The best things to see and do in Auckland

Apr 06, 2019
Looking across the harbour towards the city of Auckland at dawn. Source: Matteo Colombo/Getty Images

Auckland is one of the major cities in the north of New Zealand’s North Island. In its centre you’ll find the iconic Sky Tower that boasts views of the Viaduct Harbour — and all the yachts, bars and cafes — and the city’s oldest park, Auckland Domain, which is home to the Wintergardens.

If you only have one day to spend in Auckland, I’d recommend taking in some of the more picturesque places the city has to offer. However, to fully appreciate the spectacular views, buildings, landmarks and even the people of Auckland, give yourself at least three days to explore.

With two oceans surrounding the North Island, you are never very far from the beach (even if you are standing in the middle of the city). There is a ‘coast to coast’ walk that crosses the narrowest neck of land. The walk is about 16 kilometres and takes you from Viaduct Harbour on the east coast through the urban landscapes, beautiful parklands and over a dormant volcano to your final destination at Manakau Harbour.

There are 48 volcanic cones to be found in Auckland. The last volcanic eruption was aroudn 600 years ago. The volcanoes here make the landscape somewhat unique and you can spot them easily if you look for big grassy hillocks that rise up out of the earth. You’ll find them at Mount Wellington, Mount Hobson, Mount Eden and One Tree Hill. For the Auckland Maori people, these cones are historically, culturally and spiritually significant.

A most striking building in Auckland is the Sky Tower. It looms over the city and is at the heart of the business district. Within is a hotel, casino lounges and a number of restaurants. However, adventure lovers will enjoy the opportunity of walking the 360 degrees around the outside ring of the Sky Tower. The drop is about 190 metres, and although this is not something I would do myself, I’m told the views are spectacular and will take your breath away. That same view can be viewed without having to stand on a 1m platform and on a clear day one might say you could see all the way to Australia. Ha!

The America’s Cup was run from the Viaduct Harbour, which lies within the middle of the Auckland CBD. There are a number of interesting things to see, including the superyachts, gourmet restaurants, lively bars and a buzzing nightlife. Situated next door to the Viaduct is the Ferry Building. Steeped in history, this building once housed a variety of shipping industry tenants and today is the hub of the ferry network that connects the city of Auckland to the surrounding suburbs.

Taking a taxi from the building along the waterfront for views of Judges Bay, Kohimarama and Okahu Bay. I recommend visitng Kelly Tarlton’s Aquarium on Tamaki Drive, one of Auckland’s top visitor attractions. The sub-Antarctic penguin colony display is the world’s largest and if you’re feeling brave you can book for a thrilling Shake Cage Adventure, which allows you to dive with New Zealand’s largest collection of sharks. Many of the exhibits here are interactive, making them adored by everyone who visits.

Mission Bay is a lovely beach not too far from the aquarium. You will find a number of delightful cafes and shops here and it’s all easy walking. The Mission Bay Pavilion, once known as the Mecca Stonehouse, is more than 150 years old and was a Melanesian Mission building that is now owned by Heritage New Zealand. It was first built in 1859 with stones quarried on Rangitoto Island and has been used as a school for boys, a naval training base, a museum, and a flying school for pilots going off to World War I.

A couple of years ago the building was restored and a restaurant added. The outdoor dining looks out over the harbour and the dormant Rangitoto volanco.

The east coast of Auckland has beaches with white sand, but if you travel out of Auckland to the west coast you’ll find the beaches have black sand. There are a number of walking trails and the views of each beach are spectacular. Piha is known as a surf beach with waves rolling in over the Tasman Sea, and is located about 40km from Auckland.

If you like getting out on the water, the autumn months are perfect for getting up close with local marine mammals and rare birds on a whale and dolphin safari. These take you out into the Hauraki Gulf and are run by marine researchers.

There is so much to see and do in Auckland. I recommend you come and explore.

Have you been to Auckland, New Zealand? What things did you see and do?

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