Spending one day in Auckland is an obligatory stop on any New Zealand itinerary. Auckland is the largest city in New Zealand and even with just 24 hours in Auckland, you’ll quickly see why travellers flock here in droves.
Any Auckland itinerary is bound to be full of both urban & outdoor adventures. The Auckland area teems with hiking trails, bungee jumping, whale watching, vineyards, wildlife reserves, hot springs, and rainforests. Oh, and let’s not forget its black-sand beaches and diverse selection of food, wine, and culture!
Not sure where to go in Auckland in one day? Start planning your layover in Auckland with this complete 1-day Auckland itinerary.
Where to go in Auckland in 24 hours: A complete one-day itinerary
Even if you’ve only got 24 hours in Auckland, you’ll get to see & experience a good portion of New Zealand’s biggest city. Many of Auckland’s top destinations are accessible on foot.
Of course, you won’t cover every corner of Auckland in a day. It is, after all, a big city with tons to see!
To cram more in, you’ll need to focus on downtown Auckland and the surrounding area. Even with a quick Auckland layover, you’ll find time to travel to a volcanic crater in the middle of a park, view the city from a sky tower, and shop your way through the historic downtown blocks.
Enjoy a stroll around Auckland Domain
Start your one day in Auckland at the massive city park located east of the downtown area. Auckland Domain is the oldest and largest park in Auckland with 75 hectares of green space.
The park also houses a few attractions including a volcano, a museum, a botanical garden, and several monuments. You could spend more than a day exploring it all.
As you’re trying to see Auckland in one day, head straight to the duck pond. The duck pond has an ethereal atmosphere. A large tree sits in the centre of the pond. The surrounding trees create a canopy over most of the area. Rays of sunlight shine through, highlighting the natural flora and revealing groups of ducks floating through the water.
From the duck pond, head to the crater. The floor of the crater has filled in over the years, forming a natural amphitheatre. It now hosts sports games and local festivals but you can get a great view of the city from the rim.
After getting a panoramic view of Auckland, walk to the botanical gardens. You’ll enjoy various temperate and tropical plants as you tour the two large greenhouses.
If you’re a history buff, consider dropping by the Auckland War Memorial Museum in the middle of the park. Settled within a handsome neoclassical building from the 1920s, the Auckland Museum features a multitude of interesting collections focusing on the history of New Zealand and Auckland, as well as natural history, and military history.
View the floral clock and Victoria statue in Albert Park
From Auckland Domain, you’ll travel to Albert Park, giving you plenty of fresh air first thing in the morning. This will be the longest walk during your Auckland trip itinerary. It’ll take about 18 minutes to reach Albert Park on foot.
You’ll cross the highway to the west of Auckland Domain and pass through the University of Auckland campus. This park also contains numerous features worth exploring.
After you enter the park, walk around and view the various memorials and monuments. You’ll come across a statue of Queen Victoria, the Boer War memorial, and statues of several prominent New Zealanders.
One of the more interesting features of the park is the floral clock. It features a large clock face made entirely from the blooms of seasonal flowers.
View priceless artwork at the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki
After starting your first day outdoors, you’ll finally get to step indoors as you visit the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki. Located just around the corner from the park, it’s the largest public gallery in New Zealand.
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki houses a collection of national and international artwork. The original collections mostly included paintings from the old European masters. Today, you’ll discover a unique mix of styles covering artists from various regions and time periods.
In the past 100 years, the gallery has collected many paintings and sculptures from Maori artists, showcasing work from the indigenous people of New Zealand.
This is also a good time to grab something to eat or a cup of coffee to fuel your body until dinnertime. The closest option is the Gallery Café located inside the gallery. It’s a little overpriced but convenient.
On Lorne Street across from the gallery, you’ll find Gong Cha. It’s a tea store with various hot or chilled beverages, including smoothies and shakes.
Experience local culture as you stroll Aotea Square
As you finish your coffee or snack, cross the street and walk behind The Civic to reach Aotea Square, the next stop on your 1-day Auckland tour. The open public square is surrounded by modern developments and contains numerous contemporary sculptures and statues.
Depending on the time of the year, you may find a public event, market, or skating rink set up in the centre of Aotea Square. You’ll also typically hear an eclectic mix of music coming from the various street performers.
Take a walk around the square and soak up the atmosphere. Aotea Square is typically full of activity, thanks to the dozens of food trucks, restaurants, and cafes in the area. Grab some more food or watch people as they hurry around the square.
To the south of the square, you’ll see the imposing Auckland Town Hall. It’s built in the neo-Baroque style and features a large clock tower that lights at night. You won’t have time to tour the inside of the town hall, but you can check out the architecture as you take a stroll around the square.
Climb to the observation deck in the Sky Tower
The main reason to grab a bite after the gallery or in the square is to avoid the prices at the Sky Tower lounge. You’ll climb to the observation deck to get a better view of Auckland.
To reach the tower, head west on Wellesley Street in front of the square until you reach Hobson Street. It’s a short five-minute walk past a few of the top hotels.
The Sky Tower stands 328 metres tall. Multiple upper levels remain open to the public. The most visited part of the Sky Tower is the observation deck on the 51st floor where you can check out the city’s skyline.
Skip over the high-priced Sky Lounge on the 50th floor and head straight to the observation deck. If you’re feeling extra adventurous, take a plunge from the Sky Jump, a 192-metre guided-cable jump from the observation deck.
Marvel at the stained-glass windows at the Cathedral of St Patrick
After you get back to ground level, walk out the doors of the Sky Tower and walk two blocks north to the Cathedral of St Patrick. When exploring Auckland in 24 hours, you’ll need to move quickly at a few of the sites, like the cathedral.
A quick look at the outside and a fast tour of the inside should give you a lasting memory of the imposing Gothic Revival architecture.
St. Patrick’s is an active Catholic cathedral with Mass held at normal times. As you stand outside, peer up at the intricately designed stained glass windows.
If you arrive during Mass, you’ll need to wait to enter the church. Instead of waiting, start walking north to the downtown area.
Shop and dine in Downtown Auckland
After a tour of the cathedral, it’s time to go shopping in the heart of Downtown Auckland. Technically, most of the stops on this 24-hour Auckland itinerary are in or around the downtown area. It’s where you’ll find the top things to do in Auckland, including the top restaurants and shops.
The main shopping area in Downtown Auckland is Queen Street. It’s lined with shops, cafés, and restaurants. You’ll also find many boutiques and smaller shops on the side streets radiating from Queen Street.
Spend a few hours exploring the area. Shop, eat, and mingle with the locals. Just make sure that you start walking to the next destination before 5 pm.
Examine ancient nautical treasures at the New Zealand Maritime Museum
At the western end of the piers, you’ll find the New Zealand Maritime Museum, one of Auckland’s most interesting museums.
With more time in Auckland, you could check out a few other sites near the museum, such as the Auckland Whale & Dolphin Safari. The tour takes you out into the sea in the hopes of spotting whales and dolphins in their natural habitats. Unfortunately, visiting Auckland on a time-crunch won’t leave enough time for a six-hour excursion. You’ll need to get your nautical fix at the museum.
The New Zealand Maritime Museum includes artifacts from the first Polynesian explorers and collections from modern times. You’ll also discover the history of the region from the first settlers to modern commercial shipping.
Enjoy the ocean breeze as you party in Viaduct Harbour
When you’re done looking at maritime artifacts, step outside and explore the rest of the waterfront at Viaduct Harbour. One of the busiest parts of Auckland any time of the day or evening, Viaduct Harbour is a must-see even if you’ve only got a day.
During the day, the waterfront is full of tourists and locals swimming and sunbathing; in the evening, it’s a hotspot for dining and drinking.
Of course, if you prefer bathing in the sun or spending time on the water, you could spend your entire day in Auckland on the beach. No matter how you choose to spend your time, visit Viaduct Harbour at the end of the day. It comes alive as music and people pour onto the sidewalks from the numerous clubs and bars.
Where to stay: The best hotels for 24 hours in Auckland
Despite being New Zealand’s most populous city, choosing where to stay in Auckland isn’t as much of a challenge as in other world cities. For most travellers, especially those with a quick layover in Auckland, most of the city’s best places to stay are within the city centre. The areas around Queen Street, Newmarket, and the Waterfront are good places to start.
- Best Nest Apartments in Viaduct: An excellent choice for price-conscious travellers, these lovely modern studio apartments are fully-serviced with a full kitchenette. The city centre is just steps away.
- CityLife Auckland: This contemporary aparthotel is a superb option located on Queen Street. The offerings here range between everything from double rooms to three-bedroom apartments. You’ll love the full-service amenities including a fitness centre, indoor pool, restaurant, and bar.
- Four Points by Sheraton Auckland: An excellent mid-range luxury hotel that lives up to the brand’s promise with comfortable rooms and a whole host of amenities in a central location.
- Hotel Grand Windsor MGallery by Sofitel: One of the top luxury picks in Auckland, this elegant & sophisticated hotel sits on the waterfront, putting you front and centre with the city’s best shopping and sightseeing opportunities.
More Auckland itinerary ideas
Got an early step on your morning? Start your day at Mount Eden instead. Located in the affluent suburb of the same name, Mount Eden (also known as Maungawhau in Maori) is one of the top hiking destinations in Auckland. Visitors who decide to power up this volcanic peak will be greeted with tremendous views over the beautiful Hauraki Gulf and city.
If you’ve got a little extra time after your hike, poke around the Mount Eden neighbourhood. The area is chock-loaded with cool cafes, bistros, and bars along with interesting boutique shops selling everything from used books to vintage clothing. The suburb is also famous for being the site of Eden Park, the home of NZ’s world-famous All Blacks rugby team.
Only 35 minutes from the Auckland Ferry Terminal, Waiheke Island is one of the most famous and worthwhile escapes from the bustle of New Zealand’s biggest city. It won’t take you long after arrival to realize that Waiheke Island is a step out of the ordinary.
This beautiful island, pressing out of the Hauraki Gulf, is home to everything from picture-perfect white-sand beaches & cliff-top hiking trails to world-class wineries & restaurants.
Among the most popular wineries in Auckland and Waiheke is the Mudbrick Vineyard & Restaurant. Thanks to its spectacular location and consistently superb wine & food, this elegant winery & restaurant has been a celebrity hotspot for decades. If you can, time your visit to Mudbrick to watch the sun set over the Auckland skyline to a glass o’ vino.
Located just west of the Viaduct Basin, Wynyard Quarter is one of Auckland CBD’s most compelling redevelopment success stories. The Wynyard Quarter area, covering a 36-hectare space of reclaimed land, offers a few interesting attractions if you’ve got a little time left in your day.
There’s a handful of excellent places to drinking in the neighbourhood including The Wreck, serving an eclectic menu of local craft beers & wine, and the Williams Eatery.
If you’re wandering about in Wynyard Quarter, be sure to also check out Silo Park. This former industrial site has been transformed into a multi-use venue. Silo Park hosts interesting events in the summer including an open-air movie theatre and pop-up food markets.
The views from Silo Park beyond the marina’s superyachts towards the Auckland Harbour Bridge are also quite fantastic.
Located east of Auckland’s North Shore district, Rangitoto Island is, like nearby Waiheke, one of the best islands to explore in Auckland and a fantastic escape from the city.
For hiking-lovers looking for some spectacular views over the whole area, a day trip to Rangitoto Island will deliver in spades.
If you’ve got a little extra time, plan to hike up Rangitoto’s volcanic cone. The views from the top of the dormant volcano extend as far as the beautiful Waitakere Ranges to the west and the Hunua Range Regional Park to the east. The panoramas over the Hauraki Gulf are equally striking.