Set between two harbours and a gulf full of islands, and dominated by spectacular but dormant volcanoes, Auckland is known as the ‘City of Sails’ because there are more boats per head of population in this city than anywhere else on Earth.
Auckland is a diverse region with vineyards, mountain ranges, shopping, beaches and great coffee all within a short distance. Explore New Zealand’s largest city and its two harbours, catch a game of rugby or venture out west to the famous black sand surf beach of Piha on the West Coast.
Most travellers arrive in New Zealand at Auckland International Airport, and it’s worth spending some time in the city before heading off around the country. An Auckland day tour is a great way to get yourself oriented and learn about some of the city’s highlights.
Auckland day tours
There are several Auckland day tour options that give you an easy and relaxing introduction to the city.
This half-day Auckland sights tour takes in some of the most famous parts of Auckland. See the Auckland Harbour Bridge, Viaduct Harbour, Queen Street, the Domain (home of the Auckland War Memorial Museum), Parnell, Tamaki Drive and the Michael Joseph Savage Memorial on top of Bastion Point. During your tour the driver guide will keep you entertained with stories about Auckland’s history and culture, as well as taking in stunning views of the city and the sparkling Waitematā Harbour. You’ll also stop for photos along the way.
You can also choose some great add-ons at the end of your tour, like a Waiheke Wine Tour, the famous Kelly Tarlton’s aquarium, or a trip up the Auckland Sky Tower.
Another popular option is a hop on hop off bus tour. The Auckland Explorer Bus is the city’s original hop on hop off tour with its bright yellow double decker buses. It operates in a continuous loop around two tour routes, each of which takes 60 minutes to complete non-stop.
The Red Tour takes you to Kelly Tarlton’s, Bastion Point, Auckland Museum, Parnell Village, Queen Street (and the Auckland Art Gallery), the Sky Tower and the waterfront. At the Museum you can change over to the Blue Tour and visit Eden Garden, Mt Eden, drive past Eden Park Stadium to St Lukes Shopping Centre, Auckland Zoo and MOTAT.
You can stop anywhere you like along the way to visit the attractions and then hop back on the next bus and continue on your way. On board the bus there is commentary in English, and information sheets in 10 different languages.
Other Auckland attractions
Did you know you can go whale watching in Auckland? The city’s coastline and the neighbouring Coromandel Peninsula surround a body of water called the Hauraki Gulf, which has around 50 islands to explore. Most of the Gulf is a protected marine park, so it’s full of marine life – including whales and dolphins! You can board a whale and dolphin watching tour right from downtown Auckland and spend a morning or an afternoon cruising around the Hauraki Gulf in search of marine mammals. You could also spot seals, penguins and all kinds of rare seabirds.
You can see this iconic volcano in the Hauraki Gulf from many vantage points around the city. Visit Rangitoto by ferry and walk up to the summit for amazing views. Along the way you’ll go through native forest and interesting volcanic landscapes. There are even lava caves to explore!
Waiheke Island makes for an unforgettable day trip from Auckland. Just a 35-minute ferry ride away you’ll find sandy beaches, lush farmland, friendly folk and some of New Zealand’s finest wines. Once you arrive, you could take a Waiheke wine tour, charter a fishing trip, hire a bike (or even an electric bike!) and go exploring. Or simply park yourself on the beach and soak up the view!
Auckland’s tallest volcanic cone is just a short walk, train ride or urban bus trip from the city centre. Stroll up the mountain to the summit for panoramic views, then wander down to Mt Eden village and explore its bars, cafes and boutique shopping. Nearby is Eden Park, the spiritual home of New Zealand rugby, where most international games are played.
West Coast beaches
Auckland’s rugged west coast beaches couldn’t be more different from the sheltered bays in the Waitemata Harbour and Hauraki Gulf. Less than an hour from the city you’ll find wild black sand, roaring surf and beautiful hiking trails. The most popular Auckland black sand beaches are at Piha, Muriwai, Bethells and Karekare. The strong undercurrent in the surf on these beaches is no joke, so make sure you swim between the flags!
Arts and culture
Make sure you visit the Auckland War Memorial Museum and Auckland Art Gallery while you’re here. The museum is a great way to learn about New Zealand’s history, culture and place in the Pacific. While the art on display at Auckland Art Gallery is interesting, it’s worth visiting just to see the building! Reopened in 2011, it has won a number of prestigious architecture awards. Entry is free for New Zealanders and there’s a small fee for international visitors.
There are venues around the city for music and performing arts, including the Aotea Centre, the beautiful Civic Theatre and Spark Arena. See what’s on in Auckland.
Auckland has a number of stadiums where you can catch a game of rugby, cricket, rugby league, football (soccer) or watch motorsport.
Don’t just stick to the backpacker bar underneath your hostel – Auckland has many bars, pubs and clubs worth exploring after dark. In the central city, the Britomart and Viaduct Harbour precincts are packed with bars. Iconic ‘K Road’ is also home to everything from nightclubs to live music venues and casual pubs, and the bars in upmarket Ponsonby are also worth a visit.
Heart of the City has some great suggestions to start your night off right!
Getting around Auckland
Auckland’s central city can be explored on foot, but if you’re wanting to travel further afield you can take local public transport including bus, train and ferries. Find out more about Auckland transport options.
Food and drink in Auckland
Auckland’s diverse culture means you can experience many types of cuisine and spend as much or as little as you like. If you’re looking for cheap meals Auckland’s central city definitely provides! Food courts and ‘hole in the wall’ eateries offer everything from sandwiches, burgers and sushi to noodles, Korean pancakes and churros. Try Elliot Stables for a fun dining experience that won’t break the bank, or choose from a huge range of cafes and restaurants around town.
For Auckland fine dining you can find many award-winning restaurants around Britomart, Wynyard Quarter, Viaduct Harbour and Ponsonby.
Day tours from Auckland
Auckland makes a great base from which to explore other attractions around the North Island. From Auckland you can book Bay of Islands tours, Waitomo Caves tours, Hobbiton tours and Rotorua tours. Spend the day discovering another region’s highlights and be back in time for dinner!
See the full range of GreatSights day tours from Auckland.