Thinking about visiting Auckland, New Zealand? I was there for 5 days in February and loved it. I think you’ll love it, too.
Read this post for the top things to do and see while visiting this beautiful city!
- 15 Things You Need to Know Before Visiting New Zealand
- 8 Can’t-Miss Things To Do In Queenstown, New Zealand
1. Visit the SkyTower
The SkyTower is probably one of the first things you’ll notice about Auckland. It soars over the city at 1,076 feet tall and is the largest free-standing structure in the Southern Hemisphere!
In the SkyTower, multiple viewing levels give you a 360 degree, bird’s eye view of Auckland.
I recommend making this your first stop when you visit Auckland. The viewing decks have descriptive signs that point out key landmarks around Auckland. These signs help you to identify interesting places around town that you want to visit and also help you to get your bearings.
If you’re feeling adventurous, you can go for a SkyWalk or SkyJump. With the SkyWalk, you’ll connect to cables and walk around the perimeter of the SkyTower. With the SkyJump, you’ll go straight adrenaline rush as you leap from the SkyTower and plummet towards the ground below (all while connected to safety cables that stop you before you reach the ground, of course!). I was too chicken to try these activities, but the people who did looked like they had a great time!
TIP: Buy your ticket in advance from a third-party website like TripAdvisor. As a general rule in New Zealand, I found it cheaper to buy tickets in advance from third-party websites instead of purchasing tickets from the attraction’s website or at the location.
2. Take a ferry to Waiheke Island
Visiting Waiheke Island was one of the highlights of our trip to Auckland.
Waiheke Island is an easy, 40-minute ferry ride from Auckland. So in addition to enjoying Waiheke Island itself, you get the bonus of a great boat ride! It can be a little stuffy inside the ferry, so I recommend snagging a seat in the outdoor section of the boat.
Once you arrive at Waiheke Island, you’ll find picturesque towns, pristine beaches, olive tree groves, walking tours, and my two personal favorites – vineyards and zip lining! You can even combine my two favorite things together with this tour.
You can see my awesome zip-lining skills in the picture above. (Special thanks to my friend Lindsay for humoring my desire to capture these skills on camera!) I go zip-lining every chance I get. I find it just adventurous enough for me – I get my adrenaline thrill without too much risk to life and limb!
After zip lining, we enjoyed wine tastings at several vineyards. The vineyards in New Zealand are generally pretty small, so it’s a treat to taste wines there that you can’t find anywhere else in the world. The vineyards on Waiheke Island are especially picturesque, with the water glinting in Hauraki Gulf in the background.
3. Visit the Auckland Museum
Visiting the Auckland Museum (also called the Auckland War Memorial Museum) is a must for your trip to Auckland. I’m guilty of sometimes rushing through museums so that I can get outside to the next adventure, but I savored every moment of this museum!
Some of the coolest exhibits were:
- Extinct animals that I had never seen in any other museum
- Volcanic activity in New Zealand and the possibility of the next big explosion (hint: it’s coming!!)
- Oceanic explorations by early settlers (channel your inner Moana while in this exhibit)
They offer several types of tickets to the museum:
- Option 1: Just entrance to the museum
- Option 2: Entrance to the museum, plus a Māori Haka dance
- Option 3: Entrance to the museum, plus a highlights tour
- Option 4: Entrance to the museum, plus the Māori Haka dance and the highlights tour
We went with Option 2. I’m extremely glad we saw the Māori Haka dance – it was incredible! (More on the haka dance below!)
TIP: You can buy tickets for Option 1 or Option 2 above at a discounted price on TripAdvisor. Unfortunately, Options 3 and 4 aren’t available on TripAdvisor, so you’ll need to pay full price on the Auckland Museum website if you go with one of those options.
4. Watch a Māori haka dance
While in New Zealand, you need to see a Māori haka dance.
I had never seen or heard of a haka dance before I saw this YouTube video. It’s a traditional war dance meant to show a tribe’s pride, strength, and unity.
We got a chance to see a haka dance at the Auckland Museum. We went this route because we had limited time but still wanted to see the performance.
If we’d had more time, I would have loved to have experienced a traditional dinner and watched a full haka dance. There are several options for this type of experience closer to Rotorua, which is four hours southeast of Auckland. If you get the chance to stay in Rotorua and experience a traditional Māori dinner and haka dance, I definitely recommend it!
5. Take a day trip to Hobbiton
If you’re a fan of The Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit, then you must visit Hobbiton! If you’re not a fan, you should still go, because it’s just cool, and you should visit all cool things.
Hobbiton is the actual movie set created for The Hobbit. While the version used for The Lord of the Rings was in the same location, it wasn’t built to last. A more permanent set was created for The Hobbit.
Hobbiton is about a 2.5-hour drive from downtown Auckland. I would recommend going on a tour like this one instead of trying to drive yourself. Our tour guides told us horror stories of terrible accidents caused by people who weren’t used to driving on the left side of the road like they do in New Zealand. I recommend leaving the driving to someone else and relaxing in a nice, comfortable van or bus.
Even though it poured down rain while we were at Hobbiton, we still had a great time seeing all the amazing details that go into a movie scene. The tour guide did a great job pointing out movie scenes, sharing stories from the movie set, and generally entertaining us as we explored Hobbiton. You can even get a drink at the local Hobbiton pub, the Green Dragon Inn, as you leave!
6. See the glowworms
One of the most unique and interesting things you can see in New Zealand are glowworms.
These are worms that live in caves in New Zealand and literally glow in the dark. To see these worms, you’ll take a boat that glides along a river inside a cave. If an underground boat ride isn’t cool enough, seeing these worms glow in the dark is just awesome.
If you’re headed to Hobbiton, I recommend jumping on a tour that goes to both Hobbiton and the Waitomo Caves to see the glowworms. The Waitomo Caves are about 1.5-hours southwest of the Hobbiton movie set, but so worth the trip! By doing them together, you get to see two great attractions in one day and will spend less of your vacation driving around.
7. Visit Rotorua
If you have some extra time in your schedule, I recommend spending a night in Rotorua.
We didn’t get a chance to stay in Rotorua, but if we had, I would have gone to a traditional Māori dinner and haka dance.
Another cool thing to see in Rotorua is the geothermal activity at Te Puia – including bubbling mud pools and erupting geysers! At the Te Puia center, you can also see kiwi birds and observe artisans making traditional Māori crafts.
During our trip to Auckland, we went on a day tour that included Hobbiton, the Waitomo Caves, and Te Puia. But the Te Puia portion of the trip was a little rushed and made the day extra long. If you want to see the geothermal activity at Te Puia, I recommend staying the night in Rotorua so you can get the full experience.
8. Watch a rugby match
They take rugby very seriously in New Zealand. If you get a chance, grab a ticket to watch New Zealand’s All Blacks in action.
Our trip to New Zealand wasn’t during rugby season, so we didn’t get a chance to watch the All Blacks. But I’m hoping that you get a chance to see them in action!
No matter what you decide to see and do while visiting Auckland, you’re sure to have an incredible trip! Happy travels!