Auckland is one of the most diverse and beautiful cities in the world. With so much to see and do, it can be hard to know where to start. That’s why you need this list of the best things to do in Auckland. It’s a one-stop-shop for your Auckland city itinerary.
This comprehensive Auckland guide shares the best tours, excursions, and day trips from Auckland by NinaOutAndAbout who lived in Auckland for a year. If you are looking for insider tips, this is the best list of all the top places to visit in Auckland by a local expert.
From exploring the city’s vibrant neighborhoods to enjoying its stunning natural scenery, there’s something for everyone in Auckland. Get ready to have an epic trip to New Zealand with these Auckland activities!
Have a short time in Auckland? This full-day explorer tour lets you see all the highlights of the city including the Auckland Harbour Bridge, Auckland Waterfront and Viaduct, Mission Bay, Tamaki Drive, and Mount Eden.
You’ll also visit Devonport and North Head (Maungauika), Bastion Point, Achilles Point, Muriwai Beach, and much more! This is a day in Auckland you will never forget. Even if you are staying longer, it’s a great introduction to Auckland to help get your bearings and plan for what to revisit next.
You can book it here with easy cancellation should you change your mind.
1. Auckland Harbour Bridge Climb
Climb to the top of Auckland Harbour Bridge for breathtaking views of the city skyline and harbor. It’s one of the most popular things to do in Auckland!
The bridge climb takes about 1.5 hours and is suitable for people of all fitness levels. Or if you’re really death-defying, you can bungee jump off the side of the Harbour Bridge with AJ Hacket – the first bungee jump company in the world! You’ll even get to splashdown in the harbor on your descent.
Take in the views of the Auckland Harbour Bridge on a harbor cruise. The 2.5-hour sailing experience includes a 3-course dinner after you’ve experienced the iconic sights of Waitemata Harbour.
2. War Memorial Museum
The Auckland War Memorial Museum is one of the top things to do in Auckland for history buffs. Founded in 1929, the museum tells the stories of New Zealanders who have served in wars and conflicts around the world.
The museum is free to enter for residents and work visa holders. However, the cost is minimal and it can easily fill a rainy day. It’s a popular spot on ANZAC Day in April when the country remembers the war efforts of Kiwi soldiers during WWI at Gallipoli. It is now a national Remembrance Day.
3. Waiheke Island
Waiheke Island is a small island in the Hauraki Gulf, about a 40-minute ferry ride from downtown Auckland. The island is home to some of New Zealand’s best wineries and vineyards. It’s the perfect place to spend a day if you’re looking for things to do in Auckland that are a little more low-key.
There are also plenty of beautiful hiking trails to explore, with stunning views of the ocean and native bush.
SkyTower is the tallest free-standing structure in the Southern Hemisphere, and one of Auckland’s most iconic landmarks. Enjoy stunning views of the city from the observation deck, or take things to the next level with a bungee jump or skywalk around the outside of the tower!
If you decide to do the Sky Jump, be prepared for 11 seconds of pure adrenaline. At 192 meters high, it is higher than the Nevis in Queensland, but this is a controlled jump reaching speeds of 85km per hour. Cost: $225
SkyTower is located in the middle of the CBD (central business district) of Auckland, making it very accessible. Many locals use it as a landmark for meeting up. On New Year’s Eve, it is also the location of the biggest fireworks display. I lived behind it and got to watch the fireworks from my kitchen!
5. New Zealand Maritime Museum
The New Zealand Maritime Museum is one of the best things to do in Auckland if you’re interested in maritime history. The museum has an extensive collection of artifacts, from Maori waka (canoes) to European immigrant ships. You can even hop aboard a replica of Captain James Cook’s ship, the Endeavour!
The museum is located on Auckland’s waterfront, making it a great spot to combine with a walk or picnic lunch on the wharf.
6. Auckland Art Gallery
The Auckland Art Gallery is the largest art museum in New Zealand, and one of the top things to do in Auckland. It has a wide variety of exhibits, from Maori art to contemporary Kiwi painters.
There’s also a café and sculpture garden onsite, making it the perfect spot to spend a few hours on a rainy day. The art is primarily modern art, with some Maori exhibits that come and go.
7. One Tree Hill
One Tree Hill is one of Auckland’s most popular parks, and one of the best things to do in Auckland if you’re looking for some great views. The park is home to an iconic obelisk, which was built in 1845 to commemorate the original Maori inhabitants of the area.
You can also see Auckland’s CBD, the harbor, and Rangitoto Island from the top of the hill. Be sure to pack sunscreen! There’s no tree cover on the aptly named hill.
8. Rangitoto Island
Rangitoto Island is a volcanic island in the Hauraki Gulf, just a short ferry ride from Auckland. The island is home to some of the best hiking trails in Auckland, with views of native bush and lava fields. The summit trail is a must-do.
Rangitoto is also a popular spot for picnics, with several sheltered beaches that are perfect for swimming on a hot day. Just be sure to bring insect repellent, as sandflies can be a problem in some areas! If you really want to exercise, rent a kayak to venture across the harbor in about 1-2 hours.
Devonport is a lovely seaside suburb of Auckland, located on the North Shore. It’s the perfect spot for a day trip, with a variety of things to do to keep you busy. Stroll along the waterfront, visit the naval museum, or spend your day sunning at Cheltenham Beach.
This is the most underrated beach in Auckland, with more people flocking to ones closer to Auckland. This small beach offers white sand and crystal clear water, without the crowds.
10. Piha Beach
Piha Beach is one of the most popular beaches in Auckland, and for good reason. The black sand and dramatic cliffs make it a photographer’s dream, and it’s also a great spot for swimming, surfing, and hiking.
There are several walking trails that lead to lookout points with stunning views of the coastline.
Piha is located about 45 minutes from Auckland, making it the perfect day trip. There’s even a waterfall trail!
11. Auckland Domain
The Auckland Domain is one of the largest parks in Auckland, and a great spot for a picnic or walk. The park is home to several museums, including the Museum of New Zealand (Te Papa Tongarewa) and the Auckland War Memorial Museum.
You can also see the Wintergardens, which are beautiful glasshouses filled with exotic plants. The Auckland Domain is also a great spot for people-watching, with locals and tourists alike enjoying the lush green space.
12. Viaduct Harbor
Viaduct Harbor is a popular spot for dining and nightlife, located in the heart of Auckland’s CBD. During the day, you can stroll along the harbor, visit the shops and restaurants, or take a ride on the ferry to one of the nearby islands.
At night, the harbor comes alive with bars and clubs, making it the perfect spot to go out for a night on the town.
In the summer months, there are also free outdoor screenings of popular movies on the grass. Bring a beer and have a picnic in the outdoor theatre. There’s something for everyone at Viaduct Harbor!
13. Auckland Zoo
Auckland Zoo is one of the best things to do in Auckland with kids. The zoo is home to over 1400 animals, including lions, tigers, giraffes, and elephants.
There are also several interactive exhibits, such as the Gorilla Forest and the Rainforest Exhibit. The zoo is located in Western Springs, just a short drive from Auckland’s CBD. It’s also accessible by Auckland Transit buses.
14. Auckland Free Walking Tour
A free walking tour is a great way to see the city and learn about its history. There are several companies that offer tours, which typically last 2-3 hours.
You’ll learn about Auckland’s founding, and its Maori history, and see some of the most popular sights in the city. It’s a great way to get your bearings in the city and learn about its culture.
15. Coast-to-Coast Walkway
The Coast-to-Coast Walkway is a 16 km track that spans the width of Auckland, from the Waitemata Harbour to Manukau Harbour.
The walkway passes through several parks and reserves, including the Auckland Domain and Western Springs. It’s a great way to see some of Auckland’s green space, and you can say you’ve walked across New Zealand in an afternoon!
The walk isn’t that exciting once you’re about halfway through. It becomes more city streets than beaches. But the parks at the southern end of the walk are gorgeous once you get there!
16. Mount Eden
Mount Eden is one of the most popular things to do in Auckland. The dormant volcano is the highest point in Auckland and offers stunning 360-degree views of the city. On a clear day, you can see for miles!
There are several walking tracks that lead to the summit, so you can choose your own adventure. Mount Eden is also a great spot for stargazing.
17. Mission Bay Beach
Mission Bay is one of Auckland’s most popular beaches, and for good reason. The golden sand and calm water make it a great spot for swimming, sunbathing, and paddleboarding. It’s not very relaxing, with many people playing music or playing beach volleyball. This is more of a party beach atmosphere.
There are also several restaurants and cafes, as well as a playground and a basketball court. Mission Bay is located just a short drive from Auckland’s CBD, making it the perfect spot for a day trip.
Ponsonby is one of Auckland’s trendiest suburbs, and it’s easy to see why. The main street is lined with boutique shops, cafes, and restaurants. Here you’ll find the best restaurants in the city – and most are reasonably priced.
Ponsonby is also home to some of Auckland’s best nightlife, with bars and clubs that stay open until the early hours of the morning. If you’re looking for a place to see and be seen, Ponsonby is the place to be.
19. Albert Park
Albert Park is a large park located in Auckland’s CBD. The park is home to several monuments, including the War Memorial and the Cenotaph. It’s also a great spot for picnicking, with plenty of grassy space to spread out a blanket.
In the center of the park is a large fountain, which is popular with birdwatchers. Albert Park is also a great place to people watch, as it’s often filled with locals and tourists alike.
20. Pop-Up Globe
The Pop-Up Globe is a replica of the original Globe Theatre in London. The theatre hosts a variety of Shakespearean plays, as well as other classical and modern works. It’s a great place to see a play, especially if you’re a fan of Shakespeare.
I visited and watched Hamlet, but the fairies were reinterpreted as Maori Gods. It added a whole new layer to the performance! The Pop-Up Globe is located in Ellerslie, a suburb of Auckland.
21. Auckland Harbor Whale and Dolphin Watching Cruises
If you’re looking for something a little different, why not go whale and dolphin watching? Auckland is one of the best places in New Zealand to see these majestic creatures.
There are several companies that offer cruises, which typically last 2-3 hours. During the cruise, you’ll have the opportunity to see whales, dolphins, and fur seals. Auckland Harbor Whale and Dolphin Watching Cruises is the perfect activity for nature lovers.
This Whale and Dolphin Watching Cruise – is a half-day eco-cruise that takes you on a luxury catamaran and benefit from guaranteed whale and dolphin viewing year-round
22. Giapo Ice Cream
Giapo is an ice cream shop like no other. The ice cream is made fresh daily, and there are over 5 flavors to choose from. The shop also has a range of unique flavors, such as Guinness and wasabi. They change daily!
They’re also Instagram-worthy with chocolate picture frames on their cones and even mini finger cones! If you’re looking for an ice cream adventure, Giapo is the place to go.
23. Walk the Boardwalk
The boardwalk is a 4.4-kilometer-long coastal walkway that runs from St. Heliers to East Auckland. The walkway is beautiful, with stunning views of the coastline. There are also several cafes and restaurants along the way, so you can stop for a coffee or lunch.
The boardwalk is a great way to get some exercise, and it’s also a great place to take your dog for a walk. Get a flat white and wander along the harbor on a weekend morning to feel the true magic of the city.
24. Dave and Deb Bonus – America’s Cup Sailing
Nina has shared some amazing things to do in Auckland, New Zealand and before we move on to day trips from Auckland, we wanted to share one unique Auckland excursion that we did during our last visit.
This America’s Cup Sailing excursion gives you the chance to see what it feels like to race a yacht in America’s Cup. You get to participate in as much or as little as you like. You can get to work as a real racer or sit back and race through the waters while enjoying the city views. Book it here.
Best Day Trips from Auckland
Just a short drive from Au can find some of New Zealand’s most incredible natural scenery. From black sand beaches to towering volcanoes, there’s plenty to explore outside of the city. Here are some of the best day trips from Auckland:
- Waitomo Glowworm Caves (2-hour drive) – See our experience at the Glowworm Caves in New Zealand
- Hobbiton (2.5-hour drive) – This tour combines two of the best day trips from Auckland. The Waitomo Glowworm Cave and Hobbiton.
- Tongariro National Park (4-hour drive) – Read all about it here The Tongariro Alpine Crossing: New Zealand’s Best 1 Day Hike
- Piha Beach (45-minute drive) – If you take the Full Day tour of Auckland a stop at Piha Beach is included.
- Waiheke Island (40-minute ferry ride) – Get this hop-on hop-off pass of Waiheke Island. It lets you combine your ferry travel a hop-on-bus experience designed to let you see more of the island for less and see it in a whole new way, at your own pace!
- Rotorua (3-hour drive)
- Rangitoto Island (25-minute ferry ride)
- Great Barrier Reef Island (1-hour ferry ride)
Where to Stay in Auckland
There’s no shortage of accommodation options in Auckland, from luxury hotels to budget-friendly hostels. If you’re looking for a place to stay, here are some of our top recommendations:
- Sofitel (luxury option)
- SkyCity Grand Hotel (mid-range option)
- Quest on Eden (budget-friendly)
- Surf’n’Snow Backpackers (hostel)
- Located across from Sky Tower, Surf ‘N’ Snow Hostel offers a common lounge with cable TV and a pool table, and free WiFi in the reception area.
And these are the best things to do in Auckland from day trips to some of my favorite excursions. If you plan a trip to New Zealand, make sure to put Auckland on your travel itinerary.