While Auckland is New Zealand’s largest city, many people are surprised to learn that it’s not the capital of New Zealand. That title belongs to it’s sister, Wellington.
Most people visiting New Zealand start their travels in Auckland – either by plane or ship – and they are anxious to get out there and explore that they don’t spend a lot of time in the city. I would suggest spending at least one day in this city. Auckland is a great place to start your New Zealand North Island road trip.
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Getting to Auckland from the Airport
The airport is located only 15km from the city, so it’s only about a 20-minute drive depending on traffic. You can also pre-book an express bus transfer to Auckland here.
If you’re not renting a care there are a few options:
- Public Transport
- Skip Bus
- Super Shuttle
- Taxis (price vary by company, but most have fixed fares to the Central Business District – or city center).
If you’re short on time you can always do a Hop-On/Hop-Off Bus or an eco-friendly Tuk Tuk tour to get the highlights of the city. Most of the tourist attractions are located in the heart of the city and some others are just a ferry ride away. Here is an in-depth analysis of the best way to get to Auckland from the airport.
Auckland Sky Tower
An icon of the city – the city tower is a must-visit. This landmark reaches into the sky at over 1075 feet (328 meters) high. It’s not only the tallest building in New Zealand but also the Southern Hemisphere. The SkyTower was built in 1994 and is used for telecommunications and an observation tower. Featuring a birds-eye view of the city on viewing platforms, enjoy the view with a drink or meal. If you really want a different view, you can do the SkyWalk and walk on the outside of the tower. Thrill-seekers can even bungee jump from the building at the SkyJump attraction.
Location: The corner of Victoria and Federal Streets in the Central Business District (CBD)
Hours: It is open 365 days of the year, but severe bad weather can cause it to close.
Cost: NZD32 per adult, NZD13 per child, and NZD75 for a family of four.
Fun Fact: The elevators travel at around 12 mph (18 kmph) and take 40 seconds.
Parnell Rose Garden
For a break from the city and to connect with nature – the Parnell Rose Garden is the place to go. There are over 5,000 roses throughout the garden. It also has beautiful views of the city and harbor. Bonus – it’s free to visit AND there are toilet facilities and a drinking fountain here.
Location: 85-87 Gladstone Road, Parnell
Hours: Open 24 hours
Travel Tip: Did you know you can also spot rare birds in Auckland? Check out AlbomAdventures’ tips on how to see endangered birds in Auckland!
Auckland War Memorial Museum
There’s more to this museum than just war – you’ll learn about natural history, as well as MAori and Pacific history and culture. It was the first official museum in New Zealand, built in 1852. The Main Maori Galleries display artwork from various centuries. The museum also hosts Maori cultural performances at 11, 12 and 1:30 pm every day. You can watch traditional songs, dances, and games. The museum is a great thing to do if you are unfortunate enough to have a rainy day in Auckland.
For international visitors, the charge is NZD25 per adult and NZD10 per child. There are family passes as well.
Location: The Auckland Domain, Parnell
Hours: 10 am to 5 pm daily except Christmas and after the Anzac service on Anzac day.
Mount Eden aka Maungawhau
Visit the highest natural point in the city and get stunning views as your reward. Mount Eden is a dormant volcano whose summit is about 600 feet (200m) above sea level. Mount Eden last erupted about 15,000 years ago. With a clear day, you can see many attractions as well as a 360 degree view of the city. From the bus stop, walking to the top takes about 10 minutes each way. However, the climb is quite steep and there’s no shelter at the top so make sure you’re not expecting rain!
Location: You can drive to one of the parking lots at the base. You can take the Western line train to Mt. Eden Station.
Hours: 7:00 am to 8:30 pm in the summer and 7:00 am to 7:00 pm in the winter.
If you’re a vegan, check out this list of best vegan food in Auckland.
Day Tour Idea: Hobbiton
A perfect destination for any Lord of the Rings fan and a great day trip out of the city. This site can be seen in both the Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit and The Shire. Take a tour for easy transport to and from the city. As someone who has never watched the LOTR trilogy, I did not go on a tour of Hobbiton. (Please don’t hate me for not watching them – if you’re curious as to why I haven’t- just ask!)
Enjoy a Rugby game at Eden Park
New Zealand is known for not only rugby, but their rugby fans. Unfortunately, there was not a game when we were visiting. If you’re lucky, you may see the Haka, which is a well-known Maori ceremonial dance to challenge their opponents. They only do it when opposing an international team. Tickets range in price, but typically cost around NZD$25 for adults.
Location: Reimers Ave, Kingsland
Hours: Check here for the schedule
Travel tip: Find out what the team colors are and either choose a side or dress neutral for the game.
One Tree Hill
This 570 feet (182 meter) high volcano peak lies within the vicinity of Auckland. The volcano last erupted about 29,0000 years ago, yet you can still see some volcanic ash left from that eruption. The hill is famous because it is a memorial site for aboriginal Maoris and for immigrant New Zealanders. At the summit, Cornwall Park is home to beautiful flower beds and trees. You’ll also find the remnants of Maori Pa, a fortified village build before Europeans arrived in New Zealand. The obelisk lies over the grave of Sir John Logan Campbell, nicknamed the “Father of Auckland”.
Location: 670 Manuka Road, Epsom, Auckland
Hours: 7:00am until dusk
Waitemata Harbor aka Auckland Harbor
Waitemata Harbor splits Auckland in two and just like the SkyTower, is a very noticeable feature of the city. The Auckland Harbor Bridge, built between 1955 and 1959, connects downtown Auckland. It’s the largest bridge in New Zealand and is eight lanes wide! There are sand-filled beaches on both sides of the bridge. You could even take a boat ride around the harbor.
Ths beautiful public park that is one of the oldest parks in the country, established in the early 1880’s. Lining the open spaces are trees that date back a century with flowers blooming in spring and summer. More than just a pretty place, Albert Park has seen a lot of Auckland’s history. There are a number of monuments in the park – Queen Victoria Statue, the Boyd Statute, and the Victorian fountain are some of the more famous ones.
Fun Fact: Underneath the park are underground tunnels built during WWII. Unfortunately they are not open to the public, but it’s pretty cool to think about!
Travel Tip: Near Albert Park is the Auckland Art Gallery – a great place for any art lover to visit.
In West Auckland (about a 30-minute drive from city center) is a unique natural destination that is worth a visit. The Waitakere Rangers are made of native bush backed by a rugged coastline of black sand beaches. If you’re a surfer, then rent a board for Piha Beach. If you’re not a surfer, you can watch from the shorelines or take a hike to a waterfall. Kitekite and karekare are two trails featuring magical waterfalls. There is a cafe at the top for some food and drinks – not mention the view!
Walk from Viaduct to Onehunga
There are only a few places in the world that you can easily walk coast to coast – and Auckland is one of them. This section is part of the Te Araroa trail and is about 10 miles (16km) long. The Not only will you be able to brag to your friends, but you’ll see a lot of Auckland’s most famous attractions (some of which we’ve talked about here): Auckland Museum, Mount Eden, One Tree Hill, and Cornwall Park. Once you arrive in Onehunga, there are shops and restaurants to refuel before heading back to city center via the train.
If you’re looking for a longer hike, why not check out the Lake Waikaremoana Great Walk! It’s one of three Great Walks located on the North Island.
I include Devonport because it’s a great seaside town to visit if you have the time. Ferries leave from the Downtown Ferry Terminal on Quay Street. The ferries are regularly scheduled at 15 or 30-minute increments. A one-way ride across Waitemata Harbour is about 12 minutes. You dock at Victoria Street which has some charming shops and local goods (perfect for souvenirs!). If you’re up for a hike, head toward Victoria Picture Palace to find the main entrance up to Mount Victoria. The hike is worth it for the views of the Auckland City Skyline and the harbor.
For another great day trip from Auckland, check out the best things to do in Piha!
Accommodation in Auckland
I always use Booking.com for my accommodation. Most of the accommodations include free cancellation and they are competitively priced. Not to mention, real traveler reviews. See what great deals you can find!
If you prefer AirBnB’s, you can start your search here:
Auckland is a really cool place to visit – a mixture of nature and the city, and a combination of modern and traditions – you won’t be disappointed.