Auckland is a place filled with incredibly diverse attractions. Whether you’re an avid thrillseeker, nature lover, or an art aficionado, New Zealand’s largest city is sure to keep you captivated. Here are 20 must-visits that prove this point perfectly.
Along with being an iconic feature of Auckland’s skyline, the Sky Tower is the tallest of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere. Fine diners, adventurous bungy jumpers and travellers wanting to catch some of the best panoramas of the city are among those attracted to this stunning architectural landmark.
Auckland’s highest natural point, Mt Eden (also known by the Māori name Maungawhau) is a dormant volcanic cone that rises 196 metres (643 feet) above sea level. An astonishing bowl-like crater with a depth of 50 metres (160 feet), it is as much a part of the summit’s appeal as the spectacular 360-degree city panoramas on show.
One Tree Hill is a 182-metre (597-foot) volcano which serves as an important memorial place for Māori and other New Zealanders. Maungakiekie, or the ‘mountain of the kiekie vine’, was home to the largest indigenous pā (defensive settlement site) pre-European colonisation. A 30-metre (100-foot) tall stone obelisk was also erected on top of the summit to mark Auckland’s centenary commemorations in 1940.
Take a 40-minute ferry ride from downtown Auckland to reach the ever so popular Waiheke Island. The island is situated on the Hauraki Gulf and has a length of 19 kilometres (12 miles). Visitors are drawn to this local gem because of its famous vineyards, picturesque beaches and wondrous natural landscapes.
Located just west of Auckland, the black-sand Piha Beach is famous for its strong surf conditions and breathtakingly rugged scenery. Landscape photographers are particularly drawn to the beach’s Lion Rock and its surrounding Maori carvings. Film buffs will also know the picturesque beach for its cameo in movies like the 1993 feature drama The Piano.
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 partake in guided walks or simply explore the surrounding tracks and beaches on their own.
Located at the tip of the Whangaparoa Peninsula, 50 kilometres (31.1 miles) north of central Auckland, Shakespear Regional Park is the most visited and accessible open sanctuary in the region. With a strong focus on conservation and farming, the park provides a pest-free habitat for endangered wildlife — to an extent that dogs and other pets aren’t permitted in it.
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 Auckland region (the Aotea Track), the Great Barrier Island is also home to an array of beautiful beaches and is the only island in the world to hold Dark Sky Sanctuary status.
Having come into existence approximately 600 years ago, Rangitoto Island is Auckland’s youngest volcano. Wherever there is a view of the Hauraki Gulf, you’ll be able to sight Rangitoto summit — you could say it’s a bit of a local icon because of its prominence. The island is a popular hiking destination as well as being a much-adored spot for kayakers and boaties.
The seaside suburb of Devonport is wont to attract history buffs, beach lovers, maritime enthusiasts and budding foodies keen to try out some of its buzzing cafes and eateries. A 12-minute ferry ride from the city is all it takes to reach this North Shore gem; this ease of access makes Devonport a favourite day trip destination for both locals and visitors.
Mission Bay is located quite close to Auckland’s central business district on Tamaki Drive. Aucklanders are particularly drawn to the local beach because it is so close to the city. Mission Bay is also loved for its cafes and restaurants, plus the picturesque park that lies right on the beach’s doorstep.
The Auckland Botanic Gardens is located in the South Auckland suburb of Manurewa, approximately 24 kilometres (14.91 miles) from the city. It comprises 64 hectares (158.15 acres) of gorgeous blooms, foliage and native forestry that’s sure to enthrall visitors. Admission is free and the garden organises a number of events like workshops and school holiday programmes for visitors of all ages to enjoy.
As well as being Auckland’s oldest park, the Auckland Domain is the largest in the city. The park comprises the entire explosion crater and most of the crater rim of the Puketawa volcano. It is also home to several sports fields, tranquil walking tracks and notable tourist attractions like the Domain Wintergardens and the Auckland War Memorial Museum.
The Auckland War Memorial Museum was the very 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 particularly notable for its extensive collection of Māori and Pacific artifacts, and its annual ANZAC Day dawn service commemorations.
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 presently home to artworks and collections from New Zealand, the Pacific and abroad, as well as hosting an array of international exhibitions throughout the year.
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 has come a long way since opening its doors in 1922. Along with housing 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 a number of encounters like behind-the-scenes experiences, safari nights, and zookeeper talks among other events and activities.
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. A shuttle from the city centre can take visitors to the aquarium, where they can catch sight of a number of species and even walk across a shark tunnel.
Equal parts architectural landmark, performing arts hub and live music venue, The Civic is bound to impress its spectators. Built in 1929, this was originally the first ‘talkies’ cinema to emerge in New Zealand; nowadays it is a premier theatre venue with more than 2,300 seats and a starry auditorium designed to recreate the Southern Hemisphere skies. The Civic is mostly opened for performances, though special guided tours are offered on occasion.
The Michael Joseph Savage Memorial commemorates New Zealand’s first Labour Prime Minister, who was widely respected by both Māori and European New Zealanders for playing an integral 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.