Stroll through Viaduct Harbour, enjoy the view from the Sky Tower, day trip to Waiheke or Rangitoto Islands, go whale watching, and day trip to the Waitakere Ranges…these are just some of the things you can do in Auckland.
If you are planning your Auckland itinerary, the biggest factor in planning your visit here is the length of time you have available. With one day in Auckland, you have just enough time to visit the highlights of the city. If you have more time, we highly recommend day tripping to Waiheke Island, taking a cruise on the Hauraki Gulf, or day tripping to the gorgeous west coast beaches.
In this guide, we list several different ways to plan your Auckland itinerary, based on how much time you have and your travel style.
Let’s get started.
A Quick Overview of Auckland
Auckland is located on the North Island of New Zealand. It sits on the Hauraki Gulf, within view of volcanic Rangitoto Island and its lush, green, vine-covered neighbor, Waiheke Island.
This city has the nickname of the “City of Sails.” The harbor is filled with yachts and sailboats and getting out on the Hauraki Gulf is one of the best things to do in Auckland, whether it is on a cruise to one of the nearby islands or a whale watching tour.
The main sights in Auckland are spread out across the city. The best way to get around is a combination of walking and using public transportation. Uber is another good way to get around the city. If you have a car, you can drive to places farther from the city center, such as Mount Eden, but driving and parking can be a hassle.
Best Things to Do in Auckland
Here are the top 10 things to do in Auckland if it is your first time in the city. You can see a more detailed list in our article Best Things to Do in Auckland.
- Day trip to Waiheke Island
- Enjoy the view from the Sky Tower
- Have lunch or dinner in Viaduct Harbour
- Visit the Auckland Art Gallery
- Enjoy the view from Mount Eden
- Visit the Auckland War Memorial
- Go whale watching
- Day trip to Rangitoto Island
- Visit the Waitakere Ranges
- Visit the Auckland Zoo
How Much Time Do You Need in Auckland?
At a bare minimum, you need one day in Auckland. With this time, you can either visit the sights in the city center or go on a day trip from Auckland. We loved the one day we spent on Waiheke Island and think this is more worthwhile than visiting the city sites for those who like wine, gourmet food, scenic drives, and prefer visiting an island rather than walking through a city.
With two days in Auckland, you can visit the sights in the city center and take your pick from one of several day trip options from Auckland. Each additional day you add on to your Auckland itinerary gives you more time for day trips or thoroughly exploring the city.
Another thing to consider when coming up with your Auckland itinerary is how much time you will have in New Zealand. Spending a day in Auckland is relatively easy, since most likely this will be your entry point into New Zealand, particularly if you are arriving here from a country other than Australia (there are a lot of direct flights between Australia and Queenstown, Christchurch, etc.).
If you have limited time in New Zealand, it might be better spent in Queenstown, Wanaka, Franz Josef, Taupō, Akaroa, Te Anau, or doing something adventurous such as hiking the Tongariro Alpine Crossing or Routeburn Track. Auckland is nice but the other destinations are more interesting, in our opinion.
Auckland Itinerary: One Day in Auckland
With one day in Auckland, there are two different ways you can plan your time. You can either spend the day visiting the main sites in the city center or you can day trip to Waiheke Island.
One Day in Auckland: Highlights of the City Center
This option is perfect for those who like the idea of visiting a museum or two, enjoying the view from the Sky Tower, exploring Auckland’s parks, and having dinner in Viaduct Harbour.
This one day itinerary includes our favorite experiences in Auckland. You’ll start at Mount Eden and work your way the waterfront, where you day will end with drinks and dinner in Viaduct Harbour.
9 am: Mount Eden/Maungawhau
Mount Eden is Auckland’s highest volcano. From its summit, you can gaze across the Auckland skyline and beyond it, to the Hauraki Gulf. This is one of the best viewpoints in Auckland.
A combination of boardwalk and dirt trails run along the summit cone, offering unique vantage points from Mount Eden.
It’s a short walk up to the trails that run along the top of the crater. A visit here lasts about 30 to 45 minutes.
The view from Mount Eden | Auckland Itinerary
How to Get to Mount Eden: If you are staying in the city center, it is too far to walk to Mount Eden. By bus from the city center, there are public buses which go to Mount Eden. Click here for the Journey Planner. Uber is a very convenient way to get to Mount Eden. If you have a car, there is a small parking lot at the base of Mount Eden, but having a car for the remainder of this itinerary will be a hassle, so I recommend using public transportation or Uber instead.
10:00 am: Take Your Pick between Two Museums & Parks
For the rest of the morning, spend your time in one of Auckland’s beautiful parks and world-class museums. There are two options for places to visit.
Auckland Domain & the Auckland War Memorial Museum
The Auckland Domain is the city’s oldest park, and one of the largest.
Sitting on Observatory Hill, the highest point of the Auckland Domain, is the Auckland War Memorial Museum. Within the park are duck ponds and the Wintergardens (two large greenhouses that contain tropical plants).
From areas of the park near the War Memorial Museum, you get panoramic views of Auckland and can see Rangitoto and Waiheke Islands in the Hauraki Gulf.
While in the park, go for a stroll along Lover’s Lane, a path lined with enormous native trees. Visit the Duck Pond and Wintergardens.
Lover’s Lane in the Auckland Domain
Auckland War Memorial | Auckland Itinerary
The Auckland War Memorial Museum (Tamaki Paenga Hira) has exhibits on New Zealand’s military and natural history. This neo-classical building is considered to be one of the finest Greco-Roman buildings in the Southern Hemisphere.
On display are important historical documents and maps, paintings and photographs documenting the history of New Zealand, natural history specimens, and a large collection of Maori and Pacific island artifacts.
For more information, including the temporary exhibits that will be on display during your visit, plus hours and pricing, visit the official website.
To get here from Mount Eden, use Uber, a taxi, or the public bus. From Mount Eden, it is a 40-minute walk.
Albert Park & Auckland Art Gallery
Albert Park is a much smaller park than the Auckland Domain but we like it a lot more. This small park is filled with ancient trees, views of the city skyline, and a fountain that was imported from Great Britain in 1881.
Albert Park | Auckland Itinerary
The Auckland Art Gallery sits on the southwest corner of Albert Park. This is New Zealand’s largest art gallery, containing over 15,000 works of art. These artworks range from European art dating back to the Middle Ages to modern artworks from Maori, New Zealand, and Pacific artists.
A visit to the Auckland Art Gallery lasts one to two hours. Get pricing, hours, and learn more about the exhibitions on the official website.
From Mount Eden, get here by public bus, Uber, or taxi.
The advantage of picking Albert Park and the art gallery over the Auckland Domain is that you will be in the city center, so for the rest of the day, you can get around on foot. From the Auckland Domain, you’ll have to take the bus or Uber to get to the city center or walk 30 minutes.
12:30 pm: Lunch
Now it is time for lunch. There are lots of options in the city center.
We had a fantastic lunch at The Depot Eatery, which is on Federal Street, very close to the Sky Tower. Other places in the city center include The Kimchi Project (Asian fusion restaurant), Mr. Taco, and Federal Delicatessen.
The next stop on the itinerary is the Sky Tower, so you also have the option of dining at Orbit 360°, but just be aware that this restaurant is only open for lunch on Saturday and Sunday and reservations are highly recommended.
2:00 pm: Sky Tower
This is New Zealand’s tallest building. From the Sky Tower, you get 360° views of Auckland, the Hauraki Gulf, and Rangitoto and Waiheke Islands.
View from the Sky Tower | Auckland Itinerary
Another view from the Sky Tower
During your visit, you can simply ride the elevator to the observation decks for the view, or add on one of several adrenaline pumping activities.
The Sky Slide is a virtual reality experience that takes you on a 360° tour of Auckland’s skyline.
You can get a little crazier by doing the SkyWalk. While wearing a harness, you will be tethered to the building and then walk on a platform 192 meters off of the ground.
For an even more exhilarating experience, leap off the top of the Sky Tower on a wire. Called SkyJump, this is Base Jumping on a wire, so it is slightly different from bungy jumping.
For the best experience, purchase your tickets online in advance, to avoid the wait in the ticket line. Get hours and pricing on the official website and learn more about SkyJump and SkyWalk.
3:30 pm: Auckland’s City Center
Spend the next few hours exploring Auckland’s city center. You can go shopping, have ice cream at Giapo, escape from prison at The Great Escape, visit the Weta Workshop Unleashed, and visit the New Zealand Maritime Museum.
New Zealand Maritime Museum | Auckland Itinerary
Evening: Dinner & Drinks in Viaduct Harbour
Viaduct Harbour is one of the best areas of Auckland to visit. This picturesque harbor is home to some of the best restaurants in the city, and several of them have outdoor terraces or elevated decks, where you can dine with a view.
Viaduct Harbour | Auckland Itinerary
Dr. Rudi’s Rooftop Brewing Co. and Parasol and Swing Company sit side-by-side and have rooftop decks with views over the harbor. Both get good reviews for their food and drinks.
We had a nice lunch at Oyster and Chop. The cocktails here were the best that we had on our multiple visits to Auckland.
Hello Beasty gets rave reviews and is another restaurant to consider.
It is best to make a reservation in advance for dinner.
Oyster and Chop
One Day in Auckland: Day Trip to Waiheke Island
This option is perfect for those who like the idea of visiting vineyards, wine tasting, having a gourmet lunch and/or dinner with a wine pairing, going to the beach, and even doing a gin tasting or olive oil tasting.
The view of the Auckland skyline on the ferry to Waiheke Island
Waiheke Island | Auckland Itinerary
Wine tasting with food pairing at Batch Winery
A day trip to Waiheke Island takes a full day. Your experience will start off with a 40-to-60-minute ferry ride to the island. To get around you can rent a car, bring your car with you on the ferry, or take a tour. Spend the day sightseeing on the island, tasting wine, enjoying the views (this is a gorgeous island!), and even ziplining or sunbathing on the beach.
In our Guide to Waiheke Island, we cover the best things to do, how to get here, and provide a detailed one day itinerary, to help you plan your time.
Two Days in Auckland Itinerary
With two days in Auckland, we recommend following the One Day in Auckland: Highlights of the City Center itinerary listed above on day 1 and day tripping to Waiheke Island on day 2.
Three Days in Auckland Itinerary
With three days in Auckland, follow the two day Auckland itinerary.
On your third day, take another day trip from Auckland. Here are a few options.
Rangitoto is the largest island in the Hauraki Gulf. It is the youngest of the volcanoes in Auckland and it last erupted in 1450 AD. Like Waiheke Island, day tripping to Rangitoto is another popular thing to do from Auckland.
Rangitoto Island | Auckland Itinerary
Rising up from the center of the island is the volcanic dome. And sitting on the slopes of Rangitoto Island is the world’s largest Pohutukawa forest.
To get here, it is a short ferry ride from Auckland. Things to do on Rangitoto Island include hiking (including hiking to the summit) and sea kayaking. On this tour, kayak to Rangitoto Island in the afternoon, hike the summit and watch the sunset. After a BBQ dinner, kayak back to Auckland in the evening.
West Coast Beaches (The Waitakere Ranges)
Not far from Auckland, on the west coast of the North Island, is a stretch of beautiful coastline. There are several unique beaches here to visit.
Karekare Beach is a gorgeous black sand beach. We visited this beach in 2015 and even on a Sunday morning, almost had the entire beach to ourselves.
Karekare Beach | Auckland Itinerary
Piha Beach is another picturesque beach. For a good view of it, make a quick stop at the Tasman Lookout.
Farther north, Anawhata Beach is smaller but more remote. Te Henga (Bethells Beach) and Muriwai Beach are two more gorgeous beaches to visit.
PRO TRAVEL TIP: At the time that I am writing this, the beaches are closed due to damage from Cyclone Gabrielle. Get updates about their reopening on the Auckland Council website.
With More Time in Auckland
If you have more than three days in Auckland, here are more ways to fill your time.
Visit the Tiritiri Matangi Open Sanctuary
Tiritiri Matangi is a small island located in the Hauraki Gulf. This island is home to a nature reserve that protects populations of native animals, such as the tuatara, the kōkako, and the tīeke/saddleback.
Regular ferries connect Auckland and this island. On a visit here, you can take guided walk, go snorkeling, see the oldest lighthouse in New Zealand, go hiking, and visit the beach.
Learn more about how to plan your visit on the official website.
Spend More Time in the City Center
With a second day in the Auckland city center, you can visit the museum you skipped on day 1, visit the Auckland Zoo, go bungy jumping from Auckland Harbour Bridge, and go whale watching. Dolphins and whales live in Hauraki Gulf all year.
On this half-day cruise, board a luxury catamaran, enjoy views of the Auckland skyline, and keep a lookout for dolphins, whales, and marine birds.
Where to Stay in Auckland
It’s easy to find highly rated luxury and upscale hotels in the city center but many of the mid-range hotels in this area get poor reviews. For mid-range travelers, your better option is to stay just outside of the city center. That’s what we did on our first trip to Auckland. We did a lot of walking but we saved a lot of money. If you stay outside of the city center, you can use Uber or public transportation to get into the city.
LUXURY: Park Hyatt Auckland. Located on Viaduct Harbour, this is the top luxury hotel in Auckland. From this spot, you can walk to the top sights in the Auckland city center. Some rooms have breathtaking views of the Auckland skyline. We stayed here and the cover photo for this guide was taken from our room. On a return visit to Auckland, we would stay here again.
Park Hyatt Auckland
UPSCALE: Auckland Waterfront Serviced Apartments on Prince’s Wharf. These apartments are located on Prince’s Wharf, which sits next to Viaduct Harbour. It has an unbeatable location, with a quick walk to some of the best restaurants in town as well as the ferry to Waiheke Island. Take your pick from one, two and three bedroom apartments. They come equipped with a kitchen and washing machine, making this a great pick for families and those traveling long term.
UPSCALE: M Social Auckland. This hotel is located next to Viaduct Harbour and Prince’s Wharf, so it also has an excellent location. Rooms are modern and range from double twin rooms to harbor view suites.
MID-RANGE: Heritage Haven. This mid-range hotel gets good reviews and is located near the Sky Tower, so it has an excellent location. Stay in a one bedroom apartment with a living room, fully equipped kitchen, and washing machine.
MID-RANGE: Bavaria Bed & Breakfast Boutique Hotel. This small hotel has 8 rooms available, ranging from twin, queen, and king rooms. It is located near Mount Eden, so it is located outside of the city center.
BUDGET: LyLo Auckland. This hostel is located in the city center, about a 5-minute walk from the Sky Tower and a 10-minute walk to the ferry ports. Beds are “pods,” offering you more privacy than you get in a typical hostel with a bunk bed configuration. You can stay in a pod in a shared room or book a room with multiple beds, if you are traveling as a group or family.
Frequently Asked Questions
How many days should I spend in Auckland?
At a bare minimum, you need one day in Auckland. With this time, you can either visit the sites in the city center or go on a day trip from Auckland. With two days in Auckland, you can visit the sites in the city center and take your pick from one of several day trip options from Auckland. Each additional day you add on to your Auckland itinerary gives you more time for day trips or thoroughly exploring the city.
What are the best day trips from Auckland?
Without a doubt, spending the day on Waiheke Island is the best day trip from Auckland, especially for wine lovers and foodies. Kayaking around Rangitoto Island, visiting the Waitakere Ranges, and taking a day trip to Hobbiton also top the list of the best day trips from Auckland.
When is the best time to visit Auckland?
Auckland can be visited all year, but the best time to go is October through April, when the weather is the warmest and driest. June, July, August, and September tend to be chilly and these are the wettest months of the year.
If you have any questions about this Auckland itinerary, let us know in the comment section below.
More Information for Your Trip to New Zealand
NORTH ISLAND: Top experiences on the North Island include spending a day or two in Auckland, hiking the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, visiting Cathedral Cove, touring Hobbiton, cruising the Bay of Islands from Paihia, and seeing glowworms and blackwater rafting in the Waitomo Caves. For the full list, read our article about the Best Things to Do on the North Island.
SOUTH ISLAND: On the South Island of New Zealand, visit Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound, spend a few days in Wanaka, hike the Routeburn Track, drive the Southern Scenic Route, visit the Marlborough Wine Region, and visit Franz Josef and Glacier Country. For the full list, read our article Best Things to Do on the South Island.
NEW ZEALAND ROAD TRIP: With 3 weeks in New Zealand, visit the highlights on a road trip to the North Island and South Island. If you have less time, you can shorten this itinerary by spending 2 weeks on the South Island.
TRAVEL ITINERARIES: For more travel itineraries for destinations around the world, take a look at our Travel Itineraries page.
We have TONS more information about New Zealand in our New Zealand Travel Guide, including Auckland, Queenstown, Wanaka, Aoraki/Mount Cook, Franz Josef, Christchurch, Wellington, Taupō, and the Milford Sound.
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