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New Zealand is an adventure lover’s paradise, and as its largest city, Auckland is the first stop for many travelers to this magical place. Most people that come here are looking for rugged wilderness and exciting days of exploration. But that doesn’t mean that you should skip past this diverse and beautiful urban area that provides easy access to so many amazing things to see and do.
Auckland enjoys a history of Polynesian culture, lots of sunshine, and a vibe that’s laid-back and multi-cultural. There are lots of festivals here to learn about local culture, and the beach is oh-so-close by. These are some of the many things to do in Auckland, New Zealand when you start planning an adventure of your own!
Auckland’s Many Volcanoes
New Zealand is part of the Ring of Fire, and there are dozens of volcanoes right around Auckland. Many of the volcanic summits are accessible, so hikers of varying skill levels can enjoy the challenge to the top and the views once they arrive. The tallest volcano in Auckland is Mount Eden, which you can climb or cycle up to the top. Visitors used to be able to drive to the top, but driving has been prohibited to ease congestion and allow a more peaceful and natural visit. Another famous volcano here is called One Tree Hill, or Maungakiekie. At the top of this one, you’ll see a grave marked with a monument for Sir John Logan Campbell, who is considered to be the founding father of the city of Auckland.
The Waterfront Viaduct Harbor
Many travelers enjoy a bustling waterfront scene, and Viaduct Harbor is exactly that in the city of Auckland. There are dozens of restaurants and bars here by the marina, as well as shops, hotels, and a museum. A great place to shop nearby is Queen Street. The people of Auckland love the water, so to get a taste of Auckland away from land, head to the ferry terminal and join a jet boat tour to enjoy a beautiful day at sea. From the Viaduct Harbor, you can walk along the Coast-to-Coast Walkway, which spans about 16 kilometers and stretches to Manukau Harbor on the west coast. On this walking trail, you can stop by Cornwall Park, the large park area of Auckland Domain, and the Auckland Museum.
Scenic Rangitoto Island
One of the most popular natural sites near Auckland is Rangitoto Island, which you might recognize from photos of its symmetrical cone along the coast. This area is off the coast of Auckland and an easy day trip worth taking. You can take a ferry ride and take a tour of the area, or just explore it on foot on your own. Several trails are available, or you can join a four-wheel-drive road train tour to just enjoy the scenery. This is another of Auckland’s volcanic areas, and one that should not be missed when you visit New Zealand.
The Hip Neighborhood of Ponsonby
Some of the best bars and galleries are located in the hip neighborhood of Ponsonby, so plan to spend some time along Ponsonby Road. The Ponsonby Social Club is a well-known live music venue that serves up tasty cocktails. This is also an ideal destination for shopaholics, or even just window shoppers, because there are lots of quirky shops that sell handmade jewelry, vintage trinkets, and designer clothes here.
Britomart, a Foodie’s Paradise
No foodie’s trip to Auckland would be complete without spending a good amount of time in Britomart. Some raved-about eateries include Café Hanoi, the Depot Eatery and Oyster Bar, and Everybody’s Bar and Bistro. This is an open and inviting area that’s great for shopping too. Fashion boutiques, homeware stores, and specialty shops have established themselves here to promote local talent. Don’t miss the City Farmers’ Market here for the best local produce and artisan foods.
Panoramic Views from Sky Tower
The Auckland area is well-known for its natural landmarks, but there are a few manmade ones worth visiting in town too. The most famous towering building in Auckland is Sky Tower, which is conveniently located near many other top tourist attractions, such as the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki, Queen Street, and the Viaduct Harbor. This is a popular place to start your exploration of the city and get a 360-degree panoramic view of everything it has to offer. If it’s a clear day, consider taking the elevator to the top to dine at a restaurant with unforgettable views. If you dine at one of the two restaurants, your tower admission is waived.
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki
If you only make it to one museum in Auckland during your visit, make it this one. Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki is in the corner of Albert Park and a favorite among international tourists who enjoy art. There are works here that date back to the 10th century, but there are also modern and contemporary pieces here too. The architecture of the museum is quite stunning as well. One of the best parts of this museum is that it’s free to visit, a rarity among art museums these days! It’s open from 10 am to 5 pm every day except for Christmas, and you may even be able to join a free gallery tour at specific times in the museum.
Auckland’s Nightlife Scene
There’s lots to do in Auckland when the sun goes down, and conveniently, many of the top nightlife spots are also great tourist areas during the day too. This makes your transition from day to night seamless with fewer transportation hassles. Britomart is full of bars and restaurants where you can enjoy cocktails with friends, go dancing, and grab a late night bite to eat. Pack something nice to wear if you plan to go out on Ponsonby Road because this is a stylish area that embraces live music, cocktails, fashion, and dancing. The Auckland CBD at Federal Street and Vulcan Lane has some great nightlife options too, especially if you enjoy craft beer and microbreweries.
Waitakere Ranges Regional Park
You’ll only need to travel about 20 miles away from downtown to visit Waitakere Ranges Regional Park, which is well worth the drive. The drive itself is very scenic, and then there’s so much to do here for outdoor enthusiasts when you arrive. Take a walk along the black sand beaches, go for a hike, and keep an eye out for native birds. The park is free to visit and also great for picnics. If you want to spend some more time here, check the park’s website to see if any campsites are still available.
Wineries of Waiheke Island
Many of us have enjoyed New Zealand wines over the years, and the Auckland area is home to many wineries that you can visit and tour. Wine lovers should consider taking the 35-minute ferry ride from downtown to Waiheke Island to sample some of the best wines you’ve ever had. A couple famous and award-winning winery locations to check out are Mudbrick and Obsidian vineyards. While you’re here, you can also see the beautiful olive groves and white sand beaches.