Spending one day in Auckland doesn’t leave you a lot of extra time. It’s the largest city in the country and one of the best destinations in New Zealand for adventurous travellers.
People flock to Auckland for its outdoor activities. Hiking trails, bungee jumping, and whale watching are just a few of the highlights.
It’s no wonder. Auckland is a geographically blessed city with not one but two harbours framing a narrow isthmus. Volcanic cones dot the horizon and fertile farmland frames the city. Within reach of the city are vinelands, wildlife reserves, hot springs and rainforests. Needless to say, there’s something for everyone.
Even within the multi-cultural city, you get the sense of the true uniqueness of the place. Its black-sand beaches and diverse selection of food, wine, and culture make it an unforgettable place to visit.
Not sure where to go? Start planning your vacation with this complete 1-day Auckland itinerary.
Table of Contents
- What to do in Auckland in 24 hours: A complete one-day itinerary
- Enjoy a Stroll around Auckland Domain
- View the floral clock and Victoria statue in Albert Park
- View priceless artwork at the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki
- Experience local culture as you stroll Aotea Square
- Climb to the observation deck in the Sky Tower
- Marvel at the stained-glass windows at the Cathedral of St Patrick
- Shop and dine in downtown Auckland
- Examine ancient nautical treasures at the New Zealand Maritime Museum
- Enjoy the ocean breeze as you party near the Auckland Waterfront
- Where to stay: The best hotels for 24 hours in Auckland
What to do in Auckland in 24 hours: A complete one-day itinerary
As with most of our city itineraries, this Auckland itinerary gives you the chance to experience the best that the city has to offer.
You’ll get to see a good portion of the city, travelling between destinations on foot, but you won’t cover every corner of Auckland. It’s a big place with lots to see.
To cram more into just 24 hours, you’ll focus on downtown Auckland and the surrounding area. Even with a limited amount of time, you’ll get 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 trip at the massive city park located east of the downtown area. Auckland Domain is the oldest and largest park in the city 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 pound and 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.
View the floral clock and Victoria statue in Albert Park
From Auckland Domain park you’ll travel to Albert Park, giving you plenty of fresh air first thing in the morning. This is the longest walk during the trip as it takes about 18 minutes to reach 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’s a large clock face made entirely from the blooms of seasonal flowers.
View priceless artwork at the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki
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 and 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 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 the 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. It’s 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 tower stands 328 metres tall and multiple upper levels remain open to the public. The most visited part of the 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 adventurous, take a plunge from the Sky Jump, which is 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, such as 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.
There really isn’t much to do at the church. It’s 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 itinerary are in or around the downtown area. It’s where you’ll find the top things to do & see in Auckland, including the top restaurants and shops.
The main shopping area is Queen Street. It’s lined with shops, cafés, and restaurants. You’ll also find many boutiques and smaller shops on the side streets.
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
As you stroll around the downtown area looking at shops or selecting a restaurant for dinner, work your way north toward the waterfront. At the western end of the piers, you’ll find the New Zealand Maritime Museum.
With more than 24 hours 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, your 24-hour trip doesn’t leave time for a six-hour excursion.
You’ll need to get your nautical fix at the museum. It includes artifacts from the first Polynesian explorers and collections from modern times. You’ll discover the history of the region from the first settlers to modern commercial shipping.
Enjoy the ocean breeze as you party near the Auckland Waterfront
When you’re done looking at maritime artifacts, step outside and explore the rest of the waterfront. The waterfront is one of the busiest parts of Auckland any time of the day or evening.
During the day, it’s full of tourists and locals swimming and sunbathing. In the evening, it’s the hot spot for dining and drinking.
Of course, if you prefer bathing in the sun or spending time on the water, you could skip the entire New Zealand itinerary and spend the day on the beach.
No matter how you choose to spend your time, make sure that you visit the waterfront 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 a good place to start. Here are a few of our top hotel picks…
- 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 offering here range between everything from double rooms to three-bedroom apartment. 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.