The Best of Auckland: A Week’s Guide, 27 Things To Do
Call me biased, for this is the only other city I call home, but Auckland is a one-stop-shop for anyone in desperate need of a change of lifestyle. It’s a breath of fresh air- this happy place, as is most of New Zealand. The colours are so deep, they could put your Instagram filters to shame; t sky so blue and the air so fresh, the grass, the farmers, the cattle, the produce- that walking out of Auckland airport feels like a few layers of dust were wiped off your lenses. The people are friendly enough to pat your shoulder and check if you’re doing okay when they catch you resting your head on a table or randomly wish everyone a great morning on their way to work. Auckland is so gorgeous, it hardly feels like a city at all. But for those who don’t quite enjoy the slow life- there’s quite a lot to be done in Auckland.
1. Sky Tower:
It’s the tallest tower in the Southern Hemisphere, boasting a different colour every evening. It’s a sight on christmas eve, though charming as ever through the rest of the year as well. The daring can attempt the bungee jump off the Sky Tower, or the Sky Walk around it’s pergola. Others can merely walk on the inside, over the glass floor as you watch the city under your feet. There’s a casino inside as well, that serves as a popular saturday night pit stop for many! (I won $100 here and decided to quit while I was ahead, so I definitely recommend trying it out- as long as you’re riding on beginner’s luck and take your loot and leave!) Find more information here.
This stretch has ruled my heart for years. Mission Bay is a beach that is also home to the rich and famous. Lined with cafes, restaurants and ice cream parlours, this beach is a popular Sunday spot to soak some sun. But be warned- it’s pretty windy! There’s a Mexican cafe here with amazing margaritas and curly fries, tacos and burritos. You could rent a bicycle to ride along the stretch as well, leading up to a tiny hillock with a panoramic view of the entire Mission Bay.
3. Cornwall Park
The best sunset spot in Auckland? It has to be this one. There’s a memorial at Cornwall Park, at the very top- the height point of the park, and it looks over the entire city. The park itself is lush green with wide spaces and quite unlike any park at all. There are sheep roaming free, well-paved roads and beautifully maintained grass. One could mistake parts of it for a meadow. One of the most understated places in Auckland but one that shouldn’t be missed.
4. Kelly Tarlton’s:
This one’s for the kiddies. Who doesn’t love tiny penguins flapping about in the water? Kelly Tarlton’s isn’t a kids-only zone, as some tend to believe though. While the kids fall in love with their adorable collection of marine animals, the grown ups could opt for a “dive with the sharks” experience!
5. Rainbow’s End:
This tiny little amusement park is the most endearing thing in all of Auckland. Besides a few roller coasters and a fear fall, there isn’t much to be done at Rainbow’s End. It doesn’t even come close to the Disney Lands of the world, but Rainbow’s End couldn’t have been named more appropriately. This team park is happiness galore, every ride an enchanting new theme. It may not be so grand, but is one that comes right out of a story book!
6. Mount Eden:
There’s a whole lot of places you can get a panoramic view of the city. What makes this one special is the crater at the top of the hill. Sunrises and sunsets are particularly soothing here, with the crater covered in grass and the rest of the city adding to the perfect backdrop.
7. Piha Beach:
Famous for its being one of the most unique beaches around Auckland, the drive to Piha is as exhilarating as the beach itself. It’s a black sand, smooth beach with a bunch of activites you could opt for, and surfing is one of them.
8. Bungee Jumping at Harbour Bridge:
Cross my heart, the Bungee Jump at Harbour Bridge isn’t as scary as it looks. Or so I’ve heard, since I’m too chicken to try it out myself. If your guts allow you to make the most of one of the most interesting jumps in the city, go for it!
9. Auckland Warf:
The new and improved version- apparently worth millions of bucks, is now called the Wynyard Quarter. It’s full of bars and restaurants, fancy places to eat by the shore and a whole lot of pubs you could crawl through. It’s most recent addition is also it’s most endearing one- the trams that run through this area, making it quite the upmarket evening spot!
Take my word for it- Denny’s you cannot miss! It’s open 24 hours, so you could stroll in for breakfast right before you head over to Mount Eden to witness the sunrise. Situated beside the Sky Tower, you can watch as the sunlight starts to stream in behind the tower in the morning as you stuff yourself with their banana split. It’s a recommended item off their list. Take the signature Denny’s cola glass home with you. It lights up in different coloured lights for the happy factor!
11. Auckland Museum:
Not everyone dares to venture into a museum unless they have a serious interest in history. but this particular museum will keep you from yawning. There’s an entire section dedicated to clothing and fashion over the ages, one displaying 3D volcano eruption and another one on the Maori culture and its evolution. In order to really understand this country and where it gets its culture, the museum deserves a visit.
Just like everything else in Auckland, the zoo is another creatively done up space, extremely well maintained and large enough to keep the kids excited for a while. There’s a tram running outside the zoo, and that’s where the experience begins. The animals are kept with so much care and love, the surroundings are as comfortable as possible, with large spaces for each animal. From ostrich to baby kangaroo and all the way to Zebras and Lions, the zoo has a lot of animals and birds to discover.
Lovers of the automobile will freak out over the Museum of Transport and Technology. From a history of automobiles, to technological advancements, including one of the first Mackintosh computers ever manufactured. Anything less than half a day wouldn’t do justice to Motat though, and missing it wouldn’t do you any justice!
Not for the faint hearted, jet boating at the Huka Falls is an experience you need to sign up for. It’s not too stressful on your heart, given that it’s more fun than scary. Besides, I’m a big fan of the Huka Falls for its fresh and pure, bright blue water.
15. Hot Air Ballooning Hamilton:
Watch all of Hamilton as your hot air balloon takes flight 1.5 hours away from Auckland. With a view of the mountains and the city, and a river that flows through, your hot air balloon ride will serve as a sight for a sore eyes. You can toast to your experience with a glass of champagne on the house once you’re back down to Earth.
16. Musical at Civic Theatre:
The most popular theatre in Auckland, The Civic Theatre attracts a mixed type of crowd, depending on the show you’re booking. While most performances at the Civic are worth the experience, nothing beats a musical! Tickets to musicals are usually a little on the expensive side, but worth the extra bucks. Remember to dress your best, theatre always calls for fancy clothing and your finest accessories.
17. Rugby Match at Eden Park:
If you’re in luck, and a match is scheduled at the time of your visit, do everything in your power to get those tickets! The Kiwis take their rugby seriously, and the entire country comes together to cheer for their favorites- the All Blacks, of course!
18. Queen Street for shopping:
Ah, how I love talking about this one! One of the busiest streets, this one is full of boutiques, stores and all kinds of fashion supplies you could imagine. There are cafes, pubs, restaurants, electronic and music stores, fashion brands and a whole lot of office crowd in the evenings. It turns into the best nightlife and party place in the evenings, attracting a whole lot of university crowd on Saturday nights. Just stroll through the street and you’re bound to go home with a plethora of shopping bags!
The gongs, the peace and the statues, and you know you’re at a Buddhist temple. You could sit around for hours, chanting or observing the traditions; or taking a break from a stressful day. This one isn’t for everyone, since we have so many buddhist temples back home, but if you feel inclined towards a little quiet time, walk through the doors of the Fo Guang Shan Temple.
The most upmarket area in Auckland for shopping and dining, Parnell has some of the finest restaurants in terms of their ambience and quality of food, as well as theaters and art galleries.
This one is an experience so true to New Zealand! Imagine walking through a large strawberry farms, basket in hand, picking your own fruit. The produce is as fresh as they come, straight from the farms! Some famrs famous for their strawberry picking also offer smoothies, ice creams and other dessert to taste. Phil Greig Strawberry Gardens is one of the most famous strawberry picking farms in Auckland.
21. Villa Maria Wine Tasting Tour:
This winery is so traditional and classic, it will take you on a walk through time. The Villa Maria is a winery with an in-house cafe and cellars. They also host different tours, taking you through a history of the winery and showing you how the wine making process through its bottling hall. It’s cafe is open 7 days a week, with a selection of wine and food items to tempt your taste buds.
22. Botanical Gardens:
Auckland invests in it’s gardens, yet none come close to the Botanical Gardens- 64 hectares of the most aesthetically pleasing selection of plants, treets, shrubs and flowers, distributed so naturally around the tiny ponds and streams flowing through the gardens, walking through the botanical gardens feels like a stroll through organized and well-maintained wilderness.
23. Auckland Library:
This massive library has the largest collection of books in Australia and New Zealand. There isn’t a book they don’t have. There’s a section on books for sale, sold at as low as a dollar. Even if you aren’t big on reading, drop by to experience the sheer enormity of the place, and the book and library culture of New Zealand. It’s a great place to chat up some students from the university, who could guide you to the best watering holes around town.
24. Take a ferry to Devonport:
Kinda an island, kinda not. Kinda a secluded spot on a far end of the city, where time has stood still and boutique stores, enchanting book stores and many other wonderful things reside. There’s a cliff here too, but its a 10 minute hike that opens up a view of Auckland and the bay. Ferries to and from Devonport run every 20 minutes and the ferry lasts only 10 minutes. There are cafes to munch at, and a small but cozy library to browse through as well. Devonport has a small town feel to it, and half a day is a reasonable amount of time required to discover this gem.
26. Shop at St. Luke’s, Sylvia Park and Manukau Mall:
The best stores are at Sylvia Park and its my favourite mall, but Manukau and St. Luke’s have some great brands as well. Depending on your location, you could pick one for your shopping spree.
27. Visit Waiheke Island:
Take a ferry to the island, and walk for about 10 minutes to get to privately owned vineyards. One can spend the day dining at their fine-dining restaurants or take wine- tasting tours around these properties.