Auckland is the largest city in New Zealand and one of the largest cities in Oceania. With its beautiful setting on the Hauraki Gulf, its parks and walking trails, vibrant food and wine scene, and endless day trip options, the list of things to do in Auckland is relatively long.
In this guide, we list the best things to do in Auckland. Most of these are located within the city center (also called the Auckland Central Business District (CBD) or Auckland Central) but we also list several day trips to consider. Not only can you stroll through the harbor or visit the Sky Tower for panoramic views of Auckland, but you can also journey out to nearby beaches and islands.
As you will see, Auckland is a great city to add to your trip through New Zealand.
Interesting Facts about 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.
The Maōri name for Auckland is Tāmaki Makaurau which means “Tamaki desired by many.” Auckland’s waterfront setting and prime location near some of the most beautiful beaches and outdoor areas on the North Island of New Zealand makes this a very desirable place to live, work, and visit.
Auckland is home to a very large multicultural population. Over 40% of people who call Auckland home were born overseas. It’s also home to the largest Polynesian population of any city in the world.
The city is located on top of a volcanic field. Craters, lava cones, and ancient lava flows can be seen within the city. The most recent volcanic activity occurred at Rangitoto Volcano, which sits in the Hauraki Gulf, in 1450 AD.
Auckland has the nickname of the “City of Sails.” The harbor is filled with yachts and sailboats and many Auckland households own a boat.
Best Things to Do in Auckland
In no particular order, here are the best things to do in Auckland. At the end of this section, you can see all of them on a map.
1. Enjoy the View from the Sky Tower
For one of the best views of Auckland, visit the Sky Tower. Located in the city center, this building towers 186 meters above street level. It’s New Zealand’s tallest building.
Auckland Sky Tower
From the viewing deck, you get 360° views of Auckland, the Hauraki Gulf, and Rangitoto and Waiheke Islands.
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.
Overlooking the Auckland Harbour Bridge and Viaduct Harbour | Best Things to do in Auckland
Another view from the Sky Tower | Best Things to do in Auckland
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.
On the Sky Tower are two restaurants, the Sugar Club (a fine dining experience) and Orbit 360° Dining (a revolving dining room).
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.
2. Stroll through 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.
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.
Viaduct Harbour | Best Things to do in Auckland
3. The New Zealand Maritime Museum (Hui Te Ananui A Tangaroa)
The New Zealand Maritime Museum is located next to Viaduct Harbour, so you can pop into this museum before or after a visit to the harbor.
On display are exhibits documenting New Zealand’s maritime history, starting with the first Polynesian explorers. You can learn about the first people who traveled to New Zealand, their pioneering voyages, and the early history of New Zealand.
A visit to this museum lasts about an hour. It’s a great place to visit for families and those with an interest in the early history of New Zealand and the amazing journeys of Polynesian explorers. Get hours and pricing on the official website.
New Zealand Maritime Museum | Best Things to do in Auckland
4. Visit the Auckland Art Gallery (Toi O Tāmaki)
The Auckland Art Gallery 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 Maōri, New Zealand, and Pacific artists.
Auckland Art Gallery | Best Things to do in Auckland
This museum often hosts temporary, traveling international exhibits. During our visit to this museum, Light from Tate was on display, which featured 100 works of art curated from Tate Gallery in London.
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.
5. Albert Park
The Auckland Art Gallery is located in the southwest corner of Albert Park. This small, hilly park is a nice place to go for a stroll and look out across the skyline of Auckland. The centerpiece of the park is fountain that was imported from Great Britain in 1881. For us, the highlight was seeing the old, massive trees that line some of the walking paths in the park.
Albert Park | Best Things to do in Auckland
Albert Park | Best Things to do in Auckland
6. Take a Stroll through the Auckland Domain
In New Zealand, parks are called domains. The Auckland Domain is the city’s oldest park, and one of the largest. This park is the remains of the crater and tuff ring of the Pukekawa volcano.
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).
The Lover’s Walk is scenic walk through the park, which is lined with massive, native trees.
Lover’s Walk | Best Things to do in Auckland
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.
The best place to park is at the Museum Car Park, which is located next to the Auckland War Memorial Museum. From this point, you can visit the museum, and walk to the Wintergardens and duck pond that sits next to it.
7. The Auckland War Memorial Museum (Tamāki Paenga Hira)
Built in the 1920’s, this museum 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.
Auckland War Memorial Museum (Tamāki Paenga Hira) | Best Things to do in Auckland
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.
“Scars on the Heart” is a permanent exhibition that covers New Zealand’s involvement in wars, such as WWI and WWII. Parts of the museum, and The Cenotaph that sits in front of the building, serves as the War Memorial. There are also two “Halls of Memory” inside of the museum which honor soldiers killed during the 20th century.
For more information, including the temporary exhibits that will be on display during your visit, plus hours and pricing, visit the official website.
8. Cornwall Park & One Tree Hill/Maungakiekie
One Tree Hill/ Maungakiekie is an ancestral mountain and volcanic peak in Auckland.
Maungakiekie was one of the largest Maōri village settlements in Auckland and it is a spiritually significant spot to the Maōri people.
One Tree Hill/Maungakiekie | Best Things to do in Auckland
A tōtara was planted here but this tree was cut down by a white settler in 1852. Following this incident, Monterey pines were planted at the same spot, only one survived, and that was cut down in 2000 by a Maōri activist.
One Tree Hill gets its name from that one Monterey pine that stood on top of the hill, before it was cut down.
And if you’ve heard the song One Tree Hill by U2, that song is referring to this same place. The song was written in memory of Greg Carroll, a New Zealander who became friends with Bono when Bono visited Auckland in 1984. Greg Carroll was later killed in a motorcycle accident in Dublin.
Sitting on the highest point of One Tree Hill is an obelisk and another spot where you are treated to panoramic views of Auckland. To get to the top of One Tree Hill, there is a walking trail the climbs the hillside. It takes about 50 minutes for the round trip walk and to enjoy the view from the summit.
One Tree Hill/ Maungakiekie is located inside of One Tree Domain, which sits next to Cornwall Park, forming one very large park. You can get here by car, Uber, or when walking the Coast-to-Coast Walkway.
The view from One Tree Hill/Maungakiekie
9. Enjoy the View from Mount Eden/Maungawhau
Where else can you view the grassy caldera of an ancient volcano with one of the world’s prettiest cities just beyond it?
Here at 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.
Mount Eden is open from 7 am to 8:30 pm in the summer, 7 am to 7 pm in the winter. A combination of boardwalk and dirt trails run along the summit cone, offering unique vantage points from Mount Eden. Get updates on conditions here.
Mount Eden/Maungawhau | Best Things to do in Auckland
10. Coast to Coast Walkway
The Coast to Coast Walkway is a 16 km (10 mile) walkway that connects Manukau Harbour to Viaduct Harbour in the city of Auckland. On this walk, you will pass through several spots already mentioned in this guide, including Mount Eden/Maungawhau, One Tree Hill/Maungakiekie, and the Auckland Domain.
This sounded very interesting to us, so we gave it a go on our first visit to Auckland. We took the bus to Manukau Harbour, walked to One Tree Hill, and continued to Mount Eden. We planned on finishing up in the Auckland city center.
However, once leaving Mount Eden, this walk lost its appeal. A lot of it is on city streets and really not all that interesting. We bailed out early, having a nice lunch in a nearby restaurant and then doing a little more sightseeing in Auckland in the afternoon, instead of walking the second half of this walk.
I highly recommend visiting One Tree Hill and Mount Eden, but you can drive here or get here by Uber or bus. The Coast to Coast Walkway is only worthwhile for those with a lot of time in Auckland and like the idea of doing a long distance walk through the city.
Learn more about the Coast to Coast Walkway here, plus ways to break it up into three separate sections.
11. Spend the Day on Waiheke Island
Day tripping to Waiheke Island was our favorite experience in Auckland and one of our all-time favorite days in New Zealand.
Waiheke Island is the second largest island in the Hauraki Gulf of New Zealand. It sits within view of Auckland and getting here is a breeze, with regular car ferries connecting Auckland and Waiheke Island throughout the day.
This small island is home to long stretches of beautiful beaches and coastlines, olive oil and gin distilleries, hiking trails, and restaurants. But for many people, the biggest draw are the wineries. Waiheke Island is covered in vineyards, so wine tasting or wine pairings with lunch or dinner are one of the best things to do on Waiheke Island.
One of many beautiful views from Waiheke Island | Best Things to do in Auckland
Gin tasting at Waiheke Distilling Co.
Mudbrick Vineyard and Restaurant
In the morning, take the ferry from Auckland to Waiheke Island. Spend the day wine tasting, lounging on the beach, going for scenic drives, olive oil and gin tasting, and indulging on food and wine pairings. For those who want to be a little more active, you can also go hiking, cycling, or ziplining.
Learn more about Waiheke Island and how to plan your visit in our article Best Things to Do on Waiheke Island.
12. Spend another Day on Waiheke Island
This may seem like a joke, but it’s not.
We enjoyed our time so much on Waiheke Island that we wish we had done this twice. To save yourself a ride on the ferry, consider spending the night on Waiheke Island, staying at a winery or a luxury apartment with its own waterfall, tropical pool, and sauna.
13. Day Trip to Rangitoto Island
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 | Best Things to do in Auckland
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.
14. Go Whale Watching in Hauraki Gulf
One of the best things to do in Auckland is to go whale watching in the Hauraki Gulf. Dolphins and whales live in Hauraki Gulf all year. It’s more likely you’ll see large group of dolphins during the winter months.
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.
15. 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.
Tiritiri Matangi Open Sanctuary | KenWongYL/shutterstock.com
16. Leap from Auckland Harbour Bridge
AJ Hackett throws those willing and able from bridges throughout New Zealand, including Auckland. The bungy jump from Auckland Harbour Bridge is advertised as New Zealand’s only ocean touch, meaning that when you leap from this bridge, you have the chance to dunk your head in water below.
This bungy jump is 40 meters and anyone 10 years and older can do this, so the whole family can join in on the fun.
Learn more about the experience on the official website.
Auckland Harbour Bridge | ChameleonsEye/shutterstock.com
17. Indulge on a Sculpture Made of Ice Cream
Giapo is an ice cream shop that is famous for its very creative ice cream dishes. They serve your typical ice cream cones and sundaes, but you can also order an ice cream cone topped with a colossal squid, order a “selfie cone,” or have an ice cream cone topped with a donut.
It’s a unique place to visit and the perfect place to satisfy your sweet tooth. Overall, we thought the experience was a bit overrated, but if you love ice cream or are traveling with kids, this is a spot to put on your to-do list. Giapo is located in the Auckland city center.
Be prepared to wait in line, especially right at opening time. Get hours and check out the menu on the official website.
18. Visit the Auckland Zoo
The Auckland Zoo just recently celebrated its 100th birthday (in 2022). Over the past 100 years, this zoo has gradually enlarged, housing both animals native to New Zealand and those that can be found around the world.
Through various walking trails in the zoo, you can view animals from Africa, Australia, the South American rainforest, the jungles of Southeast Asia, and Te Wao Nui, which features animals endemic to New Zealand.
Little Blue Penguins
The Auckland Zoo plays a big role in animal conservation. In 2009, the Auckland Zoo, along with Wellington Zoo, removed Cadbury chocolate from their shops, once Cadbury began adding palm oil to their chocolate. Palm oil production harms the rainforests of Southeast Asia, which affects the populations of orangutans and Sumatran tigers. This pressure from the two zoos, plus other social media sites, led to Cadbury removing palm oil from their chocolate.
The Auckland Zoo is also home to the New Zealand Centre for Conservation Medicine (NZCCM), the first national conservation center in the world.
Learn more about exhibits, conservation projects, and how to visit the zoo on the official website.
19. Escape from Prison at The Great Escape
We don’t typically recommend escape rooms on our “things to do” city guides. But we had such a memorable experience here that I could not leave this off of the list.
We have now done escape rooms around the world and The Great Escape runs the best escape rooms we have seen.
On our first visit to Auckland, the four of us escaped from Prison/Break. It was so well done and entertaining that we signed up and returned to escape from the Psych Ward.
If you are traveling with older kids, like escape rooms, want to break up the sightseeing in Auckland, or see that you’ll have a rainy day during your visit, sign up to escape from one of the rooms at The Great Escape. It just might be one of your favorite memories from Auckland.
20. Day Trip to the West Coast Beaches (Waitākere 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 | Best Things to do in Auckland
Piha Beach is another picturesque beach. For a good view of it, make a quick stop at the Tasman Lookout.
Piha Beach | Emagnetic/shutterstock.com
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: We visited Karekara Beach in 2015. In 2023, Tim and I attempted to visit the other beaches listed above but they were closed due to damage to the roads from Cyclone Gabrielle. They are still closed at the time I am publishing this guide. Get updates on the Auckland Council website.
Best Things to Do in Auckland: On a Map
How to Use This Map: Click the tab in the top left hand corner of the map to view the layers. You can click the check marks to hide or show layers. If you click the icons on the map, you can get more information about each point of interest.
If you click the star next to the title of the map, this map will be added to your Google Maps account. To view it on your phone or computer, open Google Maps, click the menu button, go to “Your Places,” click Maps, and you will see this map on your list.
Best Things to Do in Auckland: Our Recommendations
Top 10 Experiences in Auckland
Here are the top 10 things to do in Auckland if it is your first time in the city:
- 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 Museum
- Go whale watching
- Day trip to Rangitoto Island
- Visit the Waitākare Ranges
- Visit the Auckland Zoo
10 Best Things to Do in Auckland with Kids
- Enjoy the view from the Sky Tower
- Visit the Auckland Zoo
- Day trip to Waiheke Island and go ziplining
- Ice cream at Giapo
- Break out from prison at The Great Escape
- Climb Mount Eden for views of Auckland
- Visit the New Zealand Maritime Museum
- Go whale watching
- Visit Tiritiri Matangi Open Sanctuary
- Visit the Auckland Domain
The view from Mount Eden | Best Things to do in Auckland
Tours of Auckland
Take a flightseeing tour, day trip to Waitomo Caves and Hobbiton, or go sailing in the Hauraki Gulf. Here are a few more options on things to do in Auckland.
Where to Eat in Auckland
In and around Viaduct Harbour, Hello Beasty, Oyster and Chop, Dr. Rudi’s Rooftop Brewing Co., and Parasol and Swing Company get the best reviews.
Dr. Rudi’s Rooftop Brewing Co.
We had a great lunch at The Depot Eatery, dining on potato skins and grilled kahawai. This restaurant is walk in only and located just a few steps from the Sky Tower.
The Depot Eatery
Sails Restaurant is one of the top fine dining restaurants in Auckland. Ahi and The Grove also get stellar reviews.
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
Is Auckland worth visiting?
With its beautiful setting on the Hauraki Gulf, its parks and walking trails, vibrant food and wine scene, and endless day trip options, Auckland is worth the visit. On the quickest of itineraries, plan on spending at least two days in Auckland: one day for sightseeing in the city center and one day to visit Waiheke Island.
How much time do you need in Auckland?
For the best experience, plan on spending at least two to three days in Auckland. In one very busy, well-planned day, you can visit the highlights in the Auckland city center. With additional time, day trip to Waiheke Island or Rangitoto Island, visit the Waitakere Ranges, and walk the Coast to Coast Walkway.
What is Auckland famous for?
Auckland is famous for its beautiful setting on the Hauraki Gulf, its vibrant food and wine scene, landmarks such as the Sky Tower and waterfront area, and its cultural diversity. This city hosts festivals throughout the year, including the Auckland Arts Festival and the Pasifika Festival, and it hosted the America’s Cup in 2021.
If you have any questions about the best things to do in Auckland, let us know in the comment section below.
More Information for Your Trip to New Zealand
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.
NORTH ISLAND: Top experiences on the North Island include the Tongariro Alpine Crossing (one of the best day hikes in the world), visiting Waiheke Island on a day trip from Auckland, touring Hobbiton, a visit to Taupō, and seeing the 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, drive the Southern Scenic Route, go bungy jumping in Queenstown, visit the Marlborough Wine Region, and visit Franz Josef and Glacier Country.
ADVENTURES IN NEW ZEALAND: Go bungy jumping, hike the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, spend one day in Abel Tasman National Park, take a helicopter ride over Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers, and go paragliding and jet boat riding in Queenstown.
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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