If you haven’t ticked off the must do tourist destinations in Auckland on this list then you really haven’t seen Auckland.
Auckland’s Viaduct Harbour. It’s a must do!
Viaduct Harbour precinct is the premier dining district in Auckland. The wharfs that border the harbour are tightly packed with bars restaurants, 5 star hotels and apartments. There are great public spaces over the bridge in Silo Park. Swim off the steps by Wynyard Quarter. Have an ice cream or a glass of wine. Visit the Maritime Museum, watch the kids play in playground or join a game of basketball on the public courts. Take in the views of the harbour bridge, or across the water to Devonport and beyond. Book a fishing charter, or a whale watching trip. Race an America’s Cup Yacht on the harbour, or just stroll the promenade looking at the yachts of the super rich that line the wharf. The viaduct is popular with locals and tourists day and night. In the evening many of the restaurants turn into bars. Euro, Soul Bar, Baduzi and Giraffe are all must do Auckland dining locations.
You Must Do Devonport
Devonport is a short 10 minute ferry ride across the harbour from the city. The ferries run all day until 11:30PM on Weeknights and until 1:00AM on Friday and Saturday nights. Devonport itself is one of Auckland’s oldest suburbs. It’s also one of the wealthiest. There’s a small village of shops, a library, numerous small art galleries, cafes and restaurants. It’s a great place for brunch, lunch or dinner. There’s a safe swimming beach and park and playground for kids. Devonport is home to NZ’s Navy and the Navy Museum in Torpedo Bay which is a ten minute walk from Devonport, offers free entry and has a great cafe as well as a small but interesting museum. Don’t miss climbing the two volcanic cones, Mt Victoria and North Head. Both offer spectacular views day and night. North Head is riddled with tunnels left over from World War 2. Many of the tunnels are open to explore to anyone with a flashlight. Also in walking distance is the picturesque Cheltenham beach which offer fabulous views of Rangitoto, and safe swimming. Highly recommend is Fish and chips from the devonport shops eaten in the park on the grass overlooking the beach. Stay til dark and enjoy the lights of Auckland city as you cruise back to town on the late ferry.
Things to See & Do in Mission Bay
Mission Bay and Tamaki Drive is a must do for Tourists visiting Auckland. There’s a walking and cycling path from the city that follows Tamaki Drive along Auckland’s waterfront. If you walk from the city to Mission Bay it will take about an hour and a half. It’s a flat walk of about 7km. However if you don’t want to walk there is a free bus, or try a Lime scooter.
On the way to Mission Bay you will go past the public Parnell Baths swimming pool (only open in summer). Also the excellent Lilliputt mini golf, Orakei Wharf, Fergs Kayaks (Sales and Hire) and Bastion Point (excellent views).
Mission Bay itself is a safe swimming beach with white sand. It includes a large popular park with a playground, exercise area, and a large fountain which is lit up at night. Across the road from the beach is a strip of restaurants and bars offer options at a wide range of price points. Several restaurants offer takeaways that can be enjoyed on the beach or in the park.
Mission Bay is popular day and night with both locals and tourists. If it’s too busy for your taste then continue on around the waterfront to St Heliers beach for a similar but quieter experience.
While at Mission Bay you can rent stand up paddle boards, kayaks, bikes, segways, and roller blades to enjoy the waterfront or the beach. Why not book a sea Kayak tour from Mission Bay to Rangitoto Island, you can paddle over during the day, climb the volcano and watch the sunset, before paddling back at night towards the lights of the city. Or you could just relax and enjoy a fabulous meal at one of the many excellent restaurants.
Don’t miss Piha Beach
Piha Beach is a black sand surf beach on Auckland’s Rugged West Coast. It’s an hours drive from downtown Auckland if you have a rental car or there are plenty of tours that will take you there. You drive through west Auckland and over the beautiful Waitakere Ranges Regional Park. There are spectacular views of the beach from the top of the hill as you are driving in. Be sure and stop for a photo. The beach is Auckland’s most popular surf beach swells can be up to 4m so swim between the flags. The beach is patrolled by volunteer lifeguards on weekends during the summer and weekdays during the peak summer months of December, January and February. Piha is a popular spot for locals with many permanent and holiday homes dotting the steep hills. There is a really well run general store that sells artisan food, a campground, a cafe, and near the beach a fish’n chip shop.
The beach is split in two by the imposing Lion Rock. This is well worth the climb. The track no longer goes all the way to the top but the view is still well worth it. The southern part of the beach is the most popular. Bring your jandals or some kind of footwear, during the summer the black sand gets hot enough to blister your feet. The water isn’t particularly warm most surfers wear a wetsuit. There are strong rips so be careful. At low tide take a walk around the rocks to the south of the beach and discover the secret bay. There’s a neat cave that goes through to the ocean, just be careful to come back before the tide comes back in, it’s only accessible at low tide.
Piha beach has surfboards and boogie boards for hire, you can also get surf lessons from the Piha Surf School.
North Piha is much bigger with less people. There are surf patrols here too so if you are swimming find one and stay between the flags. People drown at Piha every year. They are usually tourists, wearing long pants and not swimming between the flags. At the north end of North Piha is a walkway that goes up to Te Waha Point lookout it’s a steep walk but the view is well worth the effort. From there if you are really adventurous there is a very steep path down the cliff to an isolated beach, even in summer there are usually no other people.
Behind Piha Beach is the Kitekite falls this is 1/2 hour hike through the forest to the base of the waterfall. It’s another 15 minutes to the top. You can swim in under the falls, the water is freezing but it’s fun. There’s really large eels at the waterfall which may put some off swimming. If you do the walk at night there are glow worms on the river bank on the way to the waterfall. For the best experience book a canyoning tour with AWOL adventures.
Shopping in Newmarket Can’t be Missed
Newmarket is Auckland’s premier shopping district offering both designer boutiques and more mainstream offerings. Many retailers have their flagship store in Newmarket. Westfield has a huge renovation and expansion of their Newmarket mall opening in December 2019. The main street of Broadway and nearby Nuffield street offer shopping outside the mall. There’s plenty of great bars and restaurants. Get there on the train from Britomart. There’s an underground station in Newmarket it’s only a 10 minute train ride from town and the trains are frequent and cheap.
Takapuna is a Must on Auckland’s North Shore
Takapuna is Newmarket’s biggest rival for shopping capital of Auckland. There’s a large mall and plenty of high street shopping as well. Where Takapuna wins is it’s restaurants, bars and nightlife. And they have a beach. That’s what makes it a must do Auckland destination. Shopping, Food, Drinks and a beautiful beach. Takapuna beach is well worth a visit for any tourist. It’s a safe swimming beach with white sand and a park. It faces Rangitoto Island offering great photo opportunities of the iconic island volcano. You can take a bus from downtown Auckland or take a Ferry to Devonport and a bus from there. It’s slower and more expensive to go via Devonport but way more fun. Shop in the morning, lunch, afternoon at the beach, followed by dinner. Taxi or Uber back to the city after dark, buses are less frequent outside of peak hours.
You Have to Visit Rangitoto Island
You can see Rangitoto Island from most of Auckland’s best suburbs. It’s Auckland youngest volcano at only 600 years old. It’s extinct now so perfectly safe to visit. You can get there by Ferry from downtown Auckland or you can take a kayak tour from Mission Bay. If you are young and fit take the evening kayak tour. It’s about an hour and a half paddle out to the island, a 1 hour hike to the top to watch the sunset, a 40 minute hike back down and an hour and a half paddle back under the stars towards the city lights. If you’re not up for the paddle then the ferry is the best option. The hike is about 1 hour and uphill all the way. There are some great natural lava tunnels you can get through them with the light of a phone but a flashlight is better. There’s no shop on the island so bring your own food and carry your rubbish home with you. The island is a nature reserve please don’t litter.
One Tree Hill is on Every Tourists List
One Tree Hill is an Auckland Icon in the middle of Auckland’s Cornwall Park and adjoining One Tree Hill Domain. The hill itself is an extinct volcano. At 182m it offers views of all of Auckland including views to both coasts. The monument at the top is a slightly controversial memorial to Maori, who when it was conceived were thought to be on the way out.
The park is large and popular with Auckland families as a place to picnic, jog, or cycle. There’s a large playground for young children, the council owned Stardome Observatory and Planetarium is located next to the playground.
Waiheke Island is a Must Do For Wine Lovers
There’s a lot to see and do on Waiheke. You can try and do it in a day but you could just as easily spend a week on the island, in one of Waihekes many small luxury hotels. Waiheke is just a 40 minute Ferry ride from downtown Auckland. The ferries start early and run until 11:00pm on Sundays and public Holidays and and Midnight the rest of the week so you can go early and come back late.
You’ll often see dolphins and occasionally orca on the ferry ride out to Waiheke. Once there your transport options, are bus, taxis or you can rent a car. If you prefer you can also bring a bike on the ferry with you for free and cycle the whole island.
Waiheke Island is pretty big so you won’t be able to cover much of the island walking, and the list of things to do is long. The beaches are spectacular. The ones on the north side of the island are more exposed and often have small surf suitable for body surfing, or paddle boarding. Beaches on the ends of the island and facing the mainland tend to be flat water and safe for swimming. Oneroa and Onetangi are the most famous, but don’t stop exploring; Waiheke has another great beach around every corner.
Waiheke is one of New Zealand’s most famous wine growing regions so there are plenty of great wineries. Cable Bay and Mudbrick are two of the best for dining, but wine lovers should do there research and explore. Man O’ War vineyard, Stoneyridge, and Tantalus Estate are also excellent for wine tasting. We all know food and wine go together and Waiheke is no exception, so of course there are plenty of top quality restaurants to choose from.
The island also has beautiful parks and reserves so take your walking shoes and do a hike or two while you’re there. If you’re looking for something more adventurous try EcoZip and go ziplining through the trees and over the vineyards.
Spend Some Time in Queen Street & Auckland CBD
Obviously you’ll need to spend some time enjoying the CBD. Shop Queen Street, High Street, Chancery Lane, and Britomart. Check out the views from the Sky Tower. Dine in one of the many fabulous restaurants, my personal favorite is Masu on Federal Street. Visit Albert Park and the excellent Auckland Art Gallery. Visit the Auckland Domain with the Auckland Museum and the Winter Gardens. Take in the more eclectic shops of Auckland’s K Road. For something a little different try one of the cities popular escape rooms.
If you’ve visited all of these locations you’ll have seen all the Must Do Auckland Destinations.