Ten Things to do in Auckland CBD
February 24, 2019
by Sarah Lambert
New Zealand is a country on many people’s travel bucket list. Now, when you think of visiting New Zealand, your mind may wander to rolling hills covered in sheep, scenic mountains, and lakes like mirrors. Less of your attention may be paid to the few cities in New Zealand like Auckland. Yet, they are likely to be your first or last destination on your trip. Auckland doesn’t just have to be a quick stopover where you twiddle your thumbs. It has a lot to offer and I’m going to share with you my top ten things to do in the CBD so you can make the most of your time there.
I jetted over to New Zealand on a working-holiday visa and when I arrived I travelled the country first before finding work and settling down somewhere. I had no idea when I got to New Zealand that I would eventually base myself in Auckland where I spent ten glorious months and fell in love with the place.
There are a multitude of things you can do in Auckland, and on a variety of budgets, with plenty of fun things to do in Auckland for free too. Here I’ll focus on the things you can easily do from the CBD so if you only have a day or two you can make the most of your time there, hopefully leaving you with a positive attitude towards the city of sails.
Walk to the viaduct and explore Wynyard Quarter
Only a five minute walk from Auckland’s busiest street, Queen Street, the viaduct and the Wynyard quarter are fairly modern areas of Auckland where the port has been jazzed up. The Wynyard quarter hosts some cool spots for a happy hour drink and at night the viaduct comes alive with people floating in and out of the various bars and restaurants.
Explore the Maritime Museum
Just by the Viaduct basin, you’ll find the Maritime Museum. As you would expect from a country based out in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by water, New Zealanders have a strong relationship with the ocean and this museum is a great place to discover the vast history that relates to that. For $20 you get entry into the main part of the museum, but, if you’re a history geek and want more, you can pay extra for the special exhibitions.
Have a stroll through Ponsonby
Need a to give your brain a break, head to one of the coolest suburbs in Auckland. Ponsonby plays host to heaps of hip boutique style shops and cafes, gives you great panoramic views of the city and is where you should head at night for a few craft beers or a buzzing nightlife. You’ve also got Karangahape road (K’road to the locals) just around the corner which is equally pumping. They tend to be a cheaper places to go out than in the centre (other than the backpacker bars) so more compatible with a tighter budget than the more upmarket Viaduct.
Visit the domain and go to the Auckland War Memorial Museum
Auckland has many tranquil parks dotted throughout the city, but the domain is the oldest and largest and boasts good views over the city and across to the volcanic island, Rangitoto.
At the top of the Domain you’ll find the Auckland War Memorial museum. I personally think it’s a brilliant place to visit at the start of your trip around New Zealand because it offers up so much information on New Zealand’s history, culture, Maori traditions and relationships with the pacific islands and their people. A visit there will give you background knowledge that will help you to soak up all the history as you travel around the country.
It’s worth checking Eventfinda while you’re in Auckland, particularly in the summer, because there are often festivals and other pop-up events taking place in the Domain that are often free. .
Soak up the New Zealand talent at the Art gallery
If you have an artistic interest, you have to head to the Auckland Art gallery Toi o Tāmaki. It’s free to visit (minus some of the temporary exhibitions) and it gives you a taste of Art in New Zealand and from around the world. I was particularly blown away by the exhibition that demonstrated the influence of the print culture in the 1970’s-1990’s on the women’s movement both in New Zealand and internationally.
Take a walk to Westhaven and have a coffee
Fancy stretching your legs? From the end of the Wynyard quarter you can take a 30 to 40 minute walk along the port to Westhaven marina. Have a coffee and a tasty treat at one of my favourite cafes in Auckland, Buoy. If you find you’re more than peckish by the time you get there, you won’t be disappointed by the brunch or lunch options either.
Hike up Mt Eden for sunset
My favourite spot in Auckland and, in my opinion, the best place in Auckland to watch the sunset – it’s a must-do on your visit. With panoramic views over the city, the ocean, the islands and Rangitoto, a perfect evening for me is grabbing a pizza from Mt Eden village and heading up to the top to watch the sun melt over the horizon.
It’s also spectacular at sunrise so, if you’re an early riser, it’s worth putting those running shoes on and getting up to the top in time to welcome in a new day.
Head to Mission Bay for a swim
From the CBD you can do the coastal walk to Mission Bay, but it will take you an hour and a half so you may want to get the bus there or back, which you can easily catch from the centre. It’s a perfect place for a swim in Auckland’s turquoise waters and gives you a stunning view of Rangitoto.
Go up Auckland’s Sky Tower
If you want to have a special night in Auckland, then get yourself a reservation at the Orbit 360 Dining which sits at the top of the Auckland Sky Tower. Enjoy 360 views over Auckland at night as the restaurant rotates while you eat a delicious meal. If you don’t fancy splashing you can pay $29 to get up there. It’s always worth checking sites like bookme or Groupon for any deals first.
If you’re a thrill seeker, you may want to do the AJ Hacket SkyWalk where you walk around the ledge outside. Or, if you want to go that extra mile, you can even jump off it!
Hop on the ferry across to Devonport
If you still have an afternoon spare after jamming in all those other activities, I would highly recommend jumping on the ferry across to Devonport for the afternoon which only costs around $12 return.
Once you’re there, walk along Devonport Beach and up to North Head for 360 degree views over the city and the islands. You can follow that by nipping up Mount Victoria to tick off another one of the mounts and then you’ve earned your drink in one of the cafes or pubs before heading across to the stunning Cheltenham beach where you can paddle out a couple of hundred metres in the shallow water.