Chances are that if you’re traveling to New Zealand, Auckland may not be #1 on your list of places to visit. You’ll likely fly into Auckland if you’re arriving internationally, and you may want to just hit the ground running and head straight out of the city.
Instead of rushing towards your first destination though, we think you should give Auckland a day of two of your time. If you’ve come from afar, it’s a great place to get your bearings and wear off jet lag before starting a trip around the country.
Auckland is New Zealand’s largest city and it boasts a bustling urban vibe, yet it’s also close to some absolutely gorgeous natural places—the beaches and forests near the city are stunners. We called Auckland our home for a year and a half and think it’d be a shame to miss out on some of the fun things this vibrant city and the surrounding area has to offer.
We’ve compiled a travel guide with some of the best things to do in Auckland. Read on to discover our top picks!
1) Explore Mount Eden
This dormant volcano is as green as can be. There are multiple walking paths that direct you to the top, where you can admire sweeping views over Auckland and peer down into the deep crater. The view from the top really is one of the best in the city, and it’s completely free to enjoy.
After you get your heart rate going on the climb up and down, grab a refreshing beer and hearty lunch at the retro-casual Brother’s Brewery. Their rotating tap includes in-house brews and other local favorites, and a brisket sandwich from the adjacent Juke Joint is never a bad idea.
If a big bowl of ramen is more your thing, Zool Zool serves up some of the city’s best.
2) Check out the Winter Gardens in the Auckland Domain
The massive Auckland Domain park is home to a beautiful set of glasshouse gardens, one with tropical plants and one with arid varieties. In between is the Fernz Fernery, which will make you forget you’re in the middle of a bustling city. This is a great (and free) activity to do rain or shine.
3) Visit the La Cigale French Market
This European-style market is in the heart of posh Parnell. Pick up fresh in-season produce and/or sample the delicious food on offer: the made-in-front-of-you paella is hard to beat, and big enough to share. Open Saturday mornings from 8:00 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. and Sundays from 9:00 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.
4) Take the ferry to Waiheke Island
For about $40/person (round trip), you can take a gorgeous ferry ride to Waiheke Island, home to 30+ wineries and some fantastic beaches. Waiheke is a blissful, bohemian paradise with its own little microclimate—it can be sunny and beautiful out there even if Auckland’s CBD isn’t.
This is one of our most favorite places to visit in Auckland! A visit to Waiheke makes for an excellent driving-free day trip from the city. Once on the island, you can either bus, cab, or walk to some excellent wineries.
Below are some ideas for a full afternoon on Waiheke:
We like to walk up to Cable Bay and then Mudbrick from the ferry. When you exit the ferry terminal, go to the right and walk through the field until you reach a signed path that will take you up to Cable Bay. It’ll take about 15-20 minutes along a Manuka-lined path that eventually emerges to views of sweeping vineyards and Auckland in the distance.
Cable Bay has excellent views of the water and Auckland. You can either do a tasting or grab a glass to enjoy while admiring the view. From Cable Bay, you can continue on to Mudbrick along the road; it takes about 15 more minutes to get to Mudbrick, our favorite winery on the island.
The vibe at Mudbrick is French countryside chic, with manicured gardens and rows of lavender, overlooking vineyards and the ocean beyond that. If it’s a sunny day, you can’t beat sitting outside on their patio with a glass of wine and a cheese platter.
If you’re in the mood for more of an adventurous day of wine tasting, we recommend combining Wild on Waiheke with Stonyridge. You can easily take the bus from the ferry to Wild on Waiheke, which has wine, craft beer and good food along with outdoor games—they have giant chess and petanque, for example, or you can pay extra to try your hand at archery or clay shooting.
From there, you can walk right on up to Stonyridge—it’s about 5 minutes up the next driveway. Stonyridge is known for their red wines. During the summer season, they will often have a DJ playing outside on their deck during the weekend and you can while away a whole evening with wine, music and some of the best party vibes on the island. Check the events page on their website ahead of time for details.
Option 3: Explore Waiheke’s beaches
If you’d prefer to spend your time relaxing on a beach on Waiheke, you will be spoilt for choice. There are heaps to choose from, but we absolutely love Palm beach. It’s a gorgeous stretch of sand with good swimming and white sand dotted with shells.
You can easily take the bus from the ferry terminal to the beach. You could bring a picnic or get food at the nearby Palm Beach Store, and spend a whole day here.
5) Walk the Viaduct harbour to Silo Park
The Viaduct harbour has a lovely waterfront path that’s just perfect for strolling and people watching. Check out all the fancy yachts along the way and grab a happy hour drink at one of the bars with outdoor seating.
Silo Park is an industrial-cool section along the harbour, made up of recycled shipping containers and home to Movies in the Park on Friday nights during summer.
After your walk, grab dinner at the awesome Auckland Fish Market. This excellent market is like an upscale food court with different vendors serving up seafood-centric eats—choose from a huge range of options including sushi, fish and chips or steamed mussel pots. They also have an outdoor bar and you can sit outside in their courtyard while you enjoy some of the freshest seafood around.
6) Grab a delicious dinner
There are so many amazing places to eat in Auckland! Below are some of our favorite spots to enjoy an excellent dinner in the city.
- Federal Delicatessen (CBD, $$): A New York style diner with excellent pastrami, set right in the heart of downtown Auckland.
- Farina (Ponsonby, $$): Great Italian food along Ponsonby road—they have excellent pizzas and craveable salads
- Mekong Baby (Ponsonby, $$): Amazing Asian-fusion share plates and great cocktails. Get their pork belly and you won’t be sorry!
- Coco’s Cantina (K Road, $$): A hip spot specializing in excellent Italian food.
- Paradise Indian (Sandringham, $): Absolutely delicious Indian food in a very casual setting. It’s a bit out-of-the-way from Auckland’s CBD, so hop in the car or take an Uber there.
- Chinoiserie (Mount Albert, $): Specialising in a variety of bao (stuffed Chinese buns). Their calamari is also excellent, as is everything else. Again, you’ll need to drive or take an Uber here as it’s out of the city centre.
7) Check out posh Ponsonby & Herne Bay
The Ponsonby area is situated on its namesake road, and is home to some great shopping, eating and people-watching. We recommend popping into Ponsonby Central for lunch; Burger Burger or Bird on a Wire are always our go-tos.
After lunch, stroll around Ponsonby Road and indulge in some retail therapy! If you feel like treating yourself to a beautiful piece of handmade clothing, make sure to head into Widdess. For quirky and colorful souvenirs that are far from the norm, Iko Iko offers a great selection to peruse.
From Ponsonby, it’s a 15-20 minute walk to another really lovely neighbourhood, Herne Bay. If you haven’t already dined in Ponsonby and are in the mood for fish & chips, be sure to try FishSmith – we actually end up ordering their soft shell crab sandwich, always!
There are some nice beaches in the Herne Bay area to check out, including Sentinel Beach, which has lounge chairs and plenty of Pohutukawa trees for shade. From here, you can walk back along the water to the harbourfront, then to downtown if you feel like going for a nice long stroll.
8) Visit the Waitakere Ranges (driving accessible only)
About 45 minutes to 1 hour west of Auckland lies the Waitakere Ranges. This lush mountain range offers true land-to-sea opportunities, from beautiful beaches to tree-lined hikes to epic waterfalls. It’s pretty amazing to have such a stunning wild landscape so close to the biggest city in New Zealand—once there, you feel so far away from it all.
We could write a whole guide to the Waitaks (and hope to at some point) but for now, here are a handful of some gems in this area:
Piha beach & Kitekite Falls
Piha beach is absolutely gorgeous, with a huge stretch of black sand for walking along and plenty of spots to explore. Walk up Lion Rock, or go to the far south end for a cool hole-in-the-rock view.
After you’ve explored the beach, head over to and the nearby Kitekite Falls hike. This hike takes about an hour – 1.5 hours round trip to get to and from the falls, but if you have time we recommend hiking up to the top of the falls, where you’ll find some pools that are perfect for a dip on a sunny day.
An hour long loop hike along the cliff tops that has sweeping ocean views.
A secluded and remote picture-perfect beach requiring a walk down to get there, and a walk uphill to get out. It’s well worth the effort to get there!
This is one of our favorite hikes in the area. A 30-40 minute walk through a Kauri forest leads you to a double waterfall that’s simply stunning. Make sure to wear good hiking boots and note that you’ll have to cross the river to get to the falls—so prepared to get your feet wet. Hike back out the same way you came in.
Check out the colony of gannets at this beach. If you’re heading back to Auckland from Muriwai, be sure to make a pit stop at Hallertau Brewery.
Note: If you’re hiking in the Waitakere ranges, make sure to stick to the trails and clean off your boots before and entering your hikes to prevent Kauri dieback disease. Many of the trailheads have cleaning stations with soapy water spray bottles and scrubby brushes so you can get your boots nice and clean.
Many of the trails in the Waitaks have been closed in an effort to stop the spread of Kauri dieback disease. While the trails noted above were open at the time this was written, it’d be best to check the status of any trails online here before heading out on a hike.
We hope this guide has helped you plan out some fun things to do in Auckland. Whether you’re looking to relax on a beach, indulge in delicious local food and drinks, or go out on a hike, it’s a great place to start a trip around New Zealand.
MORE TRAVEL INSPIRATION
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