What to do when visiting Auckland

What to do when visiting Auckland - the ultimate guide

One thing you quickly learn when travelling is that locals are invariably keen to show you around their stomping ground. I’m the same way. There’s lots of things that frustrate me about living in Auckland/New Zealand (and by jove do I invoke the rights to voice them over and over again), but I always get super excited when I hear someone is coming to visit.

The fact is, nobody comes to New Zealand for the cities. You come for the outdoors. The Lord of the Rings scenery. The lakes, the bush, the mountains. To hike, ski, surf, skydive.

But odds are you’ll fly into Auckland, and though we may not have amazing shopping or eating or weather, we have some reasonably cool things to keep you occupied at least for a day or two.

I was shocked (MULLETED!) to learn from Solo Wayfarer, who recently stopped through, that Lonely Planet recommends the Waikumete Cemetery in West Auckland. This is not Paris, or New Orleans, where at least there are legit reasons to go visit the graveyards … I know Auckland isn’t the most exciting metropolis in the world, but I promise, we have more interesting sights to offer. I’m not going to present an itinerary here, because travel is so highly individual, but I have attempted to put together a shopping list, if you like, of various points of interest in Auckland. Mix and match! Then come visit!

In the CBD

Waterfront – you can’t visit without strolling the harbour. Check out Silo Park, Queen’s Wharf, etc
Britomart -not just a downtown station anymore, it’s a somewhat lively hub of shops and stuff
Queen St – our main drag, and some of the side streets like Vulcan Lane and High St
Aotea Square – take the obligatory photo with the Maori arch and snap the Town Hall next door
SkyCity – I’ve never been up it, but it’s one of those touristy (and expensive) things to do
Albert Park – it sure ain’t Central Park, but it’s our little oasis of green
Victoria Park Market – another shopping area that’s recently been revitalised

colourful flowerbeds cornwall park auckland

view from crater mt eden auckland

Volcanoes

We got a few of these. The most famous are:

Mt Eden – with the panoramic views and deep crater we used to play in as kids
One Tree Hill – now No Tree Hill, and surrounding Cornwall Park

Shopping

I can’t imagine why any international visitors would want to shop in Auckland, but if you do, you could try:

Ponsonby – hip cafes and boutiques
Newmarket – our equivalent of Fifth Avenue?
Parnell – a historic area that retains a village feel

Museums

Auckland Art Gallery
Auckland Museum
Maritime Museum
MOTAT

la cigale market baklava

Weekly markets

La Cigalethe best thing about Parnell is this French style market
Otara - THE flea market in Auckland
Avondale - a close runner up
Clevedon - a little slice of country and an awesome farmer’s market
Auckland Night Markets – at various locations

Gardens/Parks

Auckland Domain/Wintergarden 
Parnell Rose Garden 
Western Springs – bring some bread to feed the birds!

Ferries

If you’ve got a hankering to burn money, catch a ferry to:

Waiheke – you might spot sea life on the way across. Once you’re there, walk or bike around, drink some wine, take tons of photos
Devonport - a quaint little neighbourhood on the North Shore, a much shorter ride but you’ll still get lovely harbour views

waterfall karekare

Wild wild west

The best of the west can be summed up in three words: Beach. Bush. Waterfalls.

Think black sand, big surf, dramatic cliffs and rocks. Raw and majestic. It’s never as busy here as it is at, say, Mission Bay or Long Bay, which is awesome. The main beach is Piha, with Karekare right next door. Bethell’s, Muriwai and Whatipu are even less crowded options. There are plenty of walking/tramping tracks around, which’ll take you winding through the bush and often to waterfalls and waterholes. So worth it if you have time.

tawharanui

A little further afield: the idyllic north

Matakana – a charming little town with a farmer’s market, pubs and a divine ice cream place
Puhoi – where you must visit the Cheese Store and Tea Rooms
Goat Island - the place to snorkel
Tawharanui – secluded, white shores, well worth the drive

Last but not least, we gotta talk about food…

I’m not really into fine dining – which is just as well, since I don’t really earn an income commensurate to such tastes. For that kind of thing, I’ll refer you to Metro’s annual Top 50 list (of which I have visited six, and only been impressed by about half of those). I do like Cazador, which is sort of mid-scale but not super ritzy. My palate skews strongly Asian, though I do also adore Italian and Mexican – it’s just that the latter two are a LOT thinner on the ground here.

For Chinese – try our de facto Chinatown along Dominion Rd is bursting with noodles and dumplings
Malaysian – my favourite by miles is KK Malaysian in Epsom, but there are many other good ones
Indian – tons of options again, I like Satya and for vegetarian fare, Jai Jalaram Khaman

Ice cream – If you can find fresh fruit ice cream, say, on a random country road, go for it. But in Auckland, Kohu Rd has a cafe quite literally around the corner from our house, so I would consider it my civic duty to bring you there (give me an excuse!) and Giapo is pricey but tasty gelato right bang in the middle of Queen St in town.

Seafood – The Auckland Fish Markets aren’t just a place to buy fresh fish – there’s a few restaurants there, too

Finally, you have to visit a humble neighbourhood bakery. No, not like The Fridge in Kingsland or Pyrenees in Mt Albert. You gotta get out into proper suburbia (as a guide, beyond the limits of the Outer Link bus route). I don’t think I can overstate how unfancy a typical suburban bakery is; you just have to experience it. Buy a mince and cheese (or steak) pie, and feel like a local as you eat it.

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19 thoughts on “What to do when visiting Auckland

  1. That area on Dominion is our Chinatown?! I had no idea!

    Ah, Auckland. I call it Blah-kland, but that is only when it is being gray and rainy and windy and cold for days on end. Some days, it is stunning!

    This is a great list! I was hoping there would be more things I’d never done on it, but I guess I’ve done most of my duty–I’m mostly missing restaurants. :)

    I can’t believe you haven’t been up the SkyTower. It really is worth it for the view on a nice day–paying to go up the extra level is even better. Just a tip: if you go to one of the restaurants up there (they are cheaper for lunch/brunch!), you get a ride up to the viewing platform for free.

    I’d add a trip out to Tiritiri Matangi to the list…just went last weekend, and it was GORGEOUS and really cool to see ‘pre-human NZ.’

    1. Yeah, maybe… I haven’t been to the revolving restaurant yet for example and am semi interested in the gimmick. But I’m just not a fan of paying for views in general, plus I really really really hate heights :)

      It’s definitely Blahkland at the moment.

  2. Oh, yeah…you might hate it then. They have these panels that are clear glass and look straight down to the streets. Even though there are a ton of signs that say they are safe, it is still disconcerting.

    Also, one of my friends had heels on and hit one of the glass panels really hard while tripping by accident, and the security guard yelled at her. They apparently are really expensive to replace…meaning I guess someone has cracked one before?!!

  3. Wonderful to see you link up to #SundayTraveler! I always shake my head when I think about how I lived to NZ my while life, and never visited. I had a giggle at one tree now being no tree hill. I want them to change signs to it… let’s partition them :)

  4. I’d love (LOVE) to visit NZ. Maybe one day we can get enough time off/remote working to really see Oceania! Think you’ll stay in Auckland long term?

  5. I hope to visit NZ one day (B has a relative there, so hopefully we can make it happen). The pictures look amazing, and I’ve heard such great things about it! My friend is trying to be a PT there, but it sounds like the process is really intense.

  6. *files this away for future reference*

    I briefly floated the idea of going to Australia and NZ for the next big family trip. No idea if/when that would happen, but I’ve never been to NZ nor the east coast of Australia so hopefully that will happen one day!

  7. My girlfriend and I really want to travel through NZ, and your post has only increased that desire! Some great tips that I am sure we will use in the future – thanks for sharing them! Glad to have connected via #SundayTraveler and looking forward to checking out more of your posts! Safe travels!

  8. I actually like to visit cemeteries – but then, I did live in New Orleans, where visiting a cemetery is about as common as going to the park. :D Though given the choice, I think I’d rather check out one of those volcanoes or take a ferry ride!

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