What to do in Auckland – the City of Sails
What to do in Auckland – the City of Sails

What to do in Auckland – the City of Sails

Auckland is New Zealands largest city, and the region contains many ports and docks, so many that they named Auckland ”The City of Sails’. Auckland is broken up into several parts, CBD being where the airport and the main city centre is, with the most to see and do. Below are some must-do things when you’ve got a spare day or two to explore!

Skytower, Auckland CBD

Aucklands main attraction, or the building that will catch your eye when you reach the city centre will be the SkyTower. I’ve been up several times and the view gets better each visit. It costs $35 to enter, and that price includes the entry to the 2 observation decks. The first deck that you will be taken to is level 51 (the main observation deck), and then there is another lift which will take you up to level 60 – 183m above street level.

There is a cafe on level 50, which is currently closed for renovation, but probably some of the best views I’ve ever had whilst drinking a smoothie! When it does reopen, be sure to find a seat and have a chill out.

If you are feeling a little bit more brave and adventurous, the SkyTower also has the SkyWalk and the SkyJump on offer – both of which require some courage! The SkyWalk involves walking around the 1.2m wide platform on the tower at 192m up, and the SkyJump involves leaping off of the tower and falling 193m. Scary stuff!

The Wintergardens

The Winter Gardens, located in Auckland CBD are free to enter. They are in the Auckland domain, near the museum. The gardens consisted of a couple of different sections – the courtyard, the Wintergarden houses, and the fernery. The fernery (pictured above) was like stepping straight out a busy city and into a jungle. You are surrounded by ferns of different species and it is magical. There’s a walk-around circular loop of the area, and also a section within the fernery that you are able to go to a lower platform in order to fully appreciate the beauty of the ferns surrounding you.

If you’re near the gardens and are feeling a bit peckish, there is a cafe next door called the Wintergarden Cafe, it is a little bit pricey but the food there is amazing!

Mount Eden

You can get to the base of Mt Eden by public transport quite easily. The volcano is 193m tall, the highest volcano in Auckland centre, with a crater about 50m in the middle. It’s an easy walk up, well-marked and nearer the top it turns to a boardwalk.

If you’re looking to save money but you still want to see panoramic views of the city, then this is what you should opt to do instead of the SkyTower!

Eden Park to watch a sporting event

Eden Park is New Zealands largest stadium, so if there’s an event going on whilst you’re in Auckland, check it out! The atmosphere is incredible at any sporting event, but rugby is phenomenal. I watched the Women’s Rugby World Cup in 2022 and I would go again in a heartbeat if I could. There’s normally some sort of sporting event happening, and tickets are fairly cheap, so just keep an eye on the website if you’re passing through Auckland.

Exhibitions are constantly changing in this art gallery, so often that the one I saw when I went no longer exists in Auckland! Currently, admission is free for everyone, (excluding the add-ons for entry of certain exhibitions) but for international visitors, that will soon be changing. You would be able to spend a good couple of hours having a wander around here, possibly an activity for a rainy day, but definitely worth a visit if you’ve got the time regardless.

Auckland Maritime Museum

Exploring and delving into the history of the ‘City of Sails’! This museum is located right on the seafront, by a foodie place called Princes Wharf (which is handy if you’re peckish!). It’s a factual place and has a display of boats and waka amas from Māori tribes. There is also a section of the museum which has stories and audiobooks. If you’re interested in boating and the history of boats, then this is the place for you!

Rangitoto Island and Lava Caves

You can get to Rangitoto Island on a Fullers ferry from Auckland Ferry Terminal on Quay Street – it costs $43 for a return and the journey takes about 25 mins. As soon as you get off the ferry, you can start the hike up. The DoC signs show that it takes an hour to summit, but that’s all dependant on: how fast you walk, if you stop at the information points along the way and if you do a detour to see the lava caves. 

The lava caves are about 2/3 of the way up – it’s a 15 minute detour off the main path to see the caves (which you’ll then have to walk back along to reach the main path again). There are multiple caves you can explore and duck your head in, but the main star of the show is the cave that you can walk all the way through. The cave is like a tunnel – it is dark, and rough underfoot so please so be careful! There are openings in the roof of the cave which are surrounded by draping moss, the sunlight flooding in – it feels like a fairytale! It’s also an option to do the lava caves on the way back down to the wharf if you fancy summiting first, having some lunch and then a jolly back down (or if you think you might miss your ferry!)

The island adjacent to Rangitoto is an island called Motutapu Island. If you’ve got a good pair of hiking boots on, there are some great trails around the island that you can follow also. 

Waiheke Island

You can get to Waiheke Island on a Fullers ferry from Auckland Ferry Terminal on Quay Street – it costs $46 for a return and the journey takes about 45 mins. There is so much to do once you have reached the island, and the public transport helps you out massively (to bring a car over it costs extra, and the barge would depart from Downtown Auckland instead).

For starters, Waiheke is known for its vineyards and wine tasting, so of course that’s a must! Multiple wine tour companies offer day trips to a couple of different vineyards, however, I went to just one vineyard called Mudbrick Vineyards. I did the cellar door for $25 which included a tasting of 4 different wines, fermented on Waiheke. 

Another great thing to see is the beaches – it’s an island so naturally, they will be gorgeous. The main beach in the ‘centre’ is called Oneroa beach – it’s not the nicest beach I have ever been to, there are much nicer ones elsewhere on the island. Similarly with Onetangi beach. Palm beach and Little Palm beach were my personal faves, there were small hidden spots where you could have a section of private sand to yourself. They also offer great viewing points over Oneroa beach and of the ‘centre’ of Waiheke. 

The last thing I did on my trip was to go for a walk in the nature reserve. I chose the Turutu Track in the Whakanewha Regional Park. It was a rainy day and I was pretty chilly but I did manage to find some cool waterfalls along the way! There are multiple paths to choose from, all signposted, and a map as you walk into the park so you can’t really get lost. 

There are other things that you can do on Waiheke too, such as the EcoZip Adventures, and the Fort Stony Batter Tunnels, but I just didn’t get around to doing them.

Auckland Museum

Rainy day activity alert! Jokes aside, this activity was not one to skip. Entry costs $28 for international visitors, and free for NZ residents. However, you can choose to add on events which might be going on, for example, when I went I could pay $15 to watch some Māori singing and Poi dancing. Totally worth it. The history of NZ and it’s Māori culture is so interesting and I encourage you all to pay a visit here!

Goat Island Marine Reserve

Goat Island Marine Reserve is about 1h 15m drive North from Auckland CBD. The best place to stay if you are heading that way is a small town called Leigh, about a 5 min drive outside of the reserve. It is super small and made up of mostly campsites. You can hire gear or join on snorkelling and diving sessions at Goat Island Dive and Snorkel. If you do choose to join onto a session, the kit hire lasts for the rest of the day, so my advice is to book an early session!  

Near the marine reserve is also a regional park called Tāwharanui Regional Park with great tracks which reach the end of the peninsula, and a beach. The beach was stunning, the water blue and clear, and the sand fine and golden. On the beach there are multiple caves and rocks you can explore when the tide is out, and a rock pool big and deep enough that you can cannonball into!