Must-Visit Attractions in Auckland, New Zealand

The stunning Auckland skyline as seen from the harbour in the evening
The stunning Auckland skyline as seen from the harbour in the evening
Thalita Alves

Auckland is a place filled with incredibly diverse attractions. Whether you’re an avid thrill-seeker looking for adrenaline, a nature lover visiting for the local mountains or an art aficionado on the lookout for the local cultural scene, New Zealand’s largest city is sure to keep you captivated. Here are the 25 must-visit attractions in Auckland.

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The Sky Tower

Along with being a prominent feature of Auckland’s skyline, the Sky Tower is the tallest of its kind in the southern hemisphere. Fine diners, adventurous bungee jumpers and travellers wanting to catch some of the best views of the city are among those attracted to this magnificent architectural landmark.

Mt Eden (Maungawhau)

Auckland’s highest natural point, Mount Eden (Maungawhau in Maori), is a dormant volcanic cone that rises 196m (643ft) above sea level. An astonishing bowl-like crater with a depth of 50m (160ft), it is as much a part of the summit’s appeal as the spectacular 360-degree city views on show.

One Tree Hill (Maungakiekie)

One Tree Hill is a 182-m (597-ft) volcano that serves as an important memorial place for Maori and other New Zealanders. Maungakiekie (the mountain of the kiekie vine), was home to the largest indigenous (defensive settlement site) prior to European colonisation. A 30-m (100-ft) stone obelisk was also erected on top of the summit to mark Auckland’s centenary commemorations in 1940.

Waiheke Island

Take a 40-minute ferry ride from Downtown Auckland to reach the popular Waiheke Island. The island is situated on the Hauraki Gulf and has a length of 19km (12mi). Visitors are drawn to this local gem for its famous vineyards, picturesque beaches and wondrous natural landscapes.

Piha Beach

Just west of Auckland is the black-sand Piha Beach, famous for its strong surf conditions and rugged scenery. Landscape photographers are particularly drawn here to take in Lion Rock and its Maori carvings. Film buffs will also know the picturesque beach for its cameo in movies such as the 1993 film The Piano.

Tiritiri Matangi Island

If you love nature and wildlife, a visit to Tiritiri Matangi Island is a must. The island, which can be reached from Auckland city via ferry, is a wildlife sanctuary for threatened and endangered native birds and reptile species. After a brief introductory walk from a local ranger on arrival, visitors are welcome to join guided walks or simply explore the surrounding tracks and beaches on their own.

Shakespear Regional Park

At the tip of the Whangaparaoa Peninsula, 50km (30mi) north of Central Auckland, Shakespear Regional Park is the most visited and accessible open sanctuary in the region. With a focus on conservation and farming, the park provides a pest-free habitat for endangered wildlife – to the extent that dogs and other pets aren’t permitted here.

Great Barrier Island

Also known as Aotea, Great Barrier Island is the sixth-largest island in New Zealand. Along with featuring the only multi-day wilderness walk in the Auckland region (the Aotea Track), the Great Barrier Island is also home to an array of spectacular beaches and was the first island in the world to hold Dark Sky Sanctuary status.

Rangitoto Island

Having come into existence approximately 600 years ago, Rangitoto Island is home to Auckland’s youngest volcano. Wherever there is a view of the Hauraki Gulf, you’ll be able to spot the Rangitoto summit – you could say it’s a bit of a local icon due to its prominence. The island is a popular hiking destination as well as a favourite spot for kayakers and boaties.

Mission Bay

Mission Bay is quite close to Auckland’s central business district on Tamaki Drive, and Aucklanders are particularly drawn to the local beach here. Mission Bay is also renowned for its cafes and restaurants, plus the picturesque park that lies right on the doorstep.

Auckland Botanic Gardens

The Auckland Botanic Gardens, in the South Auckland suburb of Manurewa, 24km (15mi) from the city, comprises 64ha (158 acres) of gorgeous blooms, foliage and native forestry that are sure to enthral visitors. Admission is free, and the garden organises a number of events such as workshops and school holiday programmes for visitors of all ages to enjoy.

Auckland Domain

As well as being the city’s oldest park, Auckland Domain is the largest. It comprises the entire explosion crater and most of the crater rim of the Pukekawa Volcano, and is home to several sports fields, tranquil walking tracks and notable tourist attractions such as the Domain Wintergardens and the Auckland War Memorial Museum.

Auckland War Memorial Museum

The Auckland War Memorial Museum was the first of its kind in New Zealand. It currently serves as a memorial site for war casualties and holds some of the country’s most significant archival records and heritage treasures. The museum is notable for its extensive collection of Maori and Pacific artefacts and its annual Anzac Day dawn service commemorations.

Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki

With a collection that features more than 15,000 works, the Auckland Art Gallery is New Zealand’s largest art institution. The gallery originally opened in 1887 and has since undergone a massive architectural transformation. Its modern building is home to artworks and collections from New Zealand, the Pacific and abroad, while also hosting an array of international exhibitions throughout the year.

MOTAT

The Museum of Transport and Technology (MOTAT) is the ultimate go-to for curious minds. Innovative machinery-based exhibitions, remarkable aviation displays, a model railway and a collection of fascinating historic relics come together to educate museum visitors about the evolution of transport and technology in New Zealand and its effect on life at large.

Auckland Zoo

The Auckland Zoo has come a long way since opening its doors in 1922. Along with the largest collection of wildlife in New Zealand, the zoo has expanded its scope of operations to include a number of conservation and environmental research activities. Visiting animal lovers can get involved in behind-the-scenes experiences, safari nights and zookeeper talks, among other events and activities.

Kelly Tarlton’s Sea Life Aquarium

Kelly Tarlton’s Sea Life Aquarium has been marvelling marine wildlife enthusiasts since 1985. The aquarium was the brainchild of diver and marine archaeologist Kelly Tarlton, who not only built this remarkable aquatic attraction out of unused sewage tanks but is also known for constructing the first buoyancy compensator suit in New Zealand.

The Civic

As an architectural landmark, performing arts hub and live music venue, the Civic is bound to impress its spectators. Built in 1929, this was the first talkie cinema to emerge in New Zealand. Nowadays, it is a theatre venue with more than 2,300 seats and a starry auditorium designed to recreate the southern hemisphere skies. The Civic is mostly open for performances, though special guided tours are offered on occasion.

Michael Joseph Savage Memorial

The Michael Joseph Savage Memorial commemorates New Zealand’s first Labour prime minister who was widely respected by both Maori and European New Zealanders for his role in the development of the country’s social welfare system. The memorial is situated on Bastion Point and features an obelisk and mausoleum surrounded by beautifully landscaped garden grounds.

New Zealand Maritime Museum

Discover Aotearoa’s ocean-faring history at the New Zealand Maritime Museum situated at Viaduct Harbour. This Pacific Island nation’s history is intertwined with a long tradition of travelling by boat. Waves of vessels arrived from Europe in the 19th century to modern-day trade. Visitors can cruise the Waitemata Harbour on a heritage boat, the Nautilus.

Manukau Heads Lighthouse

Take in fantastic views of the Manukau Heads and the Waitakere Ranges with a walk up 120 steps to the old wooden lighthouse, on top of the Awhitu Peninsula. You can even walk around the lightkeepers balcony. Gates are open from 9am to 5pm and to enter the lighthouse you just need to pay a small donation. Keep an eye out for the rare Māui dolphins, which can sometimes be seen in the surf below.

Arataki Visitor Centre

Go for a picnic at the Arataki Visitor Centre, an outdoor park that is the gateway to the Waitakere Ranges. Learn more about Maori culture by viewing the 11-metre (36-ft) pou (post), which is a guardian to the visitor centre and the ranges. The whakairo (carvings) are carved from the kauri tree by Te Kawerau ā Maki, the local mana whenua (guardians of the land). They tell the story of the well-known ancestors of Te Kawerau ā Maki.

Tāwharanui Open Sanctuary

Only a 90-minute drive from Auckland city centre is Tāwharanui Open Sanctuary, a reserve aimed at protecting the takahē, a large, colourful flightless bird that was thought to be extinct for a long time until they were rediscovered in Fiordland in 1948. They are still regarded as vulnerable as there are only about 400 alive today, of which eight reside at the sanctuary.

Ōtuataua Stonefields

Go back in time to about 1300CE to the Ōtuataua Stonefields in Māngere, an archaeological site that depicts how early Polynesian settlers adapted to growing food in their new home. Featuring a series of ancient stone walls that still exist today, this site provides insight into the early Maori way of life.

Additional reporting by Bianca Ackroyd

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