As the largest city in New Zealand, Auckland is an urbanite’s dream, swarming with world-class creations like the Harbor Bridge, Sky Tower, and Viaduct Harbor. But most of Auckland’s appeal lies in its incredible stretches of coastline, verdant volcanoes, and twin harbors. As you can already anticipate, there is an overwhelming number of things to do in Auckland.
We spent four days exploring this incredible city, and our only wish was to stay longer. But a pre-booked itinerary meant we had to come back another time. And we did! To help you enjoy all the wonderful activities with intention, we created a list that will guide you through all the best things to do in Auckland to suit every mood and occasion. So, do a quick body scan for what you fancy and skip ahead, or read on to find out what to expect from your stay in Auckland.
Learn About the Maori Culture
Maori culture is an important part of New Zealand’s identity to this day. Since the North Island contains about 90% of the Maori population, take the opportunity to learn about the Maori culture during your stay in Auckland by taking the Maori tour. The tour is an immersive experience that takes you on an exploration of local traditions and legends while visiting the most significant cultural and historical locations around Auckland.
Immerse Yourself in the All Blacks Experience
Rugby is the national obsession of kiwis. But you don’t have to be a rugby fan to enjoy learning about its importance in New Zealand life and culture at an All Blacks Experience. It’s a 90-minute tour that takes place in the SkyCity entertainment precinct, where you get to immerse into the passion and the story of what it takes to be an All Black. The tour takes you through five interactive zones that keep building in effect, ending with an incredible haka (war dance) that may have you welling up.
Visit the Ultimate Morning Run or Walk Route
Not sure if you heard, but we walked the width of New Zealand in a single morning! And here is how you can too.
This 10-mile route, known as Coast to Coast Walk, takes you through historic landscapes and the city’s finest natural creations and other attractions, offering panoramic views along the way. It begins in the city center on the shores of Waitemata Harbor, then passes through Albert Park, Auckland Domain Park, Mount Eden, and historic suburbs, follows ancient lava flows, and finishes at Manukau Harbor. That’s a lot of scenery to get through in 4 hours. But the views and bragging rights are worth it!
Scavenge for the City Views
If you don’t want to travel too far, the best city views are found from Sky Tower. The Sky Tower, visible from all over, is a 328-meter needle topped with an observation deck. Aside from taking in breathtaking views, you can also partake in an activity native to New Zealand by bungee jumping from the top!
For a less adrenaline-infused experience, head to Mount Eden, which is a dormant volcano towering over Auckland. The crater is circled with boardwalks, and the viewing platforms offer 360-degree views of the city.
But the harbor views you get from Devonport take the cake! It’s a harbor-facing suburb located only a 15-minute ferry ride from Auckland’s downtown. Although only a suburb, Devonport has a small-town feel with a peaceful atmosphere, colonial architecture, cute cafes, and a volcanic peak called Mount Victoria, from which you get unparalleled views across the harbor. The suburb is very compact, so you can easily explore on foot. Spend an entire afternoon wandering around before enjoying an epic sunset from Mount Victoria.
Enjoy Outdoor Adventures Around Auckland
Auckland and its surroundings are rich with unbelievable nature spots. You don’t have to go far out of the city to enjoy epic scenery. In just under an hour, you can be at the head of hiking trails with breathtaking beaches and waterfalls connected by jungles.
Kitekite Trail is exactly that – a 60-minute jungle adventure that rewards you with a waterfall and a black sand beach at the end called Piha. You can continue the hike high above Piha on the Mercer Bay Loop, which traces the coast, offering incredible views. If you follow the trail all the way down to Karekare beach, you’ll find the connecting route to Karekare falls. Keep in mind though, that the way back up to Mercer Bay Loop from Karekare beach is a bit of a climb.
Embark on the Best the Best Volcano Hike
The best volcanic hiking adventure around Auckland is located at Rangitoto island, an iconic feature of Auckland’s skyline. The volcano is among the largest around the city, but one of the youngest since it emerged only about 600 years ago. There are frequent ferries that depart for the island, so the breathtaking volcanic scenery is very accessible.
The hike is plentiful with lava fields, caves, beaches, and of course, jaw-dropping lookout points and boardwalks. The explore the caves, we recommend bringing a headlamp since they are not illuminated. And definitely bring a lunch to enjoy at the beach post-swim before catching the ferry back. If you have mounds of energy, you can kayak there and back instead of riding the ferry!
Visit the Best Wine Destination Around Auckland
Apart from otherworldly nature, New Zealand is for wine tasting. Visiting a winery is something you cannot miss and the absolute best place to do it while staying in Auckland is located only a 40-minute ferry ride away from the busy downtown.
Waiheke Island feels like another destination altogether. The peaceful atmosphere and rolling hills speckled with vineyards transport you to a place that feels like it belongs on a postcard from Europe in places. But then you see the volcano peaks in the distance, reminding you are still in New Zealand.
The island is full of amazing bars and beaches, and…you guessed it, wine tastings! The two most remarkable vineyards on the island are Tantalus Estate and Mudbrick, which you can tour before settling in at their fabulous restaurants for a tasting.
We visited Waiheke on a day trip since we only had four days in Auckland, but if you have longer, please spend at least one night at one of the charming accommodations on the island.
Best Eats in Auckland
The culinary world in Auckland is a real treat and you shouldn’t miss a single opportunity of joining the locals in their favorite pastime activity – wining and dining. Food says a lot about a destination, and in Auckland, it tells stories about how multicultural the city is. The city makes space for restaurants from all over the world, while New Zealand cuisine adopts Pacific flavors, Asian influences, and European traditions. Lamb, beef, and fish are the staples, but the dining venues are super accommodating to vegetarians and vegans.
Visit Ponsonby Central, a vibrant market located in the trendy neighborhood of Ponsonby. Considered the best choice for lunch and coffee, the market is a collection of over 20 atmospheric eateries and bars under one roof.
Whether you are looking for relaxing afternoon beverages with a view or a romantic dinner, conclude your stroll around the impressive Viaduct Harbor by indulging in seafood platters at the marina-facing Soul Bar & Bistro as you watch the sunset.
And to taste New Zealand’s native ingredients prepared with traditional Maori cooking techniques with a modern spin, Ahi is your go-to. The restaurant aims to celebrate New Zealand’s heritage most authentically and create an experience built on the core values:
Ahi – Fire,
Kai – Food,
Manaaki – hospitality, respect, and generosity for others,
Whanaungatanga – a sense of connection and belonging through shared experiences.
Just a few days into your visit to Auckland, these values can be felt all throughout the city. The combination of genuinely happy people, impressive modern infrastructure, and the great outdoors tempts you to extend your stay for an indefinite number of days. It’s no wonder Auckland frequently makes the list of the most livable cities in the world. We know we’ll be coming back again.