Updated: Apr 7
Auckland region is actually wayyyy bigger than you think. Most people just think of Auckland as the major city in New Zealand, but actually stretches as far as Wellsford to the north and Pukekohe to the south!
Almost every backpacker we meet says: "get out of Auckland as soon you can". But we STRONGLY disagree! If you have some time in Auckland, there's definitely plenty for you to do and see, no matter what your budget.
AUCKLAND #NZMUSTDO HOT LIST:
The infamous SKY Tower
Mission Bay Beach
SKYCITY & SKY TOWER
The Auckland Sky Tower is the probably the most famous landmark in the city. Visible from all angles, it's hard to miss! For 360 degree views of the city and harbours, you have to visit the top. There are many websites that will offer you a small discount but in essence, it is $32 to get all the way up to level 60, stopping off at level 52 on the way. ALSO, you can go up a second time for an extra small fee on the same day to get the night experience too! There is an upper and lower viewing deck, cafe and even the ORBIT 360 Dining experience if you fancy a meal above the clouds in the only restaurant that does a complete turn every hour. Check out our SKYCITY vlog on the video links page! You can also do the SKYWALK (a walk around the outer edge) or SKYJUMP (an assisted free fall) if you are feeling adventurous!
HOW TO GET THERE: If you are staying in the central CBD, you can walk, just follow your nose! If you are staying out of the CBD, the train/bus system is a great way to get around. Download the AT Hop app on your mobile to plan your journey.
Probably just as famous as the Sky Tower is Waiheke Island. This is a wine lovers dream come true as the island has more than 30 vineyards and wineries! You can catch the ferry from downtown Auckland to Waiheke Island for just $42 return. Alternatively, you can add the option of the hop on/hop off bus for a combined price of $68. Both are bookable on the website or at the harbour. Spend the day hopping between the wineries (most of them do tasters) and view Auckland city from a different perspective where Rangitoto Island isn't the backdrop!
Now, Rangitoto Island is the complete opposite of Waiheke Island. The island is completely volcanic as it is a fairly young volcano, which last erupted only about 600 years ago. The island is completely uninhabited - it has no shops or restaurants or even public bins. Just a few toilets for those who choose to visit the island. You can hike to the top of the volcano for yet again, great views of the Auckland skyline which takes approximately 1 hour with plenty of time for pictures! Check out our first ever hike in New Zealand on the video links page! Typically the day we went was cloudy, so our view was still beautiful, just not fully captured in the pictures. Every traveler has times when the weather affects their day - well this was one of ours!
MISSION BAY BEACH
The most visited beach in Auckland, and we can see why! The white sandy beach is lined with parks and grassy areas perfect for a picnic in the gorgeous summer sun! Or even winter! Being in the north of the north island, the region is classed as 'sub-tropical' and can still reach temperatures of 20 degrees even in winter. The promenade is lined with bars/restaurants to take your fancy. Auckland is such a multicultural city and so you can get food from just about anywhere in the world. The beach links up to neighouring beaches further around the bay of St Heliers and Orakei. This was a common hang out spot during our 6 months in Auckland. It showcases the beautiful backdrop of Rangitoto Island.
Piha is on the West Coast of Auckland region, past the Waitakere Ranges (also worth a stop for some of their awesome trails). It is a popular destination with surfers as the west coast of New Zealand receives the best waves in the country. The town of Piha itself is super cute and romantic. Great for a weekend getaway. There is only a shop, cafe and fuel station, so its easy to become disconnected from the world. In the middle of the beach, stands Lion Rock, climbable should you so desire!
OTHER PLACES TO VISIT
Auckland Domain - a great day out. Explore the museum (bring proof of your address - bank statement for free entry!) Bring a picnic and spend the day wondering the grounds. See DAN'S DAY OUT on the video links page.
Climb a volcano! Auckland has some 48 volcanic cones such as One Tree Hill/Cornwall Park - with several walking trails to the top of the hill (where there is no longer a tree!) where you can see the city and memorial that sits atop.
If shopping is your thing, try Sylvia Park in Mt Wellington or the brand new Westfield Mall in Newmarket with loads of shops and eateries for a true, shop 'til you drop day!
Viaduct harbour is also home to lots of great bars and restaurants, as well as the Maritime museum and hundreds of yachts. Sip at a cocktail at Lula Inn, and enjoy the views over the harbour!
The north shore above the CBD has some awesome beaches and cafe/bars. Check out North Head and Devonport.
Manukau heads in the southwest of the region has one of the only lighthouses you can climb to the top!
If you plan to be in Auckland for longer than a few days, it may be worth getting the AT Hop card. This gives you highly discount fares almost 50% cheaper and only costs $10 to buy a card.
If you are coming from the airport, be sure to take the SkyBus or Super Shuttle rather than a taxi or uber. It will be much cheaper with prices starting from $17pp.
Texts/calls/data can be expensive. If you need these, it may be better to purchase a sim card (which can be done from the airport) Common providers are: 2degrees, Spark, Skinny, Vodafone. We will review different providers in a separate post!
ALL IN ALL, Auckland is an awesome city, often mistaken for being the capital of New Zealand (which is actually Wellington!). We recommend staying a while and exploring as much as you can while you are here. There truly is something for everyone!