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The bustling city of Auckland is full of so much natural beauty, culture, and tasty food – it’s easily one of my favorite places to visit on the North Island of New Zealand!
I might be a South Island girl now, but Auckland still holds a very special place in my heart. After all, I chose to call Auckland home when I first moved to New Zealand, and still have a blast whenever I’m back in town. There are so many fun things to do in Auckland, so if you’re looking to spend the day in this incredible city, then you’re in for a real treat.
Of course, you could easily spend longer exploring everything that Auckland has to offer, but if you’ve only got just one day, then you can still get to know some of the very best spots. Putting my knowledge to the test, I wrote this itinerary to help you make the most of your time here – a challenge I really enjoyed!
So, whether you’re planning an epic road trip from Auckland to Tauranga as a family, have some time to burn before your couple’s trip to Paihia, or simply want to see what Auckland has to offer, here is my handcrafted guide to spending an epic day in this unforgettable city.
Don’t have time to read the full article? There is a lot to see with just one day in Auckland! After breakfast, hit the Auckland SkyTower for incredible views, then visit Wētā Workshop just down the street. Spend the afternoon exploring the city, but the true highlight of your day is the sunset dinner cruise in Auckland Harbour!
How to Spend One Day in Auckland
With a population of over 1.6 million people, it’s safe to say that there’s a lot to see and do in Auckland! I’ve designed this guide to give you a good introduction to the city, and before long I’m sure you’ll see what makes it so special. From enjoying the best views in town to wandering the city’s historic streets, this is sure to be a day you won’t forget.
We’ve got a full day ahead of us, so let’s dig in!
Morning – Tasty breakfast and exploring downtown
Our busy day in Auckland kicks off with the most important meal of the day at one of my favorite eateries, as well as a visit to two iconic downtown spots. Don’t forget to take photos!
Breakfast at Odette’s Eatery
Auckland is full to the brim with amazing places to eat out – seriously, you could try a new spot every day of the year and still not even scratch the surface! So to kick off our day, we’ll be visiting one of my all-time favorite spots, Odette’s Eatery.
This undeniably elegant restaurant was my go-to back when I used to live in the city, and I still make sure to stop by when I’m in town to enjoy their top-tier, Mediterranean-style breakfasts. I’m talking three-egg omelets, sweet crêpes, the most incredible bread, and smoothies that will have you coming back for another!
Located on Regent’s Park Rd, Odette’s uses fresh ingredients to craft their tasty dishes, and the combination of good food and a relaxing, stylish atmosphere gives this place 5 stars in my books. They serve breakfast until 12 pm, although I recommend getting here early if you can, as you have an action-packed day ahead of you!
With breakfast dishes starting from $16 NZD, Odette’s is open daily from 7 am on weekdays and 8 am on weekends and closes at slightly different hours depending on the day of the week. You can also find their opening hours over on their website.
Visit the Sky Tower
After a delicious and filling breakfast, it’s time to tuck into our first main activity of the day — taking in the epic views from Auckland’s Sky Tower. Completed back in 1997, this is actually the tallest building in New Zealand, measuring in at a whopping 328 meters (1,076 feet) tall. So what could be better than enjoying a 360-degree view of the city you’re about to explore?
You’ll find the Sky Tower in Auckland’s CBD, and it’s actually part of the SkyCity Auckland casino complex. That said, you don’t need any sort of membership to get in, just an admission ticket. You can purchase these online ahead of time, helping you skip the queues and save your precious time!
There’s free Wi-Fi in the tower, and aside from taking in the views, you can even go bungy jumping off the side of the building if you’re feeling adventurous (maybe not right after breakfast though!). There’s also the Sky Walk, which takes you around the edge of the tower’s pergola, 192 meters (630 feet) above ground – now that’s some palm-sweating stuff.
The Sky Tower is also open 365 days a year, with the hours changing depending on the time of day you visit. It’s open from 9:30 am every day of the week, but closes at 10 pm from Friday to Sunday and at 8 pm on every other day.
Tickets for the Sky Tower cost $40 NZD per adult and can be booked online here. I like to book my tickets ahead of time, and I’m so glad I did the last time I got here, as I got to breeze past the groups that had already arrived!
Why I Book Tours with Viator
Viator is a trusted online booking system for tours around the world! I almost always book tours using Viator for a couple of reasons:
- Free cancellation on most tours – Most of the tours on Viator allow you to cancel and get a full refund up to 24 hours in advance. This is handy in case plans change, or if booking an outdoor activity, the weather forecast is looking grim.
- Reserve now and pay later – You can secure your spot on some of the most popular tours well in advance and not pay until closer to the day of the tour.
- Pay in your chosen currency – Avoid costly international transaction fees by choosing to pay in your home currency.
- Peace of mind – When booking with tour operators you find in person on the street or in small booking offices, you are often promised one thing and given another. This online platform holds tour operators accountable with a written description of inclusions as well as the opportunity for customers to leave reviews.
Check out the Viator website here!
Discover the wacky and wonderful Weta Workshop
When it comes to unique things to do in Auckland, it really doesn’t get much more extraordinary than a visit to Wētā Workshop Unleashed, our next stop after the Sky Tower. It’s also just a two-minute walk down the road – now that’s what I call efficient!
So, what exactly is this place? Well, you may have heard of the Lord of the Rings films, but you might not know the name Wētā Workshop, which was actually the special effects company that helped bring the scenes from these movies to life!
Based in Wellington, the company opened its second interactive workshop (Wētā Workshop Unleashed) here in Auckland in 2020. The other interactive tour is offered at Wētā Workshop and Cave in Wellington. A visit to either of these spots gives you a unique, behind-the-scenes glimpse into how this special effects company achieves mind-bendingly impressive feats. You’ll get to visit a range of movie sets covering lots of different genres, from fantasy to horror and sci-fi!
Wētā Workshop Unleashed is open from 10 am until 6 pm every day of the year (except Christmas Day), and when you go to book your ticket online, you’ll get to select your time slot in advance.
Tickets for the Wētā Workshop cost $59 NZD, which includes a guided tour, and you can visit the on-site Wētā Cave for free, which is full of merch, art pieces, and all kinds of fun goodies.
Related Read: If you’re a fan of Lord of the Rings, then you can’t miss out on a chance to check out one of the best tours to Hobbiton from Auckland!
Afternoon – Lunch, scenic walks, and more!
With the morning behind you, by now I’m sure you’re starting to see what makes Auckland such a special city. Of course, the fun isn’t over yet – we’re just getting started! Up next, it’s time to grab lunch before heading out on the Auckland Foreshore Heritage Trail and hitting the Maritime Museum.
Enjoy lunch at Hello Beasty
We’ve already seen so much, and I’m sure by now you might be feeling a little bit peckish! Another of my favorite restaurants in town is Hello Beasty, a trendy east-Asian fusion restaurant that serves up all kinds of delicious bites.
You’ll find this restaurant located by the Auckland Waterfront about a 12-minute walk or 4-minute drive from Wētā Workshop. The walk is nice and easy, and you’ll be rewarded with some pretty sweet views of the waterfront as you arrive.
Their lunch menu is one of the most creative I’ve seen, and I always have a hard time choosing what I want – there are so many great dishes to pick from! For lunch, I normally grab a small plate or two, which starts at $22 NZD per person. The KFC Korean fried cauliflower really is to die for, but if you’re feeling a bit hungrier, then you can’t miss out on their delicious slow-cooked lamb.
If you’re traveling on the weekend, or simply fancy a little extra peace of mind, you can book your table for up to 7 guests online. They’re open from 12 pm to 10 pm daily, and every time I’ve visited the service has been fantastic.
Walk the Auckland Foreshore Heritage Trail
After a delicious meal, it’s time to get back on the road and see the sights – and by road I mean the famous Auckland Foreshore Heritage Walk! From the starting point, this 5-kilometer (3-mile) walk will take you on a journey past historical buildings and sites between Point Erin and Parnell Baths. By the end of it, you’ll be the resident history expert on all things Auckland!
It’s just over a 30-minute walk from Hello Beasty to the starting point, so I’d recommend grabbing a cab or cycling from the waterfront. You’ll actually be tracing a path back here before stopping at the Maritime Museum up next.
As you stroll through parks and nature reserves, and wander by beautiful homes and wharves, you’ll find informational signage and placards placed every few minutes along the route. Traveling at your own pace, you can leisurely learn about Auckland’s history and how it evolved from the original port in the 1840s to the modern-day city.
The entire experience takes about 3 hours, and there is plenty of parking for bikes and cars on both ends of the route.
Related Read: Fancy checking out some more of the best trails on the North Island of New Zealand? I’ve got you covered!
Stop by the New Zealand Maritime Museum
The New Zealand Maritime Museum is home to one of the country’s most important heritage collections and is the perfect place to cool down after walking the Heritage Trail. Their impressive collection is a fantastic window into New Zealand’s relationship with the ocean, recounting the story of the Great Pacific Migration that took place thousands of years ago!
The Maritime Museum also hosts sailings down the Viaduct Harbour on heritage vessels and steamboats. Not only do you get to learn about New Zealand’s long and important maritime history, but you really get to experience it!
The museum is located in the Viaduct Basin in the CBD and is open every day (except Christmas Day) from 10 am – 5 pm. There’s also a lovely café on-site, which serves up great coffee and snacks. Admission is free for Auckland residents and $24 NZD for non-residents (one more reason to move here, wink wink!). You can also get involved in their sailings for $63 NZD per person, which includes museum entry.
Evening – Watch the sunset aboard a dinner cruise
We’ve seen a lot today, from peering out over the city in the Sky Tower to walking the streets of the city and learning all about its amazing history. And when it comes to ending this action-packed day on a high note, there’s nothing better than a sunset cruise!
Serving a complete three-course meal aboard a comfortable yacht, this 2.5-hour sunset cruise is the ultimate way to wrap up the day in style. I’ve been on this tour and had such an amazing time getting to know the crew, who are so easy to talk to and are full of humor!
Of course, you could sit down at one of Auckland’s many restaurants and enjoy a meal, but there’s something special about floating away in the harbor and listening to the sound of the lapping waves as you chow down on some tasty dishes. I found that there were enough guests on board to have a bit of ambiance, but not enough to make the experience feel overcrowded.
Ideal for a romantic date night or evening meal with the kids, I highly recommend you give this one a shot. It costs just $150 NZD per person, which includes food (additional drinks are extra), and I think it’s pretty good value! This experience does book up, though, so it’s best to check online and book your slot in advance to avoid missing out.
What’s the Best Way to Get Around Auckland?
If it’s your first time in Auckland (or New Zealand in general!), you’re probably asking yourself how you’ll be getting around. Auckland is actually a super accessible city, and having personally lived here, I can easily say that there are many options available to choose from, depending on your needs.
You might be thinking – “But Bailey, surely getting around in a city by car can’t be any fun?!” And while it’s true that rush hour doesn’t have me jumping for joy, I’ve found Auckland to be one of the best cities that I’ve ever driven in when it comes to infrastructure and parking.
If you don’t have your own set of wheels, you can easily rent a car in Auckland that’s suitable for your needs. You’ll be flying around in no time! Plus, renting a car with Discover Cars is so easy, it’s the most hassle-free way to explore Auckland!
I’ve designed this itinerary to be easily accessible by foot, but in general, Auckland is a pretty great city to get around the old-fashioned way! If you bring a pair of comfortable shoes, you can visit the main attractions in Auckland on foot with no worries at all.
Public transport in Auckland is pretty good too! There are over 30 train stations in the city with four lines, as well as a reliable bus system (and don’t forget the ferries!). You can easily grab an AT HOP card which you can load money on for use on public transport either online, at an AT HOP retailer, or at the Britomart customer service center.
This card costs just $5 NZD, and all you need to do is tap your card whenever you get on and off public transport – now that’s convenient!
While I wouldn’t call Auckland a city that’s gone cycling-crazy, it’s definitely getting there, and it’s already lots of fun (and safe) to get around by bike. One of my favorite ways to get around is by e-bike, and you can rent one online from Power to the Pedal! Rentals start at $90 NZD for a half-day.
Taxis are still a good way to get around, with ride-share apps like Uber being very popular. YourRide is another great option that sometimes has cheaper rates, so it’s a good idea to have these on your phone in advance, in case you need them!
Where to Stay in Auckland
Auckland is a huge city, so deciding where to stay in Auckland can be a challenge. Luckily, I’ve stayed in Auckland countless times (and even lived there for a few months), so I know the best areas. Below are my favorite hotels/hostels in Auckland to suit all budgets and travel styles:
$ – The Attic Backpackers
The Attic is one of my favorite budget-friendly accommodations in the heart of Auckland city. Although The Attic isn’t as high-end as the other hotels in the area, you can still call it your home away from home, and it’s actually pretty cozy. You have some chill-out areas a few steps away from the room for chatting with friends and watching TV.
There’s also a spacious outdoor covered deck to enjoy the sun in. Dorm rooms start around $50 NZD nighly and private rooms are available for $130 NZD. You can book The Attic online on either Booking.com or Hostelworld.
$$ – CityLife Auckland
CityLife Auckland is conveniently located for all your activities for the day, just a 6-minute walk from the Sky Tower! This mid-budget accommodation feels more luxurious than your wallet would say with an indoor saltwater lap pool, on-site restaurant and bar, and a fully-equipped gym. Rooms range from one-bedroom suites all the way to a rooftop Penthouse Suite, and some are apartment-style with a kitchen.
Prices start around $250 NZD and can be booked on Booking.com!
$$$ – The Grand by SkyCity
The Grand by SkyCity is an Auckland accommodation unlike any other. Treating you to a lavish stay right in the heart of the city, this five-star hotel is exactly where you want to be if you’re after luxurious rooms and city views. There’s also a fully equipped fitness studio, a 25-meter heated pool, and don’t forget the day spa!
Rooms are typically $400 NZD and up, but can dip as low as $275 NZD in the low season. I’ve found some stellar deals on Booking.com, so it’s worth checking before you book!
For more detailed info on the best areas to stay in Auckland and the best hotels, check out my blog!
Renting a Car, Campervan, or Motorhome in New Zealand
Let’s face it, you’re going to need wheels to get around New Zealand. Although a small country, buses between destinations are infrequent and expensive. Plus, some of the best experiences you can have in NZ are on road trips!
You have three options when it comes to getting wheels in New Zealand; a car, a campervan, or a motorhome. Here’s what you need to know about each and where to get them:
- Car – A normal car is the cheapest rental vehicle you can get in New Zealand. It’ll get you around to all of the best destinations with ease. The only downside to a car is that you will need to stay in hotels or Airbnbs during your travels (no camping.) The easiest place to rent a car in New Zealand is on Discover Cars where you can compare cars, companies, prices, features, and more very easily.
- Campervan – A Campervan is a large van that has a bed and a small kitchen in the back. It’s what most budget travelers use for traveling around New Zealand since it allows you to camp comfortably and for free (most) nights. Campervans are best for couples or solo travelers who are happy to live in a small space. You should also love the outdoors and camping…and be prepared for an adventure of a lifetime! My favorite campervan rental company is JUCY because they have a huge selection of campervans to choose from, plus multiple pick-up/drop-off locations. You can browse JUCY’s campervan selection online here. Alternatively, you can easily compare all campervans available in NZ on Motorhome Republic here.
- Motorhome – A motorhome is larger and more comfortable than a campervan. Many motorhomes will comfortably sleep 6 or more people – perfect for a family visiting New Zealand. Motorhomes are the most expensive option, but with one you won’t ever need to stay in a hotel and you’ll save money that way. My top choice for a motorhome company is Star RV because they have beautiful motorhomes at affordable prices. You can check prices and availability for Star RV motorhomes online here. Alternatively, you can use Motorhome Republic to search all motorhomes in NZ. For more detailed info, read my complete guide to renting a motorhome in New Zealand!
EXCLUSIVE DISCOUNT CODE: I’ve managed to snag a discount code for 5% off for my readers if you book your JUCY or Star RV campervan or motorhome before the end of June 2024! Simply click here to select your JUCY campervan, or click here to select your Star RV motorhome, and then use the code DTRAVEL24 at checkout to get 5% off – it’s that easy! One thing to note is that this code is only valid for travel before Dec 21, 2024.
Travel Insurance Has Your Back!
Life can be unpredictable and when you’re traveling abroad, the last thing you want to worry about is getting sick or injured and having to pay out of pocket for treatment.
If this concerns you, SafetyWing can help! SafetyWing specializes in very affordable and comprehensive medical and travel insurance that is aimed at digital nomads, remote workers, and long-term travelers. It costs just $45 USD per 4 weeks!
To start coverage, you must purchase it after leaving your home country, so we usually buy it as soon as we land at the airport.
Since using SafetyWing we’ve been reimbursed thousands of dollars when we’ve gotten sick. During the pandemic, they’ve even gone as far as to pay for our last-minute flights back to Canada before the border closed!
Thanks for reading!
After spending a day adventuring in Auckland, I wouldn’t blame you if you extend your trip and stay here longer! If this sounds like you, I’ve also put together a guide on spending 2 days in Auckland, as well as 3 days in Auckland.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this blog, and whether you decide to stay or move on after your action-packed day in the city, I hope you have an amazing time here. But the fun doesn’t have to stop here, I’ve written lots of blogs about my time exploring the North Island, Queenstown, and more – so feel free to take a look for some travel inspo. Otherwise, here are three blogs I think you’ll love: