Travelers to the Southern Pacific Ocean likely have a list of sites to visit and Auckland, New Zealand may not necessarily be on that list. But the city known as the “City of Sails” on New Zealand’s North Island has some activities and attractions worth visiting. If you’re thinking of what to do in Auckland, there’s so much to see of this city.
The beauty of Auckland is not limited to the city of 1.5 million people. The surrounding areas have some interesting spots to visit as well.
Auckland is the largest urban area in New Zealand, and the area includes the islands of the Hauraki Gulf. Auckland is a diverse city and home to the largest Polynesian population in the world.
The city is unique in that it lies on and around an isthmus, less than two kilometers wide at its narrowest point. It features two harbors, one that opens to the Pacific Ocean and one that opens to the Tasman Sea.
Interesting landmarks include the Auckland Art Gallery, the Harbour Bridge, the Sky Tower, and many museums, parks, restaurants, and theatres. You’ll never be questioning what to do in Auckland when you visit!
When to Visit Auckland
Auckland’s climate is classified as subtropical, with warm, humid summers and mild, damp winters. It is the warmest main centre in New Zealand and one of the sunniest, averaging over 2000 hours of sunshine per year.
If you like warm temperatures, it’s best to visit from December through March, when temperatures average around 22 degrees Centigrade (71 degrees Fahrenheit). Even in May through September, the temperatures average a pleasant 15-17 degrees Centigrade (60-63 degrees Fahrenheit). Also, being an oceanic climate, high levels of rainfall do occur year-round, so pack a travel umbrella.
What to do in Auckland
If you’re a thrill-seeker, Auckland has a few heart-pumping adventures for you to enjoy.
You can bungee-jump off the Sky Tower, Auckland’s most renowned landmark. If that’s a little too much for you, you can walk around the tower’s ring. Another bungee jumping option is the Harbour Bridge. This jump is unique in that you can touch the water. Or if you really want a thrill, you can ask to be tied to a harness that will plunge you completely into the ocean. Be sure to check out the views before you take either jump.
You could also head out to the Waitakere Ranges and rappel the waterfalls. Abseiling or rappelling tours will take you on a journey underneath the falls and gorges, with trained guides assisting you along the way.
If rappelling isn’t for you but you love the outdoors, you can spend some time in the Waitakere Ranges, which has many miles of walking trails.
If you like the idea of an outdoors adventure of a little calmer variety, you can take advantage of Auckland’s location on the water. Sea kayaking on the coast to the surrounding islands, including the beautiful volcanic Rangitoto Island, is for those who prefer a more peaceful way to spend the day. There are also options for jet-boating or sailing adventures.
Another possibility for outdoor exploring is to rent a bike and discover the city via its cycle tracks and paths. Popular options include the Sanders Reserve on the North Shore, the Woodhill Track, Maraetai and Totara Park. You can also take a short ferry trip across the Hauraki Gulf and explore the Waiheke Island trails.
In fact, if you’d like to get out of the city, you can stay and spend the day on Waiheke Island, and enjoy its beaches and wineries. If a bike isn’t for you, there are options to travel by bus, rental car or boat.
And if you’d really like to impress those at home with some cool pictures, try indoor skiing at Snowplanet. Who would imagine going to a coastal city and skiing, snowboarding, tubing or tobogganing? You can do it here, with slopes and jumps for every level, and the option to rent equipment.
If you’re more into the city vibe and want to explore the urban part of Auckland, consider the Auckland Free Walking Tour. This is a great way to learn about the city, as well as its people, its history, and its architecture. You can even take in a cricket match for free at Victoria Park on the weekends.
If you’re into learning about local history, there are opportunities to visit many museums for free, such as the Papakura Museum and the Huia Settlers Museum. Other museums include the Devonport Museum, McCahon House, and the Polish Heritage Trust Museum. These museums have a small fee to visit.
Where to stay in Auckland
Many travelers are becoming more conscious of the effect they have on the natural environment they are visiting and enjoying. In New Zealand, those who care about sustainability should look out for the Qualmark New Zealand official tourism environmental award. To achieve this, accommodations must have high levels of efficiency in energy, water and waste management, as well as show community responsibility.
One hotel with that designation is Heritage Hotels, including Heritage Auckland. It’s set in one of the city’s historic landmark buildings, the iconic Farmers department store building, and is an option for those who prefer a more upscale accommodation in a hotel setting.
If you’d like to get out of the city without venturing too far, you can stay at Earthsong Lodge.
This is located on Great Barrier Island, which is just a short ferry ride from central Auckland, and is an eco-tourist’s dream come true as much of the area is protected conservation land. Earthsong Lodge accommodates a maximum of six people to ensure the impact on the area is minimal.
Warblers Retreat is a boutique bed and breakfast on Auckland’s North Shore, about a 30-minute drive from downtown.
Sustainability is an important part of this retreat’s operations as well, as only two couples can stay there at any given time, choosing between a self-contained apartment suite or a garden vista cottage.
The more budget-conscious traveler may want to look at the ibis Budget Auckland, a pocketbook-friendly hotel in the ibis chain that includes free WiFi and a kitchenette with a stove, microwave, fridge and cooking utensils in each room.
You can also opt to live like a local and stay in the suburbs at 215 Edinburgh Castle, which has private single, double and family rooms, as well as an on-site bar and restaurant.
Where Eat & Drink in Auckland
There’s really no end to delicious restaurants in Auckland, and you can choose from multiple cultures and cuisines.
A new up-and-coming spot in Auckland is Cotto, a reasonably priced pasta restaurant. The fresh pasta steals the show, but there are lots of options on the menu from which to choose. If you’d like an option where you can get a meal on a budget, BBQ Duck Café or Epolito’s Pizzeria are options.
How Much Time Do You Need in Auckland
Three days should be enough time to get a good taste of Auckland. In that time, you can:
- Take a day to explore the city, including a visit or two to museums or shops;
- Take a day out of the city exploring the area and enjoying the scenery;
- Take a day to go on a guided tour, or just relax at your chosen accommodations.
The choices are there for you, it just depends how you’d like to spend your time in the City of Sails.
Have you been to Auckland, New Zealand before? Can you add anything else to list on what to do in Auckland? Let us know in the comment section below!
About the Author: Sam Ross runs the blog thehammockhombre.com – a travel blog focused on the digital nomad lifestyle. Over the past 3 years, he’s traveled to every continent, so writes on a broad range of countries, cities, and destinations.