Auckland New Zealand
Auckland New Zealand is the largest, most diverse, and most vibrant city in all of New Zealand. While most travelers to New Zealand are keen to get to the country’s scenic beauty, and consider Auckland just a gateway for international flights, we disagree. Auckland is definitely worth staying at least a night or two. Spend some time here upon arrival to recover from jet lag, before renting a car. Since flights from North America tend to arrive so early in the morning, we’ll have your hotel room reserved from the night before so you will have a place to rest right away.
Located in the northern part of the North Island, Auckland has two major harbors, creating an isthmus of the city. These harbors give the city a sparkle that you can enjoy any way you wish, from a relaxing sail to a zip on a jet boat. You can even try your hand at piloting a real America’s Cup yacht!
Most travelers prefer to stay downtown, which is called the Central Business District, for easy access to the main sights and the most accommodation options. Viaduct Harbour is a hub of bars, hotels, restaurants and shops located downtown right along the water, and many travelers find themselves there at one point or another. This area is where you’ll find many of the ferries heading to outer bays and islands, as well as the maritime museum and cruise ship terminal.
From Viaduct Harbour, it’s a short stroll to the Harbour Bridge, with a climb similar to the famous one in Sydney, but since you’re in New Zealand, of course they also added a bungee jump! Or, from Viaduct Harbour, head up Queen Street through the heart of downtown. Stop at Aotea Square for some performing arts. Then head to the Sky Tower, the highest manmade structure in the country, with great views, a revolving restaurant and another bungee jump from the top.
Just outside the central downtown are a number of fun neighborhoods to explore, including Ponsonby and Parnell for unique, quirky shops and a different feel than the downtown. Devonport is a 10-minute ferry ride away on the north shore, and is known for its nice beaches, art galleries and charming, quaint feel with historic Victorian homes.
There’s no need for a car in Auckland, as there are plenty of ways to get around. Of course, our favorite way is on a small group tour, where you get the expert knowledge of a guide at a reasonable price. Any of the sights in and around Auckland are best experienced by small group tour.
Find some nature in Auckland Botanic Gardens or Auckland Domain, the city’s biggest park and home to Auckland War Museum. Or, head farther afield. The West Coast, a half-day trip from downtown Auckland, has spectacular black sand beaches with rolling surf. Along the way from Auckland to the West Coast, you will find the Waitakere Ranges with subtropical rainforest, rare giant Kauri trees and lovely hiking.
If traveling by water is more your style, then take a ferry from Auckland to wild Rangitoto Island, New Zealand’s newest island thanks to a symmetrical volcanic cone. Head to Tiritiri Matangi island for a protected bird sanctuary. Or, in just 35 minutes by ferry, you can reach Waiheke Island.
Waiheke Island is the most commonly visited island off Auckland and is definitely worth at least a day trip. Consider even staying a couple of nights at the beginning or end of your travels in New Zealand for a great way to relax and taste fine wine. Waiheke Island has white sand beaches, tiny villages, cafes, excellent wineries, and some very luxurious, unique small accommodations. Don’t plan to rent a car here, either. Even the locals like to get around by golf cart or scooter! With plenty of ferries and easy access to downtown Auckland, Waiheke is easy to reach after an early-morning flight arrival, or before catching an evening flight home to North America.
Our favorite activities in Auckland
- Sail an America’s Cup yacht on the harbor
- Catch a ferry to a nature-filled island like Rangitoto or Tiritiri Matangi, or to charming neighborhoods like Devonport
- Cruise over to Waiheke Island for wine tasting and local charm
- Day trip to the Waitakere Ranges and the black sand beaches of Auckland’s West Coast
- Ride a jet boat under the Harbour Bridge
- Bungee jump from the Harbour Bridge or the Sky Tower
- Climb the Harbour Bridge
- Visit the Auckland War Museum, Maritime Museum, Art Gallery, and Navy Museum
- Enjoy upscale and quirky shopping, particularly in Parnell, Ponsonby or Newmarket
- Walk through Auckland Domain or Auckland Botanic Gardens
- Explore dormant volcanoes within Auckland proper, like Mount Eden, One Tree Hill, Mount Victoria or North Head
- Dine on fresh seafood or lamb at some of the country’s best restaurants, especially in the downtown waterfront
- Learn all about Auckland’s history, geography, flora and fauna, as well as experience the city’s best viewpoints and sights on a small group tour
- Waiheke Island — 35 minutes by ferry
- Hobbiton — 2 hours by car
- Coromandel Peninsula — 2 hours by car
- Waitomo glow worm caves — 2.5 hours by car
- Rotorua — 3 hours by car
- Bay of Islands — 4 hours by car
Weather in Auckland
Being on the northern end of New Zealand, Auckland tends to be warmer than the mountainous southern Alps around Queenstown. Cloudy skies and rain are common, though not nearly as common as on the West Coast of the South Island, or at Milford Sound. Plus, the rain definitely does not ruin a day in Auckland. Remember that all of New Zealand, Auckland included, is known for its micro-climates. That means that while it is raining downtown, the islands offshore may be dry or vice versa. Plus, weather patterns shift quickly, so it could be dry anywhere in the city within a couple of hours.
Contact your New Zealand Travel Specialists to learn more.