Auckland, New Zealand, the most populated city of the North Island, is an indoor and outdoor playground. Serene mornings meandering through the vineyards of Waiheke Island sampling signature cabernet sauvignons can effortlessly be paired with an adventure-filled afternoon summiting one of the 50-plus nearby volcanoes.
In the city itself, you’ll find independent boutiques, museums honoring Māori culture, and an ever-evolving skyline promising panoramic vistas from rooftop bars. Here are some of the best attractions and top things to do in Auckland.
Head to the Top of Mount Eden
Auckland has a bountiful supply of volcanic cones rising around the city, and Mount Eden is by far the most emblematic. It’s also the highest within the city limits, with the southern crater rim peaking at 643 feet.
Estimates place Mount Eden’s age around 15,000 years old, though luckily for visitors, it’s considered long extinct. A sacred Māori (the Indigenous people of New Zealand) site, it’s also commonly referred to by its traditional name, Maungawhau.
Take the steep trail to the rim to enjoy a panoramic view—as expected on any New Zealand hike—over Auckland, and peer into the gaping center as you circumnavigate the rim. As an important archaeological and spiritual site, it’s an age-old element of Auckland’s landscape.
From here, you will be in a privileged position to get your bearings while admiring the islands of the Hauraki Gulf.
One Tree Hill, another of the city’s ancestral mountains, is just a bit further south and makes for a great alternative to Mount Eden.
Admire Art at Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki
For a deep dive into the nation’s art scene and to learn more about Māori culture, a visit to Toi o Tāmaki is one of the finest things to do in Auckland.
Housing some 17,000 pieces, the gallery re-opened to much fanfare in 2011. Balancing a strikingly modern building alongside the heritage-listed original site, the blend of architectural styles has both turned heads and won awards.
With an ever-changing array of exhibitions and events, the displays can span from contemporary Māori art to internationally acclaimed classics.
Regardless of the program during your visit, through the permanent collections, you’ll gain valuable insight into the country’s art scene. Māori and Pacific Island artists are well represented, alongside prints, sculptures, and fashion.
Enjoy Panoramic Vistas From the Sky Tower
Since taking a prime position on Auckland’s skyline in 1997, the Sky Tower has become something of a staple for visitors to the nation’s capital.
From the Sky Deck viewing platform, you can appreciate 360-degree perspectives of this beautiful New Zealand city and the surrounding nature. From a dizzying height of 610 feet, the turquoise bays and shimmering islands dazzle even brighter.
Slip into the bar for a cocktail in the sky, or enjoy the vistas from the rotating restaurant, serving up brasserie-style lunches on weekends.
If you’re an adrenaline-seeker, then the drop on the Sky Jump might be enticing. Different from the country’s many popular bungy spots, this fast-paced fall attached to a wire will have you hurtling towards the base at a speed of 50 mph—certainly not for the faint-hearted.
Discover Māori Treasures at Auckland War Memorial Museum
The Tāmaki Paenga Hira (Auckland Museum) is nestled in Auckland Domain, a wooded park in the city’s heart. The neo-classical building dates back to the 1920s and makes for a grand home to the extensive collections—this architecture alone makes it one of the best things to do in Auckland.
Tāmaki Paenga Hira serves as both a war memorial and the city’s museum. Inside the towering columned entrance, you’ll find an extensive collection of enticing exhibits.
Temporary exhibitions cover anything from photography and prehistoric predators to ancient civilizations, while the permanent galleries allow a deeper insight into Auckland and New Zealand as a whole.
Of particular interest are the Māori galleries showcasing taonga (Māori treasures), representing all of Aotearoa’s—the Indigenous name of the country—major tribes.
Wine, Dine, & Relax on Waiheke Island
Welcome to Waiheke Island, where dazzling white sand beaches and row upon row of manicured vines are enveloped by the turquoise waters of the Hauraki Gulf.
Transport yourself to this pristine paradise on a ferry from Auckland, and in less than 40 minutes, you’ll find yourself deep in the enchanting wild that New Zealand is famous for.
On arrival, you’ll face the challenge of deciding how to spend your time. You could spend a day hopping between the handful of calm beaches or fly above the native bushland on the exhilarating Waiheke Island Zipline, one of the best zip lines in the world. However, the island’s main draw is the award-winning wines.
So recognized are the wines of Waiheke that the isle has earned the nickname “Island of Wine” thanks to cool climates and iron-rich soils. Around 20 winemakers offer cellar door tastings, with reds such as syrah, merlot, and cabernet sauvignon the primary grapes.
Visit a few vineyards to meet different vintners, followed by a premium dining experience with ocean-facing views. Most vineyards offer onsite restaurants, ranging from upscale fine dining to laid-back café-style snacks.
Settle Into Sandy Mission Bay Beach
You don’t have to travel far for a slice of New Zealand’s beaches and its golden sands and lapping waves. Mission Bay Beach, just a 20-minute drive from the city center, is one of the most popular suburbs in which to soak up the sun.
Lay out your towel at this picturesque seaside spot, and you’ll be rewarded with views of volcanic Rangitoto Island. Once you’ve had your fill of postcard-perfect scenery, head to one of the cafés or restaurants behind the grassy Selwyn Domain that backs the Auckland beach to sample some of the city’s freshest seafood.
Climb the Auckland Harbour Bridge
You won’t find a better or more memorable setting for sweeping views across Auckland and the harbor than this graceful bridge, more than half a mile long, linking the city center with the North Shore. As part of the state highway, the bridge is usually reserved for vehicles.
However, adventure-lovers can strap themselves in and take on the climb with an experienced guide. The steep and often windy ascent is rewarded with unusual vantage points across the capital and a real sense of achievement.
If you’re after a little more action, one of the most thrill-seeking things to do in Auckland is to challenge yourself with the Harbor Bridge bungy jump—even plunging your head into the waters below before bouncing back upwards!
Taste Kiwi Flavors at Parnell Village
Parnell’s status as an affluent suburb hasn’t occurred overnight. Since the 1960s, this village has seen a re-birth, with open-air markets and artisans taking hold of abandoned spaces and creating something of a creative jewel within the city.
Nowadays, the suburb is adorned with plenty of high-end boutiques, chic cafés, and trendy restaurants.
While the beloved bohemian atmosphere may have fallen slightly to the wayside, the ornate wooden balcony buildings and flower-decorated streets are a charming place to stroll, shop, and sip.
Slip into some of the city’s best galleries, such as ARTIS and Birdwoods, before refueling with tantalizing kiwi flavors such as chargrilled lamb at restaurants like Gerome.
Parnell is also the perfect place to pick up local artisanal products. Browse hand-crafted wool garments and Māori wood crafts, ideal for souvenirs and gifts.
Head West for the Muriwai Gannet Colony
A little under an hour from Auckland, on the rugged west coast, the black-sand beach of Muriwai Beach sprawls out along the shore.
Between August and March, a colony of large white gannet seabirds make themselves at home, providing quite the sight from the viewing platform. Across the beach and rocks rising from the ocean, around 1,200 pairs of gannets nest, squawking and gliding between each other.
The chance to catch a glimpse of hatching eggs and fluffy chicks is one of the most magical things to do near Auckland before the birds take flight across the Tasman sea, heading to Australia.
Marvel at Marine Life at The Aquarium
Dedicated to renowned diver and marine archaeologist Kelly Tarlton, SEA LIFE provides the perfect opportunity to witness some of New Zealand’s aquatic animals without leaving the city.
Undoubtedly one of the best things to do in Auckland to discover the underwater world, you’ll spot over 30 species of marine life as you explore the various habitats and submerged viewing tunnels.
Join keepers on the ice to see King and Gentoo penguins up close, walk underneath the imposing Sand Tiger Shark in the underpasses, and glimpse colorful jellyfish and rescued turtles in the conservation area.
Since this is one of the best aquariums in the world, allow at least two hours to experience everything it offers.
Summit a Dormant Volcano on Rangitoto Island
Rangitoto Island arose from the sea some 600 years ago, making it the youngest volcano in New Zealand. While most of the volcanoes in Auckland’s city limits are considered close to extinct, Rangitoto is declared dormant, although it hasn’t erupted since it first appeared above the ocean.
Easily reached by ferry from the city harbor, the relaxed two-hour Rangitoto Summit Track will guide you through lava fields and Pohutukawa forests.
Especially pretty between November and January, when the crimson flowers bloom, the views back across Auckland and the Hauraki Gulf from this uninhabited island are sensational.
Tour Auckland Town Hall
Step inside one of Auckland’s finest buildings and listen to the stories and history of this neo-Baroque gem. Founded in 1911, the grand hall has played host to internationally acclaimed artists such as Sir Elton John and The Rolling Stones, and nowadays is home to the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra.
The acoustics are simply sublime, and with a varied program of concerts alongside the guided tours, you’ll have two options of how to experience this precious space.
Dine on Fish and Chips at Auckland Fish Market
The Kiwi classic of fish and chips is a staple takeaway across the country and there’s no better place to taste freshly battered and fried fish than at the markets, one of the greatest epicurean things to do in Auckland.
Moments from the harbor, Auckland Fish Market originally opened in 1904 as the go-to spot to source the catch of the day. Recently renovated, it now houses even more restaurants alongside the fishmongers.
Arrive here early to see it at its most animated. Whichever time of day you visit, you are guaranteed a delicious dish. Delve into a seafood feast of New Zealand green-lipped mussels, and freshly shucked oysters polished off with a crisp local chardonnay or sauvignon blanc.
Go Wildlife Spotting at Tiritiri Matangi Open Sanctuary
Off the coast of Whangaparāoa Peninsula, an hour north of Auckland, the rewilded island of Tiritiri Matangi is only reachable by boat. One of the country’s oldest island sanctuaries, it’s a vast, verdant land of native flora and fauna, and a guided tour allows you to observe conservation projects first hand.
Wander the canopy-shaded paths and hear the sounds of nature. The woeful call of the Kōkako, the eager moon-shaped eyes of the Ruru owl, and the roaming blue Takahē are just a few of the endemic species you may encounter on a visit.
Keep an eye peeled for the unusually large Wētā punga, an ochre-colored wingless cricket the size of a hand that climbs amongst the trees.
Witness the Waitomo Glow Worm Caves
The three-hour journey south to the Waitomo Glow Worm Caves provides an unforgettable opportunity to admire one of New Zealand’s most unique natural marvels.
As you venture inside these ancient caverns, shaped by nature over millions of years, you’ll be awe-struck by thousands of glowworms illuminating the way.
This extraordinary tour of the lower caves by boat mixes stories and Māori legends with the living light gifted from the Arachnocampa Luminosa, a species distinctive to New Zealand.
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