by Arundhati Bhand Updated on 13 Oct 2018
Framed with harbors, dotted with volcanic peaks interspaced with gardens, lined with promenades and beaches, and featuring fantastic attractions, Auckland, the popular city in New Zealand’s North Island, beckons visitors for a memorable holiday. Filled to the brim with natural attractions like Tiritiri Matangi Island, Mount Eden, Waitomo Glowworm Caves, Waitakere Ranges as well as man-made attractions like Sky Tower, Viaduct Harbor, and Auckland Zoo, this city is a perfect vacation spot for people of diverse tastes and interests.
Those looking for a quiet and a relaxed time can stroll along the Cornwall Park or relax in the Wintergardens while the adventurous souls can go for a sky jump from the Sky Tower and a hike through the forest on the Rangitoto Island. History enthusiasts may take a tour of the fascinating Auckland Museum while those craving for a lively time may head to the many pubs and restaurants at Mission Bay and Ponsonby. Whatever place and activity you choose in Auckland, one thing is guaranteed – you will be treated to a wonderful time! Because, as you traverse through the many layers of Auckland, what unfolds is truly magical!
Let's explore the best things to do in Auckland:
1. Go for an exhilarating sky-jump from the Sky Tower
Hovering over the horizon of Auckland at a height of 328 meters, Sky Tower is the tallest freestanding structure in the Southern Hemisphere. Thanks to its unique design, the Sky Tower has become an iconic landmark of Auckland's skyline. The Sky Tower is accessible to the tourists at five different levels. Three observation decks at 50th, 51st and the 60th floor treat visitors to stunning panoramas of the Auckland city while the 52nd level houses New Zealand’s only revolving restaurant. A primary point of interest at the Sky Tower is the opportunity to Sky Walk and Sky Jump from the height of 192-meters! The Sky tower is one of the best things to do in Auckland.
2. Experience the best of New Zealand’s wildlife at Tiritiri Matangi Island
One of New Zealand’s most important conservation projects, Tiritiri Matangi Island is a haven for wildlife lovers and birdwatchers. One of the best places to visit near Auckland, Tiritiri Matangi Island is also home to a 150-year-old lighthouse, numerous trail walks meandering through lush coastal forest, virgin beaches and a visitor center. There is no dearth of things to do on this fascinating island - from birdwatching to hiking and from exploring to picnicking on the beaches.
3. Take a walk down New Zealand’s history at Auckland Museum
A memorial dedicated to those who have sacrificed their lives for New Zealand, the Auckland Museum, also known as the Auckland War Memorial Museum, is a popular option on the list of Auckland points of interest. Also one of Auckland’s most iconic buildings, Auckland Museum features a neo-classicist style of architecture. Along with displaying collections pertaining to the military history of the country, this museum also houses exhibits that talk about the natural history, culture, art scene, and other treasures of Auckland.
4. Discover the lovely wilderness at Waiheke Island
Brimming with magnificent olive groves, gorgeous vineyards, and pristine beaches, Waiheke Island is indeed one of the most beautiful things to do in Auckland. The second-largest island in the gulf, the Waiheke Island houses a huge plethora of scenic beaches for the visitors to choose from. Just a 40-minute ferry ride away from the city, this island is one of the best places to visit outside Auckland. In addition to lazing around the charming white-sand beaches while soaking up the sunshine, there are plenty of other activities to do on this island. For adventure enthusiasts, horse riding, archery and laser clay pigeon shooting, zooming across the tree tops on a flying fox zip line, and swimming are some of the great recreational options that the Waiheke Island has to offer.
5. Explore the world's largest Pohutukawa forest at Rangitoto Island
Called as the youngest volcano in New Zealand, Rangitoto Island emerged from the sea just 600 years ago. Though the island emerged only recently, the process of formation commenced due to a series of eruptions beginning at least 6000 years ago. Perfect for a day trip from Auckland, Rangitoto Island is a popular destination for boating, exploring on foot and hiking. A climb of the popular summit track that passes through the world's largest Pohutukawa forest bequeaths visitors with spectacular panoramic views of Auckland and the Hauraki Gulf.
6. Spend some tranquil time at the Cornwall Park
Featuring charming gardens, splendid rural landscapes with grazing cattle, barbecue facilities and everything that spells “countryside,” Cornwall Park is the perfect place to wander and socialize. Traditionally a quintessential farmland, there are at least 600 sheep, 60 cows, and two-full time farmers at the Cornwall Park. The most spectacular aspect of Cornwall Park which lures visitors here is the remarkable view – lie down on the grassy slopes between lovely flower beds and admire the pretty sights of the surroundings.
7. Trek to the top of Mount Eden
Counted among the top 10 things to do in Auckland, Mount Eden one of the 48 volcanic cones in the country and the highest natural point in Auckland. The symmetrical crater which is 50 meters deep is known as Te Ipu Kai a Mataaho and is considered highly holy. A tour of this traditional fortified Māori village gives visitors a glimpse into the Māori culture and life. In addition, visitors are also treated to fabulous city and harbor views upon climbing the Mount Eden. There are also numerous cultural attractions in the Mount Eden Village – local galleries that are flooded with masterpieces by creative artists are worth a visit!
8. Have an enjoyable meal at Mission Bay
A charming seaside suburb of Auckland city, Mission Bay is filled to the brim with numerous popular eateries and cafes. One of the best places to eat in Auckland, Mission Bay features a lively Promenade which is always thriving with foodies. With numerous al fresco dining options, tourists can have their food while enjoying the views of the beach, Rangitoto Island and bustling harbor. The presence of various bars and pubs along the Mission Bay make it one of the most popular things to do in Auckland at night.
9. Stroll along the Viaduct Harbor
Housing decadent restaurants, lively bars and happening night life, Viaduct Harbor entices tourists with its dynamic vibe. A stroll around the Viaduct Harbor treats visitors to the lovely view of luxury yachts, racing yachts and the sparkling water. A waterfront destination with over 30 bars and restaurants to choose from, Viaduct Harbor is the perfect place to relax and chill in Auckland.
10. Lose yourself in the colorful world of art at the Auckland Art Gallery
A prominent public gallery in Auckland, Auckland Art Gallery features the most extensive collection of national and international art in New Zealand. In addition to its fascinating permanent exhibits, the gallery also hosts plethora of traveling international exhibitions. At the time when it was constructed in 1884, the gallery was mostly dominated by European old master paintings. Over the last century, the collection has expanded to include a wider variety of periods, media and styles, and houses over 15,000 artworks. One of the primary points of interest in Auckland, a visit to this magnificent gallery has to be on every traveler’s itinerary.
11. Admire the views from One Tree Hill
One Tree Hill, also known as Maungakiekie, is a volcanic peak in Auckland which is considered to be an important memorial place for both Māori as well as other New Zealanders. Touted to be the greatest fortress in the country, One Tree Hill derives its name from a rather eccentric story. Earlier, there used to be a native Totara tree sitting right at the top of the hill, then it was replaced with a pine tree before it was sawed away in 1994 by a Maori activist.
12. Relax in the Wintergardens at Auckland Domain, Auckland
Auckland Domain is the oldest park in Auckland. Set aside in 1880 as a 200-acre public reserve, Auckland Domain today houses the beautiful Wintergardens, which consist of two large glasshouses each exhibiting wonderful exotic and native plants. The impressive Auckland Museum too is houses in the same periphery. With so many prominent attractions and things to do nestled within its folds, it's not at all surprising that Auckland Domain is one of the best things to do in Auckland.
13. Enjoy the rugged side of Auckland at Waitakere Ranges
A rugged hilly area, Waitakere Ranges covers more than 16,000 hectares of native forest and coastline in Auckland. Unlike the popular touristy beaches in Auckland, the beached nestled in the Waitakere Ranges are windswept, black-sand beaches. Rich in native flora and fauna and home to numerous scenic and magical waterfalls like the Karekare Falls, Waitakere Ranges lets you explore the wild and unexplored, yet an equally beautiful side of Auckland.
15. Observe the huge collection of wildlife at Auckland Zoo
Home to the largest collection of native and exotic animals in New Zealand, Auckland Zoo is home to a sizeable number of native as well as exotic animals. Over 875 individuals representing 138 species are organized into exhibition areas that are grouped by region of origin, taxonomy, or biome. So, from Pridelands and African Savannah, Hippo River, Te Wao Nui, Elephant Clearing and The Rainforest to Orangutan Trail, Aussie Walkabout, Sealion and Penguin Shores and Tiger Territory, there are fascinating areas which consist of healthy and happy creatures. A visit to this zoo is one of the fun things to do in Auckland.
15. Live in the world of fantasy at the Hobbiton Movie Set
Offering visitors a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to return to the lands of Middle-earth and the Shire, a tour of the Hobbiton Movie Set gives the tourists a chance to see the working sheep farm that director Peter Jackson turned into the village of Hobbiton for his Lord of the Rings film trilogy. Not only can you get a look at Bag End, where Frodo and Bilbo’s adventures began, but also the hobbit holes, the Green Dragon Inn, the mill and the Party Tree!
16. Fall in love with the streets and houses of Devonport
One of the popular destinations for day trips from Auckland City by car, Devonport has much to see and explore. A quaint bayside Victorian village, it flaunts a more simplistic personality of Auckland. From museums to art centers, this town is packed with sites that tell the tales of its history and crave to entertain guests with art and music which is native to this land. While the Devonport beaches make for perfect picnic spots, you can also set out on a gastronomic journey along its many cafes, bakeries and restaurants. One of the most scenic places in New Zealand, don’t miss out on a trip to Mt. Victoria, Devonport Museum, and Mt. Cambria on your day trip here.
17. Go caving in the Waitomo Glowworm Caves to enjoy the starry sky
Home to a specific specie of glow worms that are found only in New Zealand, Waitomo Glowworm Caves are one of the many sites which were created close to 30 million years back by volcanic activity. Marine organisms like fish, shells, and corals can be found fossilized in the limestone of this cave. The glowworms are big and small, and usually, reside on the ceiling and the walls of the caves. The blue glowing insects make it look like a starry night sky in the dark. It is one of the best things to do in Auckland in winter as the darkness during the day enhances the experience!
18. Sail into the past at the New Zealand Maritime Museum
Opened in 1993, New Zealand Maritime Museum is a center that gives the entire timeline of New Zealand’s maritime, starting from the first Polynesian explorers to America’s Cup. Categorised into three sections, the museum includes the main exhibits, collections and documentations and even art collections. From actual vessels, to whaling and sealing, to even records, this museum has it all. Stories from the voyages of a time long ago, this makes for a very interesting place to visit in Auckland with children.
19. Walk under the ocean at Sea Life Kelly Tarlton's Aquarium
Opened in 1985, Sea Life Kelly Tarlton's Aquarium has often been called as one of the most beautiful places in Auckland. Eight zones, 30 exhibits and 80 species, make it one of the best aqua life centers in the city. Home to more than 1500 marine animals, it was one of the first centers to use conveyor belts to guide the visitors through the tunnel aquariums that they had constructed. Antarctic Ice Adventure, Stingray Bay, Fish Gallery and Seahorse Kingdom, and Pacific Shark Zone and Shipwreck Explorer are some of the most exciting exhibits here.
20. Surf away at the Piha Beach
One of the best places in Auckland to ride the waves of the Tasman Sea, Piha Beach also boasts of a varied aqua-terrain, with ample lagoons and stream in its neighbourhood. While it makes for a great one-day trip with family, it is also one of the most scenic drives in Auckland. Do make sure you visit some picturesque places which are near the beach, which include, Lion Rock and Kitekite Falls. Surfing events are held at this beach, so, if you are interested, try and be a part of one of them.
21. Journey through the Museum of Transport and Technology
Dating back to the year 1964, Museum of Transport and Technology is a science museum displaying items of commute collected privately and by the city. Military and civilian aircrafts, trams and railways, and buses are the main collections. With its interactive, educative exhibits, it is not only one of the most fun places, but also the largest museum of its kind in the country! Located in Western Springs, it is a popular place to visit near Auckland City.
22. Plan a date at the Waitemata Harbour
With such a long coastline, there are many romantic things to do in Auckland. One of them is the Waitemata Harbour. With sparkling views of the twinkling city at night, the waterfront restaurants in this area are perfect for a romantic dinner. You can even set out on a quiet stroll along the harbour, watching the ships and boats float by. This harbour is also known as the Auckland Harbour and has a number of adventurous activities that you can enjoy here during the day. Some of them are swimming with dolphins, boating and excursions.
23. Walk through the North Head Historic Reserve for a little bit of history
One place that never fails to give the best night views in Auckland, is the North Head Historic Reserve. Not only when it’s dark, but also during the day, certain vantage points in this park overlook the bay and give the most spectacular scenes. The reserve is known to be one of the most significant coastal defense site of the country. Take a walk around the place and delve into the history, or just picnic at one of the scenic spots and enjoy the views!
24. Parnell Rose Gardens: A vibrant and fragrant delight!
Named after the beloved mayor, Dove-Myer Robinson, who served for the longest period of time, Dove-Myer Robinson Park, is more commonly known as Parnell Rose Gardens. Famous for the large collection of the different types of roses that it has, the park also hosts events and ceremonies. The annual festival of roses which is hosted by this garden is a major tourist attraction in Auckland. Art exhibitions are held during this time, along with craft stalls and musicians entertaining all the visitors. And being amidst the fragrance of the roses, it is a great experience!
25. Catch a show at The Civic
More than 85 years old, The Civic is a heritage theatre located in Auckland. With a capacity of 2378 people, it is not only one of the oldest and largest, but also one of the most reputed and well-maintained theatre of the city. Bringing together performing arts of all kinds, from dance to theatre and music, people make it a point to visit it at least once during their trip to the city. Displaying Moorish Revival architectural style, it is said that the design was inspired by Indian foyer designs with columns and seating. An important sight and an unusual thing to do in Auckland, don’t forget to add it to your plan!
26. Unwind at the Takapuna Beach
Eating, shopping and relaxing can best be done in Auckland at the Takapuna Beach. Boasting its spotless shoreline and cobalt waters, this beach is perfect to unwind and relax. Cafes, bakeries and restaurants make it a foodie’s paradise, while the small trinket shops offer the best and the most unique items. While these are great things to do while here, nothing can beat the pleasure of sitting on the sand watching the cool blue waves lapping by.
27. Queen Street, shopping street! - Go for Shopping in Auckland
A proud presenter of a number of landmark buildings, theatres, galleries and government centers, Queen Street is one of the most sought-after places in Auckland. Especially known for its shopping avenues, you will find the big brands, as well as small souvenir shops lined up here. If you check out the smaller lanes, you will be surprised to find something unique and incredible! Street performers treat the bystanders to music and tricks, adding to the vibe of Auckland that this street defines!
28. Dive in and view the beauty of Goat Island
Famed to be the country’s first marine reserve, Goat Island is perfect for a day trip from Auckland. Since all that lives there is protected, you will get to see the most diverse, vibrant and brilliant aqua life here. Snorkeling here is a must, but along with marine activities, the center too is interesting. A knowledge center of sorts it is best to take a roundabout before diving, so that you can not only identify species, but also know their story.
29. Indulge in the luxuries of Ponsonby
High on the list of fun things to do in Auckland for adults, Ponsonby is one of the most happening streets in Auckland. Bars, restaurants, shops and more, nightlife here is an exciting experience. Often known for the wide range of dining options that it offers, you will be surprised with the innovation and creativity that they bring into food. You will also find posh galleries and jewellry stores in this area. Home to clubs and lounges, an evening here will be well spent.
30. Laze around at Albert Park
A visual treat, Albert Park is one of the most beautifully landscaped parks in the city. With quite a formal design, it has an interesting history, as well as some significant sites that tell wonderful stories. Built right next to the city’s oldest volcanic site, you will find that this area has played an important role in the second World War. many small monuments like the Victoria statue, the fountain and the caretaker’s cottage are a must visit while here. Today, the cottage serves as a Clock Museum.