Auckland is the largest and most populous city in New Zealand (and, contrary to popular belief, it is not the capital). Pretty much everyone who comes to New Zealand visits Auckland. Auckland is the country's main airport. When you choose this airport as your arrival destination, the airline tickets are usually the cheapest.
There are a number of fun activities, good restaurants and a hip nightlife in Auckland. It's a nice start or end point for your New Zealand trip, but I wouldn't spend too much time here either – there are much more beautiful places in the country! In this article you will find a complete travel guide for Auckland – we recommend about two to a maximum of 4 days to explore Auckland and the surrounding area before continuing your journey.
Also read: The 10 Most Beautiful National Parks in New Zealand | Nature at its best
Tip:: Watch the informative video at the top of the page! That immediately gives you a good idea of the city and surroundings – which makes choosing destinations that you want to visit easier while reading.
Table of contents
What are the 5 must-sees in Auckland?
1. Waiheke Island
Waiheke Island is home to scenic beaches, wineries, hiking trails, and other fun outdoor activities. It's a great day trip from Auckland and is easily explored by bike, bus or rental car. The ferry to the island costs NZD 42 (round trip) and takes 45 minutes.
2. Otara Flea Market
This large Polynesian and Maori market takes place every Saturday. Located 20 km from the center, it is the most popular market in the city and you will find everything you are looking for here. You can find some great deals here as well as just strolling around, sampling delicious food and snacks. A variety of Polynesian and South Pacific dishes are available, taste and experience!
3. Waitakere Ranges
The Waitakere Ranges are a chain of hills that stretch 25 km across the North Island. It boasts 2500km of hiking trails and features impressive waterfalls and scenic black sand beaches. The Mercer Bay Loop Track and the Tasman Lookout Walk are also two other easy walks.
At over 328 meters tall, Sky Tower is the tallest freestanding building in the Southern Hemisphere. Not only does it offer a panoramic view, but it also has a restaurant on top. Adult admission is NZD 29. If you're feeling adventurous, you can also bungee jump from the observation deck! Jumps are 225 NZD.
5. Auckland Domain
Established in the 1840s, the Auckland Domain is the city's oldest park. When the weather is nice, you will find the locals here who run, play sports and read. The Auckland Museum can be found here, along with a monument to the first Maori king. There are also many serene walking trails and beautiful gardens. It is lovely to spend an afternoon here.
Also read: Things to Do in Bay of Islands | Must sees, travel tips and costs
Other Things to See and Do in Auckland
Explore the Gulf of Hauraki
Here you can go diving, fishing, boating, sailing and whale watching. For scenic walks, head to Rangitoto Island, a volcanic island in the gulf (it's Auckland's youngest volcano). You reach the top in four hours and there are also some lava caves near the top that you can explore (bring a flashlight). For a more relaxed time, head to Motuihe Island and lounge on the beach. And to learn about the region's past, visit the historic mansion on Kawau Island. Dating back to 1845, Waiheke is in turn known as the 'Island of Wine' for its many award-winning wineries and together with the Great Barrier they are the largest islands in the gulf.
Visit the Auckland Zoo
Opened in 1922, Auckland Zoo is a non-profit zoo with over 1.400 animals. The zoo covers nearly 40 acres and has a variety of habitats, including rainforests and savannas. The savannas are home to giraffes, zebras, ostriches, cheetahs and other fantastic animals from Africa† It's a fun and educational way to spend the day, especially if you're traveling with kids! The zoo is only a 10-minute drive from the center and admission is NZD 24 for adults and NZD 12 for children.
Feed lambs at Sheepworld
New Zealand is known for having more sheep than people (there are about 6 times as many sheep than people in the country). Sheep play an important economic role in the country, which is why you should plan a visit to Sheepworld. It is a small family farm 45 minutes by bus from Auckland. At Sheepworld you can see how sheep are raised and sheared and also learn about the wool production processes that take place afterwards. Admission is NZD 34,50.
The Museum of Transport and Technology is an interactive science and technology museum with over 300.000 items and exhibits, including steam engines, historic trams, and airplanes dating back to the early 20s (they also have the largest aviation display in the Southern Hemisphere). The MOTAT is located near the zoo, so you can do both together. Admission is NZD 19 for adults.
Stroll the North Coast
The North Shore is Auckland's main beach area. Swimming, kayaking and surfing are popular activities here. Plus, many of New Zealand's successful international sailors started their careers with North Shore yacht clubs, so you can find a great sailing scene here too. You'll also find a lively nightlife here if you linger after sunset.
Visit the historic village of Howick
The Howick Historical Village is a museum that recreates life in colonial New Zealand. The staff here are dressed in period costumes from the mid-19s to make it a truly historically accurate and immersive experience. It's a little cheesy, but it's fun for kids (and educational too). They have a blacksmith, a fake classroom and even fake soldiers. Admission is NZD 16.
Walk through Waikumete Cemetery
This cemetery covers a whopping 266 hectares and is the final resting place of more than 70.000 people, including nearly 300 soldiers from WWI and WWII. If you happen to be here on the first Sunday of the month, free tours are available that highlight the notable people buried here and their contributions to the country.
Muriwai Gannet Colony
Here you will find thousands of breeding gannets (great white seabirds) nesting among the black sand dunes and on the high cliffs. They are here between August and March and there are two viewing platforms where you can watch the birds. If you are not a bird lover, you can also go to Muriwai Beach for some surfing. There are also routes for cycling and walking nearby. The colony is about a 40 minute drive from Auckland.
Go bungy jump
AJ Hackett, the man who invented modern bungee jumping, has two jumps available in Auckland for anyone looking to get their adrenaline pumping. First, there is a 40m dive from the Harbour Bridge (which plunges you into the ocean). It costs 165 NZD. There is also a jump of 192 meters from the Sky tower† It costs 225 NZD. If you don't want to bungee jump, AJ Hackett also organizes a Sky Walk at the Sky Tower, which allows you to walk around the outside of the tower for a 360-degree panorama of the city.
Snorkeling on Goat Island
Just half a mile off the coast, Goat Island is a small island in a protected marine reserve. It is one of New Zealand's best snorkelling spots and home to an abundance of colorful fish. Expect to pay around NZD 800 for snorkel gear and a guide. If you want to dive, expect to pay around NZD 75 for gear and a guide. If you prefer to stay dry, rent a 'clearyak' (clear kayak). You can rent on the coast for about NZD 110 per 60 minutes.
Tip: There is much more to see and do in this region outside of Auckland. You can read all about it in this blog about all sights on the North Island.
How much does accommodation in Auckland cost?
Hostel prices – Eight-bed dorms cost between NZD 30-40 per night. In winter they are already available for just NZD 26 per night. Private rooms start at 80 NZD. Free Wi-Fi is common and most hostels have self catering facilities if you want to cook your own food. Only a few hostels include free breakfast, so make sure to book those hostels in advance if that's a priority for you.
Budget Hotels – For a budget two-star hotel, prices start at NZD 70 per night. These usually include free Wi-Fi; however, two star hotels are rare in Auckland. Three star hotels are much more common and cost around NZD 100 per night.
Airbnb – is available all over the city with shared accommodation from around NZD 25 per night. Private rooms cost at least NZD 35, while whole houses/apartments cost around NZD 70 per night.
Campsites – There are also several campsites outside the city. Prices start at NZD 8 per night for a basic pitch (a flat space for a tent, usually without electricity). If you drive a self-contained motorhome (one with its own water supply and shower), there are also plenty of free parking spaces in and around the town. Use the 'park4night' app to find them.
How much does food cost in Auckland?
Eating out (like everything else in Auckland) is generally quite expensive. A cheap restaurant meal with a drink will cost about 20 NZD. If you're going for a mid-range restaurant with table service, expect to pay around NZD 45 for a meal with a drink. For the most budget-friendly restaurants, head to Chinese, Korean, and Japanese cuisines (sushi is actually quite cheap here). They usually cost about 10-15 NZD per meal.
You can buy sandwiches for 8 NZD and fast food like McDonald's or Burger King costs about 12 NZD per meal. A beer at the bar costs about 10 NZD (although you can buy them for 5 NZD during happy hour, usually between 16.00 and 18.00 pm).
If you choose to cook your food yourself you will spend about 60-80 NZD per week on basic commodities such as rice, pasta, vegetables and some meat.
What budget do you need for Auckland?
Backpacker budget | 55-75 euros
With a backpackers budget you can visit Auckland for 80-105 NZD (55-75 euros) per day. On this budget, you'll stay in a dorm or camp, cook most of your meals, do free hiking or outdoor activities, visit only a few paid attractions, and use public transportation. If you're on a tighter budget, you can cut it down by staying in hostels that come with free breakfast or Couchsurfing. Drink as little as possible as it is very expensive throughout New Zealand.
Average budget | +- 200 euros
With an average budget of around 290-330 NZD (195-220 euros), you'll stay in a budget hotel or private hostel room, eat out at cheap restaurants, take the occasional taxi, have a drink and do more paid activities such as visiting museums, snorkeling and visiting half-day attractions. In short, you have the flexibility to do what you want. With 200 euros a day you can get by without worrying too much about your expenses.
High budget | 450+ euros
On a luxury budget of 700+ NZD (450+ Euros) you can stay in a 4 star hotel, eat out at mid-range restaurants for every meal, drink whatever you want, take taxis, visit museums and do so many of the adventure activities that make the country famous as you want (like bungy jumping and diving). However, this is just the beginning for luxury.
Save money in Auckland | 9 Tips
Auckland is a pretty expensive city in a pretty expensive country (a lot of stuff has to be imported). That said, if you find cheap accommodation, shop for happy hours, and cook a lot of your meals, you can cut your costs immensely without limiting too much of what you do in and around the city. Here are some quick tips to help you save money in Auckland!
1. Free walking tours and tours
Auckland Free Walking Tour has a fun and insightful tour that shows you all the highlights of the city. It's the best way to get to know the country and the city – just make sure to tip your guide!
2. Find Cheap Activities
De book.me.nz website offers last-minute discounts on activities (and pub crawls) across the country. Most activities are last minute, but if you're flexible about when you want to do things, you can save up to 60% on attractions! I can't recommend it enough.
3. Cook yourself
The food culture in Auckland is not that special. Yes, there are nice cafes, hip gastronomy and good meals, but nothing really stood out. There's good food, but there's no fine dining, you know? ? At least not good enough if you're trying to save money. If you really want to save, cook your own food. When it comes to buying groceries, the cheaper supermarkets are PAK 'n SAVE or Countdown.
4. Happy hour
The backpackers bars have cheap happy hours with 5 NZD drinks. Save the locations in your phone and drink cheap. Otherwise, plan to spend at least 10 NZD for a beer at the bar.
5. WWOOF it
If you don't mind staying out of town, WWOOFing is a great way to work for your lodging and food. In exchange for working on a farm or B&B you get free board and lodging. It is a popular activity with travelers because it allows you to stay in one place cheaper and longer. You can do it for a few days or a few months.
6. Clean in exchange for your room
Some hostels in the city allow you to clean and make beds for a few hours for free accommodation.
7. Car sharing
If you're planning to leave the city, consider taking a shared ride. Rideshares are a popular transportation option for budget travelers. All you have to do is pay for gas. You can find rides on websites like Gumtree or Craigslist. Apps like Carpool New Zealand and Thumbs Up NZ are also useful resources. Plus, you see a lot of people asking for rides on hostel bulletin boards, so act accordingly!
8. Couch surfing
While there aren't many options available in the country, there are hosts in virtually all cities. If you don't mind sleeping on a couch or air mattress, this is a great way to save some money and get to know the locals.
9. Enjoy nature
Remember nature is free! New Zealand, home to the greatest, worldly walks, has countless free outdoor activities. While the adventure sports, wine tours, glacier treks and boat cruises will destroy your budget, there are plenty of trails and hikes to keep you occupied almost infinitely for free!
How do you get around Auckland? † Transport
Public Tansport – Buses are the most common way to get around the city. Prices start at 1 NZD and you have to pay the exact amount! You can also use a AT Hop Card buy for 10 NZD, which cuts ticket prices by 20-50% and saves you from having to struggle with loose change. You can buy the AT Hop card from shops in town (it's 10 NZD). A day ticket (with the Hop card) costs NZD 18.
To reach the suburbs, you can use the local shuttle train to take. Tickets start at 2,50 NZD (or 1,80 NZD with the Hop card). Ferries also run between central Auckland, the North Shore, East Auckland and the islands. Fares start at 6,20 NZD (4,50 with AT Hop card). Please note that some ferries do not accept the Hop card, so please check in advance.
The airport is about 45 minutes from the city and an express bus ticket costs NZD 17 (one way).
Taxi – Taxis are expensive and should be avoided. Fares start at NZD 3,50 and go up at NZD 2,60 per kilometer. Unless you have no other option or are sharing a ride with other travelers I would avoid using taxis unless you have money like water.
ridesharing – Uber is available in Auckland (also the cheapest option: ridesharing) and is usually much cheaper than taking a normal taxi because you share the cost with other travelers.
Car rental – Unless you plan to leave the city, you probably don't need to rent a car here. Public transport is clean, safe and reliable. However, if you need a car, expect to pay a minimum of NZD 30 per day for a small vehicle. Parks in the city are expensive and keep in mind that they drive on the left here.
An international driver's license is recommended for car rental† These are for sale in ANWB stores in the Netherlands for about 25 euros.
Bike – Bike rental in Auckland is not cheap. Expect to pay a minimum of NZD 25 per day for a bike. For a touring or mountain bike the prices go up to 100 NZD per day!
When is the best time to travel to Auckland?
The summer – Auckland is located in the southern hemisphere, which means that when the Dutch have to deal with dark days and cold temperatures, the Kiwis enjoy their beaches. In general, the climate here is temperate. Summer is over December to February and it is the most popular time to visit the city. Kiwis also take vacation during this time, so it gets busy! The days are long and sunny, the nights are mild. The average daytime temperature in the summer in Auckland is about 25 degrees.
The autumn - Is of March to May and it is one of the best times to visit the city. Crowds are scattered, prices are lower and the weather is still warm.
Spring - Is of September to November† Like autumn, this is a wonderful time to visit an Auckland.
The winter - is of June to August† This is the cheapest time to visit as flights and accommodation are usually discounted. Snow is not common, but it can be windy and wet, making it appear much cooler than it is. Daytime temperatures hover around 7 degrees, so make sure to dress for the weather.
There really isn't a bad time to visit Auckland, but as New Zealand is so expensive, spring and autumn are probably the best time to visit if you're on a budget.
More New Zealand?
- New Zealand | The 10 Most Beautiful National Parks
- New Zealand | 6x fun activities in Wanaka
- New Zealand | 7x fun activities in Kaikoura
- New Zealand | Auckland travel guide
- New Zealand | Rotorua travel guide
- New Zealand | Bay of Islands travel guide
- New Zealand | Tour tips
- New Zealand | Milford or Doubtful Sound: Which Cruise Will You Choose?
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