The Auckland City Guide For When You’re Visiting New Zealand

Auckland, New Zealand was listed as Lonely Planet’s best place to visit in 2022, so it’s only right that an Auckland city guide needs to be shared. 

Lonely Planet is one of the world’s leading travel companies; recommending Auckland as the city to visit is a high compliment. 

Auckland is surrounded by 50 volcanos, beautiful outlying islands, and a stunning arts and music scene. The city is one of New Zealand’s most multicultural; it makes for fantastic international cuisine, as well as many cultural events.

Whether you’re visiting New Zealand for the first time or you’re back for another trip, a visit to Auckland, Tāmaki Makaurau, is a must. There are so many sites to see, and in this Auckland city guide, we’re going to take a look at some of the top spots and a few hidden gems in Auckland’s CBD.

Your guide to Auckland city

There are so many things to do in Auckland that if we were to list them all, we’d be here all day. But there are some hot spots around the city that are well worth checking out, as well as parks to take a walk through, volcanos to climb, and beaches to enjoy.

In this Auckland city guide, we’re going to take a look at:

  • Shopping and great eats
  • Museums and Art Galleries
  • Parks in central Auckland
  • Auckland’s inner-city beaches

Shopping and great eats

Auckland’s CBD is a mishmash of high-end stores (Gucci and Louis Vuitton, to name a few), and souvenirs shops. The main street is Queen Street, which runs from Commerical Bay on the waterfront up to Karangahape Road. 

Popular with visitors and locals alike, Queen Street provides a raft of shopping opportunities, as well incredible restaurants and bars. It’s often the location of buskers and art installations during the year. 

Aotea Square, halfway up Queen Street is the home to Aotea Theatre and the Town Hall. Both both venues, along with the Civic Theatre host local and international shows every year. There’s always something on! 

Commercial Bay, a huge new (2020) complex overlooking the beautiful Waitematā Harbour, is home to fashion, beauty and other retail stores, as well as a wonderful array of eateries and restaurants.

Britomart, to the east of Commercial Bay, sports both retail and top food spots and its wide-open courtyards fill up in the summertime with people spilling out to enjoy the sun. 

To the west, closer to Auckland’s Harbour Bridge, is the Viaduct. The Viaduct has many restaurants and nightclubs but is also home to the Maritime Museum. 

Continue west, and you’ll reach the Wynyard Quarter. The silos in the Wynyard Quarter take up much of the skyline, and in the warm summer evenings, movies are projected onto the silos, drawing in crowds from all over the city.

Museums and Art Galleries

In the heart of the city, you’ll also discover art galleries and museums. Full of New Zealand artists and history, the museums and galleries also play host to international exhibitions. 

The Auckland War Memorial Museum Tāmaki Paenga Hira has a selection of permanent collections on New Zealand history, as well as natural and military history. It often hosts international exhibitions such as National Geographic Photographer of the Year. The museum sits atop the hill in the Auckland Domain (more on that soon), overlooking the harbour.

The Auckland Art Gallery Toi O Tāmaki holds permanent exhibitions of New Zealand artists, ranging from paintings to sculptures, prints to interactive art installations. Pop-up exhibitions are hosted throughout the year, and it makes for a wonderful morning or afternoon out.

As mentioned before, the New Zealand Maritime Museum Hui te Ananui a Tangaroa is right in the heart of the city. As well as showcasing the maritime history, the museum provides guided tours and offers opportunities for visitors to go sailing in one of the old sailboats: the Ted Ashby. 

A ride on the Ted Ashby is one of Auckland’s hidden gems and a sneaky bonus tip for you in this Auckland city guide. A trip into the harbour on the old sailboat is a fun hour or so. The tour is run by volunteers who will share a commentary about the ship, the harbour and maritime history in NZ.

Parks in Central Auckland

Breathe in the fresh air by heading to one of the many parks in Auckland’s CBD. Many of the parks are within walking distance of the main shopping areas. If they’re a little farther away, there are busses which run from the centre of Auckland all around the city.

Albert Park is right in the centre of the city and sits on the edge of Auckland University. Both students and business people spend their lunchtimes out on the grass in the summer or perched on a bench in the cooler months. There’s plenty of shade, a huge water fountain and a band rotunda. The park will often be host to art installations, too, so be sure to check out what’s on when you’re visiting.

On the other side of the CBD is Victoria Park. On a nice day, you’ll see groups of people working out, playing ball, or picnicking under the huge trees that line the park. Along the edge of the park is Victoria Park Market, which is home to bars, restaurants, shops, and board game cafes.

The Auckland Domain Pukekawa, where the museum is located, is popular all year round. The oldest park in the city, the Domain is 75 hectares of fields, bushwalks, gardens, and picnic spots. The domain is wrapped around the cone of an extinct volcano, creating an amphitheatre layout of the park. The Domain is also home to the Wintergardens (two large greenhouses ), and the Wintergarden Cafe. 

The Parnell Rose Garden is a little further afield, but it’s worth a wander through the garden if you have time. The gardens (also known as Dove Myer Robinson Park) have over 5000 roses and are beautiful in summer and autumn. 

Auckland’s inner-city beaches

An Auckland city guide wouldn’t be complete without talking about the beaches. New Zealand’s beaches are some of the best in the world, and Auckland is no exception. Whether you’d prefer to stay in the CBD or you’re ready to jump on a bus, ferry or hire an e-bike to go a little further afield, the beaches are plentiful!

Right there in the city, you have access to the waterfront, and there are some great spots along the harbour’s edge. But if you jump on the ferry to Devonport, not only can you soak up the cafes and quaint shops, but you get a great view back to Auckland city from the beach.

Back on the city side of the harbour, a jaunt along the coast to the east will bring you to a few popular beaches. Every time you round the corner, you’ll find yourself in another great spot. 

The Parnell Baths are more a summer complex than a beach,

But the salt-water pools by the ocean make it feel like you’re swimming in the harbour. Whether you’re there for a workout or there with the family, the Parnell Baths have a great range of activities. 

Following Tāmaki Drive east you’ll reach Okahu Bay, which is often used for school kids learning how to sail. There’s a big green space for picnics if you don’t want to sit on the sand. beyond Okahu Bay is Kelly Tarlton’s Sea Life Aquarium, which is another great spot for a day out.

Keep moving around the coast and you’ll get to the famous Mission Bay. One of the most popular beaches in Auckland City, Mission Bay attracts people all year round. As well as swimming, visitors play volleyball on the beach, croquet on the large park running the length of the bay, and enjoy ice cream from one of the shops. There’s a playground for the kids, and a huge fountain, too.If the crowds aren’t your thing, keep heading along the road out east and enjoy the quieter St Heliers Beach. A lot quieter than Mission Bay, St Heliers has some sweet cafes and is big enough for people to spread out a bit more. Take a walk up to Achilles Point for a great view of the harbour.

Bookmark this Auckland city guide for later!

Whether you’re planning on a trip to New Zealand in the future or you’re local thinking about your summer plans, a trip to Auckland is a great way to spend some of your time in Aotearoa. Always remember to plaster yourself with sunscreen – New Zealand’s sun is brutal! – and stay well hydrated while you’re exploring.

With this Auckland city guide in the back of your mind, you’ll be able to make the most of your time in the City of Sails.

Anjali is a New Zealand-based blogger at This Splendid Shambles. When she’s not blogging, Anjali loves curling up with a good book, planning her next international holiday, and coaching other bloggers around the world. 

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6 Comments

  1. I would live to see all.the things you mentioned! Let’s hope the international borders will be open soon! I would especially enjoy visiting the parks that sound absolutely amazing! Great post!

  2. Wow, I had no idea about Auckland being surrounded by 50 volcanos. Are there ones you can visit? The Auckland War Memorial looks amazing, it reminds me a bit of museums here in Europe. Great article, thanks so much for sharing!

    • Hey Maaike! So the majority of Auckland’s volcanoes are inactive or dorment. There aren’t many that could actually errupt. The majority of hills around the city are actually volcanoes so you can walk about nearly all of them. Rangitoto is an active volcano and it sits in the harbour. I believe it errupted 600 years ago. 😊 but you can take the boat out and do a day hike.

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