Go beyond the CBD and Viaduct and discover the wonders of a supercity, from morning markets, fantastic museums, to safe swimming beaches and hipster neighbourhoods.
Updated 19 February 2021
Know this first: Auckland is just as fantastic when it's free:
Know this first: Auckland is just as fantastic when it's free:
- There's loads to do in Auckland even when you're on a budget - we believe the best of Auckland doesn't cost anything.
- We have listed over 100 fantastic Auckland experiences, attractions and adventures.
- Unlike other websites, our list omits boring suggestions such as 'read a book in a library', 'walk Queen Street' and other uninspiring ideas.
- Instead, we've focused on unearthing some under-explored (and much underrated) attractions that you'll love to bits.
- If you have any must-know Auckland ideas you think we should include, please email our team about it.
Auckland has some of New Zealand's most renowned museums, and best of all, free (unless there is a special exhibition of course, which is an additional charge).
Auckland Museum – Also known as the War Memorial Museum or Tāmaki Paenga Hira, admission is free with proof of Auckland residence. This museum offers a riveting rotation of exhibits in combination with the permanent installments. There’s also a Māori cultural aspect to the museum, which is great for kids.
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki - This gallery offers a unique mix of contemporary and historic art displays. Entry is free with proof of New Zealand residency, and the variety of exhibits is a fascinating way to pass an afternoon. Since the gallery is large, it attracts many visitors on weekends.
New Zealand Maritime Museum – The Maritime Museum is a treat for young and old, with free-entry for every Aucklander. Located on Viaduct Harbor, it’s free for Aucklanders and easy to get to. There are activities every day for children, including a sticker book. Plus, what child isn’t fascinated by sailing the open waves at some point?
Te Uru Waitakere Contemporary Gallery – Located in West Auckland, the Te Uru Contemporary Gallery is a neat, multimedia experience. The exhibits rotate between local and international artists, offering a diverse perspective. It also offers panel discussions and various workshops, making it well worth the trip.
Te Tuhi Art Gallery – This gallery offers a different take on art. The Te Tuhi Gallery hosts windows into the human condition. The contemplative nature of the gallery is excellent for older children and adults. The material is designed to foster introspection.
Papakura Museum – This museum offers an in-depth resource on local history. While other museums focus on the larger picture, the Papakura Museum provides an opportunity to step back through time to one specific place. It’s a unique way to expose kids to the past without overwhelming them.
Auckland can be quirky, beyond volcanoes, the inner-city suburbs offer vibrancy and authenticity, with our picks below listing the best:
Climb Auckland’s Volcanoes - this excellent list sets out everything you need to know, with volcanoes found in all corners of Auckland.
Walk Ponsonby Road - the home of cafes, fashion and restaurants, Ponsonby road is an inner-city area that lives up to the hype. Either end is an easy 20-30 minute walk from central Auckland; start at either the Three Lamps (Jervois Road) or K-Road (Great North Road) and wander along at a gentle pace. You'll see quirky shops, high-end fashion, time-forgotten bars and everything in between. Ponsonby road has something for everyone and is well worth a few hours, with mid-morning or mid-afternoon being the best times to window shop and stop for a drink.
Karangahape Road - also known as 'K-Road', this electric area of Auckland is filled with second-hand shops, art galleries, and cafes. If you've walked Ponsonby Road, K-Road is edgier and worth a visit at night even if you're not planning a night out. St Kevin's arcade is a standout stop, and you can drop into the breezy Myers Park for a stroll. Artspace, a local gallery, offers exhibitions and talks year-round.
Wynyard Quarter - strolling around the continuously evolving cultural and dining area is fascinating - the regeneration projects are a stand-alone attraction in their own right. Explore the backstreets (near the Auckland Fish Market) before it changes forever.
Emerging Pixels - features artwork from digital and interactive artists, programmed annually in the Bruce Mason Centre in Aotea Square.
You'll need a car to get to most of these, but the drive is worth it no matter where you end up. Goat Island and Tawharanui are our picks for anyone venturing north of Auckland.
Gannet Colony at Muriwai Beach – The colony springs into existence when the gannets return from Australia to mate each year. There is no direct access to the colony itself, but there is a viewing platform. However, parking is limited, so going early or late will give the best experience.
Goat Island – Goat Island is actually a stunning marine and coastal reserve. Initially founded in the 1970s, the reserve follows the coast. While it’s a bit of a drive from Auckland, it’s a full day or more of exploring before even hitting the marine reserve aspect. Once in the water, there are several types of creatures flourishing to identify and learn about.
Tawharanui Open Sanctuary – This sanctuary was conceived as a predator-free area for birds. This open area is actually a peninsula, which makes it easier for the sanctuary to run. Tawharanui is a beautiful place to go kiwi spotting and learn about the native bird.
Western Springs Park – Western Springs Park surrounds one of Auckland’s first water supplies and is a protected place for the local eel population. There are ducks and other types of fowl around too, so feel free to bring some food to share.
Parnell Rose Gardens – Located in one of the many parks in Auckland, the Parnell Rose Garden is a stunning display of biodiversity throughout the summer and autumn. The collection of heritage roses blooms most colors of the rainbow, intriguing children before they go run in the adjacent park.
Auckland Domain – The Domain is the oldest park in Auckland, in fact, it’s over a century old. It has several different walks throughout and is easily accessible. It is unique because it was initially botanically cultivated, leaving a mature park today perfect for adults and children alike.
Auckland Botanical Gardens – The Auckland Botanical Garden contains a collection of different regional plants. Each unique garden is a great teaching moment, and the overall ecosystem is stunning. There are even identification trails, which make excellent activities.
Stingrays at Gulf Harbor – Gulf Harbor is one of the many piers along the coast, but it has a unique attraction. Instead of just fish, stingrays also come to feed, even putting on a show. To meet the stingrays, it’s best to head out to pier Z around 3:30 pm.
Shakespear Regional Park – Located just off Army Bay, this regional park combines military history with stunning vistas. Taking a bike out in the park is a wonderful way to explore, and since it’s a peninsula, the trails all come back to central locations.
Arataki Visitor Centre - rainforest and black sand beaches await, and you can walk the renowned Hillary Trail too.
Waitakere Ranges Regional Park – This expansive park is home to many species of plants and animals. Unfortunately, the park currently has restrictions on where people can be to preserve them. The visitor’s center has maps of the waterfalls and spectacular hikes still open to the public.
Rangitoto Island - it's free to visit, but you'll need to pay for a ferry or kayak over. Once you get onshore, the volcanic marvels await - there is lots of rock. Along the shoreline are historic cribs that must be removed once the owner dies as the island returns to human-free. Climb to the summit and take in the panoramic views.
Aucklanders don't visit the beach as much as you'd expect, so many beaches are quiet during the week, but do swell up during Saturday and Sunday afternoons.
Swim at an iconic Auckland beach - Auckland is a city of beaches after all. Beyond the favourites like Mission Bay and Piha, look out visiting Long Bay (lots of parking), Takapuna (good waves) and Waiake (calm waters) are all worth checking out.
KareKare Waterfalls – One of the many waterfalls found in Waitakere Ranges Park, it’s one of the easier ones to get to. These falls are a quick detour on the way to KareKare or Piha beaches, and well worth a look.
Parry Kauri Park – This park is a worthy trip outside of the Auckland city limits. The park itself is free, featuring well-maintained boardwalks for easy exploration. There are free maps and plant guides in the adjacent museum shop, though the museum itself has an entrance fee.
Awhitu Peninsula - located in south-west Auckland, this wild area has something for everyone. Stroll along the coast and spend the day in this unexplored and underrated wilderness.
Auckland is one bid child-friendly supercity, and our suggested list below are only some of the activities out there for kids. Our list of Auckland School Holiday ideas includes 30+ activities kids of all ages can do beyond the list above to keep them entertained any time of the year.
Ambury Park and Farm - best from late spring until late summer, kids will love seeing all the animals and roaming the open fields.
Potter Children's Garden - The Auckland Botanical Gardens are a must see, and kids of all ages will appreciate the surroundings.
Auckland War Memorial Museum, Wintergardens and Auckland Domain - the museum usually runs special events during the school holidays and the domain makes for a great walk. A visit to the winter gardens houses hundreds of tropical plants kids will find entertaining.
Viaduct Harbour - while its primary purpose is a hub for restaurants and bars, it's worth an hour to see the city of sails in full swing. We recommend walking harbourside, from the Hilton to the Sofitel, to see yachts of all shapes and sizes.
Auckland's parks of some of New Zealand's most spectacular and varied. In no particular order, we list the ones worth checking out:
Cornwall Park – This excellent park sits next to One Tree Hill right in the middle of urban Auckland. Cornwall park offers trails, gardens, wildlife, and even a working farm. With this much to do, it’s easy to get lost exploring.
Oakley Creek Falls – Oakley Creek is the longest urban stream in Auckland. It’s also home to the tallest urban waterfall. It’s a bit of a hike to get into, but the views are definitely worth the walk for waterfall seekers.
Silo Park - Those looking for something different will enjoy Silo Park. Auckland Council is redeveloping this old industrial space into a modern urban park. Watching the transformation in the years to come will undoubtedly be rewarding.
Parnell Rose Gardens - tucked away from the main village, the rose garden is home to the oldest manuka tree and the largest pohutukawa in Auckland, as well as a small beach.
The Auckland Domain - Auckland's oldest park with a massive 75 hectares. Our picks are the Winter Gardens and the array of tropical plants, the walk down from Newmarket into the "valley" - getting lost and exploring blindly is recommended.
Albert Park - located beside the University of Auckland, the ponds and flowers make it a perfect break from the concrete CBD. Click here for more info.
Michael Joseph Savage Memorial Park - the founder of the welfare state has a beautiful park named in his honor.
Beyond the CBD is a rich history waiting to be discovered, and our five picks below help provide some ideas:
Otuataua Stonefields - one of the few remaining volcanic areas, a calming area with lots of birds and open space.
North Head Lookout and Tunnels - New Zealand's premier defense fortification, wander around the gun emplacements and explore the extensive tunnel complex.
Manukau Heads Lighthouse - explore high above the wild ocean below and try to find a dolphin in the sea.
Fort Takapuna - known colloquially as 'The Russian Scare Fort', this extensive bunker complex is one of the largest in New Zealand, with Takapuna being a perfect setting for the historic reserve.
Free walking tours - every morning, see Auckland from a new perspective and learn about history you probably didn't know - the team at Auckland Free Walking Tours knows their stuff.
Auckland's markets are diverse and colourful - it's worth the effort to get out to any of these, with Otara providing the most variety.
Otara Flea Market – This is a wonderful place to visit on Saturday mornings, even for just walking around. The Otara market is a mix of food, farmers market, plants, second-hand clothing and more. A crowd favourite is the fresh Toro Churros.
City Farmers’ Market at Britomart – For an authentic inner-city farmers’ market, this is the place to be. This market is free to stroll in, and it’s all locally grown products. Given the highly seasonal nature of this market, visit a few separate times for entirely different experiences.
Auckland Night Markets – Starting a few years back, the Night Markets have become an Auckland fixture. These markets are underground, so rain or shine, they’re running almost every night of the week. Each market has its own feel and hours, but they’re all kid-friendly and built to offer a taste of diverse cultures. Plus, there’s usually free live music.
Clevedon Farmers’ Market – Open on Sunday mornings, Clevedon Farmers’ Market offers a break from the Auckland bustle. Often, the growers themselves work the stalls, bringing their wealth of knowledge forward. It’s a beautiful place to pick fresh produce and definitely worth the drive early in the morning.
Auckland's coastal location and extinct volcanoes make every corner of the city interesting, with our picks below highlighting some of the best:
Cycle (or walk) the Pink Path - award-winning for its design, this cycle route delivers stunning vistas of the city day or night.
Stroll along Tamaki Drive - you'll take in the best of Auckland's harbour as well as the north shore as you stroll to a beach of your choice.
Bastion Point - overlooking Mission Bay, take in panoramic views of Auckland.
Climb Lion’s Rock at Piha Beach - Piha is a place you can easily spend a day, and climbing the magical Lion's Rock is a great way to get a view of the surrounding area.
Climb Mount Eden - once a volcano, now a grassed-over mound that provides fantastic city views for those who make it to the top. The view never disappoints.
Long Bay Regional Park to Browns Bay - This popular coastal walk can be done with the use of a bus pass to connect you to either ends. It's tidal, meaning you'll need to wait for the tide to be going out before setting off. Walkers usually start from the car park and head south around the rocks.
Long Bay circuit - If you have more time and want a circular trip, Long Bay always delivers. Start walking towards the Vaughan Historic Homestead - you don't have any altitude, and can cross the river (at low tide0 and follow the nature trails for a spectacular panoramic view over the length of Long Bay. It continues on to the Okura river, where you can turn back and take the hilly bike/walking track back. The Auckland City Council's useful map helpfully outlines what you need to know.
Auckland's sub-tropical climate makes for some beautiful parks and beaches. Our top five picks below include:
One Tree Hill – This park offers a breath-taking view on the climb a volcanic peak. It’s the perfect place to start with a picnic, and then spend the rest of the day exploring. From the historical markers to the neighbouring park, this is a picnic spot not to miss.
Takapuna Beach – Located on Auckland’s North Shore, this beach will make even the most reluctant adventurers nature lovers. It’s picturesque, making it perfect for family picnics, and it’s easy to get to. As a bonus, this beach features views of Rangitoto Island.
Mount Victoria – This mount is the highest volcanic peak in North Shore, and it’s situated ideally to view the Auckland skyline. The stunning views are available via walking or driving, so it’s easy to pick a spot and picnic. There are also several small exploration points along Mount Victoria, making it a fun playground for curious minds.
Mission Bay – A short hop out of the city is the Mission Bay area. Now, the perfect picnic spot is actually in the bayfront greenspace, rather than the beach. Kids love being able to run around afterward, and every view is camera worthy out there.
Long Bay - On the northern tip of the North Shore, Long Bay Regional Park is one of Auckland's best-kept secrets. Unlike popular inner-city beaches, it has endless parking and, tide-permitting, a wide shoreline. It's perfect for an all-day picnic or get-together.
Auckland's city council is committed to delivering a vibrant city, with Silo Park being one of many music and arts hubs. Our picks include:
Auckland Council’s Music in Parks – Each year, the Auckland Council organizes free outdoor concerts in various city parks. This is a fantastic way to get the kids outside and enjoy fabulous live music. Bringing sunblock is highly recommend and arriving early to claim a spot.
The Markets – Many of the local Auckland markets, including the night markets, have a live music space. This is a great, free way to enjoy a variety of music depending on the surrounding market atmosphere. Sometimes there are even theme days for a wrap-around cultural experience.
Silo Cinema at Silo Park (Summer) - free movies every Friday and Saturday night under the stars at the Viaduct is a great initiative.
Auckland has free festivals year-round; Eventfinda.co.nz is a reliable source of information. Our picks below cover some of the bigger events.
Tāmaki Herenga Waka Festival (Late January) - a FREE 3-day family-friendly festival celebrating Māori heritage and the culture of Tāmaki Makarau (the Māori name for Auckland).
Auckland Lantern Festival (February) - a huge festival coinciding with Chinese New Year, Albert Park lights up with lanterns. Events include music and dance performances as well as plenty of food.
Pasifika Festival (March) - perhaps Auckland's biggest festival, Pasifika showcases Pacific culture and merchandise, representing Pacific Island you know (Samoa, Cook Islands) and ones you may not (Tuvalu, Kiribati and Niue).
Auckland Festival (March) - many free events are included in the annual lineup, with past events ranging from fireworks and circus to open-air theatre.