I’m finally back with another NZ post. This one focuses on all the best things to do in Auckland, plus where to stay on a budget.
I didn’t have high expectations for Auckland, as I’d heard Wellington is the premier North Island city. Although Auckland didn’t blow me away, I still enjoyed my time in the city. Here are the best things to do in Auckland and the top Auckland attractions you need to check out.
TOP THINGS TO DO IN AUCKLAND
CLIMB MOUNT EDEN
One of the best free things to do in Auckland is scale Mount Eden for beautiful views. Fortunately it isn’t a big climb up the volcano either. It last erupted over 15,000 years ago and now has a 50-metre deep crater. You can walk around the outside of the crater for views across Auckland. I highly recommend visiting. I got a public bus from the CBD to Mount Eden and then walked back to the city via a couple of cool neighbourhoods (yes, it was a lot of steps).
BONUS: Another viewpoint option is One Tree Hill, which is further south of Mount Eden.
SEE THE VIEWS FROM THE SKY TOWER
I didn’t visit the Sky Tower, as I preferred to take (multiple) photos of it from every angle possible. Plus, I enjoyed the free view from Mount Eden. But apparently from the top you can see up to 80 kilometres in the distance on a clear day. You can also dine at the top, and adrenalin junkies can do the SkyWalk or SkyJump. You can purchase tickets to the Sky Tower here.
GO FOR A WALK AROUND THE WATERFRONT
On a sunny day, one of the best things to do in Auckland is head to the waterfront. There are so many food and drink options around Viaduct Basin and Wynyard Quarter. I did a bit of a circle but loved the views from Karanga Plaza. There’s a pedestrian drawbridge and the Tidal Steps, which is a roped-off area where people can swim. It would have to be a scorching hot summer’s day before I dived into the cool Kiwi water though!
VISIT TOP AUCKLAND ATTRACTIONS
I ended up visiting two free museums in Wellington. But if you’re only visiting Auckland, there’s the Auckland War Memorial Museum, the New Zealand Maritime Museum, and the Museum of Transport and Technology (MOTAT). Art lovers may also want to check out the Auckland Art Gallery, which has more than 15,000 artworks on display. For families, there’s SEA LIFE Kelly Tarlton’s Aquarium and Auckland Zoo as well.
HEAD TO A MARKET
I serendipitously stumbled upon a couple of markets during my short time in Auckland. Auckland Night Markets host several across the city every week, but the Elliott Street location was right next to my hostel, so I headed there for dinner one night. The other market I found was La Cigale Market, where I picked up a delicious burger from Bacon Brothers. The French market pops up in Britomart on Saturdays and Parnell on Sundays. Definitely head to either market on an empty stomach. Another market to check out is the Mt Eden Village Craft Market, which is held on the second Saturday of every month.
VISIT A CAT CAFE
This was a rainy day recommendation from the hostel, as BaristaCats Cafe is located in central Auckland. It’s home to 13 hard-to-adopt-out cats (due to age or special needs), who are always up for a pat or cuddle. Just like a regular cafe, you can enjoy food and drink or get a coffee to go from BaristaCats Cafe too.
DO A DAY TRIP FROM AUCKLAND
I’m currently writing a post on the best day trips from Auckland, because there are too many to include here. But you can head to an island, go to the beach or visit the Hobbiton movie set.
HAVE A WEDNESDAY MOVIE NIGHT
I have to thank my hostel for this recommendation as well, and it’s a shame I didn’t visit on a Wednesday! But Academy Cinemas does $5 Wednesdays, which means $5 tickets to both indie and blockbuster films. They recommend booking tickets online, as the schedule is released a week in advance.
HEAD TO THE SUBURBS
One of the best things to do in Auckland is get out of the CBD to explore the suburbs. I visited Ponsonby, Newmarket and Parnell, which are all relatively close to the city. I actually walked from them all back into the city! Ponsonby has surprisingly good skyline views, and a lot of cool shops and eateries. I recommend checking out Ponsonby Central for food and Iko Iko for a fun souvenir.
As for Newmarket, it was a weird combo of cafes, industrial shops and designer boutiques. But I did have a delicious slice at Little & Friday 🤤. Finally, Parnell has a really pretty main street lined with plenty of restaurants as well. Check out the sweet and savoury delights at Winona Forever (love the name as well).
GO FOR A WALK
Auckland is a walker’s paradise. I should know, as I did A LOT of steps during my visit. I’ve mentioned Mt Eden and One Tree Hill in this post, but the official tourism website for Auckland has a more comprehensive list of the city’s best walks and hikes.
EAT. A LOT.
I dedicated a whole post to this topic, which shares over 20 places to eat in Auckland. The city is overflowing with cute cafes and restaurants. And don’t get me started on the pastry cabinets…
FREE WALKING TOUR
How many times can I mentioned walks in one blog post (I think this may be number five 😳). BUT, we all know how I love a free walking tour. I didn’t end up doing one in Auckland (it’s a shock, I know), but there is one available.
I did this Auckland Harbour Cruise, which is a 1.5-hour tour that includes morning/afternoon tea. Although it was a tad expensive at $50 NZD, the views were beautiful. Plus, there’s awesome audio commentary. Along the way you’ll see the islands, Auckland Harbour Bridge and Westhaven Marina.
VISIT AUCKLAND DOMAIN
Auckland Domain is a 200-acre public reserve. It’s home to walking tracks, Wintergardens and the Auckland War Memorial Museum. The Domain Wintergardens has two large glasshouses and was built in 1913. It’s a great spot for a picnic 😉
WALK ALONG THE LIGHTPATH
Te Ara I Whiti, or the Lightpath is a bright pink path with interactive lights on one side. I visited during the day, but with the lights it sounds like it may look even better at night.
WHERE TO STAY IN AUCKLAND
Because this was my birthday trip, I ‘treated’ myself to a private room at Attic Backpackers. Located in the city centre, the hostel wasn’t too big and had everything I needed. The private room was very reasonably priced and a good size as well ($65 NZD per night). I’d definitely recommend Attic Backpackers to other solo/budget-minded travellers.
That’s a wrap on the top things to do in Auckland, which should keep you busy for a weekend trip. I actually have more Auckland content coming to the blog soon, so watch this space 😉
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT…
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