If you want to make the most out of your ultimate trip to New Zealand, don’t miss out the best things to do in Auckland.
Auckland is consistently listed as one of the world’s most livable cities. And with plenty of green spaces and a layout that makes it easy to explore, it’s not hard to see why New Zealand’s largest city is such a superb place for both locals and visitors.
While the city itself has endless shopping & dining options, many of the top tourist attractions in Auckland lie just outside the urban sprawl. Built between two harbours and surrounded by dormant volcanoes, Auckland has a distinct landscape and one of the biggest nature parks in the region along with several amazing offshore islands to explore.
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 do in Auckland
- Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki
- Sky Tower
- Waiheke Island
- Auckland Harbour Bridge Bungy & Climb
- Rangitoto Island
- West Coast
- Viaduct Harbour
- New Zealand Maritime Museum
- Cornwall Park
- Mission Bay
- Mount Eden
- SEA LIFE Kelly Tarlton’s
- Silo Park
- Coromandel Peninsula
- Albert Park
- Tiritiri Mantangi Island
- Goat Island Marine Reserve
- Auckland Domain
- Auckland Zoo
- Queen Street
- Auckland Botanic Gardens
- Rainbow’s End
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki
If you’ve got even a passing interest in art, you simply need to spend some time checking out Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki. This popular central Auckland art gallery, the largest of its kind in New Zealand, features a spectacular 15,000-strong collection from local NZ and international artists. It includes paintings from famous European artists like Pablo Picasso, Paul Cezanne, and Salvador Dali.
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki also houses a large collection of paintings and sculptures from New Zealand’s indigenous Maori artists.
The museum is open daily from 10am to 5pm (9pm 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 stands out among the top things to do in Auckland for fun and excitement.
When you get to the observation deck, you’re treated to a beautiful 360-degree view of Auckland. 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. 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. Relax on the beach or browse the vineyards and olive groves once you’re done exploring the surrounding area.
Waiheke Island is one of several 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
If the Sky Tower bungee jump didn’t just whet your appetite for adventure, among the most exciting things to do in Auckland is to head over to the Auckland Harbour Bridge for more adrenaline-pumping action.
I’m willing to bet that the original engineers of the Auckland Harbour Bridge, completed in 1959, would never have imagined that a few decades later adventurous tourists and locals alike would choose to tether themselves to an elastic band and jump off of their majestic feat of engineering to dip their head into the waters of Waitemata Harbour.
(If it sounds a tad crazy, it’s only because it is!)
If the AJ Hackett Bridge Jump seem a little too wild for your tastes, test your resolve during your visit to Auckland with the (safe, yet exhilarating!) Harbour Bridge Climb. The fully-guided bridge walk tour brings you to the top of the Harbour Bridge via walkways for some incredible 360-degree panoramic views of Auckland, New Zealand.
Lying just east of Auckland’s North Shore district, Rangitoto Island is the most famous island in Auckland. It sits among the city’s most impressive natural destinations and is among the best places to visit in Auckland to catch a break from the city buzz.
The distinctive volcanic landscapes of Rangitoto Island are as practical as they are visually impressive. Besides being one of the coolest places to see in Auckland, the island is home to some of the best hiking in Auckland.
Summiting to the top of Rangitoto’s volcanic cone will among the most memorable activities you’ll undertake during your Auckland trip. The views from the summit are nothing short of breathtaking. You’ll see everything from the Waitakere Ranges & Hunua Ranges Regional Park to the islands piercing through the Hauraki Gulf.
Besides hiking, Rangitoto is a great place to 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, so it should be little surprise that there’s a ton of fantastic beaches. Some of the best beaches in Auckland lie along the West Coast of North Island, located to the west of the North Shore district.
While there are plenty of West Coast beaches to choose from some of the most popular to check out include:
- Piha Beach: A sprawling beach that’s among the top surfing beaches in Auckland. Besides surfing, there’s plenty of great natural attractions to check out in the area including Lion Rock, a craggy hill you can climb to see Maori carvings and for fantastic views over the beach.
- Muriwai Beach: Surrounded by rugged landscapes, this Auckland area beach is most famous for its cliff-top gannet nesting colony and rolling black dunes.
- Karekare Beach: A more remote area featuring dramatic, almost brooding (depending on the weather) landscapes that 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.
When you’re all museumed-out and wondering what to see in Auckland, head over to Viaduct Harbour. Located along the lovely Auckland waterfront, Viaduct Harbour is one of the most popular places to eat & drink in Auckland.
The once dilapidated area, redeveloped in the 1990s, is now home to over 30 restaurants & bars, luxury apartments, and mixed-use office spaces, and is among the most popular places to hang out in the Auckland Central Business District (CBD) in the evening.
If you’re looking to quench your thirst & hunger with some refreshing craft beer and delicious food, grab a table at Dr Rudi’s Rooftop Brewing Co. for some fantastic views over the waterfront of Auckland.
Fans of seafood will equally love grabbing a glass of wine and some fresh oysters at Oyster and Chop during their popular daily Oyster Happy Hour (3pm to 6pm).
New Zealand Maritime Museum
Not as if all the water surrounding Auckland 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 Auckland museum, located on Hobson Wharf near Viaduct Harbour, houses a series of exhibitions detailing the nation’s maritime history from its first Polynesian settlers to its European colonial period to its modern-day seafaring ways.
There’s a handful of interactive exhibits here that are fun for the entire family including learning about yacht design and sailing basics.
If you’d like to check out the waterfront that inspired the city’s nickname of the City of Sails, you can also hop onto the Ted Ashby, a heritage scow (a flat-bottomed dinghy), for a 1-hour trip around the harbour with tremendous Auckland skyline views.
There’s hardly a better way to escape the Auckland city centre than with a trip to Cornwall Park. This sprawling 445-acre park dates back almost 120 years. It’s easily one of the most relaxing recreational spots to unwind while sightseeing in Auckland.
The 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 and you’ll be treated to incredible views over Auckland City.
Even beyond hiking, you’ll find plenty more to occupy you at this popular Auckland park including historic buildings, a working farm, gardens, an olive grove, and even the Stardome Observatory.
Located along the Tamaki Drive coastal route running east of the Auckland city centre, the seaside suburb of Mission Bay makes for an excellent escape from the urban buzz of downtown Auckland.
The area is among the most popular things to do in Auckland among Aucklanders themselves thanks to 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 get to enjoy views over the Hauraki Gulf towards Rangitoto Island. Within the town itself, there’s a handful of chilled-out cafés and restaurants with 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’s also a ton of great greenspaces around the area for your relaxation pleasure including Selwyn Domain, Michael Joseph Savage Memorial Park, and Orakei Domain.
If you’ve got hiking on the brain, head south of downtown & central Auckland 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 north towards the Auckland city centre and the Hauraki Gulf and southwest towards Manukau Harbour.
The district itself is also quite pleasant. Walking about this interesting Auckland suburb, you’ll discover plenty of things to see & do. Grab some tasty food or a drink at one of the area’s cool bistros, cafés, restaurants, and bars or go shopping in its trendy boutiques.
Visiting 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
Included in 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 famous for hosting the world’s largest sub-Antarctic penguin colony along with 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, an opportunity to enter the penguin enclosure for a closer look. More adventurous types can strap on some snorkel gear and 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 in Auckland 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.
The park is a refreshing Auckland destination with a cool ocean breeze in the evening and a 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 including festivals, artisan markets, and food trucks.
Looking to escape central Auckland? Skip over to the Coromandel Peninsula, encompassing some of the finest slices of nature that North Island has to offer.
Admittedly, it’s tight (if not practically impossible!) to visit the Coromandel Peninsula on a day trip from Auckland. Nonetheless, if you’ve got some spare time during your New Zealand North Island itinerary, you won’t regret spending a few days exploring The Coromandel.
The natural attractions are the stars here. The vast peninsula dishes out hundreds of kilometres of white-sand beaches, mountains, and rainforest, criss-crossed with enough hiking & cycling trails to keep you busy for weeks.
Among the top activities & attractions to check out on the Coromandel Peninsula are:
- Hauraki Rail Trail: One of New Zealand’s Great Rides, this easy-going cycling trail links several small townships moving south between Kaiaua and Matamata, home to the Hobbiton Movie Set of Lord of the Rings fame.
- Karangahake Gorge Historic Walkway: A 7-kilometre walk tracing the Ohinemuri River alongside the gorge and old mining & rail tunnels. If you’re tight on time or energy to do the full walk to Owharoa Falls and Victoria Battery, there’s an alternative 2.5-kilometre Rail Tunnel Loop here.
- Hot Water Beach: While its name isn’t going to win any creative marketing awards, Hot Water Beach is one of the most unique destinations on the peninsula. Head for the southern end of the beach where, 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, this scenic oceanside park is a great place to snorkel or scuba dive in search of colourful marine life. Among the species you’ll find here are butterfish, red moki, black angel fish, sponge, 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 consider a favourite relaxation space in Auckland for over a century, dating back to the 19th century.
Besides being a great place to chill in Auckland CBD, the 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, keep on the lookout for its famous floral clock, telling time among a bloom of colourful seasonal flowers.
Tiritiri Mantangi Island
Popping out of the Hauraki Gulf about 30 kilometres northeast of Auckland, Tiritiri Matangi Island is a must-visit destination for twitchers & nature-lovers visiting Auckland.
Once a victim of over-aggressive agriculture, this 220-hectare wildlife sanctuary is one of the most impressive conservation success stories on the planet.
For a decade starting in 1984, volunteers planted hundreds of thousands of trees to recover the large majority of the native species lost to farming.
After eradicating the island’s natural predators such as the Polynesian rat, New Zealand reintroduced a number of endangered species back into the area including 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 rare species in a natural habitat.
Regular ferries run between Auckland and Tiritiri Matangi Island. As 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 and an absolute must if you’ve got a few days to spare on your visit to Auckland.
Official called Cape Rodney/Okakari Point Marine Reserve, Goat Island was the first marine reserve in New Zealand and remains one of the most popular and accessible on either North Island or South Island.
Since its establishment in 1975, the island has overcome decades of overfishing to become a hotbed of marine life in the area.
Naturally, the most interesting way to experience all the beauty and diversity the reserve has to offer is to get into the water. Close to shore, there are plenty of opportunities for snorkelling while 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 coastal forest walks where you can swoon over the island’s brilliant seaviews.
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 Auckland 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, you’ll eventually reach the Auckland War Memorial Museum (also known simply as the Auckland Museum). The museum is among most visited tourist attractions in Auckland and 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, one of the most family-friendly activities in Auckland.
The animals are the top things to see in Auckland and the zoo provides the perfect place to view them. The zoo has over 135 different species of animals including elephants, monkeys, and various other protected species.
The Auckland 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 that you can view 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 Auckland. The retailers in the area include high-end clothing shops and fine dining establishments.
Several attractions are found on and around Queen Street. 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 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 are divided into different regions. The gardens include areas dedicated to African succulents, edible plants, exotic flowers, unique herbs, and native plants. One of the gardens’ most compelling features is the native forest with trails that take you through a small rainforest.
If you’re travelling with kids, make sure that you check out the Potter Children’s Garden with bright, colourful flowers and fun activities.
Rainbow’s End is one of the top tourist attractions in Auckland. 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 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 the centre including the areas around Queen Street, Newmarket, and the Waterfront is a great choice for getting close to all the top Auckland points of interest.
- Best Nest Apartments in Viaduct: Offering some of the better central accommodations for price-conscious travellers, this property offers lovely modern studio apartments equipped with full self-catering kitchenettes.
- CityLife Auckland: 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 amenities including a fitness centre, indoor pool, restaurant, and bar.
- Four Points by Sheraton Auckland: A great mid-range choice in the a central location that lives up to the Sheraton Four Points brand with modern rooms and a host of amenities for guests.
- Hotel Grand Windsor MGallery by Sofitel: One of the best luxury hotels in Auckland, this sophisticated 5-star gem offers elegant rooms emulating turn-of-the-century Art Deco. The location near the CBD, Viaduct Basin and Sky Tower is perfect for travellers passing through.