Want to find out how to spend one day in Auckland? Well, I put together twenty two different Auckland days out – you can even combine a couple of them to make the most of your stay.
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 surprising large and encompasses numerous beaches, mountain ranges, farmland, native bush, islands, volcanoes and two harbors.
Just over 1.5 million people live in the ‘City of Sails’, which is just under a third of the population of New Zealand.
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 and if you take some time to really explore the area you will find out why. There are so many amazing things to do and see in Auckland that you won’t get bored, even if you live there.
I admit that Auckland isn’t my favorite city in the world (that would be Vancouver), but I still think there is so much on offer in New Zealand’s largest city, and a lot of the fun things to do in Auckland are free or cheap.
So check out these options for what to do in Auckland for a day, and explore this surprising city – there is a lot more here than you think.
How to Spend 1 Day in Auckland: 22 Options
1) Mount Eden
A Bustling Suburb and Auckland’s Highest Volcano
Mount Eden is a leafy, inner-city suburb with grand old houses and a vibrant town center.
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 boutique shops in Mount Eden Village.
Follow this with a bite to eat in one of the amazing restaurants. 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.
A Village Full of History
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.
If you feel like more of a wander, there is the Hobson Bay walkway that follows the shoreline from Point Park to Awatea Reserve (UPDATE Nov 2020: The walkway is currently closed and awaiting repairs)
The best day to visit is Saturday 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.
A Volcanic Island Escape
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 a unique and fun way to spend 1 day in Auckland.
4) Devonport, North Head and Cheltenham Beach
Victorian Seaside Splendour
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.
5) Hiking in the Waitakere Ranges
Exploring Sir Edmund Hillary’s Own Backyard
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 Nov 2020: The 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) Auckland CBD
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 the 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 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 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) West Coast Beaches
Black Sand and Emerald Green Wilderness
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 hanging out here is a great way to spend one day in Auckland.
8) K Road and Ponsonby
Edgy Versus Ostentatious Plus a Historic Cemetery
Karangahape (K) Road is Auckland’s gritty, beating heart. 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.
Ponsonby is a slightly classier affair 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.
9) Waiheke Island
An Island Full of Vineyards and Beaches
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. The Margherita pizza at Cable Bay Winery is one of the best I have ever eaten, and I loved the cheese platter at Man O’War Vineyard.
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.
10) Orewa, Waiwera and Wenderholm
Beaches and Hiking on the Hibiscus Coast
Thirty minutes drive north of the city is the sleepy beach town of Orewa. There are some great places for a lovely lunch and the long beach welcomes a wander. Another beautiful beach and some great hiking trails are just up the road at Wenderholm Regional Park.
Make sure to visit the cute and sleepy seaside village of Waiwera while you are in the area too.
11) Whangaparaoa Peninsula
Small Communities, Golf and Quiet Beaches
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. 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!
12) Tamaki Drive Beaches
Auckland’s Best Beaches
Bike or walk along the scenic Tamaki Drive bike path to beach hop some of Auckland’s best beaches.
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.
A Historic Bohemian Village
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.
14) The Domain and the Auckland War Memorial Museum
The City’s Oldest Park and a World-Class Museum
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.
15) Cornwall Park
A Pastoral Escape in the Middle of the City
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 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 and spend a few hours getting lost.
16) Howick Village
Exploring the Past
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 visit on the third Sunday of the month, the whole village is filled with activity, as costumed villagers go about their daily tasks.
The modern-day Howick Village is also worth a visit, for its specialist stores and dining options.
17) Maraetai and Clevedon
A Little Bit of Beach and a Little Bit of Country
The small town of Clevedon is surrounded by bucolic green fields and 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.
18) Matakana and Warkworth
Antiques, Markets, and Beaches in Auckland’s North
Where my own family lives and a district of North Auckland that I am proud to have spent a lot of time in over the years. 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.
19) Takapuna Beach and Long Bay Regional Park
Auckland’s Surfers Paradise and Beautiful Coastal Hiking
Beautiful white sand beaches make the North Shore a popular commuters hub and a great place to visit. 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.
Shopping, Dining, and Volcanoes
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.
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.
21) Grey Lynn and Western Springs
Hipster Cool and Peaceful Parkland
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.
22) Villa Maria Estate
World Class Winery in an Extinct Volcano
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?
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
For a solid mid-range choice in Auckland, I would recommend the Pullman Hotel. The Pullman has a great location right by Albert Park and only a few minutes walk away from Queen Street. There is a restaurant, spa, fitness center and pool onsite.
If you are on more of 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.
There are also a number of great Airbnb options around Auckland, with a lot of affordable apartments around the city centre.
These are my best Airbnb picks in the city:
Little Studio With Big Views: This bright and airy studio is compact but has everything you would need for a stay in Auckland. It is centrally located to Ponsonby, K’ Road, and the CBD, and has epic views of the harbor and Sky Tower.
One Bedroom Oasis Above the City: A roomy one-bedroom apartment with 270-degree views over the city and volcanoes. The apartment rental comes with a parking space and ingredients for the first day’s breakfast.
Stunning Harbour & City View Studio: This gorgeous apartment is right on the water at Princes Wharf, and is only minutes away from the buzzy Viaduct dining area and Commerical Bay.
CBD Apartment in Brand New Building: A newly built studio that is centrally located in Auckland’s CBD. Enjoy the building’s fantastic facilities including a gym, sauna and pool.
Lounge Bar Style Seaview Apartment: This beautiful apartment has a whimsical whale/ocean theme throughout and offers Skytower, harbour and sea views. It is centrally located on Auckland’s Waterfront.
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