Top things to see and do in Auckland
How do you do a city like Auckland justice in just a few days? It’s not easy, let me tell you.
This is a travel destination that has it all: outstanding natural beauty, fantastic restaurants, great nightlife and a bustling cafe scene. Yet it still manages to maintain a friendly, relaxed and low key feel.
Here’s a city guide to the top things to see and do in Auckland.
There’s no shortage of cultural things to see and do in Auckland. Known as the ‘City of Sails’ for its magnificent position on the water and the number of boats bobbing up and down on its waterways, Auckland is actually centred between two harbours and sparkling water beckons you from almost every aspect.
With over 30 restaurants and bars set right on the waterfront, the harbour views alone are worth a meal at Viaduct Harbour.
We’ll look at more food options in a moment, but some of the best restaurants here include Botswana Butchery – which provides a local New Zealand food offering from the Otago region of the South Island, and Soul Bar – the place to go for fresh seafood by the water.
Head around to Queens Wharf to join a great free city walking tour, which will introduce you to many of the offbeat secrets of this bustling metropolis. A small donation or ‘koha’ will be much appreciated by your guide at the end of the tour.
The highest building in the city (in fact, the whole country) is Sky Tower, which offers exhilarating views. But it wouldn’t be New Zealand if there wasn’t a way you could get the adrenalin seriously pumping. Sky Jump and Sky Walk offer you the opportunity to either jump from the 192 metre high tower or feel the rush of a hands-free walk around the outside!
You might find this hard to believe, but Auckland has 48 volcanos, the cones of which provide some spectacular views across the city from different vantage points. Mt Eden is one of the most popular with visitors.
With so much coastline around the city, a stroll on the beach is an obvious draw and one of the most relaxing things to see and do in Auckland. With golden sand on one coast and black sand on the other, pack a picnic lunch or find a secluded spot for a quiet read.
One of the unique things about Auckland is the presence of many different islands just a short hop from the city around the Hauraki Gulf. Waiheke Island is just a 35 minute ferry ride from the city centre and is known as the ‘Island of Wine’ for the number of picturesque vineyards and wineries located there.
With influences from across the globe, Auckland’s food and wine scene serves up something for every taste. There are three distinct dining precincts to choose from: the aforementioned Viaduct Harbour, Britomart and Ponsonby.
From renovated industrial garages to minimalist modern spaces, Britomart has an eclectic range of bars and restaurants with funky fitouts.
Try Cafe Hanoi, which focuses on Vietnamese street food with liberal amounts of fresh herbs and spices, providing an amazing aroma when you first walk in.
Britomart Country Club has the largest courtyard bar in New Zealand and is the perfect place to be on a warm summer’s night, while Everybody’s is tucked away in a cozy little space with a great menu divided into four sections depending on how hungry you are!
Ponsonby may once have been Auckland’s bohemian enclave, but it has been transformed into the city’s hippest strip. Packed with funky boutiques, cool bars and fashionable restaurants, it’s just five minutes from the city centre.
Here you should definitely try Chop Chop Noodle House, inspired by old school kung-fu movies with service as fast as lightning. Also El Sizzling Chorizo, a smoking hot Argentinian barbecue that stimulates the senses well before you even walk through the door.
And finally, Cocoro, located in a side street, is a small restaurant serving exquisite Japanese.
For historical things to see and do in Auckland, start by gaining an appreciation of the city’s seafaring history at the Maritime Museum. If you’ve always wondered what it means to batten down the hatches, you’ll find out in the rocking cabin!
With a Polynesian heritage that stretches back over 700 years, the best place to find out more is the excellent Auckland Museum.
The Te Hana Te Ao Marama Maori Cultural Centre is also well worth a visit to learn more about the indigenous Maori. The centre offers a comprehensive range of cultural experiences, from a traditional Powhiri (welcome ceremony) to active village tours.
As New Zealand’s biggest city, Auckland offers the best shopping in the country. You can of course find well-known labels such as Top Shop and Prada, alongside internationally recognised local designers like Karen Walker. The city’s hip Britomart precinct is a great spot to head for a spot of holiday retail therapy.
At the other end of the retail scale, the Auckland Night Markets operate at different locations around the city six nights a week. Browse around 200 stalls, including 70 to 80 awesome food options.
Do you have any tips for top things to see and do in Auckland? We would love to hear from you. Please leave us a comment.
Additional images: Bigstock
About the writer
Stephen Hodges was a teacher and a social worker before he left Australia for a three-year overseas adventure. While travelling he worked as a grouse beater in Scotland, a chicken farmer on a Kibbutz in Israel and a camp counsellor in France. On his return to Melbourne, Stephen began working in the travel industry and set up a business, which he ran for six years. He still has a passion for travel and believes life is all about experiences – and that you can find them in the most unlikely places, if you look hard enough.