Auckland is the largest and most populous city in the country (it is not the capital, though!). As a tourist destination, it’s not one of New Zealand’s best places. I found the city to be a bit ugly, sprawling, and sort of bland. There’s some fun activities, food, and nightlife in Auckland so I wouldn’t write the city off completely, but I also wouldn’t spend a lot of time here as there are more exciting and more beautiful places in the country. This guide will help you get a feel for the city.
Top 5 Things to See and Do in Auckland
1. Day trip to Waiheke Island
2. Shop at Otara Flea Market
3. Head to Waitakere Ranges
4. Climb up Sky Tower
5. Hang out on the Auckland Domain
Other Things to See and Do
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1. Explore the Hauraki Gulf
If you’re a water lover, spend some time in the Hauraki Gulf. You can go scuba diving, fishing, boating, sailing, and whale watching here. Climb Rangitoto Island (Auckland’s youngest volcano), or relax on Motuihe Island. Visit the historical mansion house at Kawau Island, which was once home to the mine superintendent on the island. Waiheke (also known as the “Island of Wine,” for its numerous award-winning wineries) and Great Barrier are the largest islands in the gulf, while others range from wildlife sanctuaries to volcanoes.
2. Feed lambs at Sheepworld
New Zealand is known for having more sheep than people and this is the best way to get up-close-and-personal with sheep as a traveler. Sheepworld is a small family farm located 45 minutes from Auckland by bus. See how sheep are farmed and sheared and witness the process of what happens after the wool is harvested. Admission includes a sheepdog show and is 34.50 NZD for adults, with discounts available for seniors and children.
3. Visit the Auckland Zoo
This zoo has 150 animal species, 500 animals, and a number of different habitats such as the Rainforest and Pridelands. There are lots of different local species here, so it’s worth a visit if you’re traveling with kids. Admission is 28 NZD for adults, while a family pass (for one adult and 2 children) is 47 NZD.
4. Wander the North Shore
Auckland’s main beach area is popular with locals and tourists alike. The nightlife here is also very active and you can even do some surfing. Many of New Zealand’s successful international sailors began their careers as youngsters at North Shore yacht clubs. You’ll see the white triangles of sails decorating the bays on a breezy day. There are also plenty of kayakers, too. Offshore, the tree-covered volcanic cone of Rangitoto Island provides a unique backdrop and a fascinating destination for more experienced paddlers and sailors. Every local will tell you this area is a “must see.”
5. Check out MOTAT
Also known as the Museum of Transport and Technology, this interactive museum is host to more than 300,000 technology and transportation-related items. If you happen to be going to the zoo, you might as well stop here, as it is a few blocks away. Admission is 19 NZD for adults, and 10 NZD for children and students.
6. Visit the aquarium
Here, you can peer through the depths at an array of fish, stingrays, and sharks, which swim around you as you travel through a long transparent tunnel. Additionally, you can experience the Antarctic in the permanent winter exhibit. Adult tickets are 31 NZD if purchased online (39 NZD if bought at the gate).
7. Try water sports at Mission Bay
Located close to Kelly Tarlton’s Sea Life Aquarium, Mission Bay is one of the most popular urban beaches in Auckland. Its’ peaceful waters are perfect for swimming, paddleboarding, and kayaking. After working up a sweat on the water, take in one of the many eateries in Mission Bay and if you happen to be on the beach at nightfall, check out the light-up fountain.
8. Travel back in time
The Howick Historical Village is one of those ‘living museums’ that really makes you feel like you are in another time. With staff dressed in costumes dating back to the mid-1800’s and speaking in peculiar accents, it’s fun and cheesy all at once. Admission is 16 NZD for adults, with discounts available for students, seniors, and children.
9. Walk through Waikumete Cemetery
This is the largest cemetery in the country. It is home to a number of heritage buildings, including the Corban family mausoleum. It is really interesting to walk around and the dates on many of the tombstones can be startling to really think about. If you happen to be here on the first Sunday of a month, guided tours are available at no charge.
10. See the Gannet Colony at Muriwai
Along the Muriwai beach, you can find thousands of breeding gannet birds nesting between the black sand dunes. They are here between August and March. There are two viewing platforms from which to watch the birds. If you’re not a bird person, you can also come to Muriwai for the surfing, biking, or hiking. A surf school is set up at a spot on the beach.
11. Go bungy jumping
One of the world’s first bungee jumps is operated by AJ Hackett, the man who created bungy jumping. Here you jump off the bridge into the harbor. If you want something higher, head down to Queenstown for the 143-meter Nevis jump. A single jump at AJ Hackett’s will cost around 375 NZD.
12. Climb to the summit of Rangitoto Island
An iconic part of Auckland’s horizon, Rangitoto Island is a 600-year-old volcano that gives unbeatable views of Auckland. A summit trail offers casual hikers a one-hour climb to the top. The island also has lava caves worth exploring. Be sure to bring water and good hiking shoes.
13. Snorkel on Goat Island
Take a day trip to Goat Island, a protected marine reserve and one of New Zealand’s top snorkelling and dive spots, with abundant colourful fish close to the shore. If you’d rather stay dry, try a clearyak (clear kayak) trip or the glass bottom boat. Bring the kids to meet the cute farm animals at Ambury Regional Park – they might even get to feed the lambs in spring!