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Is Auckland Worth Visiting (2024 Guide)

Is Auckland Worth Visiting? The short answer is yes!

Auckland, on the North Island, is the largest city in New Zealand. It offers a rich cultural experience and lots of opportunities for adventure. I lived in Auckland for a year, so I know it pretty well!

As most visitors to New Zealand will arrive at Auckland Airport, it’s worth spending a few days here at the start of your trip before exploring the rest of the country.

From the iconic Sky Tower to the historical Auckland Museum, this city is a hub of excitement and discovery. In this guide, we’ll explore reasons why Auckland is worth visiting, the best activities to enjoy in the city, and three fascinating day trips from Auckland.

7 Best Reasons to Visit Auckland

Auckland, often referred to as the “City of Sails,” is a destination that promises an enthralling variety of attractions and experiences.

Whether you’re the sort who’s drawn to thrilling outdoor exploits, city culture, a tranquil admirer of Mother Nature’s gifts, or someone intrigued by the intricate weavings of cultural narratives, Auckland will welcome you with open arms.

Here are seven compelling reasons why booking that trip to Auckland should be on your agenda:

1. Stunning Landscapes

You’ll discover Auckland’s landscapes are a breath of fresh air. From the waterfront that offers spectacular views to the lush parks and ancient volcanic cones, Auckland’s geographical landscape paints a vivid image of natural beauty.

Whether you’re watching the sunset over the harbour or hiking the trails of the many regional parks, you’ll find your connection with nature here.

2. Maori Culture

While Rotorua may be more well-known for its Maori cultural experiences, Auckland is also a good location for exploring Maori culture. Engage with Maori culture through traditional performances, vibrant art, and historical sites that tell the tales of New Zealand’s indigenous people.

Visit a Marae, experience a traditional welcome, or explore the stories that are woven into the city’s fabric. It’s an enriching experience you won’t forget.

Is Auckland Worth Visiting

3. Waterfront Delights

Embrace Auckland’s love affair with the sea. The city has one of the highest per capita rates of recreational boat ownership in the world. The harbour is teeming with activities that water enthusiasts will relish.

Whether it’s an adventurous sailing trip, a peaceful kayak ride, or simply strolling along the waterfront enjoying the views, the city’s maritime vibe is evident in every nook and cranny. And don’t forget the fresh seafood that’s served at the many eateries dotting the coastline.

4. Culinary Scene

The food in Auckland is a vibrant fusion of flavours from all over the globe. From lively street food markets where you can grab a bite on the go, to high-end restaurants serving gourmet dishes that tantalize the taste buds, the city caters to food lovers of all preferences.

Sails Restaurant is a great option for fans of seafood. If you want to explore some of the shops and cafes in the Parnell neighbourhood, then check out Parnell149 for dinner. There are several restaurants in the SkyTower complex, including the revolving restaurant at the top.

5. Adventure Activities

If excitement is what you seek, Auckland won’t disappoint. While Queenstown in the South Island might be better known for adventure activities, Auckland still has plenty of options.

From the thrilling sensation of bungee jumping off the towering Sky Tower to jetboating around the harbour, skydiving and canyoning, Auckland offers a playground for adrenaline seekers. Get your heart racing; the adventure awaits.

6. Cultural Museums

Immerse yourself in Auckland’s vibrant history and art scene by stepping into its museums. Places like the Auckland Museum offer an extensive collection that provides a profound insight into New Zealand’s complex past and evolving present. Explore the blend of Maori and European history, contemporary art, and much more. It’s a cultural journey that enriches and enlightens.

8 Best Activities in Auckland

1. Sky Tower

Standing tall at 328 metres in the city centre, the Sky Tower is an iconic symbol of Auckland. As the tallest freestanding structure in the Southern Hemisphere, it offers panoramic views that will leave you spellbound.

Whether you opt for dining at Orbit, the revolving restaurant, or challenging yourself with the SkyWalk or SkyJump, the Sky Tower offers a unique perspective of Auckland that you can’t miss.

2. Auckland Museum

The Auckland Museum is more than a repository of relics; it’s a storytelling arena. With extensive collections encompassing natural history, military history, and New Zealand’s cultural treasures, the museum offers a rich insight into the nation’s identity.

Participate in a Maori cultural performance or explore the intricate tapestry of New Zealand’s history, and you’ll find that there’s always something new to learn and appreciate.

3. Dolphin and Whale Watching

This boat trip is one of the first activities I did when I arrived in New Zealand the first time.

Watching while playful dolphins leap and dive around your boat is an incredible experience. Auckland offers you this incredible chance to watch these beautiful creatures in their natural habitat.

The Auckland Whale and Dolphin Safari is connected to the Auckland Maritime Museum and operated by marine researchers. They don’t lure the animals to the boat using food, instead they look for signs that dolphins are nearby such as large flocks of birds near the water. This makes the tour much more ethical that ones which make wildlife dependent on tourists for food.

Tip: Many tours will give you a free second tour if you don’t spot any wildlife your first time around (although this is rare). You can’t exchange that ticket for a refund, so make sure you don’t do this on your last day in Auckland in case you need a second trip.

Book your Dolphin Watching tour here!

4. Waiheke Island

Just a ferry ride from Auckland, Waiheke Island is a paradise waiting to be explored, offering a delightful contrast to the city’s vibrant pace. From its stunning beaches, where the waves gently caress the shores, to its art galleries that showcase local talent, Waiheke is an island that celebrates both nature and culture.

Active travellers can indulge in thrilling outdoor activities like zip-lining through lush forest canopies, while those looking to unwind can simply relax on the beach or explore vineyards, sampling the region’s renowned wines.

Whatever your preference, Waiheke Island promises a fulfilling and delightful escape from city life, resonating with both tranquillity and creative energy.

Woman in a red top standing in front of rows of vines. Behind the vineyard the bay is visible with boats on light blue water.

5. Wine Tasting

New Zealand’s wines have made their mark globally, and a visit to Auckland would be incomplete without exploring the local vineyards. Whether it’s on Waiheke Island or further afield, wine tasting in Auckland offers a unique chance to savour the flavours that have made New Zealand’s wines so celebrated. From boutique vineyards to more extensive operations, each sip tells a story of the land and its people.

Book a wine-tasting tour of Auckland here!

6. Auckland Art Gallery

Immerse yourself in New Zealand’s art scene by visiting the Auckland Art Gallery. With over 15,000 works, ranging from indigenous to contemporary art, it’s a visual feast that offers a glimpse into the nation’s soul through the creative expressions of its artists.

7. Sailing Adventures

Auckland, often referred to as the “City of Sails,” is synonymous with sailing adventures. With its prime location, it offers ample opportunities for everyone to set sail, whether you’re a seasoned sailor or a curious beginner.

The city’s numerous sailing experiences are designed to cater to all skill levels and preferences. Enjoy the stunning cityscape from the sea with a relaxing evening cruise or venture into the expansive Hauraki Gulf for a full-day excursion.

The Gulf is home to diverse marine life and beautiful islands waiting to be explored. Sailing in Auckland not only connects you with the ocean but also offers a unique perspective of the city’s landscape and the beauty that surrounds it.

8. Exploring Volcanic Islands

New Zealand’s location on the Pacific ‘Ring of Fire’ gives it some stunning landscapes, including volcanoes! Exploring Auckland’s unique volcanic field provides an unforgettable adventure, particularly when visiting islands like Rangitoto. This young and distinctive volcano can be accessed by a quick ferry ride from the city centre.

Once there, you can take a guided tour or choose to hike to the summit yourself, traversing the rugged lava fields and lush native bush. Rangitoto is home to a large number of a famous New Zealand plant – the pohutakwa tree with its bright red flowers.

As you reach the top, you’ll be rewarded with incredible panoramic views of Auckland and the Hauraki Gulf. The volcanic terrain and the symmetrical shield of Rangitoto Island make this exploration an absolute must-see on your list, connecting you with Auckland’s geological history and natural beauty.

9. Auckland Beaches

Auckland is surrounded by some incredible beaches, offering everything from surfing to peaceful strolls along the shore. On the west coast, you’ll find wild, dramatic beaches like Piha and Muriwai.

Piha is famed for its black sand and powerful waves, making it a hotspot for surfers and thrill-seekers. Muriwai is similarly impressive, with an added attraction of a gannet colony that’s accessible for bird-watching.

On the east coast, the beaches are generally calmer and great for families. Mission Bay is a popular choice, complete with grassy areas for picnics and a range of eateries nearby.

Further east, Maraetai Beach offers a more tranquil setting, where you can enjoy a swim in the sheltered waters. Whether you want to catch some waves, build sandcastles with the kids, or simply soak up the sun, the beaches around Auckland offer a diverse range of seaside experiences.

10. Auckland Harbour Bridge

The iconic Auckland Harbour Bridge is more than just a pathway connecting the city centre with the North Shore; it’s a symbol of the city itself and a hub for adventure. If you’re looking for an adrenaline rush, why not try the Auckland Bridge Climb?

This guided tour takes you to the very top of the bridge’s arch, giving you breathtaking views of the city and the sparkling Waitematā Harbour.

For the true daredevils, there’s the Auckland Bridge Bungy. Plunge 40 meters into the harbour below, experiencing a heart-pounding adventure that’s uniquely Auckland.

Even if you’re not keen on climbing or jumping, the bridge offers a striking view, especially at sunset. Its eight-lane structure and distinct design make it a remarkable feature of Auckland’s skyline, representing the city’s blend of urban architecture and natural beauty.

With these activities, your Auckland adventure promises to be a rich tapestry of experiences that will cater to your senses and your soul.

Make sure to explore more about New Zealand’s must-see locations and plan your trip with this comprehensive 14-day itinerary. Whether you’re travelling solo or with friends, Auckland will welcome you with memories waiting to be made.

Day Trips From Auckland

Rotorua

Rotorua, roughly a three-hour drive from Auckland, is renowned for its unique geothermal activity. Here you can explore bubbling mud pools and steamy hot springs, and even witness erupting geysers.

Beyond its natural wonders, Rotorua offers a rich cultural experience with opportunities to learn about Māori history and customs. Make sure to enjoy a traditional Māori feast, known as a Hangi, cooked using geothermal steam.

Although I would generally recommend that you visit Rotorua as a separate stop, you can join a (long) day tour that takes you to Rotorua and also the glow worm caves in Waitomo.

Book your Rotorua and Waitomo tour here!

Hobbiton

If you’re a fan of “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit” films, a visit to Hobbiton is a must. Located about two hours from Auckland in Matamata, this enchanting movie set allows you to wander through the actual Hobbit holes and get a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the Shire.

You can even enjoy a pint at the Green Dragon Inn. Guided tours reveal fascinating insights about how the movies were made, and the picturesque landscape captures the magic of Middle-earth.

Book your Hobbiton tour from Auckland here!

Cathedral Cove is one of the many stunning landscapes that make New Zealand worth visiting

Coromandel

The Coromandel Peninsula, a two-hour drive from Auckland, offers a wide variety of experiences from hiking through lush native forests to relaxing on pristine beaches. Cathedral Cove and Hot Water Beach are just two highlights among the numerous attractions.

With its blend of natural beauty and cultural richness, the Coromandel Peninsula is a superb choice for a diverse and fulfilling day out, and it’s often considered one of the best places to visit in the North Island.

Where To Stay In Auckland

Budget – LyLo Auckland has private and dorm rooms, including female only dorms. It’s not the absolute cheapest hostel and not quite so central as some of the others, but it is definitely nicer and still very good value.

Mid-range – Ohtel Auckland (not a typo!) is in the city centre near the Viaduct Harbour. Decor is brighter and funkier than a typical chain hotel, and for the location the price is very reasonable.

Luxury – For first time visitors, The Grand by SkyCity is a perfect option. It’s part of the same complex as the SkyTower in the city centre, within walking distance of most of the main attractions.

Planning Your Auckland Adventure

As you plan your journey to Auckland, consider the following tips to make the most of your visit:

  • Arriving in New Zealand: The New Zealand government is very protective of its environment, flora and fauna. There are several products that you cannot bring into New Zealand without customs checking them at the airport to confirm they are safe. Read the customs declaration on the airplane carefully and make sure you declare any items listed on the form such as food and wood products. You can receive instant fines for failing to declare items on the list.
  • Transportation: Getting around Auckland is convenient, with public transportation and well-maintained roads. Consider renting a car if you are leaving the city to explore the wider Auckland region.

FAQ – All You Need to Know About Visiting Auckland

What’s The Best Time Of Year To Visit Auckland?

While Auckland is a fantastic destination year-round, you might find the summer months (December to February) the most appealing for outdoor activities. Spring and autumn offer milder weather and fewer crowds, while winter is cooler but still mild by most standards.

Do I Need A Visa To Visit Auckland?

It depends on your nationality. Many countries are part of a visa waiver programme, but it’s wise to check with the New Zealand embassy or consulate in your country or visit the official Immigration New Zealand website for detailed information tailored to your situation.

How Many Days Do I Need in Auckland?

The duration of your stay in Auckland largely depends on how much time you have to explore New Zealand as a whole. For a comprehensive experience, a stay of 3 to 4 days is recommended. This allows you to explore the city’s major attractions and take day trips to nearby destinations like Waiheke Island

If you only have 2 weeks to explore New Zealand, then you’ll only want to have 1-2 days in Auckland before you move further down the North Island.

How Do I Get Around The City?

Public transport in Auckland is reliable and includes buses, trains, and ferries. Hiring a car is a good option if you plan to explore outside the city. And for short distances, walking or cycling can be an enjoyable way to see the sights.

Is Auckland Suitable For Solo Travellers?

Absolutely! New Zealand is a very safe country to visit and it’s a perfect destination for solo travellers. Like any other city you don’t know, be aware of our surroundings and belongings.

There is plenty of safe accommodation, and you can easily join group tours and activities to make friends along the way. 

Reasons NOT To Visit Auckland

If you are visiting New Zealand then you will likely fly into Auckland anyway and it’s a great place to start your trip. If, however, you only have a short amount of time in New Zealand then I would recommend that you make sure that you leave enough time to explore Wellington and Queenstown.

Auckland alone won’t give you a full Kiwi experience so while it’s worth visiting, it shouldn’t be the only place you visit on your New Zealand itinerary.

Final Thoughts – Is Auckland Worth Visiting

In short, Auckland is a great place to visit. It has amazing food, lots of activities and beautiful scenery.

Auckland is the perfect point to start or end a road trip, such as this adventure down to Christchurch.

However, Auckland isn’t entirely representative of New Zealand as a whole. If you are visiting this stunning country try to get to places like Queenstown, Milford Sound, Rotorua and Wellington as well.

The Sky Tower dominates Auckland's skyline and is a great place to get some views.

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