My Favourite Things To Do In Auckland

Bored in Auckland? Check out this list of my favourite things to do and have an awesome time

Ever step off a plane in a new country and think, “That’s it?!” That’s how I felt about Auckland, New Zealand at first. It’s not a city that jumps out at you with its awesome-ness the way Melbourne, Vancouver, or Toronto do. Auckland can be a slow-burn, but she did grow on me.

I was determined to find Auckland boring; but with each day, each mini-adventure, each day-trip, I came to appreciate the city more. It isn’t the world’s most exciting city, but looking back at the number of places to visit in Auckland, I’ll definitely re-visit.

Let’s go to the beach, beach.

Looking for things to do in Auckland that aren't right in the city but not too far away? Head to Devonport for some holiday-village vibes.
If you want to get some time on the sand, but can’t make the trip out to Piha Beach, head to Devonport. The ferry only takes 12 minutes from the Auckland Ferry Terminal, and even though it feels like a remote holiday island, you can even drive there (but good luck finding parking). Gorgeous, well-kept baches and houses line the streets with colourful gardens. Grab some fish and chips and head over to Cheltenham beach. Swim in the shadow of Ranigtoto Island. The calm water was warm in mid-summer, and there was no rip current for us.

Please note I am by no means a tide expert, always check conditions before you swim.

Fight the seagulls for your chips and have fun body surfing.

Cost: $12 NZD for a return trip

How to Get There: Fullers Ferry

Official Website


Hike up a volcano.

Hiking up Mt. Eden is a great addition to any list of things to do in Auckland!

Auckland feels like it’s all uphill walking. Might as well get on top of one of those hills. Mt. Eden is a pretty tame way to introduce yourself to hiking in New Zealand. I recommend walking up for sunset or sunrise if you’re extra keen. Check out the sunset, and watch the city light up at night. You can even get your fitness on and join the handful up people willingly jogging uphill. I was not one of those people.

Please note: don’t go into Mt. Eden crater, it is considered sacred. Don’t be that guy.

Cost: Free!


 Hike up a BIGGER volcano

Ever wanted to hike up a volcano? This is one of my favourite things to do in Auckland.

Rangitoto is my favourite feature of Auckland. Its always there. Looming. Rangitoto is ‘extinct’ but it still looks threatening. So why not hike up it? See the full details here.

Ps. people also jog up Rangitoto. Running up large hills seems to be the thing to do in Auckland.

Cost: $20-30NZD


Go to the movies – for free

Do what the locals do! Watch a free movie at Silo Park in Auckland, New Zealand

If you’re a broke backpacker, or just want to do what the locals do, head to Silo Park on Friday nights in the summer. There’s some sweet night markets with clothes, crafts, and food. When the sun goes down, a massive projector plays a movie up on one of the concrete silos for everyone to watch. Get there early, it will be busy. Remember, the movie projects onto a round surface, so don’t sit too off to the sides or you’ll miss the edges of the film.

(P.S., don’t bring your own booze, the security guards will ask you to leave.)

Cost: Free!


Get a craft beer, or many

The perfect way to spend an afternoon, have a brew at No. 1 Queen Street, in Auckland, New Zealand. Enjoy a cold one while you think of what to do in Auckland next.

One of my favourite things to do in a new country is to try their beer! From the mass-produced (Tui), to the craft-brews, it is a great way to taste some culture and history. If you want to try some awesome smaller brews, head to No. 1 Queen Street, Cafe and Bar. Perfect on a hot day, it gets the breeze off the ocean, has some shade, and food trucks (yay tacos!). It’s just a little pop-up on the sidewalk, we actually walked past it a bunch of times before realising it was a bar.

They run a homebrew swap, so if you know anyone who makes their own suds, share a few and try someone else’s!

Cost: Your mileage may vary (but craft beers aren’t on the cheap side)


Score a cheap ride/meal at the Skytower

Want to find out how to score a $2 meal and a trip up the skytower? Read on!

The Skytower seems like the biggest tourist trap of them all, and it kind of is. However, I love big tower lookouts like this, probably because I grew up with the CN Tower always on the horizon. The Skytower gives you the best possible view of the city, the surrounding hills, the harbour, and Rangitoto. It actually really helped me get my bearings in the city. Bonus, the food is great and the restaurant rotates!

Pro tip: Go up the tower for lunch or brunch. The ticket alone is $28 NZD. But, if you go up for a meal at Orbit 360° Dining and spend $30, then the cost of your ticket is waived. If you’re trying to save all your money, maybe skip this altogether and head up Mt. Eden instead, but if not – you either just spent 30 dollars to go up the Skytower and $2 NZD on a meal, or vice versa.

Cost: $28-30 NZD


Get lost in a forest

The Auckland Domain was one of my favourite things to do in Auckland, even if we did get a bit lost.

When the heat of the city is too much, and the waterfront clogged with people, head to the forest in the middle of the city. Auckland Domain is beautiful for hikes, runs, or in my case – getting lost trying to find the museum. I swear, at one point there was a fork in the road with all 3 paths saying they led to the same place. Maybe I’m just incompetent (actually, I know I am).

Most surprising is how noisy Auckland Domain was. All the typical city sounds fade away, but the insects make a crazy racket. Fortunately, there are no sand flies.

Cost: Free!


Get lost in the past

Probably one of my favourite things to do in Auckland, the Auckland Museum is educational and quite emotionally touching.

Hit up the Auckland Museum and War Memorial. Just do it.

I always try to act like I’m not that into museums.

And then I spend 7 hours in one and only leave when it closes. The Auckland Museum and War Memorial is a great way to kill some time when the weather is poor. The exhibits about Maori and other Pacific Island cultures is expansive. For an extra fee, you can even watch a hakka!

If checking out the gorgeous carvings and cultural artefacts doesn’t suit you, the volcano exhibit is reason enough to go. Ever wonder why Auckland seems like it’s entirely made of hills? That’s because it’s a volcanic field. Fortunately, a dormant one. But pop in the volcano simulator to see what it would be like if they weren’t. Its pretty unsettling. You’ll be side-eyeing Rangitoto for the rest of your stay.

The War Memorial itself is quite arresting. I thought it was just the exterior, but there is quite a large tribute to the fallen inside as well.

Cost: $25 NZD. The incredibly kind ticket agent let us in for free because we were on a Working Holiday Visa and considered “locals”, so we felt it was right to still contribute a donation to enter.


Walk across the country

Ever wanted to walk across a country? You can do that in one day in Auckland, New Zealand!

That isn’t a hyperbole. You can walk 16km, from the East coast to the West coast in a day. The start point of the Coast to Coast Walkway is down on the Viaduct Harbour, and ends in Onehunga. Unfortunately, the buses were on strike on the one day we had planned to do this, so we had to give it a miss. But how cool is walking from one side of the country to the other? I’ll definitely be attempting it again on our return to Auckland.

Cost: Free!


Have the best ice cream of your life

Giapo. The name gives me goosebumps now. I walked past this little place SO many times, but never really looked at what it was. This is the best ice cream I have ever had. And I like to think I know my desserts. You can sample as much you want, but definitely get a full cone. The garnishes make the ice cream even better (you can get an ice cream cone with a donut on it). Try the afghan cookie edition, coated in chocolate and cornflakes. There isn’t much to the establishment, just one tiny, sweaty room with no seats, and a renegade seagull always trying to get in. Chances are there will be a lineup in the evening, so make sure you follow the in/out-door rules.

Cost: $8-27 NZD – but so, so worth it.


Taste some wine before you ride a zipline

Hands down, my favourite place to visit in Auckland!

Visiting Waiheke Island was my favourite thing to do in Auckland. You can make a great day-trip out of it, or do one better and stay forever. Wines, vines, ziplines (and a brewery!), beautiful beaches and fantastic island vibes. What more could you possibly want as a city break? For all the details, check out the full blog post.


Head to the Zoo

flamingos-auckland-zoo

I’m a huge zoo nerd. I love them, (well, the good ones that focus on conservation). One of my favourite things to do in Auckland was a day trip to the zoo. I like that they are improving/expanding their current exhibits instead of trying to cram a wider variety of animals in there. The Auckland Zoo also gets big bonus points for being quite involved in creating pest-free refuges for New Zealand’s vulnerable native wildlife. Check out my post for more photos and all the essential information!

Cost: $28NZD, but look for discounts on BookMe


Get a coffee

One of my favourite things to do in Auckland, New Zealand is Remedy coffee. They do a mean iced coffe.

I’m not much of a coffee-drinker, I’m pretty much only there for the steamed milk. Canadian coffee is usually of the drip variety and it just doesn’t do it for me (and its rare someone can make a proper barista brew) at home. The southern hemisphere is a totally different story. Much like the Aussies, New Zealanders take their coffee pretty seriously, and it shows. They have me hooked. One day I’ll try all the cafes in Auckland, and it will be glorious.

Iced coffees are my gateway-drug. Put enough ice cream and whipped cream on anything and I’ll find it delicious. I’d like to thank Remedy for being right beside our hostel, I’ve graduated to no-sugar lattes now!

Cost: $5-ish NZD


Have you visited the city? What were your favourite things to do in Auckland? Or what are you looking forward to when you visit? Let me know in the comments!

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47 Comment

  1. I absolutely love watching movies outdoors in non-traditional places! And the fact that the silo is free is awesome, too. Not too excited about running up hills, though :). Thanks for the tips!

    1. Lisa Martin says: Reply

      Me too! Its such a fun, free activity. I’m also irresistibly drawn to night markets. I’m definitely with you about not running up hills, I much prefer a slow plod lol.

  2. Clare says: Reply

    I loved Auckland, I lived there for 10 months and had an amazing time. I did the coast to coast walk one of the days that is when I finally got to Mt Eden. I kayaked across to Rangitoto which was a great experience. I lived opposite the sky tower and loved the views from there, makes me want to go back now 🙂

    1. Lisa Martin says: Reply

      10 months, wow! I have’t met many people who have stuck around for that long, I’m glad you enjoyed it to much! We’ll definitely be re-trying to do the Coastal Walk when we go back to Auckland. I can’t believe you kayaked to Rangitoto, that’s so cool! How long did it take? My arms would’ve fallen off haha.

  3. Jess says: Reply

    Great post! will be heading over to NZ in a few months, look forward to the ice cream!

    1. Lisa Martin says: Reply

      Ooh yay! You’re gonna love it down here. Do you have it all planned out yet?

  4. There are plenty of things to do in this city. It has always been my dream to go there and it is not far from reality now. Really great post.

    1. Lisa Martin says: Reply

      That’s so exciting! I love hearing that people are coming down to see New Zealand, I really love this country so much (they’re going to have a hard time getting me to leave…). You’ll absolutely love it – glad you enjoyed the post!

  5. Khansa says: Reply

    Auckland sounds so amazing, and looks like it has something for everyone. Where did you stay though while you were there?

    1. Lisa Martin says: Reply

      Aucks is pretty great! We stayed right in the CBD when we first arrived at a hostel called The Attic, which was a great little place. We then moved to their sister hostel a little farther into the suburbs – Ponsonby Backpackers, also great. And right before leaving we had to spend one last-minute night in the Base hostel, which was awful lol (mostly due to the other guests who all seemed to be way too drunk and puked all over the hostel.) I’ll be posting a full review of The Attic shortly!

  6. IVy says: Reply

    I’ve been wanting to go to New Zealand soo badly (huge lotr fan lol) but my husband always ask me, “so what else is here to do other than hobitton?”. I’ll be showing him this post! I’m a sucker for panoramic city views so 30 bucks for a meal with a view is not bad at all! Was the food good? I think my favourite thing would be to go ziplining with WINE haha!

    1. Lisa Martin says: Reply

      There is SO much to do here other than Hobbiton!! Although, that has absolutely been one of my highlights, I can’t speak highly enough of what they’ve put together there. There were loads of people in our tour group that had never read the books or watched the movies and they all had a great time! There’s really something for everyone in New Zealand and its such an easy country to travel – get him down here!

  7. These are awesome suggestions. I am sad that I will not be visiting Auckland on my upcoming trip and will only be in Queenstown, but I do think visiting a war memorial is important to learn more about a nation. I love coffee! I would most definitely try this cafe should I get there or if they have a location in Queenstown. I love the idea of the Silo movie watching for FREE. How cool is that for a budget travel experience!

    1. Lisa Martin says: Reply

      Oh, don’t be sad about Queenstown though!! I’ve been in Queenstown for almost 5 months now, and its fantastic. Such a wide range of activities and budgets from the total shoestring to total luxury. Fear not though, there are some amazing cafes down here too. Bespoke Kitchen is hands-down, my favourite cafe ever. In the world. Vudu Larder comes in a pretty close second. There’s also a tiny little place just a short walk from the town centre called Peak Espresso – if you’re a coffee lover you should make the trip at least once, some of the best coffees I’ve ever had come consistently from this place. I hope you love Queenstown, stay tuned to this blog for a whole lot of QT info in the next little while 🙂

  8. Sally says: Reply

    Really great post here. Ive only ever been in Auckland for one day. Hope to head back there sometime and explore a little more 🙂

    1. Lisa Martin says: Reply

      Me too! We were just at the start of our New Zealand adventure, and trying to sort out the basics like banks/cars/phones, so I didn’t get into the city as thoroughly as expected. I’ll definitely be making a return visit sometime (expect a much long post when I dig up some more goodies)

  9. Kris says: Reply

    I never tried watching movies for free in a public location so that will surely be a great expetience if I’m there. I like the wine before zipline item..haha! This would make the custers more up for the game i guess. Great items for Auckland, Im now getting some points on the where to places I need to visit whenever I have the chance to visit.

    1. Lisa Martin says: Reply

      I’d never watched a movie quite like this before either, its so much fun! And yes, the wine definitely helped with the ziplines haha. We actually had a few strangers join our group who were terrified of heights, but the guides handled them wonderfully and made them feel completely safe. I hope you get a chance to come down and visit soon!

  10. Aisha says: Reply

    My friend and I were just talking about visiting New Zealand. Glad to see there is so much to do and explore. I am curious about trying the best ice cream in my life lol.

    1. Lisa Martin says: Reply

      There is SO much to do in New Zealand, not just for the outdoorsy adventure types 🙂 I highly recommend you come down and see it for yourself!

  11. Jordan says: Reply

    Love it – Auckland is my home and for all its failings I still love it! iGood post, a bit focussed on the CBD but I like it for someone who only has a few days! Maybe North Head / Devonport / Waiheke / Piha / Tiritiri Island etc next time you are there … and Giapo is amazing!

    1. Lisa Martin says: Reply

      Every city has its shortcomings, right? But I think Auckland comes up pretty tops all around. Devonport is actually number one on the list! So no worries, it didn’t get left out 🙂 And Waiheke was my absolute favourite place to visit from the city, so it gets a short entry on this edition, but there’s already a full lengthy post to give it proper justice. Stay tuned for Piha, and some more goodies from around the region!

  12. I was seriously thinking about moving to New Zealand for a bit and wasn’t sure whether to choose Auckland or Wellington. You made Auckland sound super lovely though and interesting. I hope I’ll get to visit there soon.

    1. Lisa Martin says: Reply

      Ooh what a tough choice. I’d say Wellington has a more urban vibe, but insane amounts of wind and really, really expensive parking. But you can’t go wrong with either, and they’re so close together its easy to check both out before you decide!

  13. New Zealand is super high on my list of places to travel. I love free movies in the park so I will definitely be adding that to my “to do” list. I didn’t realize walking across New Zealand was a thing but that sounds like an epic adventure. Awesome post! You are making me want to book a ticket right now!

    1. Lisa Martin says: Reply

      Do it! You will not regret a New Zealand plane ticket. This country is so amazing. How many people can say they’ve literally walked across a country, right? There’s an even MORE epic walk called the Te Araroa, which people do straight from the top of the North Island down to the very bottom of the South Island. At roughly 3000km, its significantly more than a day walk…Thanks for reading!

  14. I’ve heard great things about Auckland and considered going there even for my WHV to NZ. Looks like an amazing city!

    1. Lisa Martin says: Reply

      Ooh, definitely check it out! I’m on a working holiday visa right now and its really phenomenal. When are you planning to come down?

  15. It’s great that you were so candid about your initial reaction about stepping off the plane in Auckland, lol. You’ve got some great recommendations on things to see and do. That ice cream shop sounds so delish!

    1. Lisa Martin says: Reply

      I don’t believe in sugarcoating things I suppose! I think the past few cities I’d visited just had a very different vibe. Auckland is so chill, it’s great. By all means, come just for the ice cream, I’d say its worth the flight alone!

  16. Volcanoes and beer-I’m sold! Thanks so much for sharing you top Auckland experiences.

    1. Lisa Martin says: Reply

      Haha, it’s a pretty good combination isnt it? For a perfect day you could hike up one, even two volcanoes, and then grab a few beers! Glad you enjoyed the post 🙂

  17. A bunch of cool and unique attractions here including the coast to coast walk and free movie at the silo. However, you got me at afghan cookie edition at Giapo. Now that sounds really good.

    1. Lisa Martin says: Reply

      It may or may not have been one of my favourite stops in the city lol. I still think about that ice cream…But yes, Auckland is full of cool stuff to do, if you look for it!

  18. Auckland sounds amazing! My husband has been there and he said he loved it. So many amazing (and free!) things to do. I’ve never been there but I HAVE tried NZ ice cream and it’s fantastic!

    1. Lisa Martin says: Reply

      Maybe one day he can show you around when you visit! Free was pretty high up on my priority list lol, for all its beauty, New Zealand can get pretty pricey. And yes, their dairy game is totally fantastic. They’ve released chocolate butter here. CHOCOLATE BUTTER. Amazing.

  19. This is great, we should be heading down this way this year and I have always wanted to visit Auckland and even considered it might be where we settle down one day. Good to know there is so much diversity of things to do, I am getting straight up that volcano!!

    1. Lisa Martin says: Reply

      Oh how exciting! Auckland has been moving up the list of the world’s most liveable cities in the past few years, so you’d be in for a treat! If you’ve got any other questions, drop me a line, I may be able to help 🙂 And yes, definitely get up the volcano!

  20. Book marked this! Will definite visit Auckland one day and will refer to this once again. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    1. Lisa Martin says: Reply

      I’m glad you found it useful! Hopefully before then I can return and make an even better guide!

  21. Zorica says: Reply

    Great post…
    I would really love to visit Auckland or New Zealand… I guess is it quite different from the places I’ve been before
    xx
    https://theonethattravels.wordpress.com/

    1. Lisa Martin says: Reply

      Then you should definitely visit! New Zealand is an incredible country and Auckland is a pretty good place to start! Hope you find your way down here sometime soon!

  22. Funny that I only did the Skytower and the Museum on your list!
    Btw! There is a souvenir store that has my last name. haha

    1. Lisa Martin says: Reply

      You’ll have to go back sometime and check out all the rest! That’s so cool you’ve got a store named after you – hope they gave you some discounts lol!

  23. […] are loads of tours running straight from Auckland, Paihia, or Kerikeri. Pop into an ISite to find the one that suits you best. The perk of taking an […]

  24. I have to say that on entry, I found Auckland a little underwhelming too – it didn’t help that it was raining (the first time it’s rained on us in 3 months of travel!) but your suggestions make the city seem far more appealing! I can’t wait to get to the museum and war memorial, I love museums (I have no shame in admitting that I have museum withdrawal if I don’t visit one at least once a month!) S x

    1. Lisa Martin says: Reply

      Ooh, the weather can make a huge difference on how you feel about a place! I think Auckland is definitely a slow-burn love affair. I’m glad this article helped you see the city in a new light, I’m sure if you return you’ll find even more reasons to love it!

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