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Though many visit New Zealand with an intention to avoid major cities (yes, nature lovers and adrenaline addicts, I am talking to you there), Auckland is definitely a destination that should not be overlooked.
And if 3 days in Auckland may seem quite a lot, there is actually plenty of things to keep you busy (nature lovers and adrenaline addicts, I am talking to you AGAIN) and you just may even find yourself short on time to fit everything into the schedule.
So, let us tell you how to spend 3 days in Auckland…
How to spend 3 days in Auckland: DAY 1
To get to know the heart of the city, head downtown.
You can either join one of the free walking tours (tip-based) or take a self- guided walking tour around the city.
One thing you’ll notice is that there are not many skyscrapers in Auckland, so the famous Sky Tower will be easily spotted.
Moreover, the lack of extremely tall buildings gives the city a cozy touch – the whole of Auckland feels like a big neighbourhood where many things are in walking distance.
SELF-GUIDED WALKING TOUR
Total distance: approx. 4,5 km (if going back to Wynyard Quarter in the evening, then 6 km)
(use “+” on a map for a closer look)
Head to the port and start your walk at the Ferry Terminal. Continue past the Maritime Museum (or check it out for 11€) and across the bridge into Wynyard Quarter.
If you are feeling particularly optimistic pick your own dream yacht in the port (one can always dream, right?!).
In Wynyard Quarter you’ll find plenty of cafes and restaurants, so it’s a lovely area to get that daily dose of caffeine into your system.
Next stop is Victoria Park and with a little luck, you can catch a rugby game. After that, turn back towards Sky Tower, the most iconic building in Auckland.
Are you that adrenaline addict I was talking to before? Okay, let’s go up.
Beware though, while a ride up and taking in the views is still pretty affordable, the prices of the famous SkyWalk (narrow walkway around the tower; 85€) or SkyJump (jumping off the tower; 130€) are almost higher than the SkyTower itself.
I guess the sooner you accept that all the “breathtaking” activities in New Zealand are expensive, the better it will be for your mental health.
Not necessarily the same goes for your wallet, of course. 😉
After your heart-stopping SkyTower experience you’ll probably be hungry, so head into one of many Asian restaurants or cook something in your hostel.
In the afternoon continue with the self-guided walking tour in the direction of the Albert Park and the University of Auckland. On the way there stop by the beautiful St Mathew-in-the-city church.
Queen Street is excellent for either window shopping or a shopping spree – there are numerous boutiques that can keep you busy for hours.
If shopping is not your cup of tea visit the Art Gallery instead and let out your inner artist. Best news: it’s free!
Finish your day at the port or head back to the Wynyard Quarter where the fish market is located. On the way there pass
he market also has numerous food options – from traditional fish’n’chips and fresh green mussels to paella and delicious sushi. Grab a pint of craft beer and mingle!
Here you can find more information about opening times and admission fees:
How to spend 3 days in Auckland: DAY 2
Auckland is a lush green city, so on your second day head to Domain Park. Numerous paths will lead you to the top (one is called Romantic, if you get the clue #winkwink).
It’s funny how one moment you are in the middle of a green meadow in a big city, but after walking just a few meters into the woods you find yourself in the midst of a tropical forest.
On top of the hill, peek into the Domain Wintergardens – a complex of gardens and pavilions where, among many varieties of plants, you’ll also find tropical ones!
Clumsy ducks are wandering around – or maybe they only come to admire those pink tulips, just as you did. So perhaps a polite ‘hello’ to Mr. Duck would be in order. 🙂
Auckland War Memorial Museum is well worth a visit even if you aren’t a history buff! (Bojan is nodding frantically here).
Only the top floor of this enormous building is dedicated to the war memorial museum, though it is still quite expansive.
The ground floor is dedicated to the indigenous Pacific people and heritage, and another floor contains the Natural History Museum. Here you’ll find everything from stuffed kiwis and dinosaurs to volcanoes (and pretty realistic earthquake animation).
In the museum there are children workshops (Yep, we went there. Yes, we participated. No strange looks. Nope, not at all.) and a café, which may come in handy later since you can easily spend a few hours in the museum.
After lunch climb Mount Eden, one of the 50 or so extinct volcanoes in Auckland. From the top there are spectacular 360-degree views of the city and suburbs!
Mt Eden is still within walking distance from the city center (approx 3 km walk from the Auckland Museum) and there is a short hike on the top. But if your legs are heavy from the morning consider taking public transport.
Mission Bay is a neighbourhood a bit further south with plenty of bars, cafes and restaurants. Its pier is a fantastic place to watch a sailboat race (or training at least…) that takes place in the bay on a windy afternoon.
Upon admiring the cute houses (ok, mansions) with little white fences you may turn Grinchy-green with envy though. To feel better, treat yourself with a traditional hokey pokey ice-cream. 😉
If you have your own transportation there’s a lovely place to wait for the sunset a bit further from Mission Bay – Tahuna Torea. It’s full of curious wandering ducks and some other I-have-no-idea-what-they-are-called birds.
How to spend 3 days in Auckland: DAY 3
Your Auckland trip wouldn’t be complete without a visit to one of the surrounding islands. So, in the morning grab a ferry to Waiheke Island.
Pro tip: Be sure to check the schedule beforehand, otherwise you may miss the ferry by 5 minutes and you’ll have to wait another hour for the next one.
Been there, done that. Naturally.
Early in the morning and late in the afternoon the ferry leaves every half an hour but in between only every hour. The ferry ride takes about 40 minutes.
The island is quite large and if you want to make the most of your visit, you’ll want to buy a ticket for the Hop on-Hop off tour bus.
It travels around the island all the time, stops at popular spots (and at the port) and to our surprise comes with witty knowledgeable guides. The combined return ticket for a ferry and a bus ticket cost 37€ / person. It can be bought at Ferry Terminal.
Warm sandy beaches, remarkably green hills with endless vineyards and bays with rustic wooden boats give the island an almost tropical impression.
Everything somehow slows downs – perhaps that’s the reason why all Auckland inhabitants want to spend their retirement here. 😉
And the fact that there are less than 10 policemen on the Waiheke island because there’s not much to do says something as well!
So, what to do on the island? Indulge in sun, food and wine of course!
It’s almost a sin not to visit at least one of more than 30 wineries scattered around the island.
Wait. Scratch that. It would be a sin.
A philosophy we follow wherever we go is to always go to the farthest point first and slowly make your way back. 😊
As goes with many things in life we adopted this mantra the hard way – by being stuck numerous times very far away from where the transport was, only to realize we’re running out of time.
Therefore, make your first stop at Onetangi Beach. This beautiful sandy beach stretches for almost 2 km and is ideal for a walk and to take a photo or twenty.
Continue towards the Batch Winery with superb views around the island, as it is located on higher ground. There are walking paths at Whakanehwa park nearby. You know – a little bit of fresh air after that glass or three.
In the village of Ostend, stop at the fish market for a quick bite. A dozen of local mussels with a freshly baked French baguette will more than do the trick.
If you’re feeling adventurous, walk all the way back to Oneroa beach and take in some more sun on the way.
Above the village two wineries are located where the views are top-notch as well – Cable Bay Vineyards and Mudbrick Vineyard. I must admit though that we weren’t extremely impressed with the wines at Cable Bay, but perhaps it just wasn’t our day.
Nevertheless, the ambience was so relaxing and lovely that we felt this was the perfect way to finish our 3 days in Auckland!
When is the best time to visit Auckland
Auckland has a mild climate and can be visited all year round.
The winter months can be a bit chilly, with occasional (or often) drizzle or even windy downpours.
Nevertheless, the sun is not uncommon and it’s very unlikely that temperatures would drop below 10°C, therefore winter months can be pleasant for a visit as well! Not to mention fewer crowds of course, which is always a bonus.
With that said, most people visit Auckland during summer months (December – February), mostly due to the fact that this is the main season for many outdoors-y activities in the country.
Where to stay in Auckland
As the second biggest city in New Zealand, Auckland is not short on accommodation that will fit whatever budget you have in mind.
To be clear though, New Zealand is not listed among the cheapest travel destinations, so you can forget paying a few bucks for a villa with a pool like you would in Bali. 😉
But on the other hand, you can also forget smelly, tiny rooms where you wonder if the sheets were ever washed and how many cockroaches are keeping you company on those lonely nights.
Nope, you’ll have a hard time finding bad accommodation in New Zealand, and the same goes for Auckland.
You can expect to pay a minimum (per person) of 10€-15€ for a hostel dorm and 20€ for a private room (usually with shared bathroom).
B&Bs are slightly more expensive and expect to pay from 60€ up for a hotel room.
Vagabond’s tips for accommodation:
Most sights that you’ll visit during the organized or self-guided walking tour are in the center of the city, so staying around here is most convenient.
Budget (up to 50€): JUCY Snooze hostel. Great downtown hostel with well-equipped kitchen, living room and shared bathrooms. The rooms are simple (with bunk beds, chairs and shelves) but clean. Hostel has private garage (additional fee).
Midrange (50-100€): Haka Lodge Auckland; Has private and dormitory rooms and is in close proximity to the city centre. It also features shared kitchen and shared lounge area.
Luxury (100€ and up): SkyCity Hotel Auckland; A hotel next to iconic SkyTower which features huge rooms/suites and a Casino as well.
Where to eat in Auckland
Close proximity to the sea and the international vibe of Auckland are two main characteristics that shape the city cuisine.
There’s something for each taste available, for sure, but make sure not to miss the following:
Besides the fish market being your best bet for any kind of seafood, Wynyard Quarter is home to a variety of restaurants to work on your “food-baby” belly. Your options are Italian pasta, crispy tacos and juicy burgers just to name a few.
Asian food is taking the market and it’s taking it big! Whether it is sushi, Chinese or noodles in a thousand different varieties, you’ll find it in Auckland. Hack, on the Dominion road you’ll have a hard time finding anything else.
Ok, have to point this one out! You’ll find this restaurant in the harbour and there’s no need to explain what their specialty is!
But besides delicious crab that comes in different portions (and of course you want the biggest!), their fish’n’chips is so delicate and soft that it practically melts in your mouth and the green mussels with a juicy sauce are just spectacular! A real taste of the sea!
Just remembering the taste makes me wanna go buy a plane ticket. 😀
So, here we are!
Are you still wondering how to spend 3 days in Auckland? 😉 I hope we gave you enough tips to make the most out of your visit!
And if you have already been there, share your favourite sights and things to do in the comments below.
Would you like to include one more day trip to this itinerary? Then pay a visit to Hobbits!
Or you are perhaps planning a New Zealand Road trip? In this case, be sure to check our 12-day North Island Itinerary!
This belongs to your New Zealand Travel board – pin it now! 🙂