Auckland is a city that has something for everyone. No matter what you’re into, be it art and culture, shopping, hiking, park and beach-hopping, or food and wine, you’ll be able to experience it in this town. Only have 24 hours to explore? Don’t panic. That’s still enough to get a feel for what the city has to offer. Read on for our guide to how to spend you time during a short visit to Auckland.
Early morning (7am – 9am)
Head to the Viaduct Harbour and catch the morning sun with a coffee. You can stroll along the waterfront looking at boats in the harbour and then head to a nearby café for something to eat. Viaduct Harbour is home to over 30 bars and restaurants so you should have no trouble finding a spot to stop and fill up. One option is Salt Café, which opens at 7am and serves a variety of both light and more filling morning meal options.
Morning (9am – 12pm)
A quick walk from the harbour will get you to the Maritime Museum, where you can learn more about New Zealand’s rich maritime history. The exhibits here take visitors through the arrival of the Polynesians, to the European settlers, to noteworthy modern-day seafarers. A visit to the museum also means you can get out on the water if you time it right. The museum’s heritage vessel takes to the water six days a week on a one-hour sailing where you’ll get great views of the Auckland skyline.
When you’re finished with the Maritime Museum, a short bus or taxi ride will get you to the Auckland War Memorial Museum, Auckland’s first museum. Here you’ll find the largest and most significant collection of Māori artifacts in the world, as well as galleries dedicated to those who served, warfare’s role in shaping New Zealand’s identity, and displays focused on natural history.
Midday (12pm – 2pm)
On a nice day, walk around the Domain (next to the War Memorial Museum), which is Auckland’s oldest park and a great spot to get some fresh air after your morning of museum-hopping. Once you’re ready to have some lunch, take a short 10-minute taxi ride to Elliot Stables for a great selection of eateries. Whether you’re in the mood for a burger, Spanish tapas, Italian, sushi, or French crepes, you’ll find it here.
Afternoon (2pm – 6pm)
Elliott Stables is just off Queen Street, Auckland’s main hub for shopping, dining, and nightlife. It’s a great place to stroll and window shop (or actually shop, depending on your budget and suitcase space). You’ll also find the Sky Tower in this area if you want to see the city from 220 metres above street level. Views you get from atop the tower are up to 80 kilometres in every direction, so basically the perfect spot to take a selfie or two. For those feeling particularly daring, Sky Tower also offers the chance to bungee jump from 192 metres.
If heights aren’t your thing, stick to the shops and cafés of Queen Street until you’re ready to grab some dinner.
Evening (6pm onwards)
At the bottom of Queen Street you’ll find Britomart, another area known for dining and nightlife. Your most difficult decision of the day will be figuring out where you want to eat. Are you in the mood for Vietnamese or Mexican? Japanese or Cuban? You get the idea — there’s plenty of options to please your palate here. Once you’ve finished dinner, head to Brew on Quay for a wide selection of craft beer. There’s a rooftop bar here as well, for drinks under the stars.
For travellers on a short visit, we’d recommend having a layover that will allow you to spend two hours in the city centre, and another hour for travelling to and from the airport.
The best way to get from the airport to the sites is by taking the SkyBus, which runs to and from Auckland Airport 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The cost is NZ $17 one way, or NZ $32 roundtrip. Budget around six hours total to see everything and have enough time to get back to the airport in time to catch your flight.
If you want to see Auckland in the morning or afternoon, Auckland War Memorial Museum is a good place to spend your time. You’ll get a good overview of the history of New Zealand, including a huge selection of Maori artifacts.
If you’re in Auckland for an evening or nighttime layover, head to either Viaduct Harbour or the Wynyard Quarter. Both areas, which are in close proximity to one another, are popular nightlife destinations offering much in the way of bars and restaurants. Not to mention, they’re both near the water, offering a scenic area to spend a shorter stay.
It’s easy to see why Auckland is one of the world’s most liveable cities, with its sparkling blue harbour, volcanic cones, and golden beaches. And besides its beauty, Auckland is also a vibrant melting pot of cultures, all reflected in the city’s food, festivals, art, and music. From the first Māori waka (canoes) and colonial ships to the flights today full of tourists, Auckland has always attracted people of many cultures from far and wide.