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Things to Do in Auckland

Affectionately nicknamed the City of Sails in a nod to its maritime history and coastal setting, Auckland is one of the major cities on New Zealand’s beautiful North Island. With the sprawling Bay of Islands to the north, the remote Coromandel Peninsula to the east, and the rugged Waitakere Ranges to the west, Auckland is the gateway to some of the most impressive terrain the North Island has to offer. Heading south from the city, top attractions such as Waitomo Caves and the geothermal landscapes of Rotorua’s Waimangu Volcanic Valley and Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland are within easy reach. Within Auckland itself, visitors have a wealth of different experiences to enjoy. Discover popular landmarks like Auckland Museum, Holy Trinity Cathedral, and Mount Eden during an independent hop-on hop-off bus tour, or hit the main spots with ease on a city highlights tour. Take to the water aboard a sightseeing boat and cruise out into Waitemata Harbour for fine views over Auckland Harbour Bridge, the Sky Tower, and the cityscape beyond; or perhaps treat a loved one to a romantic evening sunset cruise with dinner. If you’re hitting Auckland with kids in tow, explore Hauraki Gulf Marine Park and watch the waves for native whales and dolphins.
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Auckland Harbour Bridge
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The Auckland Harbour Bridge is a landmark site on the city’s skyline. The 8-lane engineering marvel connects downtown Auckland with North Shore suburbs. Visitors can experience the bridge and the stunning views of the Waitemata Harbour from several vantage points: while driving over it, climbing it, or jumping off it.

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Waiheke Island
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Just a short ferry ride from downtown Auckland, Waiheke Island has great beaches, some of New Zealand’s best boutique wineries, a number of art galleries, scenic walking trails, and acres of olive groves, making it the ideal getaway. The island’s calm waters—perfect for watersports like snorkeling, sea kayaking, and stand-up paddleboarding—and the relaxed bohemian atmosphere in Oneroa Village draw a steady stream of visitors year-round.

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Hauraki Gulf Islands
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Located off the coast of Auckland, Hauraki Gulf’s 16 beautiful islands are ideal for outdoor activities like walking, horse riding, swimming, and dolphin- and whale-watching. From the vineyards of Waiheke to the hiking trails of Rangitoto, the birdwatching of Tiritiri Matangi to the secluded hot springs of Great Barrier, each of the islands offers something special.

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Auckland War Memorial Museum
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The Auckland War Memorial Museum, one of New Zealand’s finest, displays thousands of items—including Maori and Pacific Island collections—reflecting the country’s history, culture, and nature. A dedicated children’s area allows kids to touch animals, fossils, and bugs. Visiting Auckland Museum is a must when spending time in New Zealand’s largest city.

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Waitemata Harbour
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Waitemata Harbour is the real name for what is often just called Auckland Harbour. It means “sparkling waters” in the Maori language, which is a very fitting name. Numerous islands dot the harbor, and a day spent on the water, with city views in the background, is a memorable way to tour Auckland.

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Tiritiri Matangi Island
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The open wildlife sanctuary of Tiritiri Matangi Island is devoted to the protection and conservation of reintroduced threatened and endangered reptiles like the tuatara, and birds such as the flightless takahe. The island is tightly controlled to keep out predators that hunt fragile bird species like the nocturnal little spotted kiwi.

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Auckland Sky Tower
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A dizzying 1,076 feet (328 meters) high, the Auckland Sky Tower is not only New Zealand’s highest building but also the tallest man-made structure in the Southern Hemisphere. The tower offers unbeatable views of Auckland’s skyline, with its distinctive spire visible from all corners of the city.

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One Tree Hill
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A significant Maori settlement in 18th-century New Zealand and named for a long-dead pohutukawa tree that stood alone at the top of the hill, One Tree Hill is a massive public park that sits on the edge of central Auckland. From the summit, take in gorgeous panoramic views of Auckland and stroll around its green volcanic grounds.

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Auckland Domain
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Enjoy the peace and tranquility of forests, gullies, and green spaces in Auckland Domain, a 185-acre (75-hectare) escape from the frantic Queen Street crowds. Get lost on a nature walk, admire the tropical plants at the Wintergarden, and marvel at the history on display at the Auckland War Memorial Museum.

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Viaduct Harbour
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Whether you’re embarking on a short day cruise from the marina or enjoying the vibrant nightlife, Viaduct Harbour is an energetic entertainment hub right on the Auckland waterfront. The harbor is best known for its food: there are more than 20 cafés, restaurants, and bars, almost all of them easily found on the harbor’s pedestrian mall.

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More Things to Do in Auckland

Parnell

Parnell

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Parnell, Auckland’s oldest suburb, is full of high-quality restaurants, cafes, galleries, and boutique shops, especially jewelers. There are also many noncommercial sites to explore, such as parks, churches, and other buildings. A visit to Parnell is essential for understanding Auckland’s unique, stylish character.

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New Zealand Maritime Museum (Hui Te Ananui A Tangaroa)

New Zealand Maritime Museum (Hui Te Ananui A Tangaroa)

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The New Zealand Maritime Museum (Hui Te Ananui A Tangaroa) tells the country’s maritime story via art and artifacts displayed across its numerous galleries on the Auckland waterfront. Relive seafaring history through the museum’s impeccably restored boats—not just those in the galleries, but the ones on the water that you can even go sailing in.

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North Head Historic Reserve (Maungauika)

North Head Historic Reserve (Maungauika)

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To early Maori this strategic viewpoint was known as Maungauika, and looking out over Auckland’s Harbor and the islands of the Hauraki Gulf, the summit of this ancient volcanic cone was perfect for fending off an attack. In the 1800s, under European rule, the hill was fortified with cannons and guns to deter a Russian invasion, and was again fortified during both World Wars to protect the precious harbor. Though the attacks themselves thankfully never came, the tunnels, guns—and view—still remain. As the fortification of the hill slowly grew, it ultimately became the preeminent coastal defense system in all of New Zealand. The guns here were cutting edge for the time they were built and installed, and included a pair of “disappearing guns” that would actually recoil back into the ground once they had fired a shot. The guns are visible at the South Battery, which along with tunnels dug by prisoners using light from flickering lanterns, are eerie reminders of the lengths it takes to defend a nation’s coast. There’s a self-guided walking path that points out many of the sights, and from the hill’s summit looking out over Devonport, visitors are also treated with a view of Waiheke Island, the Coromandel, and Auckland’s downtown skyline.

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Motutapu Island

Motutapu Island

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Located alongside the scenic island of Rangitoto, the emerald landscapes, striking coastline and thick forests of Motutapu Island attract visitors from across the globe. Sandy beaches and easy walking paths offer up plenty of opportunity for rest and relaxation, while the 300 Maori archeological sites that scatter the land showcase a rich history and detail ancient lives of early inhabitants.

Travelers can explore one of the Island’s popular walking tracks, like the Motutapu Walkway, which connects the causeway to Rangitoto and the Matutapu ferry dock. Several World War II military sites in the northern junction offer history buffs with a look at gun pits, shelters and other fortresses. Outdoor adventurers can overnight at one of the island’s popular campsites and those looking to give back can volunteer at the Motutapu Restoration Trust, where locals and out-of-towners work alongside each other to plant trees, clean up beaches and monitor wildlife.

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Rangitoto Island

Rangitoto Island

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Just a half-hour ferry ride from Auckland, Rangitoto Island offers active travelers an adventurous escape from the city. This 600-year-old dormant volcano boasts stunning panoramic views of Auckland and a selection of rugged walks both up and around the island, most of them suitable for people of all fitness levels.

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Piha Beach

Piha Beach

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A short drive west of Auckland is Piha Beach, one of the West Coast’s most popular getaways. A small coastal village sandwiched between the Waitakere Ranges and the Tasman Sea, Piha Beach is much loved by surfers and fisherfolk alike, but it’s also a great place for everyone to explore nature, both on the coast and in the hills.

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Mt. Eden

Mt. Eden

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Auckland is covered in pretty volcanic mounds, and Mt. Eden is one of the most famous. You can drive or hike to the summit for sweeping views right out into the harbor. The mount also lends its name to the upmarket suburb below, a lively neighborhood with hip coffee shops and bars.

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Waitakere Ranges

Waitakere Ranges

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The hustle and bustle of Auckland is mere miles from lush forests and stunning landscapes. The Waitakere Ranges, a short drive northwest of the city center, are home to a regional park full of dense native bush, running rivers, and enchanting waterfalls. Enjoy numerous walking trails and incredible views of Auckland and the Tasman Sea.

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Muriwai Beach

Muriwai Beach

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The entire western coastline of New Zealand’s two main islands is known to be wild and windswept, and Muriwai Beach, to the west of Auckland, is no exception. The black sand beach with high cliffs and rugged waves are popular with adventurous surfers as well as bird spotters, who come to see the huge colonies of nesting gannets.

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Queen Street

Queen Street

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All roads in Auckland lead to Queen Street, the bustling heart of the city. Running from the Downtown Ferry Terminal all the way up to artsy Karangahape Road, Auckland city’s shopping and cultural center is stacked with restaurants, bars, hotels, theaters, and stores catering to all kinds of tastes and budgets.

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Cornwall Park

Cornwall Park

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A large, popular green space in the Auckland suburb of Epsom, Cornwall Park is a great option for a day of outdoor fun. The park houses restaurants and cultural attractions, and, as the site of a pre-European Maori settlement, is also archaeologically significant.

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Devonport

Devonport

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Located on Auckland’s North Shore, Devonport is a hub for commuters who work in the Central Business District (CBD). But, there’s more to the area than the ferry terminal: its restaurants, shops, heritage buildings, hiking trails, and beach make it a worthwhile destination in its own right.

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Kumeu Wine Country

Kumeu Wine Country

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New Zealand is known for its crisp whites and bold reds, and there is no better way to sample the flavors of the region than by taking a trip through Kumeu Wine Country. The scenic vineyards of this world-class wine destination are home to quiet cafes, small breweries, five-star restaurants and of course, some of the best wine-makers in the country.

Some of Kumeu’s wineries date back to the early 1930s, and the region’s unique “cellar door” experiences take travelers through the process of winemaking from harvest to fermentation. Visitors love sipping glasses of the region’s finest while looking out over the lush Muriwai Valley.

In addition to exploring Kumeu’s world-famous vineyards, travelers to the region can relax at the nearby Muriwai Beach, where rolling dunes and black sand result in one of the most scenic beaches in the area, or hike the well-kept trails of Woodhill and Riverhead pine forests.

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Ponsonby

Ponsonby

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Until the 1970s, Ponsonby had a reputation as a crime-ridden corner of Auckland. Now it’s one of the most fashionable inner-city districts. Known for its restaurants and cafés, boutiques, bookshops, clubs, and bars—and the art galleries that line Ponsonby Road—this vibrant neighborhood also offers plenty of art hotels.

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