Visiting Auckland for the First Time? Here’s What to See and Do
New Zealand’s largest city is the first port of call for many visitors to the North Island, and its unique double harbor location—between the Tasman Sea and the Hauraki Gulf—means you’ll never be far from the coast.
Whether it’s a cruise to a volcanic island, discovering award-winning museums, or exploring lively waterfront neighborhoods, there’s no shortage of things to see and do in Auckland. To help you make the most of your time in the City of Sails, these are our tips for first-time visitors.
Visit the Sky Tower
Admire panoramic views from the city’s highest point.
Wherever you are in the city, you’ll probably be able to spot the majestic spire of the Auckland Sky Tower looming over the city skyline. The 1,076-foot (328-meter) high landmark is New Zealand’s tallest building, offering impressive views over Auckland, Waitemata Harbour, and Waiheke Island.
Pre-book your Sky Tower tickets to avoid waiting, then ride the high-speed elevator up to the observation deck and revolving restaurant for panoramic views that span the entire city. Or, for the ultimate adrenaline kick, brave the Skywalk or Skyjump.
Hang out at Viaduct Harbour
Discover Auckland’s atmospheric waterfront.
Auckland’s waterfront is buzzing with activity day and night, and it’s easy to explore on foot or via electric bike tour. Start at Queen’s Wharf, home to the unique The Cloud event venue, then stroll west to Viaduct Harbour, where restaurants, cafés, and bars line the waterfront.
Just west of Viaduct Harbour, the redeveloped Wynyard Quarter is home to Auckland Fish Market, Silo Park, and a cluster of shops, cafés, and eateries set around the historic wharf.
Take in the views from Auckland Harbour Bridge
Walk, climb, or jump from the famous bridge.
Linking the southern Central Business District (CBD) with the North Shore, Auckland Harbour Bridge is one of the city’s most notable landmarks, thanks to its stunning views across Auckland and Waitemata Harbour. Drive over or cruise under the bridge, or see it lit up during a night tour of Auckland.
Walk across the bridge to really savor the views, admiring the volcanic peak of Rangitoto Island in the distance. Adventurous types can also take part in a thrilling climb or bungee jump from the bridge.
Tour Auckland’s museums
Take in New Zealand’s art, history, and culture.
Museum visits aren’t just a rainy-day activity in Auckland—the city is home to some of the country’s most renowned museums. Art lovers won’t want to miss the Auckland Art Gallery, home to more than 15,000 works, including ones by Picasso, Renoir, Matisse, and more.
To understand more about New Zealand’s history, Polynesian roots, and Maori heritage, a visit to the Auckland War Memorial Museum is essential, while the New Zealand Maritime Museum offers a deep dive into the City of Sails’ rich maritime history.
Related: Must-See Museums in Auckland
Get out on the water
Cruise around the harbor or to the islands.
Getting out on the water is a must for first-time visitors to Auckland. Set sail on a romantic dinner cruise around Waitemata Harbour and see landmarks such as the Sky Tower and Auckland Harbour Bridge from the water.
Or, opt for a dolphin and whale watching cruise around the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park, boat out to the volcanic Rangitoto Island, or ride the ferry to Waiheke Island to sample wine at the island’s famous wineries.
Explore Auckland’s neighborhoods
Visit Parnell, Ponsonby, and Devonport.
There’s more to Auckland than the Central Business District, so take the time to explore the city’s different neighborhoods. Cruise past the elegant Victorian villas of Ponsonby on an electric bike tour of Auckland’s neighborhoods. Or, opt for a hop-on hop-off tour, where you can jump off to visit Parnell, browse the Saturday market in Newmarket, and stroll along the waterfront at Mission Bay.
Ferries run across Waitemata Harbour to the North Shore, where the coastal village of Devonport is one of Auckland’s oldest neighborhoods, and Takapuna has one of the city’s best beaches.
Take a hike
Climb a volcano or hike coast-to-coast.
Auckland’s volcanic topography makes for incredible hiking within the city and along the coast. Tackle the famous coast-to-coast hiking trail, which runs all the way from Waitemata Harbour to Manukau and includes one of the city’s most famous viewpoints, One Tree Hill.
Hikers should climb up to Auckland’s highest viewpoint, Mt. Eden, follow the Auckland Foreshore Heritage Walk along the waterfront, or head out to the West Coast, where popular trails include the Te Henga Walkway and Karekare Falls.
Discover Hobbiton and Waitomo Caves
Enjoy the North Island’s must-sees on a day trip.
Auckland is a strategic base for exploring some of New Zealand’s most popular attractions, many of which are just a day trip away. If you only have time for one day trip, visit the Hobbiton Movie Set for a behind-the-scenes Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit experience.
For a truly unforgettable day trip, combine it with a visit to Waitomo Caves, caverns known for their glittering glowworms, and Rotorua, famous for its unique volcanic landscapes and geothermal features.