Auckland Travel Guide: Sights & Activities For First Timers

Beautiful natural scenery and sights, fun water-based activities, top-notch shopping, addictive nightlife, amazing food, and so much more: Just because you only have a short time in New Zealand’s most impressive city doesn’t mean that you should miss out on some of the best things the city has to offer. This is an Auckland travel guide designed for first timer’s and/or anyone with a limited time in the city.

Auckland Travel Guide

The Best Things To Do Your First Time
First up on the Auckland travel guide is Mount Victoria -- no trip here is complete climbing one of the volcanoes, such as Mount Victoria
No first trip to Auckland is complete without a visit to Mount Victoria

Hike a Nearby Volcano

Auckland is home to a whopping 50 volcanoes! No matter where in town you are staying, there is a nearby volcano that you can hike up and enjoy the breathtaking 360-degree view. Don’t expect lava flows though — these volcanoes have erupted only once in history and are now dormant. In fact, most are lush green parks — such as Auckland Domain, home of one of Auckland’s oldest volcanoes, Pukekawa, and the impressive Auckland Museum.

At 196 metres (643 feet) Mount Eden, also known as Maungawhau, is the tallest of Auckland’s mainland volcanoes. Conveniently located just a couple kilometres south of downtown, the crescent-shaped park is perfect for walking or bicycling up to the summit. It is an easy climb and the view is definitely worth it!

Mount Eden, also known as Maungawhau, is the tallest mainland volcano in Auckland, New Zealand
Mount Eden, Auckland

There is also the popular and beautiful Rangitoto Island, which is itself a volcano and just a quick 30-minute ferry ride away. At 260 metres high (853 feet) its summit offers a gorgeous view of Auckland Harbour and the city center — plus a breathtaking 360° view of the surrounding landscape and waterscape.

Don’t forget One Tree Hill. Name sound familiar? One Tree Hill — also known as Maungakiekie Volcano — has been an important local landmark as far back as the Māori days. The obelisk at the top is a memorial to the Māori, and at its base is the grave of Sir John Logan Campbell, the “Father of Auckland”. It was Bono’s visit to One Tree Hill in the ’80s that inspired the U2 song of the same name, which in turn was the namesake for an American television series. However it gets even more complex than that…..see if you can follow this circle:

In 1999 a new asteroid was discovered by an astronomer at Auckland Observatory. As you probably have already guessed, the observatory is located near the peak of One Tree Hill. Realizing that “One Tree Hill Asteroid” was not menacing enough, the astronomer opted to name it Maungakiekie. Two days later he discovered a second nearby asteroid but rather than name it U2, Asteroid 23990 was named Springsteen. This same year Bruce Springsteen was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame by Bono, the lead singer of U2 and musician who wrote One Tree Hill in 1988 after his visit to Maungakiekie. (Springsteen later returned the favor and inducted Bono into the R&R HoF in 2005. Small world. Small universe.) 😉

Read More The Best Free Things To Do In Auckland
Does your Auckland travel guide mention Karekare Beach?
Karekare Beach near Auckland

Splash Around & Enjoy Water-Based Fun

Water plays an important part in the weekly life and fun of Auckland residents thanks to the bay. Hop a ferry and explore some of the nearby islands. Get your adrenaline pumping with activities like surfing, kayaking, jet-boating, diving, and windsurfing. Or if relaxation is the name of your game, enjoy some peaceful morning fishing or soak up the sun on a beach.

Insider Tip: Nestled in the countryside west of Auckland is Karekare Beach, overlooked by most tourists and much more refreshing than the crowded beaches closer to the city centre. Does your Auckland travel guide cover Karekare?

Learn More About the Māori

The Polynesian settlers who originally settled in New Zealand became known as the Māori. Their rich cultural history shaped and still plays a part in New Zealand culture, despite making up only 15% of the country’s population. Learn more about the Māori by visiting one of Auckland’s many museums, art galleries, and cultural attractions.

Maori man issuing a challenge at a cultural show at Rotarua, New Zealand

Tingle & Tantalize Your Senses

Unlike anything else you have ever experienced, the Odyssey Sensory Maze is exactly what the name suggests: an invigorating journey that will stimulate all of your senses and leave you wanting more. Each section features unique obstacles, lighting, music, and yes, even smells. There is a jungle zone, a cave zone, a space zone, and…well…you’ll just have to discover the rest for yourself 😉

Read More Offbeat Sights & Activities in Auckland

Enjoy the Best Auckland Has to Offer

Certain things always tend to be better in big metropolises, primarily shopping, nightlife, and food. Thankfully, Auckland excels at all three. If it’s shopping you crave, there are numerous hotspots around town, such as Queen Street, Ponsonby, Newmarket, the Britomart Precinct, and of course Takapuna up on the North Shore.

Auckland travel guide rule #3 -- be sure to experience the nightlife!
Don’t forget to experience Auckland after dark

When it comes to nightlife, many of the same areas known for spectacular shopping are always home to the city’s best bars and clubs. Britomart is a popular favorite with both locals and foreigners, but Ponsonby and Parnell are where the stars shine. However, there are also other offbeat after dark Auckland areas, such as K Road and High Street. It all just depends on what you are looking for 😉

As far as great food, that can be found throughout the city. Just ask a local!

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About Derek Freal

"Some people eat, others try therapy. I travel."   Cultural enthusiast. Adrenaline junkie. Eater of strange foods. Chasing unique and offbeat adventures around the world since 2008. Derek loves going to new destinations where he does not speak a word of the local language and must communicate with hand gestures, or places where he is forced to squat awkwardly to poo -- supposedly its healthier and more efficient. For more information (about Derek, not squat pooing) including popular posts and videos, check out his bio.

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