Auckland Top 10
Surrounded by beaches, native forests and sheltered islands, Auckland is home to a multitude of cultures that have helped to create an amazing selection of visitor experiences. From natural wonders and award-winning wine regions to historic, arty and gastronomic delights, it's all within easy reach. Take a quick look through this list of Auckland's 10 best and see what grabs your attention.
1. Discover the best beaches in Auckland
Head to the west coast for dramatic black-sand surf beaches backed by large native forest parks. Piha Beach is a top spot for surfing in Auckland, approximately 50 minutes from the CBD. The ocean rips can be strong on this coast, so only swim between the surf lifesaving patrol flags. About 80 minutes north of the CBD, Tawharanui Regional Park is home to beautiful white-sand swimming and surf beaches within a protected wildlife sanctuary. Closer to town, North Shore beaches like Milford, Takapuna, Narrow Neck and Cheltenham are great at high tide. You'll also find beaches east of Auckland's CBD - Okahu Bay, Mission Bay, Kohimarama and St Heliers - for swimming and cafés.
2. Rediscover nature at Te Henga Bethells Beach
Considered by locals to be one of the best Auckland west coast beaches, Te Henga Bethells Beach is only 45 minutes by car from the city centre. Here you'll discover a long surf beach with black sand, small islands, caves, cliffs and forested headlands. The almost prehistoric feeling of this beach is really amazing, given its proximity to New Zealand's largest city. You'll also find a popular walk to a pair of lakes and vast inland sand dunes. If you fancy a dip in the ocean, surf lifesaving patrols operate on weekends and public holidays from November to mid-April.
Stretch your legs on the Te Henga Walkway
This picturesque coastal walkway runs along cliff tops and bays between Te Henga Bethells Beach and Muriwai Beach; be sure to check the Auckland Council website for any track closures before heading off. Starting one kilometre inland from Bethells at a footbridge across the Waitakere River, the track gradually climbs through native forest to spectacular ocean views before descending to O'Neill Bay, 40 minutes from the start. From here you can walk back along the beach to Bethells or climb more steeply for another 40 minutes or so to the next headland to enjoy huge views in every direction. Continuing along the clifftops to Muriwai takes about another two hours.
3. Visit Waiheke Island
Enjoy a smooth, 40-minute ferry ride to one of the largest islands in the Hauraki Gulf. Explore white sand beaches, coastal walks, award-winning wineries, cafés, restaurants and artsy-crafty shops. There's a lot to see and do on Waiheke, so it pays to book local transport to get around. If you prefer a dash of adrenalin with your adventures, check out the Waiheke zipline and forest walk attraction.
Take a Waiheke Island wineries tour
Waiheke is home to more than 25 vineyards and most offer wine tasting all year round, with reduced days during the winter weeks. About half of these wineries have an onsite restaurant and another handful offer light lunch in a café setting. Several also come with captivating ocean and island views. Originally recognised for exceptional cabernet blends, the island's award-winning wines also include Northern Rhône-style syrah and delicious whites, such as chardonnay, viognier, pinot gris and sauvignon blanc. The best way to discover your favourite Waiheke wine is on a guided tour. They range from fun half-day group tours to luxury food and wine experiences.
4. Mix with locals at Auckland markets
As you'd expect in a city the size of Auckland, there are numerous local farmers' markets selling fresh produce and ready-to-eat food around the city most weekends. Closest to the CBD are the City Farmers' Market (Britomart, Saturday mornings), Parnell Farmers' Market (Saturdays) and Grey Lynn (Sundays). Another long-time favourite is La Cigale French Markets in Parnell (Saturday and Sunday mornings) and Britomart CBD (Saturday mornings). Popular larger markets can be found further out at Avondale, Hobsonville, Matakana, Clevedon and Otara.
Feel the vibe at Auckland night markets
For a fun night out and delicious street eats from a range of cultures, head to one of Auckland's bustling all-weather night markets. They set up in a different suburb each night of the week and there's one in the CBD on both Friday and Saturday nights. While mainly about the delicious food, you'll also find stalls selling fashion and toys. The experience is heightened by all kinds of street entertainment, from live music and magicians to acrobats and dancers.
5. Feed your creative side at the Auckland Art Gallery
Located right in the CBD on the edge of Albert Park, the Auckland Art Gallery creates ever-changing exhibitions from a collection of more than 17,000 works. Historic, modern and contemporary art from New Zealand features strongly, along with outstanding works by Māori and Pacific Island artists. There's also an ongoing programme of visiting international exhibitions. Children and families will love the Creative Learning Centre, which has free games and activities that extend out into the entire gallery. To sustain your energy levels, check out the onsite café with views into the park.
6. Discover history and culture at Auckland Museum
Through an amazing collection of taonga, artefacts, innovative exhibitions, guided tours and immersive live experiences, Auckland Museum tells the stories of Aotearoa/New Zealand, the Pacific and beyond. The museum is also a war memorial; most of one floor is dedicated to understanding life during times of conflict, from the New Zealand land battles to major global wars. Several areas, like the Weird and Wonderful gallery, are designed with children and families in mind and the Māori cultural performances are a must-see attraction. Whether you visit for an hour or a whole day, you'll leave with a much deeper understanding of New Zealand.
7. Book an Auckland Zoo experience
Since its opening in 1922, Auckland Zoo has grown to become a leader in wildlife conservation, research and innovative zoo design. Caring for 1,400 animals from 135 species, the zoo is a great day out for animal lovers of all ages. For the ultimate visit, consider booking a behind-the-scenes experience. Most focus on a particular species and you get to learn from a knowledgeable guide as you enter the enclosure and help with feeding. The maximum group size is typically two-to-four people and your guide will take complimentary photos for you to take away.
8. Shop in Auckland's retail oasis
The choice for shopping is endless with Auckland's world class urban oasis of retail precincts. Some of the hottest shopping spots include Sylvia Park mall, Commercial Bay, Ponsonby Road, Takapuna, Britomart and Westfield Newmarket. Read more on Auckland's shopping scene.
9. Find your favourite restaurants in Auckland
Inspired by cultures from around the world and blessed with an abundance of fresh local ingredients, the Auckland food scene is sophisticated, innovative and diverse. From fine dining to delicious street eats, there's a vast array of menus to explore and plenty of award-winning local wines and craft beers to savour. Around the inner city, check out Ponsonby Road, Kingsland and Parnell. For harbourside dining, head to North Wharf, the Viaduct Basin and Princes Wharf.
Tour the best wineries in Auckland
Auckland has three celebrated wine regions to explore - Waiheke Island (see below), Matakana and Kumeu. Matakana, about 50 minutes north of the CBD by car, is home to award-winning boutique vineyards growing about 30 grape varieties that originated in France, Italy, Spain and Austria. Kumeu, only 30 minutes west of the CBD, is Auckland's oldest wine region. Here you'll find everything from small artisan wineries to some of the most well-known names in New Zealand wine. Kumeu winemakers create outstanding wines from locally grown grapes, as well as grapes from New Zealand's main wine regions, making it easy to experience a total New Zealand tasting.
10. Get out on the Hauraki Gulf
Auckland's Hauraki Gulf is like a giant bay covering 4,000 km2. It's a managed marine park that includes five marine reserves, mainland beaches and a large number of islands, most of which are open to the public. With relatively sheltered waters and so many idyllic places to drop an anchor, it's easy to see why Auckland became known as the City of Sails.
Visit the beautiful Hauraki Gulf Islands
From downtown Auckland you can catch a fast ferry to visit or stay on several of the beautiful Hauraki Gulf islands. The larger islands like, Great Barrier and Waiheke, have a good range of accommodation options. The extinct volcanic cone of Rangitoto makes a fascinating day visit, while small wildlife sanctuaries - like Tiritiri Matangi and Motuhuie - will get you up close to some of New Zealand's rarest native birds.
Experience the excitement of Hauraki Gulf fishing
From the Auckland CBD and marinas around the Hauraki Gulf, local fishing charter operators make it easy to experience fishing at some of the top Auckland fishing spots around the legendary Hauraki Gulf. Snapper, kingfish and kahawai are among the main catches, along with hapuka, John Dory, terakihi, gurnard and trevally. Most boats provide all the necessary gear, from rigs for more traditional bait fishing to the excitement of light tackle fly fishing for powerful school fish.