Planning the ultimate trip to New Zealand? Start with the best things to do in Auckland. New Zealand’s largest city, Auckland is a superb destination for local & international travellers alike.
Among the top tourist attractions in Auckland, you’ll find world-class museums & art galleries. You’ll hike through volcanic hills to stunning city views. You’ll chill out in relaxing parks. You’ll kick up the thrills with adrenaline-pumping activities like bungy jumping. Endless shopping & dining opportunities also await. Auckland is chock-loaded with trendy boutique shops, hip restaurants, and laid-back cafés.
Built between two harbours and several dormant volcanoes, Auckland has a distinct landscape. Venture beyond the city on a day trip. You’ll discover several rugged regional parks highlighting Auckland’s natural beauty. Or float onto the Hauraki Gulf to explore amazing offshore islands like Waiheke Island or Rangitoto Island.
Not sure what to do in Auckland? Round out your itinerary with this detailed guide to the best places to visit in Auckland, New Zealand…
What to see & do in Auckland
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki
Even if you’ve only got a passing interest in art, you need to check out Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki. This popular art gallery is the largest of its kind in New Zealand. It features a 15,000-strong collection from local NZ and international artists. The spectacular collection also includes paintings from famous European artists. Works from Pablo Picasso, Paul Cezanne, and Salvador Dali are hardly strangers here!
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki also houses a large collection of indigenous art. Be sure to spend some time browsing the paintings & sculptures from New Zealand’s preeminent Maori artists.
The museum is open daily from 10 am to 5 pm (9 pm on Fridays) and costs NZ$15-17 for admission.
Even if you’ve only got one day in Auckland, a trip to the Sky Tower is a must. For fun & excitement, it stands out among the top things to see & do in Auckland.
When you get to the observation deck, you’re treated to a beautiful 360-degree view of the area. You’ll also find a gift shop, restaurant, and café with expectedly high food & drink prices.
Thrill-seekers may want to try the bungee jump at the Sky Tower. As you jump, you can try to spot the various top-rated Auckland attractions in the distance.
If you’re not feeling that adventurous, the tower also has a Sky Walk. The Sky Walk takes you around the observation deck on a glass-bottom platform.
If you enjoy fine wine and great food, head over the Hauraki Gulf on a day trip to Waiheke Island to tour its world-class vineyards. The island is just 35 minutes away from central Auckland by ferry.
Of course, Waiheke Island offers more than just some of the finest wine in New Zealand. Get your adrenaline pumping on zip lines, or try kayaking and cycling. There’s even a large nature preserve on the island. Relax on one of its beaches or browse the wineries & vineyards, and olive groves when you’re done exploring.
RELATED: Best Auckland Wineries & Vineyards
Waiheke Island is one of several Hauraki Gulf islands that you may want to add to your Auckland sightseeing tour. For tubing and hiking, hop over to Rangitoto Island. For pristine beaches and relaxing seclusion, head over to Motuihe Island.
Auckland Harbour Bridge Bungy & Climb
Did the Sky Tower bungee jump whet your appetite for adventure? Continue the insanity over at the Auckland Harbour Bridge. For adrenaline-pumping action, the activities here are among the city’s most hair-raising
Completed in 1959, the Auckland Harbour Bridge spans Waitematā Harbour. It connects the CBD with the cool North Shore neighbourhood.
I’m willing to bet that the original engineers would be shocked at what’s become of their creation. To be sure, Harbour Bridge is a majestic feat of engineering. But, these days, the bridge’s fame goes beyond admiring its architecture.
Instead, adventurous tourists and locals visit the bridge to get their adrenaline fix. Think you hack it? Join in. Strap yourself into a giant elastic band and jump head first in the waters of Waitemata Harbour!
(If it sounds a tad crazy, it’s only because it is.)
Is the AJ Hackett Bridge Jump a little too wild for your tastes? There’s a safer, yet still exhilarating, alternative.
Test your resolve during your visit with the Harbour Bridge Climb. The fully-guided bridge walk tour brings you to the top of the Harbour Bridge via walkways. Once you reach the top, you’ll enjoy incredible 360-degree panoramic views.
Lying east of Auckland’s North Shore district, Rangitoto Island is the area’s most famous island. It sits among the city’s most impressive natural destinations. It’s among the best places to visit in Auckland to catch a break from the city buzz.
The distinctive volcanic landscapes of Rangitoto Island are both practical and visually impressive. Besides being one of city’s coolest places to see, the island is home to some of the best hiking in Auckland.
Summiting to the top of Rangitoto’s volcanic cone will be among the most memorable activities on your trip. The views from the summit are nothing short of breathtaking. You’ll see everything from Waitakere Ranges Regional Park to Hunua Ranges Regional Park. You’ll also get to glimpse several other islands piercing the Hauraki Gulf.
Besides hiking, Rangitoto is a great base for exploring the gulf. Embark on a sea kayaking tour to enjoy the spectacular marine views up close.
The Auckland area is surrounded by water in nearly every direction. It should be of little surprise that the region is home to a ton of fantastic beaches.
Many of the best beaches in Auckland lie along the West Coast of North Island. This rugged and beautiful coastal area is located west of the North Shore district.
While there are plenty of West Coast beaches to choose from, some of the most popular include:
- Piha Beach: is a sprawling beach that’s among the top surfing beaches in the area. Besides surfing, there’s plenty of great natural attractions to check out in the area. Highlights include Lion Rock, a craggy hill you can climb to see Maori carvings, and for fantastic views over the beach.
- Muriwai Beach is surrounded by rugged landscapes and is another favourite for surfers. It’s most famous, however, for its cliff-top gannet nesting colony. They nest on the cliffs around the beach every year between August and March. Just off the main beach, you’ll also find a handful of cool rolling black dunes.
- Karekare Beach is a more remote area featuring dramatic, almost brooding (depending on the weather) landscapes. It’s a favourite New Zealand filming location that’s appeared in several films, including “The Piano.” The views here are simply stunning and well worth going out of your way to see. The nearby Karekare Falls is also worth the short walk from the black-sand beach.
All museumed-out and wondering what to see in Auckland? Head over to Viaduct Harbour, also known as “The Viaduct.” Located along Auckland’s lovely waterfront, Viaduct Harbour is one of the most popular places to eat & drink in Auckland.
The once dilapidated Viaduct Harbour area was redeveloped in the 1990s. It’s now home to over 30 restaurants & bars. There’s also a handful of luxury apartments and mixed-use office spaces here.
The Viaduct is now one of the most popular places to hang out in the Auckland Central Business District (CBD). It pops most in the evenings when the city comes out to play.
Looking to quench your thirst & hunger? Grab a table at Dr. Rudi’s Rooftop Brewing Co and enjoy some refreshing craft beer and delicious food. It pairs well with the fantastic views over the waterfront.
Fans of seafood will equally love a glass of wine and some fresh oysters at Oyster and Chop. Their popular daily Oyster Happy Hour runs between 3 pm and 6 pm.
New Zealand Maritime Museum
Not as if all the surrounding water wasn’t a clue, New Zealand has a rich maritime heritage. You can see it all on display at the New Zealand Maritime Museum (Hui Te Ananui A Tangaroa).
This popular museum is located on Hobson Wharf near Viaduct Harbour. It houses a series of exhibitions detailing the nation’s maritime history.
The exhibits skate from the nation’s first Polynesian settlers to modern-day seafaring. It also walks through New Zealand’s European colonial period with a maritime bent.
There are a handful of interactive exhibits at New Zealand Maritime Museum that are fun for the entire family. They include learning about yacht design and sailing basics.
Want a deeper look at the waterfront that inspired the city’s nickname, the City of Sails? Hop onto the Ted Ashby, a heritage scow (a flat-bottomed dinghy) that whirls around The Viaduct. The one-hour trip around the harbour unleashes tremendous skyline views.
There’s hardly a better way to escape the city centre than with a trip to Cornwall Park. This sprawling 445-acre park dates back almost 120 years. It’s one of the most relaxing recreational spots to unwind in while sightseeing in Auckland.
Cornwall Park centres around the famous One Tree Hill / Maungakiekie. Although it’s a slight misnomer these days (that “one” tree is no longer there), hiking to the top of this volcanic cone is a rewarding trek. Brave out the One Tree Hill hike to be treated to incredible views over Auckland City.
Beyond hiking, you’ll find plenty more at this popular park. You’ll see several historic buildings, a working farm, gardens, and an olive grove. Astronomy fans can even check out the stars at the Stardome Observatory!
Need to escape the urban buzz? Drive east along the Tamaki Drive coastal route to Mission Bay. From the city centre, it’s a short & scenic 20-minute drive.
Visiting the Mission Bay area is one of the most popular things to do in Auckland among Aucklanders. The seaside suburb is famous for its beach culture, centred around the golden sands of its namesake bay.
In choosing to spend a few hours lazing around Mission Bay Beach, you’ll enjoy views over the Hauraki Gulf. You’ll even see as far as Rangitoto Island!
Within the town itself, there’s a handful of chilled-out cafés and restaurants. Many offer spectacular vistas over the sea. It’s a great place to grab a meal and enjoy a little food & drink to fuel up for the rest of your day or evening.
There are also a ton of great greenspaces around the area for your relaxation pleasure. Some of the best include Selwyn Domain, Michael Joseph Savage Memorial Park, and Orakei Domain.
Got hiking on the brain? Head south of downtown to the affluent suburb of Mount Eden. The neighbourhood’s namesake mountain, also known as Maungawhau in Maori, is among the most popular places to go hiking in Auckland..
Powering up to the top of this volcanic peak, you’ll be face-to-face with breathtaking views. They extend north towards the city centre and the Hauraki Gulf. To the southwest, they drift towards Manukau Harbour.
The Mount Eden district itself is also quite pleasant. Walking about the suburb, you’ll discover plenty. Grab some tasty food or a drink at one of the area’s cool bistros, cafés, restaurants, and bars. Or, for some retail therapy, go shopping in its trendy boutiques.
Visiting Mount Eden during rugby season? Don’t miss the opportunity to catch a game at Eden Park, home to New Zealand’s legendary All Blacks rugby team.
SEA LIFE Kelly Tarlton’s
Looking for the most popular family-friendly activities in Auckland? SEA LIFE Kelly Tarlton’s is a must if you’re visiting New Zealand with kids.
This popular NZ aquarium is famous for hosting the world’s largest sub-Antarctic penguin colony. It’s also home to the world’s largest stingrays and the largest shiver of sharks in New Zealand.
Kids visiting SEA LIFE Kelly Tarlton’s will absolutely love the Penguin Passport. It offers a rare opportunity to enter the penguin enclosure for a closer look.
More adventurous visitors will have their day, too. Set yourself loose. Strap on some snorkel gear to get face-to-face with a shark in the aquarium’s Shark Cage Adventure.
Built on a former industrial site, a trip to Silo Park is a must-do activity for travellers of all ages. Adults will enjoy the waterfront area with views of yachts and the harbour. Kids should have fun jumping and running through the playground.
Silo Park is a refreshing destination. In the evening, you can chill out to the cool ocean breeze and enjoy the wide variety of attractions.
If you visit during the summer season, you’ll likely find an event or exhibition in the park. The city hosts over 50 events throughout the summer months here. The eclectic menu includes festivals, artisan markets, and food trucks.
Looking to escape the urban buzz? Skip over to the Coromandel Peninsula. Located east of Auckland, The Coromandel encompasses some of the finest slices of nature on North Island.
Admittedly, it’s tight (if not practically impossible!) to visit the Coromandel Peninsula on a day trip from Auckland. Tack on a couple of extra days to your New Zealand North Island itinerary. You won’t regret spending them exploring The Coromandel!
The natural attractions are the stars here. The vast Coromandel Peninsula dishes out hundreds of kilometres of pristine wilderness. You’ll find everything here from white-sand beaches to mountains to rainforest. It’s also crisscrossed with enough hiking & cycling trails to keep you busy for weeks.
Among the top activities & attractions on the Coromandel Peninsula are:
- Hauraki Rail Trail: One of New Zealand’s Great Rides, this easy-going cycling trail links several small townships. It moves south between Kaiaua and Matamata, home to the Hobbiton Movie Set of Lord of the Rings fame.
- Karangahake Gorge Historic Walkway: This historic 7-kilometre walk traces the Ohinemuri River. It runs alongside Karangahake Gorge and several old mining & rail tunnels. If you’re tight on time or energy, skip the full walk to Owharoa Falls and Victoria Battery. Opt instead for the alternative 2.5-kilometre Rail Tunnel Loop.
- Hot Water Beach: No, its name isn’t going to win any creative marketing awards. But let’s not kid ourselves. Hot Water Beach is one of the most unique destinations on the peninsula. Head for the southern end of the beach. During low tide, you can dig yourself a private hot tub in the sand and let the hot water below bubble up to the surface. Outside of the “hot water” area, there’s some great sandy spots for sunbathing as well as decent surfing. (There’s strong undercurrents here; swim at your own risk!)
- Cathedral Cove Marine Reserve: Running from Hahei Beach to Cook Bluff Scenic Reserve, Cathedral Cove is a scenic oceanside park. It’s not only a Coromandel must-visit, but a New Zealand travel itinerary favourite! Cathedral Cove is a fantastic place to snorkel or scuba dive in search of colourful marine life. Among the species you’ll find are butterfish, red moki, and black angel fish. You’ll also get to scope out plenty of sponges, starfish, and coral reefs.
Located in Auckland CBD, Albert Park is the perfect antidote to the bustle of the city centre. The park has been a favourite relaxation space for Aucklanders for over a century. It dates all the way back to the 19th century.
Besides being a great place to chill in Auckland CBD, Albert Park is home to a number of interesting historical monuments. At its heart is an ornate Victorian fountain that dates back to near the green space’s founding. The nearby statue of Queen Victoria, built in 1899, is also worth a quick look.
While visiting Albert Park, keep on the lookout for its famous floral clock. See if you can tell time among a bloom of colourful seasonal flowers.
Tiritiri Matangi Island
For twitchers & nature lovers, Tiritiri Matangi Island is a must-visit. The island pops out of the Hauraki Gulf about 30 kilometres northeast of Auckland.
This 220-hectare wildlife sanctuary was once a victim of over-aggressive agriculture. Today, it’s become one of the most impressive conservation success stories on the planet.
For a decade starting in 1984, volunteers planted hundreds of thousands of trees. It helped to recover the large majority of the native species lost to farming.
At the same time, New Zealand worked to eradicate natural predators such as the Polynesian rat. Once they disappeared, several endangered species were reintroduced to Tiritiri Matangi Island. Now, many rare native species thrive here. Most notable is the flightless South Island takahe, one of the world’s rarest birds.
Today, Tiritiri Matangi Island is one of the only places in New Zealand to catch such a wide array of rare species in their natural habitat.
Regular ferries run between Auckland and Tiritiri Matangi Island. The sanctuary is among the most popular day trips in the area. Be sure to book your tickets ahead of time or, to save time and hassle, book yourself onto a guided tour.
Goat Island Marine Reserve
Located about an hour north of the city, Goat Island Marine Reserve is one of the most popular day trips from Auckland. The trip is an absolute must if you’ve got a few days to spare on your visit.
Goat Island is officially called Cape Rodney/Okakari Point Marine Reserve. It was the first marine reserve in New Zealand and remains one of the most popular. It’s also among the most accessible reserves on either North Island or South Island.
Since its establishment in 1975, the island has overcome decades of overfishing. Today, it’s, once again, become a hotbed of marine life.
Naturally, the most interesting way to experience all the beauty and diversity of Goat Island Marine Reserve is to get into the water. Close to shore, there are plenty of opportunities for snorkelling. Certified divers can explore a little deeper further off of the coastline.
Even if you don’t want to snorkel or go scuba diving, there are two excellent coastal forest walks here. Strap on your hiking shoes and swoon over the island’s brilliant sea views.
Auckland Domain is a massive park built around the site of a dormant volcano. It’s the oldest park in the city and among the top Auckland points of interest. Walk through a sprawling forest covering over 200 acres.
This popular park also has a few special features. You can follow a trail that takes you past a variety of massive outdoor sculptures. Or you could stop for a picnic and feed the ducks.
As you walk around the crater of the volcano at Auckland Domain, you’ll eventually reach the Auckland War Memorial Museum. (Also known simply as the Auckland Museum.)
The museum is among the most visited tourist attractions in Auckland. It’s home to a variety of exhibits chronicling the military history of New Zealand.
Watch a variety of native and exotic animals frolic, eat, and sleep at the Auckland Zoo. It’s one of the best family-friendly activities in Auckland and a must if you’re visiting with kids.
The animals at the Auckland Zoo sit among the top things to see in Auckland. The zoo has over 135 different species. The animals you’ll find here include elephants, monkeys, and various other protected species.
The zoo is divided into exhibition areas based on the region of origin for the animals. The African region has zebras, ostriches, and giraffes in a wide-open field. You can view them safely and easily from an elevated boardwalk. Other regions include South East Asia, South America, and Australia.
Looking for a place to go shopping in Auckland? Try Queen Street. It’s one of the main shopping districts in downtown Auckland, full of department stores and smaller boutiques. You’ll also find the city’s town hall, a large cinema, and several markets.
Queen Street is among the priciest destinations in town. The retailers in the area include high-end clothing shops and fine dining establishments.
Several attractions are found in & around the area. As you browse the windows of the pricey shops, check out the early 20th-century architecture. The street also contains the Queens Arcade, a neoclassical building from the 1920s.
Auckland Botanic Gardens
The Auckland Botanic Gardens give you a chance to view native plant life. All without leaving the city!
It’s one of the top places to go in Auckland when you grow tired of the busy streets. Pop inside to surround yourself with a mixture of tropical plants and exotic ecosystems.
As with the zoo, the Auckland Botanic Gardens divides into different regions. The gardens include areas dedicated to African succulents, edible plants, and exotic flowers.
You’ll also find unique herbs and native New Zealand plants. One of the gardens’ most compelling features is the native forest. There are a few trails here that’ll take you through a small rainforest.
If you’re travelling with kids, make sure that you check out the Potter Children’s Garden. The area charms with its bright colourful flowers and fun activities.
Rainbow’s End is one of the top Auckland tourist attractions. It’s a theme park with over 20 rides and dozens of attractions, including a virtual reality exhibit.
The park also contains a smaller section just for smaller kids. The Kidz Kingdom includes kiddie rides and attractions for children eight years of age or younger.
The smartest way to experience the Rainbow’s End amusement park is to arrive early and get the most out of your visit. Spend the day on the rides and the evening in the shops and restaurants.
Where to stay in Auckland for sightseeing
Although it’s the biggest city in New Zealand, choosing where to stay in Auckland isn’t so difficult. For most travellers, staying within central Auckland is the best bet. This includes the areas around Queen Street, Newmarket, and the Waterfront. All are great choices for getting close to all the top points of interest.
- Best Nest Apartments in Viaduct offers some of the better central accommodations for price-conscious travellers. You’ll find lovely modern studio apartments equipped with full self-catering kitchenettes here.
- CityLife Auckland is an excellent aparthotel located on buzzing Queen Street. A little of everything is offered here from double rooms to three-bedroom apartments. There’s even a barrage of on-site amenities. Extras include a fitness centre, indoor pool, restaurant, and bar.
- Four Points by Sheraton Auckland is a mid-range hotel that’s one of the best central picks in its price range. It holds up to the Sheraton Four Points brand promise with modern rooms and a host of amenities for guests.
- Hotel Grand Windsor MGallery by Sofitel is a sophisticated 5-star hotel and one of the best luxury hotels in Auckland. It offers elegant rooms emulating turn-of-the-century Art Deco. The location is perfect, too. It’s steps away from the CBD, Viaduct Basin, and Sky Tower.