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Want to find out the most fun things to do in Auckland to best experience this underrated and gorgeous city? Well, I put together a detailed list of twenty-four different things to do in Auckland to help you really experience the diversity and beauty of New Zealand’s largest city. Enjoy!
Poor old Auckland gets a bad rap.
Unfortunately, this is mainly from New Zealanders who didn’t grow up here. Or from people that haven’t spent much time in Auckland (or haven’t visited at all) that listen to New Zealanders who didn’t grow up here, and take their word for it.
It’s a shame really.
The Auckland Region is surprisingly large and encompasses numerous beaches, mountain ranges, farmland, native bush, islands, volcanoes, and two harbors.
Just under 1.7 million people live in the ‘City of Sails’, which is around a third of the population of the whole country.
The biggest population of Pacific Island peoples in the world live in Auckland, as well as thriving Asian communities. This cultural diversity has blessed the city with a fantastic, multi-cultural food scene.
It is consistently ranked as one of the top cities in the world to live in (number one in 2021) and if you take some time to really explore the area you will find out why. There are so many fun things to do in Auckland that you won’t get bored, even if you live there.
I admit that Auckland isn’t my number one favorite city in the world (that would be Vancouver), but it’s definitely in my top five and I think there is so much on offer in New Zealand’s largest city.
So check out these options for fun things to do in Auckland, and explore this surprising city – there is a lot more here than you think.
Check out my interactive map for the best things to do in Auckland.
26 Fun Things To Do in Auckland
1) Explore Mount Eden – The Suburb and the Volcano
Mount Eden is a leafy, inner-city suburb with grand old houses and a vibrant town center, and spending a day exploring here is one of the best things to do in Auckland.
Spend the day climbing Auckland’s highest volcano (also Mount Eden or Maungawhau) for spectacular city and harbor views, visit the expansive grounds of the beautiful Eden Garden to see plants both native and from around the world, and browse art galleries and boutiques in charming Mount Eden Village.
Follow this with a bite to eat in one of the amazing restaurants like The Seafood Collective and Circus Circus. If you love a good brew, grab a local craft beer at Brothers Brewery.
If you are lucky enough to have scored tickets, head down to the iconic Eden Park to watch the world-famous All Blacks, or Auckland’s Regional team, the Blues, in action.
2) Discover Historic Parnell
Parnell is Auckland’s oldest suburb and its history is best explored by visiting Parnell Village; a cluster of restored Victorian shops, boutiques, and cafes.
Wander the fragrant rose garden and walk down to the small harbor beach in Judge’s Bay and up to the historic and very cute St Stephen’s Chapel.
The best time to visit is on the weekend when the La Cigale French Market is held. Fresh produce, delicious food stalls, and live music make this small market a convivial place for lunch.
You can easily connect to the Domain and the walking trails there from Parnell if you feel like some exercise.
3) Hike Volcanic Rangitoto Island
A gradually sloping volcanic island, Rangitoto looks like a fried egg sitting on top of the choppy waters of the Hauraki Gulf. Catch the ferry over for the hike up to peer into the forested crater.
Be sure to check out the kitschy 1920’s and 1930’s style historic ‘baches’ (Kiwi beach houses) around from the wharf.
The island is connected by a causeway to the island Motutapu, so if you feel energetic you could explore two islands for the price of one.
Visiting Rangitoto is one of the most unique and fun things to do in Auckland.
4) Take the Ferry to Victorian Devonport and Cheltenham Beach
Another short ferry hop from the Viaduct is lovely Devonport. Devonport is a small village suburb with a lovely waterside park, Victorian shops, and fantastic cafes and restaurants.
Grab brunch at one of the many trendy cafes on Victoria Road (or a beer or cocktail at kitschy Tiny Triumphs) and then head east, for the short hike up fortified North Head for gorgeous harbor views from the top.
Walk down the other side to Cheltenham beach for a swim or a stroll to complete your day.
If you feel like a more relaxed afternoon, watch a film at the historic Victoria Theatre, known as The Vic, the oldest surviving purpose-built cinema in the Southern Hemisphere.
Devonport is definitely one of the most fun places to go in Auckland and you can easily spend a day or more enjoying its seaside charm.
5) Go Hiking in the Waitakere Ranges
There are so many hiking trails to choose from in Auckland’s wilderness playground: The Waitakere Ranges. Hike a section of the Hillary Trail, or do a short hike to one of the many waterfalls and swimming holes.
You will be hiking through pristine Kiwi bush with spectacular views over the black sand shores of this wild coastline. Chances are you will have the trail to yourself.
Hiking the Waitakeres is one of my absolute favorite ways to experience Auckland in a day. (UPDATE November 2021: The full Hillary Trail is currently closed to prevent Kauri Dieback although some sections are still currently open. Find out what sections you can hike here.)
6) See the Best of Downtown Auckland
Once you step away from crowded Queen Street, you will find that there are actually some great spots to explore in Auckland’s CBD.
Wander vibrant Vulcan Lane and Britomart for al fresco dining and fabulous shopping, check out the interesting Maritime Museum at the Viaduct Marina, and wander by the turquoise waters of the harbor amongst the silos and green spaces of Wynyard Quarter.
If you do decide to visit the Sky Tower, why not jump off it. It’s definitely one of the more adventurous and fun things to do in Auckland. Otherwise, grab dinner or lunch at Orbit revolving restaurant for a delicious meal with a view.
And make sure to grab an award-winning ice cream creation from Giapo and take a break amongst the colorful flower beds of Albert Park.
There are so many incredible restaurants in Auckland and a number of them are very affordable, check out my guide to the best cheap eats in Auckland to help plan your meals.
And Auckland doesn’t just have great day activities, check out these fun things to do in Auckland at night too!
7) Relax on the West Coast Beaches
Auckland’s West Coast is home to a number of stunningly wild and windswept black sand beaches, and it is one of the best Auckland days out if you love coast life and getting away from it all.
Go surfing at the volatile but stunning Piha beach, swim under the beautiful waterfall at peaceful KareKare, walk along the black sands of Bethells Beach, hike the Te Henga Walkway from Bethells to Muriwai, visit the gannet colony at Muriwai, or check out the sea caves at deserted Whatipu.
The options on Auckland’s West Coast beaches are endless and spending a day or more here is one of the best Auckland day trips you can do.
8) Experience Auckland’s Cultural Heart on K Road
Karangahape (K) Road is Auckland’s gritty, beating heart and my favorite place to hang out in the city. It was once a seedy red-light district but is now the place to go for charity shopping, Auckland’s best coffee, food from all around the world, and great nightlife.
The biggest concentration of gay bars in Auckland are along K Road and I highly recommend taking in a drag show – it’s a lot of fun. Make sure you visit Eagle Bar, which is popular with locals and serves a killer cocktail, and Family Bar to dance the night away.
Also, if you are a fan of beautiful historic cemeteries, Symonds Street Cemetery is at the end of K Road in Grafton Gully and is definitely worth a walk around.
9) Go Shopping and Dining in Classy Ponsonby
Ponsonby is a slightly classier affair than K Road and is known for its designer boutique shopping and café culture. Some of Auckland’s best restaurants are in Ponsonby, including Mekong Baby and the Blue Breeze Inn.
If it’s a hot day, walk down to Herne Bay Beach for a swim. It’s a beautiful spot and the water is generally quite warm due to it being a harbor beach.
10) Enjoy Island Time on Waiheke Island
Waiheke Island is a beautiful place where wineries and beaches abound, making it one of the best ways to spend one day in Auckland.
Take the scenic ferry ride over there for a wine and food tour of some of the island’s top wineries with gorgeous views along the way. Don’t miss Cable Bay, Mudbrick, and Man O’War. You can do a hop-on hop-off island tour or winery tour to see the best wineries and places of interest on the island.
Make sure to visit the gorgeous white sand Little Oneroa beach, walking distance from the Ferry Wharf, for a swim, before catching the ferry back to the city. If you have time to spend the night, I highly recommend it.
11) Visit Beaches and Hike on the Hibiscus Coast
Thirty minutes’ drive north of the city is the Hibiscus Coast, home to the sleepy beach towns of Orewa and Waiwera, as well as Wenderholm Regional Park.
In Orewa, there are some great places for a lovely lunch and the long beach welcomes a wander, cute Waiwera is worth a short stop to look around and check out the beach, and Wenderholm Regional Park has some great easy hiking trails and another peaceful and pretty beach.
12) Discover the Whangaparaoa Peninsula
A small peninsula that is enough off the beaten track for it to be peaceful yet close enough to the city for an easy day trip. As well as driving there, you can also take a ferry from downtown Auckland.
The Whangaparaoa Peninsula is known for its golden beaches, stunning Shakespear Regional Park, and a world-class golf course.
Dolphins and Orcas can often be seen in the waters off the peninsula so bring your binoculars!
13) Beach Hopping Along Tamaki Drive
Bike or walk along scenic Tamaki Drive bike path to beach hop some of Auckland’s best beaches. It is especially beautiful in early summer when the large Pohutakawa trees that frame the path are in bloom.
Chill out at relaxed Orakei Beach, bustling Mission Bay, pretty Kohimarama, or affluent St Heliers. Have lunch at one of the great cafés overlooking the water or grab a beer at the De Fontein Belgian Beer Cafe in Mission Bay that overlooks the beach.
14) Cheese Sampling and Kayaking in Puhoi
Visit the tiny historic settlement of Puhoi, on the banks of the Puhoi River. Puhoi was settled in 1863 by immigrants from Bohemia, now part of the Czech Republic.
Spend your day sampling New Zealand’s best cheeses at the boutique Puhoi Valley café and cheese store, exploring the Bohemian Museum, enjoying a Devonshire tea at the Puhoi Cottage and Tearooms, or kayaking through the mangroves of the Puhoi River.
15) Hiking and History at the Domain
Auckland’s Domain is a green oasis in the city. Encompassing 75 hectares, the domain is Auckland’s oldest city park and is made up of grassy pastures, winter gardens, trails through native bush, duck ponds, and sports fields.
The Auckland War Memorial Museum is also located in the Domain and is a neo-classicist beauty in white, sitting majestically atop the remains of an extinct volcano.
There are fantastic displays on Maori and Pacific Island culture as well as comprehensive displays on all of the major wars in the last 150 years, and a slightly unnerving volcano installation.
It is rated as one of the top museums in the Southern Hemisphere and it is a must-visit for me every time I am back in Auckland.
16) Travel to England in Cornwall Park
Auckland’s English founders must have been homesick when they created this beautiful park.
Cobbled together stone walls, gnarled English oaks, and plenty of sheep make you feel like you could be somewhere in Cornwall, England rather than a suburb of New Zealand’s biggest city.
The volcano in the middle of the park gives it a unique kiwi twist. Take a picnic or eat at the excellent Cornwall Park Cafe, then spend a few hours getting lost.
17) Native Bird Watching on Tiritiri Matangi Island
Beautiful Tiritiri Matangi Island is a predator-free island in Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf, and because of this, it is one of the best places in the country to see and hear native New Zealand birds.
There are saddlebacks, silvereye, grey warblers, kakariki, bellbirds, little blue penguins, takahe, kokako, and kaka to name a few. It’s incredibly special to see these birds because there is nowhere else in the world that you can see them, and not many places in New Zealand.
Hike the trails to secret beaches and incredible viewpoints throughout the 544-acre island. Swim in the turquoise ocean – it’s warmer here than the Auckland beaches that are further south. Visit the historic lighthouse and visitor center to learn more about the island.
Enjoy the scenic 75-minute ferry trip each way past other islands in Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf, take a windbreaker and sit on the top deck with a cold beer on the return journey.
Make sure to take your binoculars and listen carefully for birdsong. If you are a bird lover, this is one of the most fun things to do in Auckland.
18) Step Back in Time in Howick Village
Visit the brilliant Howick Historic Village to step back in time. The period from 1840 – 1880 has been painstakingly recreated with thirty original colonial buildings set over 7 acres.
If you love Living History Museums like me, this is one of the best on the North Island and most international travelers have no idea that it exists.
The modern-day Howick Village is also worth a visit, for its specialist stores and dining options.
19) Beach Time in Maraetai and Country Charm in Clevedon
The small town of Clevedon is surrounded by bucolic green fields and it oozes country charm. If you are in town on a Sunday, pick up some fresh country produce and browse the arts and crafts at Clevedon Village Market, then tour the local wineries or hike to beautiful Hunua Falls in the nearby Hunua Ranges.
The pretty, crushed shell beach of Maraetai is a great place to relax after a busy day. Sit on the beach with some Kiwi fish and chips while the sun goes down. Or if you are feeling more energetic, do the coastal walk to Beachlands.
20) Explore Auckland’s Far North
Exploring Matakana and Warkworth, two towns in Auckland’s Rodney District, will make you feel very far from the city. I have spent a lot of time in both of these towns as different family members including my Dad and Grandma have lived here. I love this part of North Auckland.
Warkworth is a historic village filled with antique stores and art galleries and it is surrounded by peaceful beaches.
Matakana, even smaller than its big brother Warkworth, may have become trendy in the last few years with its famous farmers market, fancy theatre, and specialty stores, but it retains a special small-town charm.
The best place to hang out is the fabulous Matakana Village pub where there is a massive outdoor area and live music throughout summer.
If you love wine, drive the Matakana Wine Trail for tastings and incredible food at award-winning wineries, and don’t miss a meal at The Matakana Market Kitchen – everything I have ever eaten here has been incredible.
21) History and Birds on Rotoroa Island
Another of Auckland’s gorgeous Hauraki Gulf Islands, Rotoroa Island was used by the Salvation Army as an alcohol rehabilitation center from 1911 till 2005. It opened to the public in 2011 and spending a day here is one of the most fun things to do in Auckland.
Enjoy the 75-minute scenic ferry trip there – I saw orcas right off the side of the boat when I visited. There are numerous short hiking trails on the 200-acre island, and you combine a number of them to see the whole island on a day trip.
Like Tiritiri Matangi, Rotoroa Island is also predator-free, and a lot of endangered native New Zealand birds have been reintroduced to the island so it’s a great place for bird watching.
There are a few sandy beaches for swimming too, and make sure to visit the Visitor Center to learn about Rotoroa’s history.
22) Surf at Takapuna Beach and Hike at Long Bay Regional Park
Beautiful white sand beaches make the North Shore a popular commuters hub and one of the top fun places to go in Auckland. Takapuna is my favorite and is popular with surfers and backpackers alike.
It is a vibrant small community with swanky cafes, a popular Sunday market, and fantastic views of Rangitoto in the distance.
Before you relax on the beach, go for a hike in stunning Long Bay Regional Park where the coastal views can’t be beaten.
23) Shopping, Dining, and Volcano Hiking in Newmarket
Known as the fashion capital of New Zealand, Newmarket is to Auckland what Fifth Avenue is to New York (on a MUCH smaller scale). This is the place to visit for high street fashion and top designer stores. If you love doing some retail therapy, then Newmarket is one of the most fun places to go in Auckland.
After a hard day of shopping, pamper yourself with a treatment at one of Newmarket’s stylish health spas then grab dinner and cocktails on Nuffield Street or Broadway to round off a decadent day.
If you are feeling more adventurous, two of Auckland’s volcanic cones are very close to Newmarket – hike up Mount Hobson for epic harbor and Rangitoto views, and Mount Saint John to marvel at the perfect grassy crater.
24) Shop and Brunch in Hipster Grey Lynn and Wander Western Springs
Hipster Grey Lynn is home to eclectic cafes and restaurants, and some great secondhand and boutique shops. This is where you go for brunch in Auckland, then afterward look around this leafy neighborhood of beautifully restored Victorian Villa houses.
Afterward, walk around the lake or find a grassy spot to read and watch the ducks at nearby Western Springs Park.
If you are a museum lover, visit MOTAT (Museum of Transport and Technology) on the edge of the park – it’s one of the best museums in the country and has loads of interesting exhibits.
25) Go to An Event or Wine Tasting at Villa Maria Estate
Villa Maria Estate is New Zealand’s most awarded winery and is set on 40 hectares of scenic land near the airport, spanning the base of an extinct volcano.
If you are a wine lover, visit their wine shop to buy direct from the vineyard, do a self-guided walking tour of the winery, or book a private tasting or tour.
If the timing is right, go to a concert at Villa Maria – it is possibly the most impressive outdoor concert venue in the world – where else can you grab a spot of grass on the slope of a volcano to watch a band perform, backed by vineyards?
26) Go Brewery Hopping in Kingsland
Auckland’s craft beer scene has exploded in the past 18 months and the best place to taste the best Auckland beer is the inner-city suburb of Kingsland.
Try the Pickle beer and White Mischief white peach sour at Garage Project, one of New Zealand’s most prolific craft breweries. Go to Behemoth Brewing for their wide range of delicious IPAs, and Urbanaut for their inventive beer concoctions like Raspberry Lamington Hazy IPA and Apples and Pears Imperial Sour.
Don’t drink beer on an empty stomach, grab cheap and cheerful Chinese food at the popular local spot, Canton Cafe, or a burger at Handmade Burgers.
So, have I inspired you to go on some Auckland adventures? It really is a diverse city and well worth more than a hurried stop before your flight home, so spend a few days there – you now have lots of options on how to see Auckland in a day or more.
Planning Your Auckland Trip
Where to Stay in Auckland
If you are on a backpacker budget, Verandahs Backpackers Lodge in Ponsonby is an excellent choice. It’s walking distance to the city and K Road, and offers comfortable dorm and private rooms. In the city center, Haka Lodge and YHA Auckland are great choices.
For solid mid-range hotels in Auckland, I would recommend The Convent Hotel, a unique boutique hotel in Grey Lynn that is housed in a former nunnery, Nesuto Stadium which has sleek apartments in the heart of Auckland City, and Auckland Rose Park Hotel across from the rose gardens in Parnell.
If you are looking for luxury, there are fantastic options in Auckland too. Stay at The Hotel Britomart near the Viaduct, the stylish boutique Hotel De Brett, or The Grand by SkyCity, a classy hotel in the SkyCity complex downtown.
For vacation rentals, Auckland has a lot of choices. Here are the best picks for affordable, centrally-located, and highly-rated vacation rentals in Auckland:
- Mount Hobson Garden Cottage in Remuera
- Parnell Suite in Secluded Garden Setting
- Downtown Apartment in Heritage Hotel With Rooftop Pool
- Central Devonport Garden View Apartment
- Classy Downtown Studio in Art Deco Hotel With Rooftop Pool
- Central Apartment in Heritage Landmark Hotel With Harbor Views
- One Bedroom Orakei Beach Hideaway
The Best Insurance For Your Auckland Trip
Make sure you get travel and health insurance before your trip. Safety Wing is my go-to and they are cheap and easy to claim with – it auto-renews every month unless you turn it off so you don’t have to think about it for longer trips
Safety Wing also allows you to sign up when you are already traveling, unlike a lot of other travel insurance providers.
If you liked this post, check out some more of my Auckland and North Island content:
- The Best Cheap Eats in Auckland (for Under NZD$15)
- Enjoying the Slower Pace of Life in North Auckland
- Hiking the Hillary Trail on Auckland’s Wild West Coast
- Waiheke Island: A Subtropical Island Paradise
- The Ultimate Northland Road Trip
- Hiking the Tongariro Northern Circuit: One of New Zealand’s Great Walks
- Glamping in the Remote Wairarapa
- Exploring Hobbiton: My Dad’s Home Town