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Things not to miss in Auckland – A city travel guide

Last week I did something very strange, I went home for a holiday. Now of course in my years of travelling I’ve been back but I tend to go back for a year or so to recuperate my bank balance, before heading out for another adventure.

Things not to miss in Auckland a city travel guide

This created the very strange sensation of being a tourist in my home town. From this unusual perspective I would like to offer two pieces of advice; one - the amazingly obvious, never book only nine days home when you haven’t seen your friends and family for over seven months as you will never be able to fit them all in! And two, this insider/outsiders guide to things to see and do in Auckland, New Zealand.

New Zealand is famous for several things; action/adrenaline adventures, breathtaking unspoiled nature and laid back culture and lifestyle. The thing you might not know without a little research is it can be a pain to get around, with buying or hiring a campervan being the most popular choice to see outside of city centers.

To make this guide a little more user friendly I have divided into sections, Auckland CBD where you can walk between attractions and North, South , East and West where you will have to brave public transport or hire a car to see the sites.

Auckland Sky Tower

Auckland CBD:

Auckland CBD is hilly but walkable or you can make use of public transport. “The City” as it’s known to Aucklanders is where you will find most of the tourist activities and budget accommodation but do consider exploring outside its confines if you have the time, to experience a “Kiwi” feel as you get further out from the main center.

  • Just out of the center of Auckland is the Domain a huge park perfect for a picnic or stroll with The Auckland War Memorial Museum at its center where you can learn about Maori tradition, history and arts on New Zealand peoples.

  • Kelly Tartltons On the way to Mission Bay, you may want to jump on a bus to reach this one but this top class aquarium is worth the trip.

  • Mission Bay, a man-made bay just round the corner from the CBD this picturesque bay is the perfect place to relax and sip a coffee or take part in one of the many sports on offer around the coast line from inline skating and biking to kayaking.

  • If you want to stay firmly in the city, the Auckland Art Gallery Provides some stunning exhibits to while away an afternoon.

  • Auckland Sky Tower Is iconic, you can’t miss it jutting from our skyline. You can visit for a meal, explore the observation deck or if you’re feeling brave even jump off it.

  • The other icon of the city skyline in the Auckland Harbor Bridge. There are some stunning views from the waterfront or options for a bridge climb on New Zealand favorite bungee jumping.

  • If shopping is more your thing head to the ever so hip Ponsonby for a coffee and some retail therapy.

  • This last one will really need a bus to reach but it’s still very central. Cornwall park Home of one tree hill (there is no longer a tree, yes I know this is confusing) Is home to some amazing gardens, a working farm complete with sheep and even houses the Auckland Observatory In its grounds.

Waitakeri Rangers View

West Auckland:

I grew up in the west so I hold an understandable bias but I don’t think you can beat the views and nature walks out west. It is well worth the effort of finding transport, from quaint cafes to wineries the west has largely outgrown its rough reputation and blossomed in its clean green image.

  • The Waitakere Ranges are a series of hills holding some of the most amazing beaches and walks in Auckland. Arataki Information Centre Is a great place to start with incredible views and info on the many hikes available in the region.

  • Auckland has many beaches but the west coast beaches, with their black sand and towering waves really capture a sense of the wild west. Check out Lion Rock at Piha but remember to swim between the flags.

  • Closer to the center of town Auckland Zoo, will keep you and the kids busy for hours as you explore the weird and wonderful creatures of New Zealand. See if you can catch a glimpse of the Kiwi.

  • Between the Zoo and MOTAT Lies Western Springs, a lovely park perfect to burn off a little energy, just remember you feed the geese at your own peril. =)

South Auckland:

South Auckland is largely residential and home to a vibrant pacific community. Check out the early morning Otara markets for a slice of local life.

  • If you love outlet shopping you can’t go past Dress Smart For brand name bargains galore.

  • A bit more of a drive, Auckland botanical gardens is a lovely place to spend an afternoon, with a variety of themed gardens from those just for kids to rose, cactus and tropical gardens. Have a go at spotting every statue on the sculpture walk.

  • Heading even further out, just past the outskirts of Auckland you will find Pukekohe raceway, with a range of events for the petrol heads amongst us.

Auckland Botanical Gardens

East Auckland:

I’m not sure if East Auckland is really a thing, the little land east of Auckland is mostly residential however the harbor holds a wealth of entertainment for water loving Aucklanders.

  • An Auckland icon, climbing Rangitoto Island is a rite of passage amongst Aucklanders many of whom do it as part of a school trip as children. Just a short ferry ride from downtown, Rangitoto is a lovely walk with great views back at Auckland, just don’t forget your sunblock as shade is in short supply.

  • Another island paradise is Waiheke Island is home to beaches, boutiques and wineries. Waiheke really deserves a day or more to explore and is perfect for a romantic weekend away. Ferries run from downtown and Davenport.

  • One of the few eastern attractions Howick Historical Village Is a replica village showcasing New Zealand’s history in a practical way loved by kids and adults alike.

North Shore:

Auckland’s North Shore is quite upmarket with a range of shopping centers and beaches to keep you happy for days. Things can be a little far apart so again a car is helpful for this adventure.

  • Out on the Peninsula, North Head is a historical defense point complete with ancient canons and underground tunnels to explore and if history isn’t your thing the views of Auckland harbor are absolutely stunning.

  • Devonport, in the shadow of North Head has a ferry connecting it directly with downtown and has a lovely collection of shops and cafes to explore.

  • Whangaparaoa just past the north end of Auckland city gives a window into far north life with stunning white sand beaches and Waiwera Hot Springs, a lovely overnight trip from the city.

North Head View

So there are my top picks for Auckland City, there are many more attractions that come and go seasonally but these are the things that you don’t want to miss to get a real feeling for Auckland life. Two things that are widely available in Auckland wherever you are based are walks/hikes and a huge range of festivals, free concerts and arts events. I suggest you check out the Auckland City Councils events website to see what’s on when you are in the neighborhood.

Hope you enjoy your trip to New Zealand and please let me know if you think I have missed a vital Auckland attraction.


Author of Stress Free Adventure Planning

If you found this post helpful check out this one on North Island road trips or click here to get my FREE travel budget calculator and monthly tips to save money on your travel.

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