Often rated as one of the world’s best cities to live in, Auckland is blessed with both outstanding natural beauty and the cosmopolitan buzz that comes with being New Zealand’s largest city. With so much to explore it can be difficult to know where to start, so we’ve done the hard work for you. Here’s our guide to what to do with 24 hours in Auckland.
Affectionately known as the ‘City of Sails’ thanks to its numerous marinas and the affinity the residents have with the two harbours surrounding the city, Auckland is a place where breathtaking nature and vibrant urban living go hand-in-hand. From island-hopping in the glistening Hauraki Gulf to dining in the bohemian suburb of Ponsonby, Auckland entertains and pleases from day through to night.
Auckland Airport is the largest and busiest airport in New Zealand, and is located 20 kilometres south of the city centre near the suburb of Mangere. In less than half an hour, your airport transfer will have you in the city’s centre, ready to explore what the city has to offer. To help you jump straight in, we’ve put together our guide of the best things to do with a day in Auckland.
9am Beach stroll and breakfast
Start off your day on the North Shore of Auckland in the bustling beachside neighbourhood of Takapuna. The beach here is popular for its white sand, and this ‘unofficial capital’ of the North Shore has a buzz that will ensure you kick-start your day in the right way. Enjoy a stroll along the beach, then fill your boots and drink in the views with a breakfast at Takapuna Beach Cafe. Takapuna is also home to Auckland’s only freshwater lake, Lake Pupuke, and also offers the city’s best views over Rangitoto Island, the youngest and largest of Auckland’s volcanic cones and one of the most recognisable islands in the Gulf.
Insider Tip: For those wanting to stretch their legs even further, Takapuna is the start of one of Auckland’s popular short walks, the Takapuna to Milford Loop Walk. The trail starts off near Takapuna boat ramp on The Promenade and not only offers stunning views over the Hauraki Gulf and Rangitoto Island, but will take you past New Zealand’s only example of a fossil forest. It’s best to do the walk at low tide when the fossil forest is completely exposed, and you can do the return trip in one to one-and-a-half-hours.
Rangitoto Island is the youngest and largest of Auckland’s volcanic cones and one of the most recognisable islands in the Hauraki Gulf due to its symmetrical cone shape
10.30am City views and historic homes
While you’re on the North Shore, make the most of the city views from this side of the Gulf. Jump on a bus from Takapuna and head to Devonport, a historic and picturesque seaside village area of Auckland dating back to the 1800s. It’s home to some of the nicest beaches and best views of the city’s skyline. The main street is lined with art galleries, boutique shops, restaurants and cafés wafting tempting aromas, as well as Victoria Theatre, New Zealand’s oldest operating purpose-built cinema. Once you’ve strolled the main streets (perhaps picking up a coffee and pastry from one of the cafés along the way), make your way towards North Head, one of Auckland’s nearly 50 volcanic cones, which was once home to an important armed fort used to defend the city. The views over the Hauraki Gulf and back over to the city are spectacular. Nearby is the popular Torpedo Bay Navy Museum, the official museum of the Royal New Zealand Navy. This state-of-the-art museum is housed in a 19th-century submarine mining station and is free to enter, so is well worth a visit.
Insider Tip: Auckland’s trains, buses and ferries are a great way to get around the city. If you’re going to be in Auckland more than a day, it may be worth purchasing an AT HOP card, a reusable prepay smart card for travel on trains, ferries and buses around the city. Rates are charged in zones, and cash is also accepted, although using the AT HOP card does usually mean you’ll get a discounted rate.
12pm Lunch with a view
Devonport is just a 12-minute ferry ride from downtown Auckland, so jump on the ferry and head to the city. Once you disembark at Auckland Ferry Terminal, the CBD is at your feet. But before you set off, take a break and grab some lunch in Viaduct Harbour, a trendy district with cafés and restaurants galore, many of which provide great views back over the water.
1.30pm Park life
Walk off lunch with a 30-40 minute stroll to Auckland Domain (buses are an alternative if you want to rest your feet), the city’s oldest park. Covering 75 hectares, the park is home to the Wintergardens with their rare and exotic plants, and Auckland War Memorial Museum. Soak up the pretty views before setting off to New Zealand’s most important museum.
2.30pm A slice of New Zealand history
Auckland War Memorial Museum Tāmaki Paenga Hira is housed in what is considered one of New Zealand’s finest heritage buildings. The museum is important for the history it tells about New Zealand and its people, and is home to renowned Māori and Pacific collections. The significant collection of more than 1,000 Māori treasures (known as ‘taonga’) on display in the main Māori galleries include the full-size Hotunui meeting house and Te Toki ā Tāpiri war canoe, and the earliest surviving Māori carving in the world, as well as many important artefacts that provide an incredible glimpse into Māori culture. The museum is open daily from 10am-5pm and costs NZD$25 per adult for international visitors.
5.30pm Sunset over the city
Once you’ve soaked up as much history as possible, it’s time to get back to the great outdoors to watch the sun set over this beautiful city and its harbour. There’s nowhere better to experience this than from Auckland’s highest natural point; the city has 48 volcanic cones dotted around its landscape, and at 196-metres tall, Mt Eden (also known as Maungawhau) is the tallest. Climb to the summit and you’ll be rewarded with seeing its impressive 50-metre deep crater and incredible 360-degree views over the Hauraki Gulf as the sun goes down.
At 196-metres tall, Mount Eden (also known as Maungawhau) is the tallest of Auckland’s 48 volcanic cones
7pm Dinner and drinks in trendy Ponsonby
From Mt Eden, head back towards the city and end your day in the trendy suburb of Ponsonby. This chic inner-city suburb is only 10 minutes from the CBD, and is brimming with hip bars, cool cafés and restaurants serving up cuisines from all four corners of the globe. Celebrate your 24 hours in Auckland with a cocktail at Mea Culpa, an Auckland institution on the cocktail scene known for its changing menu to reflect seasonal and local produce, followed by dinner at Orphan’s Kitchen. This popular restaurant is all about sustainability and seasonality, and serves up some of the best food in the city.
End your evening your way – there are bars galore, so you’re completely spoilt for choice, whether you want craft brews, fancy cocktails or some of New Zealand’s finest wines.
For a longer stay…
- If you’re here for longer, make sure to read our article on 10 Must-Do’s In Auckland for all the inspiration you could need for this New Zealand city.
- Take a day trip to the island paradise of Waiheke Island – it’s only 35 minutes on the ferry from the CBD and is renowned for its boutique wineries, white sand beaches and lovely art galleries.
- Head west to the seaside village of Piha, known for its black sands and rugged scenery – plus, it’s under an hour’s drive from Auckland. On the way, stop off in the Waitakere Ranges Regional Park to experience subtropical native rainforest, thundering waterfalls and breathtaking vistas unique to the North Island of New Zealand.