forest if you want to get away from civilisation for a while. Make sure you get your $48 free travel credit by using my link here.
If you would like to stay in the centre, then Attic Backpackers is a great option. It’s only 400 meters from the city centre and is a modern hostel. They have been crowned by Hostelworld as the most popular hostel 3 years in a row now. To check the latest prices and availability, click here!
You can also stay on Waiheke Island at Waiheke backpackers hostel. If you prefer to spend a little more time on the island, then this hostel is a great choice. Be prepared to never want to leave. Located right on the beach it might just be the most beautiful hostel you have ever stayed in! if you had to describe this hostel in one word it would be paradise! To check the latest prices and availability, click here!
Flat Bush Holiday Accommodation is located only 7km from the botanical gardens in Auckland. It’s a fantastic choice if you want somewhere to stay that’s budget friendly but having your own space. To check the latest prices and availability, click here!
Altitude apartment is located right in the heart of the city, only 500 meters from the Skytower in fact. It’s not only affordable but also a modern apartment with a great view of the city. To check the latest prices and availability, click here!
You can stay right in the sky tower at Grand Skytower hotel. It’s one of the top luxury hotels in the city. You’re located right in the Auckland CBD and right next to a world-class casino, theatre and lots of cafes and restaurants. To check the latest prices and availability, click here!
If you want to stay in the trendy viaduct harbour neighbourhood then stay at Sofitel. You will be right on the beautiful harbour and near lots of great things to do as well. Not to mention right in the heart of the best restaurants and bars. To check the latest prices and availability, click here!
There’s your full guide on what to do in Auckland, where to eat and where to stay in the city too!
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