Auckland is New Zealand’s biggest city and as such is the most popular destination for tourists visiting this lovely country. Not without reason, that’s for sure. The place is an incredible combination of a modern metropolis and beautiful nature, so whoever comes here will have plenty to see. And let’s not forget the impact Maori culture has on this whole country, shall we? When you add everything up, you will have more than enough to explore, but if you have only one day in Auckland you’ll need to be efficient with your time. Here’s how to see the most of this incredible city.
What’s the best time to visit Auckland?
When trying to figure out when to visit Auckland, you have to keep in mind that it’s in the Southern Hemisphere, so when it’s winter in, for example, North America and Europe, New Zealand is basking in the summer sun. That’s why the best time to visit Auckland is between November and March, especially if you want to escape harsh winters, but be aware that this is peak season there, so expect crowds and higher hotel rates. To avoid that and still have some fairly warm weather, visit in May or September.
As for the events and festivals you can visit, there are plenty of those all year round, although things do get a bit slower during winter down there (let’s say from May to the end of July). If you really want to visit an Auckland festival, you need to head over there in peak season, but even without such events the city has more than enough to keep you entertained.
A few facts about Auckland
With about 1.6 million people, Auckland is home to roughly one third of New Zealand’s population. While it is the biggest city in the country, it is not its capital – that honor belongs to Wellington. Auckland was colonized by European settlers in 1840, but the Maori had at that time already been there for about 500 years. The place is also a huge melting pot, with almost 40% of the population coming from overseas. As far as the quality of life here is concerned, Auckland ranked third in the world in a survey conducted in 2015 and is considered to be among the best cities in the world to live in from a financial perspective.
One Day in Auckland Itinerary
Depending on the location of your accommodation, you can either start exploring the city from its outer areas towards downtown (which is how this one day in Auckland itinerary works) or you can simply start with the text from the last sight on the list and work your way out of the city if you’re located somewhere in the city centre. In any case, follow this guide and make the most of your trip even if you’re short on time. These are the top sights and things to do during your one day in Auckland.
Start your day with a visit to Mount Eden
Auckland is a city of volcanos. Don’t worry, though, they’re not active, which means you can climb and explore them freely. Mount Eden is in the middle of a big park and is the highest volcanic peak in Auckland. This is a perfect way to start your day – with a breath of fresh air and an absolutely priceless panoramic view of the city. It’s not very high (less than 200m), so it’s not a demanding climb at all. Besides, if you’re not from around here, you simply can’t miss out on a chance to explore a real volcanic crater.
Visit the Auckland War Memorial Museum
From one park to another – hop on a bus from Mt Eden (lines 27H, T and W; or get into your car or get an Uber) to Auckland Domain, the oldest park in the city. There you will find arguably the most important Auckland attraction, the Auckland War Memorial Museum. It is a huge and beautiful building whose contents are completely dedicated to New Zealand’s history, but apart from the military aspect of it you will also find a lot of exhibits concerning the natural history of the country. You will learn a lot, but count on spending at least a couple of hours here.
Climb the Sky Tower
You will surely notice the huge needle-like tower in the city centre as soon as you arrive to Auckland. That’s the Sky Tower, and this is your next destination. You’ll be amazed by how much there is to do here, especially since this is the tallest building in the Southern Hemisphere. You can get here by bus from Auckland Domain, but a walk is not out of the question, either – a 25-minute walk will take you through a big part of the city.
So, what does this place offer? Well, it has a revolving restaurant at the top where you can stay for lunch (or come for dinner) that offers a variety of excellent dishes from local produce. You can admire the view from two decks (at 186 meters and 220 meters), plus there is a cafe just below the lower deck. But there is also something for adrenaline junkies here: SkyJump allows you to jump off the tower from 192 meters (a base-jump, obviously), whereas SkyWalk lets you get out on a glass platform at that same height and walk around without those pesky walls impeding your view.
Have lunch near Quay Street
It’s time to have some lunch. Sure, you can stay in the Sky Tower and eat at Orbit 360° Dining (the previously mentioned restaurant there), but Quay Street is very near by and full of shops, cafes and restaurants, so you’ll have plenty to choose from. And it’s right near the harbour, which means that you can find a place with a great view with a bit of luck.
Amano Restaurant is a fantastic place for those who love Italian food, but for dessert you may want to head to Milsse because they have all kinds of fantastic slabs, tarts, cakes and what not. They are both on Tyler Street, which runs parallel to Quay Street, so you should be able to find them easily. If you want something a bit different, though, Cassia offers a variety of excellent fusion, Indian and Kiwi dishes.
Take a boat to Devonport
After lunch, it’s time to get moving again. Fortunately, you’re near the harbour, so finding a boat to get you to Devonport shouldn’t be a problem. You can get a return ticket for about 15 dollars and the ride only takes about 15 minutes, since you only have to hop over to the other side of the harbour. Still, when you get there, you will be in a village surrounding, enjoying a lot of peace and quiet.
Thanks to its numerous shops and cafes, Devonport is a lovely place to spend an afternoon at, but there are also some interesting sights to see. You really should climb up Mount Victoria for another spectacular view of Auckland but also to see the fortifications used to defend the city in WWII. And don’t forget to say hi to Albert, the fig tree in the middle of Devonport – it’s more than 135 years old!
After a lovely afternoon, you should be more than ready to take on everything Auckland nightlife has to offer. And there is a lot to choose from!
Have your dinner at a night market
For a really special experience, hit one of Auckland night markets! There you can mingle with the locals, send your senses into overdrive and try some excellent food. These events are held on seven different locations across the city, every day at a different place, so check the schedule. However, if you want a genuine sense of the life of the city, there’s nothing like grabbing a bunch of dumplings or lamb skewers from the food stalls and simply blending in.
Dance the night away at one of the clubs
You want to paint the town red? There’s plenty of clubs here where you can enjoy your night perfectly, no matter what you’re looking for. Want a more fancy establishment? Ponsonby Social Club is the place to go. Looking for a good DJ? The Roxy will provide that and an incredible view from its rooftop terrace. LGBT venue? Family Bar. And the list just goes on and on…
Enjoy a drink at a cool bar
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with chilling out at a nice bar with a glass of nice drink in your hand, either. Bellota is a perfect bar for that, especially if you’re bringing that special someone on a date. Spanish wine, a beautiful night and the Sky Tower in front of you, what more could you ask for? Beer lovers should visit Brothers Beer which has about 200 different choices, whereas The Chamberlain and Talulah are an excellent choice for some fancy (and very tasty) cocktails.
Where to stay in Auckland?
2 High Street, 1010 Auckland
Hotel DeBrett is a fantastic boutique-style five-star hotel located in a beautiful building in the city centre. It has everything you need and more: spacious and comfortable rooms, a fitness centre and a great bar which offers some pretty tasty cocktails and a wide variety of local beers. Its colourful interior is particularly pleasing, with each room being individually designed. Oh, and the food is absolutely to die for.
M Social Auckland
196-200 Quay Street, 1010 Auckland
With its location on Quay Street, M Social Auckland is the perfect hotel for those who don’t want to miss a single beat of this city’s vibrant core. You will be right in front of the ferry terminal and have loads of options when you go out, no matter if you’re looking for shops, bars or restaurants. But the hotel has a great restaurant of its own, and the same goes for the bar, while the rooms are quite big and comfortable with a fantastic view of the harbour.
Four Points by Sheraton Auckland
396 Queen Street, 1010 Auckland
Comfortable rooms, great staff and a variety of features – all of this can be found at Four Points by Sheraton Auckland. The hotel’s rooms are big and provide a spectacular view of downtown Auckland’s skyline, and some of them even have a balcony. Modern designs suits the hotel perfectly, while the restaurant does an amazing job. On top of that, you are just a few minutes’ walk from the city centre, so you can easily do some exploring whenever you feel like it.
Brown Kiwi Travellers Hostel
7 Prosford St, Ponsonby, 1011 Auckland
You’ve come to Auckland and want nothing more than to spend your time enjoying yourself on the beach? Brown Kiwi Travellers Hostel is the perfect place for that because it is located very close to Hamilton Rd Beach. You also have access to a nice garden where you can have some barbecue with your friends, and the whole thing is fairly close to downtown Auckland. A great vacation awaits!
Day trips from Auckland
If you haven’t visited this incredible country, you must’ve heard a thing or two about it in the media, social or otherwise. While it can be perceived as somewhat remote, it has so much to offer, in terms of culture, gastronomy and especially nature. And since this city is the largest in the country, there is a lot around it, so it’s fairly easy to organize day trips from Auckland. You can head to the outskirts of the city, take a boat to a nearby island or make a somewhat longer trip to some of the attractions. In any case, there is plenty to choose from, and no matter which choice you make you won’t be disappointed. However, to see what the most popular Auckland day trip destinations are, all you need to do is click here.
Extra tips for visiting Auckland
-AT HOP Card is a card used on the public transportation system in Auckland and it can save you up to 20% per ride, so picking it up would be a smart thing to do if you’re going to be riding around a lot
-If you need a car really fast, Uber is a much more affordable option than the local taxis
-On weekdays, shops are usually open from 9 am to 5 pm here, so don’t count on doing much shopping in the late afternoon/evening
-Tipping in Auckland is generally not as common as in the US, for example. Taxi drivers will even sometimes refuse a tip! Still, a 10% tip in restaurants will be greatly appreciated. Hotels are the only places where tipping is common, though: a dollar per bag for the bellboy, a couple of dollars for the maid and about 10 for the concierge is acceptable.
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Anca is a travel writer and the founder of One Day Itinerary - the biggest collection of travel itineraries for those who are time-limited or just want to maximize their time while traveling. Although she easily becomes homesick for Croatia, she thinks travel is essential to her happiness. She has traveled to more countries than she is years old and doesn’t plan on changing that fact. In her travel guides she aims to inspire people to travel whenever they have a spare day (or two).