Top Unmissable Touristy Things To Do in Auckland

Auckland is New Zealand’s only true metropolis and the main entry point of arrival for the thousands of tourists that visit the country every year.

Known as the “City of Sails” this harbor city sprawls out between Manuaku Harbour to the west and Watiemata Harbour to the east, with the compact central business district right beside the waterway.

With its many outdoor and cultural attractions and cosmopolitan vibe, travelers to New Zealand should definitely spend some days here. In fact, the monuments, museums and art galleries are amongst the finest in the country and there are plenty of sightseeing opportunities.

Bordered by the Tasman Sea on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other, and located on New Zealand’s North Island, what are you waiting to enjoy the lovely laid back feel to it and multicultural atmosphere?

Those planning a trip to New Zealand can easily organize a road trip that starts in Auckland and then takes them through other important kiwi cities such as Wellington, Rotorua, Christchurch, Tauranga or Hamilton just to mention a few of them.

This is probably the best way to discover and enjoy at your own pace the many stunningly beautiful places in the country. American travelers can even take advantage of purchasing an insurance policy for their rental even before they onboard the plane!

Best things to do in Auckland

things to do in Auckland
things to do in Auckland

Ready to plan your visit to Auckland? We’ve compiled here the most touristy things you can do here, especially if it is your first time around!

One Tree Hill

One Tree Hill
One Tree Hill

Many Aucklanders consider the volcanic cone of One Tree Hill or Maungakiekie as the symbol of the city. The 182-metre-high hill can be found amid the splendid Cornwall Park, on the SW corner of the park.

The top of the hill is crowned by a lone obelisk that is built over the grave of Sir John Logan Campbell, who gifted this green area to Auckland to be used as a park.

The obelisk is a memorial built to the Maori people who used to live there before Europeans arrived. Climbing up One Tree Hill offers fantastic panoramic views of the city down below and it’s definitely one of the must-do activities for tourists.

You can admire both natural harbours and it’s a lovely place to visit.

Believe it or not, this volcanic peak was once the most important and largest Maori fortress bak in the 1700s.

Other interesting things to do in the site are the Stardome Observatory and an information center where you can learn more about what the site looked like in Maori times.

Sky Tower Auckland: The Place for Adrenaline-Seekers

Sky Tower Auckland
Sky Tower Auckland

Just as there’s the Eiffel Tower in Paris or the CN Tower in Toronto, Auckland’s needle-like Sky Tower is the city’s most prominent landmark and, with its 328 meters, it’s the highest building in the city.

The Sky Tower is probably the best place where to snap the best panoramic photos of Auckland: take the glass elevator to the observation deck, take your camera out and get ready to fall in love with the stunning 360° views that can stretch 80km into the distance on a clear day.

But there’s more to this iconic place than just a fantastic viewing platform. Adrenaline seekers can satisfy their thirst of adventure here as well.

If you’re brave enough you can enjoy dizzying views by walking the exterior 192-meter-high Skywalk platform around the tower’s pergola and, if this is still not enough for you, you can base-jump off the platform on a Sky Jump!

The Sky Tower is part of Auckland’s casino complex. Its upper levels are open to the public. There you can find two restaurants and a café as well as three observation levels. In fact, one of the restaurants rotates so that you can take in panoramic views of the city below while you enjoy a delicious meal.

Easily visible from almost everywhere in the city, this attraction is located in the heart of downtown within a few blocks of Viaduct Harbour and the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki.

Viaduct Harbour

Viaduct Harbour
Viaduct Harbour

Viaduct Harbour is one of the country’s major marinas and a major touristy spot in Auckland thanks to its lively calendar of events. It’s a vibrant area of the city with plenty of restaurants and cafés.

This waterside place is a great place to stop and linger over lunch while exploring Auckland’s central attractions.

Stop at Viaduct Harbour on a sunny, clear day. Boating enthusiasts will love checking out the luxury yachts at the marina. Located in the central business district, the Viaduct Harbour is free to explore.

From here, you can walk along the Coast-to-Coast Walkway, which spans 16 kilometres and stretches to Manukau Harbor on the west coast. And don’t miss out on seeing the harbour come to life on a Sunday when the city’s colourful flower market is open to the public.

Waitemata Harbour

Waitemata Harbour
Waitemata Harbour

The wide sweep of Waitemata Harbour slices Auckland in two and it’s the city’s most prominent natural feature. It’s a delightful area to explore on foot and it features a diverse variety of dining, shopping and entertainment opportunities. From here you can have access to the ferry terminals to the Hauraki Gulf islands and other unique experiences.

Providing the main sea access to Auckland, Waitemata Harbour is also known as Auckland Harbour. It is considered one of the best tourist attractions in the city.

The stunning Auckland Harbour Bridge is the most important feature in the area. It connects downtown and is flanked by sandy beaches. It’s best enjoyed aboard a cruising yacht or sailing vessel from where you can enjoy outstanding views of the city.

Visitors can also add some thrill to their sightseeing experience by enjoying the Auckland Harbour Bridge bungee jump, an experience that includes traversing an exclusive bridge walk before plunging 40 meters to the water below. Jumping not your thing? You can join a guided climb as well!

Other highlights in the area include Bean Rock Lighthouse, Mission Bay, Devonport or the volcanic Rangitoto Island. These can be seen both from the Sky Tower nearby closer on a boat or walking tour. The area is chosen by locals to enjoy some active watersports such as kayaking.

Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki

Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki is the city’s most impressive cultural site and it’s home to the country’s most extensive art collection with more than 15 thousand artworks on display.

The impressive assortment of artwork is organized in different collections. The New Zealand collection, located on the ground floor will definitely catch your attention. You’ll find here works highlighting Maori and Pacific Island, artists.

The Maori Portrait Gallery and the New Zealand Historic Art Gallery showcase the paintings of the country’s early European settlers. There are also paintings by famous artists such as Picasso, Dali, Matisse or Gauguin.

New Zealand Maritime Museum Hui Te Ananui A Tangaroa

Hui Te Ananui A Tangaroa
Hui Te Ananui A Tangaroa

New Zealand and New Zealanders have always had a deep connection to the sea and the New Zealand Maritime Museum explores this relationship and offers a comprehensive survey of the country’s seafaring history.

The different captivating exhibits trace the history from the arrival of the first Polynesians and include Maori canoes and outrigger boats, old instruments and whaling equipment. There’s a gallery devoted to the country’s modern yachting success.

Many of the vessels in the collection sail regularly, which makes the visit to the museum even more exciting to visit.

Some of its priceless permanent exhibitions include Kiwis and the Coast, Blue Water Magic, Edmiston Gallery amongst others. It’s also possible to climb on board historic vessels such as the Nautilus, Ted Ashby or SL Puke.

This popular museum is located on Hobson Wharf near Viaduct Harbour and attracts visitors with several interactive exhibits. It’s a great place to visit for anybody interested in learning about the history of New Zealand with a focus on sea adventures.

Explore New Zealand’s Stunning Nature at Rangitoto Island

Rangitoto Island
Rangitoto Island

As you’re exploring New Zealand, don’t forget to add Rangitoto island to your itinerary, one of the most iconic islands of the country. It’s home to the youngest and largest of the 48 volcanic cones in Auckland and it suddenly emerged from the sea 600 years ago.

Since there are frequent ferries departing from Auckland to Rangitoto, it’s one of the easiest places to visit near Auckland. It’s really an unmissable place to visit that offers great hiking and biking experiences and the opportunity to admire unique wildlife and lush forest areas.

As you reach the top, you’ll be able to admire splendid views of Hauraki Gulf, the Waitakere Ranges in the east, the Hunua Ranges in the west and Auckland city far beyond.

If you don’t feel like taking a long hike there’s a small train you can ride that takes you most of the way up to the top of Rangitoto Island. ´Please bear in mind that there is no permanent population or restaurants on the island so remember to bring snacks, something to eat and plenty of water.

Visiting Rangitoto is an imposing experience. Take your time to explore the lava caves on the way, the several wild orchid species and over 40 species of fern. The lava tubes, remnants of the paths that lava flowed through are also an attraction of the island. You can also admire the largest forest of pohutukawa trees in the entire world.

Rangitoto island is a 25-minute ride from downtown. It was declared pest-free in 2011 and birdlife has flourished, being home to dozens of shore, sea and forest birds.

As said before, there are several hiking trails. The most popular one is the Rangitoto Summit Track (an easy, up-hill walk on well-formed paths along with the lava fields), the Coastal Walk from Rangitoto Wharf to Islington Bay or the Wreck Bay Track is a twisting track to Wreck Bay and Boulder Bay that is located on the northern side of Rangitoto.

Visit Sea Life Kelly Tarlton’s Aquarium

Kelly Tarlton’s Aquarium

Sea Life Kelly Tarlton’s Aquarium is one of the top attractions in Auckland and a must-go, must-see experience for families in town since nowhere else you can get up close and personal with life under the water.

It’s a series of huge aquariums containing aquatic life that can be observed from the tunnel walkways. There are tropical fish, sharks and stingrays amongst other species. There’s also an Antarctic Encounter Gallery with a snow-filled penguin enclosure. Adventurous and adrenaline-seeking souls will love the Shark Cage Snorkel or the Shark Drive!

Located on the scenic Tamaki Drive on the Okahu Bay, its Sea Life Kelly Tarlton’s Aquarium is a fantastic educational and entertaining facility where you can even admire brightly coloured fish, jellyfish, crabs, turtles and entire coral reef systems.

There are live feeds and talks with sharks, penguins, turtles and fish organized by the aquarium as well as plenty of activities for kids.

There are plenty of interesting exhibitions to enjoy. Amongst them, we can mention Antarctic Ice Adventure, Turtle Rescue Centre, Scott’s Hut (where visitors can see what was life like a hundred years ago at the coldest place on Earth), Shark Tunnel, NIWA Southern Oceans Discovery, Amazing Creations, Shipwreck Discovery, Fish Gallery (where you can see huge crayfish, octopus, moray eels, and Clown triggerfish), Shipwreck Shores and the Seahorse Kingdom.

Visit Auckland Museum – War Memorial Museum Tamaki Paenga Hira

Tamaki Paenga Hira

For many travelers to Auckland and/or New Zealand learning about the Maori culture. That said, the Auckland Museum or Tamaki Paenga Hira in the Maori language is a must-see attraction for anybody interested in discovering more about this fantastic culture.

Located in an iconic building within the grounds of the peaceful green area of Auckland Domain, it’s one of the best places in town to learn about New Zealand’s culture and history. It offers daily cultural shows and has an internationally significant Maori and Pacific collection to explore.

Across its three floors, the history of the country is told. Families visiting the museum will definitely enjoy the Weird and Wonderful Discovery Centre that is great for kids and parents with babies can feed them quietly in parenting foom.

The War Memorial Museum on the top floor is devoted as a memorial to the New Zealand soldiers who fought in WWI. It’s home to an impressive collection of artifacts that traces the history of the country from its first Polynesian settlers to the present and highlights New Zealand’s natural heritage.

The Auckland War Memorial Museum is absolutely stunning and a must-see for anybody spending time in the city.

The Auckland Museum is the guardian of the most outstanding and largest collection of Maori treasures in the world. Visitors can admire tools, ancentrals carvings and weavings, clothing and a huge ocean-going war canoe carved from a giant totara tree.

You’ll even have the chance to step inside a Hotonui, a full-sized meeting house that was originally a wedding gift. Take your time to wander around the splendid new South Atrium Te Ao Marama (the realm of Being and Light) that welcomes you to the museum through the threshold of the carved Guardian’s Gateway Te Tatau Kaitiaki.

This is one of the best places in Auckland where to get a clear visual understanding of traditional Maori village life, especially if you won’t be exploring much further afield.

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