Auckland Activities To Plan Your Next Trip


Heather Markel, Writer, Speaker, Photographer, Traveler, Business Strategist

Fun activities to do when visiting Auckland…

I’ve been trying to get to Auckland since coming to New Zealand in February. When I first passed through, the pandemic had been declared, and I didn’t think staying in a big city was a good idea. I finally felt safe to book a trip in August, only to learn that the exact date of my departure would coincide with Auckland going back into lockdown. Everything finally coincided in my favor in October! I booked the Intercity bus from Kerikeri and about five hours later, found myself in the wonderful city of Auckland.

The Wonderful Friends Who Helped Me Explore

I felt very fortunate to be visiting this city and also some wonderful friends, Ruth and Alan. I met them via my Inspired Nomads podcast and when I posted on Facebook that I was in Christchurch, back in February, they told me to come stay with them. Then, the following week, my friend Rhonda who has an amazing Facebook group, Explore New Zealand, invited me to stay with her. Not only were they all fabulous hosts, but they cooked amazingly well, too! I felt very spoiled. And, a tad bit guilty for soiling the black leather seats of Rhonda’s brand-spanking new car with white suntan lotion. Oops. She and her husband Jeff still talk to me, so I guess I’m forgiven, sort of. Here’s my list of fun places to see when in Auckland. It’s not comprehensive, but these are definitely a few great ones!

Auckland at night

Auckland by night. Photo by Heather Markel, All Rights Reserved. Copyright 2020

Waiheke Island

I wrote a previous post about spending a day in Waiheke island. It’s a must-see location full of activities. You can spend a day on one of the beautiful beaches, take advantage of one of the many scenic hiking tracks, or hop from one vineyard to the next. Whether you rent a car, a bike, or venture onto the bus, it’s worth staying a few days to take in this wonderful island.

Waiheke Island
Tantalus Waiheke Island

The Gannet Bird Colony And Black Sand Beach

To be honest, I wasn’t sure I would love this place, (I didn’t even know what a gannet bird was!) but it was a real treat. You can park your car and be at the top of a glorious mountain. Ruth, Alan and I enjoyed a wonderful picnic looking out at the sea, and the black sand of the beach below. After eating, we made our way to the bird colony and it was stunning. Many birds were nesting, keeping eggs warm, or in the process of making new eggs. 😉 There were hundreds, perhaps thousands, of them all together on top of a rock. The photos only give you a little idea of how special this location is. After admiring the birds, you can walk down to the beach for another, equally, awe-inspiring experience on the black sand beach. Since I’m used to sand being, well, sand-colored, it’s always fun to find black sand like this.

gannet bird colony auckland

“Auckland activities are as plentiful and diverse as you make them.”

CBD (Not The Oil – The Central Business District)

Even with constuction along the harbor, the city center is wonderful to walk around. There’s a lovely area you can eat or enjoy a drink near docks with plenty of boats and water to enjoy. You can shop at trendy stores or wander into traffic-less streets and meander into alleys painted with graffiti. Queen Street is not to be missed, and hidden gems like a haunted house can be found if you spend some time in the area. I also did my first ever diagonal street crossing! It’s like jay-walking on steroids, only legal. Really clever!

Another bonus is that there’s a subway system! While there are plenty of buses, it’s nice to know you can travel faster. Make sure you download the AT Mobile App or use the online journey planner.  You can buy a card in the subway. Actually, it can be challenging to find places to buy the cards, which also work on buses, so the subway station is a great bet. The AT Mobile App is great for planning a journey, but less great for topping up your card. (It takes up to 3 days for funds to appear.) So, try doing top-ups at the subway stations as well. 

Auckland CBD
Auckland graffiti

Walk Around Mission Bay

One of my favorite walks was along the beach of Mission Bay. You’ll see gorgeous homes and a spectacular view out to Rangitoto Island, a volcanic island that you can hike. On a sunny day it just gets more and more beautiful as you walk around the curve of the sea. If you like ice cream or gelato, there’s a fun shop, and some cute restaurants along the way.

Mission Bay Auckland

Sky Tower

Even though it’s expensive, you can’t skip this one if it’s a gorgeous, sunny day in Auckland. While I expected something more disappointing, I mean, hey I’ve been up the Empire State Building, and The Eiffel Tower, Sky Tower was phenomenal. The blend of office buildings, sculptured buildings and sea and distand islands will take your breath away. If that doesn’t do it for you, the bungee jumper hanging in front of the window you’re admiring the view from will definitely leave your mouth agape. The entire city opens beneath you and next time I go, I’m gonna do the bungee jump. Bonus, if you like gambling, there’s a casino right nearby.

waiheke bus
view from Auckland Sky Tower

Views of, and from, Auckland Sky Tower, bungee jumpers included.

Photos by Heather Markel. Copyright 2020, All Rights Reserved.

Shakespear Park

Rhonda and Jeff took me here one afternoon. It offers a lovely walk through the woods, as well as hiking through paddocks which will have sheep or cows (if you’re lucky) depending on the day. Finally, at the top, you’ll be treated to a spectacular 360 degree view of water and land well worth the hike to the top. (Not a grueling one at all.) If you’re lucky and there aren’t loads of other tourists around, you’ll enjoy sitting at the rest deck and taking in the view.

Onetangi beach
Shakespear Park sheep

A view from the lookout deck at Shakespear Park and a lone sheep enjoying the sun on the way. Photo by Heather Markel, Copyright 2020. All Rights Reserved.

One Tree Hill And Cornwall Park

After a lovely walk through the garden area (where you can feed and pet a cow if you’re lucky like I was!) you can hike up to One Tree Hill. Rhonda wrote a great article about this site. I didn’t know there were so many volcanoes in Auckland, but this is one of the volcanic fields. This area was a Maori settlment as recently as the 1800s and after they abandoned the area following a battle, one native tōtara tree remained. A white settler who didn’t know what it represented cut down the tree in 1850. John Logan Campbell, a wealthy settler, tried to make up for this by planting a grove of trees. But only one Monterey pine survived. 

A Maori activist cut down the tree in 1994, feeling that a pine tree, being a non-native plant, did not belong on top of a site so important to the Maori. You can read more about the significance of One Tree Hill here.

Charlie's Onetangi

One Tree Hill. Photos by Heather Markel, Copyright 2020, All Rights Reserved.


Finally, if you want to treat yourself to a more unexpected activity, check out Snowplanet. I simply wasn’t expecting this one. It makes me think of Dubai. Sandwiched between highways is a long, white chute. Inside it is an indoor ski mountain! There are lessons for the little ones at the bottom, and you can head all the way to the top for a proper downhill ski. If you come with someone who isn’t an avid skiier or snowboarder, they can relax in the toasty bar with excellent WiFi and a drink while they wait for you.

snowplanet skiers
Snowplanet Auckland

Inside Snowplanet. Photos taken with permission of Snowplanet. Photos by Heather Markel, All Rights Reserved. Copyright 2020.

I was pleasantly surprised by Auckland. I expected it to be “a big city you can happily avoid.” Instead, I found Auckland activities plentiful and it’s a much larger city than I understood when you account for the neighborhoods I got to see, such as East Tamaki and Gulf Harbour. Apart from it’s crazy traffic, it’s got diversity, lots to do and see, and is pretty low key.

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