Auckland Favorites

Mount Eden view, Auckland

We don’t normally get to spend large chunks of time in big cities on the boat, so we tried to maximize every minute in Auckland, New Zealand’s biggest city. Our conclusion: we could live there! Auckland is a vibrant cosmopolitan city with a lot to offer, from museums to excursions to food. This post details our Auckland favorites.

About Auckland

I thought it was the capital, but that’s Wellington, at the southern end of the North Island. Instead, Auckland is New Zealand’s most populated city, with nearly 1.7 million people.

Located in the north of the North Island, Auckland is on a narrow isthmus between two large harbors and is known as The City of Sails. With it’s waterfront location, Auckland is home to beautiful beaches, waterfront trails, fish markets, and scores of sailboats. It’s also based around multiple volcanos, great for hiking.

Auckland Harbor
Auckland from the water

Climate-wise, Auckland reminded me of Ireland because you can have four seasons in one day. The weather changes from blustery rain to hot and sunny to fiercely windy in minutes. So wear layers, pack a hood, and read on for our Auckland favorites.

raingear Auckland
Prepare yourself for any weather in Auckland!

Auckland Favorites

We visited Auckland a few times by car and campervan, and once on our sailboat. Every time we visited, we found more to do, eat, and see in this friendly city. I loved walking the streets and laneways, people watching and window shopping. I also loved how many parks are in this big city, and how big the green spaces are. You can tell that people like living in Auckland, with good reason. It has world class museums, great outdoor spaces, and excellent dining in a clean safe waterfront city. Here are my Auckland favorites.

Auckland Museum

As a major city, Auckland is home to many museums and the Auckland War Museum is a stand-out. The War Museum name is misleading, because while there is a floor memorializing the city and country’s place in multiple historic wars, there’s a lot more inside.

Auckland War Museum
Outside Auckland’s War Museum

The museum is also a natural history museum, with dinosaur bones and volcano exhibits, and showcases Maori relics. We particularly liked the exhibit on Polynesian navigators, having done a little of that ourselves. The Auckland museum is located in the Auckland Domain, home to the Pukekawa volcano crater and the beautiful Wintergardens. This is a nice place to spend several hours in Auckland.

Domain wintergarden, Flowers, Auckland
Inside the Domain Wintergarden

Mount Eden/Maungawhau

Mount Eden, both the suburb and the hill, are lovely. We wandered up the volcano while the sun was out, enjoying the views and the history lessons. The Maori name for Mount Eden is Maungawhau, which means mountain of the whau tree. Signs are all over, and they display where the civilization that lived there centuries ago lived and worshipped. If you go, don’t worry. The volcano hasn’t erupted in 15,000 years. Auckland is surrounded by over 53 volcanoes, but they’re all extinct except the one on Rangitoto island, which is dormant.

Mount Eden view
View from Mount Eden on a nice day

Mount Eden has several walking paths, and it’s a quick walk to the top for beautiful views of Auckland, the harbor, and beyond. After hiking, we strolled the cute town and ate at one of many restaurants lining the main strip. We also visited Mount Eden for our freedom camping try-out and it was a success.

Auckland Free Walking Tour

A great way to learn a lot about Auckland in two hours, the free walking tour covers history, art, architecture and more. We love city walking tours for getting a local perspective on a city, and learning new things, and this one didn’t fail. It rained a bit, but we enjoyed it and learned a little more about Auckland’s place in the suffragette movement, for example. We walked city streets and laneways, along the water and through parks. It was one of our Auckland favorites, takes about two hours, and costs what you think it’s worth.

Topiary garden clock, Auckland city tour
Topiary garden clock on our Auckland city tour

Maritime Museum

Of course The City of Sails has a maritime museum, in my opinion, an excellent one. Full of historic old boats, stories of America’s Cup races, and displays about New Zealand’s and Auckland’s maritime history, this museum is worth a few hours. Located on the waterfront, it’s one of our Auckland favorites, and judging from the crowds, we aren’t the only ones.

sailboats, Auckland Maritime Museum
Sailboats in the Maritime Museum

The Beer Mile

As craft beer lovers, we couldn’t resist visiting Auckland’s Beer Mile, a strip of seven breweries near Mount Eden. Getting there was easy because we had a rental car to retrieve Domino from quarantine.

The Garage Project brewery
The Garage Project on Auckland’s Beer Mile

Having the car didn’t help us visit more breweries, so we stopped at The Garage Project. If we visit Auckland on our way back north, I’d like to check out more, but fortunately New Zealand has lots of craft beer.

Day Trip to Waiheke

Waiheke is known as The Wine Island. That’s all you need to know. Ok, I’m kidding, but the nickname probably piqued your interest, as it did mine, as it does most. Waiheke is a quick ferry ride from Auckland, less than an hour. Waiheke is an Auckland favorite because it’s easy to get to, beautiful, and full of stunning vineyards with delicious restaurants and wine tastings.

Wine Tasting in Waiheke, red wines, winery
Wine Tasting in Waiheke

We mostly walked and used taxis when on Waiheke. It’s quite hilly, so not the best for cycling unless you’re really fit or rent an ebike, which a lot of people do from the ferry docks. Hiking trails are numerous on Waiheke.

winery trail Waiheke, Auckland
Hiking to the wineries in Waiheke

Caveat: It’s not cheap. Tastings at each winery start at around $20, sometimes refunded if you buy a bottle, but the bottles are more expensive than most other places we’ve been so far in New Zealand. We visited Waiheke by ferry and on our own boat and it’s a lovely island, just don’t go there to source your wine.

Eating and Drinking in Auckland

Like Whangarei but on a much bigger scale, Auckland has a great assortment of restaurants. We loved the seafood, Indian and Asian restaurants, night markets and more. We dined at delicious restaurants in the CBD, on Ponsonby and K Road, and in Mount Eden.

Besides the Beer Mile, Auckland has many craft breweries and beer bars, and excellent cocktail bars, including a rooftop gin bar. No wonder people love living here!

cheers! gin and cucumber cocktail rooftop view
A gin cocktail at Churchill bar in Auckland

Auckland Favorites: Beach Towns

The Auckland area includes beaches and some of the nearby beach towns are fun to visit. We stopped in beautiful Browns Bay to the north, and Mission Bay to the south.

Browns Bay New Zealand
Browns Bay

We did not take the bus in Auckland, but it seems very easy and affordable. The bus goes to Mission Bay, which is a beautiful beach town in the south of Auckland. We did not go swimming (much too cold), but walked around the town and up to the viewpoint and gardens at Bastion Point, all free to visit.

Thanks for reading about my Auckland favorites. Have you been and do you have any favorites I missed? Please share in the comments.

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Author: Mel

Living aboard a sailboat, scuba diver, cat parent, cyclist, blogger, love the water and exploring new places.

5 thoughts on “Auckland Favorites”

  1. It looks like you have VERY different weather to us in Auckland! We were planning to explore on foot and visit some of the volcanoes… but it was so soooo hot that we had to just escape to Waiheke island instead! I need to go back when the sidewalks aren’t melting!!

    I loved the food there though. Kiwis have such good breakfasts!

    1. Oh Josy, we can’t complain because last summer they had cyclones and floods, but…We have maybe seen 3 hot days in 3 months. Still a beautiful country!

  2. You’ve found some really great spots in Auckland but there is so much more. Most people use Auckland as a starting point to jump to the South Island or other parts of the North Island. There is, in fact, quite a bit here.

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