The Insider's Guide to Auckland
No wonder Auckland consistently ranks as one of world’s most liveable cities. When Maori discovered Auckland 800 years ago, they named it 'Tamaki Makaurau', a place desired by many. With two sparkling harbours, idyllic islands, beautiful beaches, amazing food and stunning volcanic vistas, Auckland attractions are far and wide. But some of the best things to do hide deep in the central city with its top-notch restaurants, hip boutiques, bars, buskers and art galleries. That’s if you know where to go! So, here’s our local's guide to the top city spots you don’t want to miss.
Auckland’s best waterfront walk: City to North Wharf
Starting downtown at Auckland’s Ferry building, check out the harbour views from bustling Queen’s wharf. Then stroll west past the Viaduct, once home to Auckland’s fruit market and fishing fleet, to North Wharf. Here you’ll discover giant super yachts, a revitalised waterfront, busy eateries and unparalleled views of Auckland’s Harbour Bridge. Enjoy promenading along this easy breezy walkway as Aucklanders sip wine in the sun. This is the perfect starting point for Auckland shore excursions.
Best Auckland Restaurants
Sightseeing sure does work up an appetite and lucky for you, central Auckland is a foody paradise. The buzzing Viaduct Harbour is home to Soul Bar, Oyster and Chop and gorgeous St Alice. Head for Sky City on Federal St with its fifteen restaurants and check out local favourites Depot, Gusto or Sky Tower’s Sugar Club. Britomart has the superb Alma, Kingi, Amano and Ebisu while some of the best places to eat in Auckland can be found uptown, on vibrant K'Road with the brilliant Apero, Cotto, Pici and Cocoa’s Cantina. For a hearty brunch in the city, check out Odettes, Scarecrow or Chuffed or grab a flat white coffee at the Espresso Workshop. Check out our guide to Auckland's top 50 restaurants this year.
Best Rooftop Bars Auckland
Quench your thirst, mingle with the locals and admire a bird’s eye view from a city rooftop bar. Hey, it’s not New York but Dr Rudi’s at Viaduct Harbour provides the best perch for people watching and possibly Auckland’s best waterfront deck. The craft beer is brewed on-site, and the pizzas are great too, with free bowling lanes for added entertainment! For a classier experience with killer cocktails, dress up and head to the QT, the Sheraton’s Churchill Bar or the So Hotel bar on Customs St. We profile more Auckland rooftop bars here
Best Culture Fix: Auckland Art Gallery Toi O Tamaki and the Auckland Maritime Museum
Explore the history, art and culture of beautiful Aotearoa New Zealand by visiting The Auckland Art Gallery or Toi O Tamaki (‘our treasure house’). This is the home or wharenui of New Zealand art and presents around 800 pieces (going back around 700 years) and visiting international exhibitions. The works of famous New Zealand artists like Charles Goldie, Ralph Hotere and Colin McCahon are on public display instead of hidden away in private vaults. The Gallery runs one-hour tours daily (except Xmas Day) at 11.30am and 1.30pm.
At downtown’s Auckland Maritime Museum, set sail and discover the stories which helped to shape our nautical nation including winning the America’s Cup. Take a one-hour voyage on the heritage scow, Ted Ashby to discover why Auckland really nails its reputation as the “city of sails.”
The Fashion edit: where to shop
Head downtown for Auckland’s best shopping to the stylish Britomart precinct for Kiwi designers or take a stroll up nearby High Street for gifts, shoes, books and vintage apparel. For international designers, stick to Queen Street and drop into heritage department store Smith and Caughey or the newest shopping and eating destination downtown, Commercial Bay.
The best way to see a new city is strolling the back streets with a knowlegable local guide. Find your feet and beat the jet lag by booking our Hello Auckland walking tour and we'll give you our current 'best things to do Auckland' guide.
Other Pro Tips for Visitors:
- Grab the free Auckland A-Z Guide when you land at Auckland airport. Tourism information offices in NZ are called iSITES.
- Best Auckland side trips: Waiheke Island's vineyards and beaches or Piha, the city’s wild west coast beach. One hour north is the Matakana region with it’s sculpture trails, regional parks and stunning beaches. Check out this daytripper's guide to Waihekes best places to eat
- Auckland weather: Look up Metservice for the most accurate NZ forecasts.
- New Zealand's emergency number is 111. Legal drinking age is 18 years. Marijuana is illegal
- Hello in Maori is ‘Kia ora’ (pronounced ‘Kee-ora’)
- Airport to City transport: Catch the SkyDrive Coach into SkyCity. Book online (Adults NZ$16 one way) - 30 minute off peak drive.
- Bin the banana at the border! NZ has very strict bio-security laws. Declare anything you’re unsure about. Else you’ll cop a NZ$400 fine at the airport, no exceptions.
- Central Auckland gyms and day spas: City Fitness, Les Mills Gym, Forme Spa, East Day Spa, Chuan Spa at the Cordis hotel
- Public transport: Buy a HOP card from Auckland Transport (AT) at the downtown Britomart station if you're here for a few days. Get cheaper bus, train and ferry fares.
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