1 Day in Auckland Itinerary | How to spend 24 hours in Auckland

The most famous city in New Zealand, and by far its largest, Auckland is a fascinating place to visit. Situated between the Hauraki Gulf to the east and the Manukau Harbour leading to the Tasman Sea to the west, potentially the best views of the city are from the dormant volcanoes that dot the cityscape. So, with such a large city and so much to see and do, the big question is how do you best spend just 24 hours in Auckland? We’re here to give you everything you need to know with our 1 day in Auckland itinerary.

Fun fact: Did you know that Auckland is home to around a third of all of New Zealand’s population? Crazy but true.

Why go to Auckland?

So, we’re assuming that you’ve arrived on this article as you’re already in Auckland and want to know what are the best things to in the city, or that you’re planning to come to New Zealand and this is one of your stops. But just in case you need a touch more inspiration as to why you should visit Auckland, here are the key reasons:

  • Its the largest city in New Zealand, so unsurprisingly has the best transportation into and out of the country! Don’t forget to check out the cheapest flight options to New Zealand with Skyscanner.
  • And of course, it’s the perfect starting and end point to any New Zealand North Island itinerary, whether you’re wanting head to Rotorua to explore the geothermal parks, through to the magical Bay of Islands.
  • It has some of the countries most interesting museums, galleries and famous landmarks to explore.
  • For all you nature enthusiasts, you can go whale and dolphin watching straight out of Auckland, it’s a trip not to be missed!
  • With Auckland surrounded by 48 volcanoes, including the likes of Rangitoto Island (a 25 min ferry away from Auckland), beautiful waterfalls, rainforest and the iconic Hillary Trail in the Waitakere Ranges, you are spoilt for choice when it comes to hiking. If you’re feeling super energetic you can even try out the Coast to Coast hike that will take you around 7 hours and passes key monuments like One Tree Hill, the Viaduct Harbour and Mount Eden!

And you’re probably also wondering whether one day in Auckland is enough? Well, in all honesty, we’d suggest that you definitely spend at least 3 days exploring all that Auckland has to offer.

However, we’ve managed to create the perfect one day in Auckland itinerary to make sure that if you only have 24 hours, that you manage to cram the best things into your day. If you are able to spend longer in the city, then great, as we’ve also got a host of bonus activities to add to your Auckland itinerary, as well as some awesome day trips – just skip to the bottom of this article.

At a glance – your 1 day in Auckland itinerary

  • Sunrise at Mount Eden
  • Auckland Domain
  • Auckland War Memorial Museum
  • Auckland Art Gallery
  • Sky Tower
  • Viaduct Harbour
  • National Maritime Museum
  • Auckland Night Markets

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The perfect 1 day in Auckland itinerary

Mount Eden for sunrise

So kickstart your day with a walk (or drive) up Mount Eden to get some absolutely stunning views of the city. At 196m, Mount Eden isn’t a strenuous hike, but there is also ample parking if you’d prefer to drive up. But from the summit of this dormant volcano, you’ll get the best views of the Auckland skyline.

The great thing about starting your morning early at Mount Eden is that you’re also almost guaranteed to have the place all to yourself, and the perfect vantage point to see the city waking up from its overnight slumber.

Stroll to the Auckland Domain

If the weather is good, definitely take a saunter down to New Zealand’s oldest and largest park, the Auckland Domain. The good news for the walk is that it’s all downhill and depending on your speed, it’s only a 30 minute walk. You’ll first arrive at Pukekaroa Hill, which hosts a memorial for the first Maori King. Make sure you take a wander along Lover’s Walk and pop into the Wintergarden.

If you’re looking for some breakfast, check out Bloc Café on the way from Mount Eden to the Auckland Domain – it’s a great place to fuel up before cracking on with the Auckland itinerary. It’s open from 7.30am during the week, a little later at weekend!

Photo credit: Russellstreet / Flickr

Auckland War Memorial Museum

Luckily, our third suggested location for your 1 day Auckland itinerary is set within the Auckland Domain. The Auckland War Memorial Museum is one of city’s most popular tourist attractions, along with being one of Auckland’s most important museums and war memorials.

The museum, one of the country’s earliest, is dedicated to the history of New Zealand; both military and natural history. You’ll want to give yourself at least a couple of hours to explore the museum.

Opening hours: 10.00am to 5.00pm daily

Entrance: International Guests – 25 NZD for adults (16.50 USD/12.70 GBP) and 10 NZD for children (10.60 USD/5.00 GBP), New Zealanders – Free

Auckland Art Gallery

Around a 20 minute walk from the Auckland Domain, you’ll find our next stop, the finest art gallery in New Zealand: the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki. Established in 1888, the art gallery is home to the most impressive and largest collection of both national and international art in New Zealand.

Opening hours: 10.00am to 5.00pm daily

Entrance: 20 NZD for adult (13.20 USD/10.20 GBP)

Sky Tower

Next, head right into downtown Auckland to visit the most iconic building in New Zealand and the tallest building in the southern hemisphere – the Sky Tower. At 328m tall, the Sky Tower dominates the skyline, but after a ride in the glass floored lifts to the viewing deck at 220m up, you’ll get amazing panoramic views over the city.

If you’ve come to a country that is famous for its adrenaline activities, then why not try out the SkyJump bungy, or 360 degree SkyWalk? If you’d prefer to just soak up the views and also taste some amazing food, make a reservation at Orbit Dining.

Opening hours: 8.30am to 10.30pm (summer) and 9.00am to 10.00pm (winter)

Entrance: 32 NZD for adults (21.20 USD/16.25 GBP) and 13 NZD for children (8.60 USD/6.60 GBP)

Viaduct Harbour

So your penultimate stop for your 1 day in Auckland itinerary is to head to the Viaduct Harbour, a former commercial harbour turned bustling waterfront complex. Here you’ll find the perfect setting for some late afternoon drinks (or sundowners) and have a chance to visit the really unique National Maritime Museum.

With New Zealand having such a strong maritime heritage, the museum is a great way to understand how the first Maoris made the crossing from the Pacific islands, the arrival of the first European settlers right through to the most recent sports yachts used in the Americas Cup.

Note: Make sure you make it to the National Maritime Museum by 4.00pm as it closes at 5.00pm!

Entrance: 20 NZD for adults (13.20 USD/10.20 GBP)

Auckland Night Market

What better way to finish your day in Auckland, than trying out the various cuisines that showcase all the diversity of the city in one location at the Auckland Night Market? Open every night of the week in a different location (usually from around 5pm), you’ll experience a really fun and vibrant atmosphere. This one shouldn’t be missed it’s one of the best things to do in Auckland at night!

Opening hours: From 5.00pm daily

Location: Varies each night – check out their website for more details.

Photo credit: Jamjar / Flickr

1 day in Auckland itinerary map

How to get around in Auckland

Walking

So our favourite way to see a city is on foot! And we’ve made our itinerary very much a walkable route if you’re relatively active, although you’ll probably be a touch tired by the end of the day, it really is very achievable!

There is also a really awesome free walking tour that you could consider! Check out the information on the route and how to book a spot (required) on the Auckland Free Walking Tours website. They have 2 tours each day starting at 10.00am and 2.00pm. The walk takes around 2.5 hours and passes loads of the city’s key sights.

Rental car

If you’re less keen to be plodding the streets, or you’re a fair-weather walker, then the easiest way to get around town is to rent a car. Just a slight word of warning, that the price for parking can be a little expensive in town. Look out for the Wilson car parks dotted around the central business district – they tend to work out cheaper than parking on the street. You can also download their app for cheaper parking although, to be honest, we couldn’t figure out how it worked!

If you’re looking for the latest rental car prices in Auckland, check out RentalCars!

Public transport

Auckland has a very reliable and cheap public transport system – the Link buses. There are 3 separate lines: the City Link, InnerLink and OuterLink. You’re able to pay directly on the bus with cash, or for an easier option, check out the AT HOP card, which allows you to load money and tap in and out of the buses.

To plan out your journey, use the Auckland Transport Journey Planner here.

Getting to and from Auckland International Airport

So in all likelihood you’ll be arriving into Auckland Airport, which is actually located in Manukau about 20km to the south of Auckland city centre. There are numerous options for making the journey from Auckland airport to the city (and vice versa), including the taxis, Super Shuttle, SkyBus and Backpacker Shuttle.

SkyBus: One of the easiest ways to get into downtown Auckland, but not quite as convenient as a shuttle service, the bus departs numerous times each hour and follows a specific route. It’ll cost you 17 NZD (11.20 USD/8.60 GBP) one way – check out the timetables and routes here.

Super Shuttle: Operating a door to airport and return service for over 30 years, check out Super Shuttle for a quote – it’ll cost you around 25 NZD (16.50 USD/12.70 GBP) each way.

Backpacker Shuttle: So the cheapest airport to door service, starting at 20 NZD  (13.20 USD/10.20 GBP) per person and going as cheap as 10 NZD (6.60 USD/5.00 GBP) for groups of 4 or more. Check out the Backpacker Shuttle option.

Uber: The fastest and most easiest way is to book an Uber – it’ll cost you around 40 NZD ( 26.50 USD/20.30 GBP) each way.

Air New Zealand flight

Bonus activities to add to your Auckland itinerary

Hopefully you have a few more days in the city or you can cram in a couple more activities? Here is our shortlist of other must-do items to add to your Auckland itinerary:

Auckland Whale & Dolphin Safari

Although you’ll need to have at least half a day to do it, we absolutely loved going out with the Auckland Whale & Dolphin Safari company. You’ll spend around 4 hours seeking out the wildlife in the area, led by an experienced crew, with marine biologists in tow – they know exactly where to find these beautiful creatures.

As part of the trip they teach you about the plankton that make the food for the gentle giants, stop and do daily tests of how healthy the waters are around Auckland and give you all the tips you need to know about spotting whales and dolphins. What we didn’t know before we went, was that it’s actually the birds that give the whales and dolphins’ locations away!

What’s even more is that if the crew aren’t happy with the experience, you’ll get a voucher so that you can actually do it again. To give you an example of the standards they set themselves, we saw about 100 dolphin during the day, but they still gave everyone on our trip a complimentary voucher to come back.

We were lucky enough to see a huge pod of over 100 dolphins, which we followed for over an hour towards the harbour. It’s an experience we will never forget and we can’t recommend this tour enough – if you have an afternoon free, please add it to our city itinerary.

High Tea at the Cordis Hotel

If you’re looking for a special treat, you should check out the high tea at the Cordis Hotel. It is without doubt one of the finest afternoon dining experience in the country (and gives London high teas a run for their money!) and a great way to relax (especially if the weather isn’t ideal). You’ll spend the afternoon sipping on their luxurious array of teas, and be delighted by their fanciful scones, cakes and – of course – cucumber sandwiches.

Ferry to Waiheke Island

Now if you had more than one day in Auckland, heading to Waiheke Island would be right at the top of our recommendations – make sure that you give yourself at least half a day to explore this really stunning island. Departing from the Downtown Ferry Terminal, the Fullers Ferry runs up to 24 crossings every day. Travel time is around 40 minutes – book your tickets here.

The best thing to do on Waiheke island is to visit the wine farms and go wine tasting. Check out this option with Get Your Guide. There is really something for everyone on Waiheke, whether it’s walking the beautiful tracks at the Whakanewha National Park, to relaxing on the beaches, visiting the art galleries or even trying out some mountain biking.

Auckland Zoo

If we’re honest, we are not huge fans of zoos. We believe that animals shouldn’t be kept in captivity unless for essential reasons around breeding or safety. That firmly said, Auckland Zoo does a lot in the conservation area and supports not only breeding programs but wider sustainability issues, making it a zoo with a purpose. Plus its definitely a fun day out, particularly if you have kids!

This 40 acre zoo is actually not very far from Auckland’s city centre, making it a relatively easy trip out. It’s Aoteraroa’s largest animal sanctuary and is home to over 130 species and 1,400 animals boasting everything from African elephants, rhinos, lions and giraffes to tigers and red pandas. There are beautiful bird centres, chronicling both local birds and more exotic species, and of course you’ll find lizards, fish and so much more.

A highlight of the zoo is the ‘Vet Hospital’, more formally known as the New Zealand Centre for Conservation Medicine. Here you can watch live procedures unfold right before you eyes, as they treat both zoo animals and sick wildlife. On one day you might see a tiger getting a root canal (really!) and another might be a bog-standard check up for one of the native birds.

A Day Pass will set you back 24 NZD (15.80 USD/12.20 GBP) for adults and 13 NZD (8.50 USD/6.60 GBP) for kids between 4-14 (under 4’s go free).

Location: Motions Rd, Auckland 1022

Opening hours: 9.30am – 5.30pm daily

Wander the Te Ara I Whiti The Lightpath

The Auckland City Council are a smart bunch. What better way to push more people to get walking or onto their bicycle than making a tourist attraction out of their bike track, than to paint it a garishly bright pink? Yup, The Lightpath is actually part of the Nelson Street Cycleway and connects Upper Queen street to Quay street. It’s about 700m long and so an easy (totally flat) walk which takes you past the iconic Sky Tower for some amazing photographs, and down towards the harbour.

Plus, if you head there after dark there are 300 programmable LED lights which create interactive displays as you move along it!

Sea Life, Kelly Tarlton’ Aquarium

If the zoo wasn’t your scene but you’re still keen on seeing underwater animals (more than the Whale and Dolphin Safari that is!) make your way to Sea Life aquarium, named after Kelly Tarlton. Who is Kelly, you might ask? A marine archaeologist, this smart guy set out to use old sewage story tanks in the city harbour to create an aquarium made out of curved acrylic tunnels. It was a novel idea that helped revive the area and was a world first at the time (in 1985).

Nowadays this major complex doesn’t just have the tunnels but also a number of other viewing areas and exhibitions like the Antartic Ice Adventure, including penguins and a few nods to Antarctica and its exploration. There is a massive stingray tank full of rays including one of the world’s largest, Phoebe, who weighs in at a whopping 250 kilograms! You can also check out Seahorse Kingdom and the Fish Gallery, boasting red bellied piranhas, moray eels and even those bloated-looking guys, pufferfish.

Penguins at Sea Life Kelly Tarlton Auckland

Location: 23 Tamaki Drive, Orakei, Auckland 1071

Opening hours: 9.30am – 5.00pm daily

Cost: 39 NZD (25.70 USD / 19.60 GBP) but only if you buy it online beforehand, as its more expensive at the door!

We suggest you book it online with Get your Guide which includes a skip the line ticket and 24 hour cancellation!

Mission Bay Beach

Just 6.5 kilometres (4 miles) from the city centre is this popular suburb of Auckland, Mission Bay. While you can drive it, you can also take a walk along the purpose-built harbour walkway and arrive in the peaceful seaside suburb. Mission Bay is known for its fish and chips (try the Fish Pot Café), its epic views of Rangitoto Island and, of course, the beach. Just put down your towel and umbrella and relax away from the bustle of Auckland city.

Where to stay in Auckland

There are loads of great hotels and hostels to choose from in Auckland, but we’d definitely suggest that you look at options within downtown Auckland – especially if you’re in Auckland for only one day then you’ll definitely want to be in and around the action!

Luxury: If you’re looking for luxury, then look no further than the 5* Cordis Hotel, the location is right in the city centre. This ‘old dame’ of the city is beautifully appointed – just the lobby itself makes you feel as if you’ve stepped into an classic film set. We were blown away by the impeccable service, the fantastic space, the rooftop pool and the dining options at their Eight restaurant.

However, a word must be said about the beds. The Cordis has what can only be described as the most comfortable beds we have ever slept in. Really, ever. So much so that they actually sell these beds; a worthwhile investment if you’re going to live in New Zealand.

Budget: Located on Nelson Street, close to loads of the main Auckland attractions we’d suggest that you go for TMACS Backpackers. They’ve got a shared lounge, free wifi and a lovely garden and terrace to explore.

Bonus: Day trips from Auckland

Rotorua

Famous for its geysers, mud pools and geothermal valleys, Rotorua is only two hours from Auckland and so definitely worth the trip. We’ve written an entire guide on the multitude of amazing things you can do in Rotorua (read it here) but, in short, the city boasts everything from the thermal wonderlands of Wai-O-Tapu and Te Puia, to Maori cultural experiences like Tamaki Maori Village or going 20 metres above ground to do a suspended walkway through ancient redwood trees.

Redwoods treetop walk, Rotorua

You can take in a sheep show at the Agrodome (which, we promise you is the show of a lifetime!), relax in the natural baths at the Polynesian Spa, check out those famous kiwi birds in the hatchery at Rainbow Springs or just tuck into delicious food at Eat Street.

More keen on extreme sports? Rotorua boasts a luge (and a skyline gondola), jetboating, white water rafting, zorbing and the aptly-named Velocity Valley, an adventure playground with BMX jumps, bungy jumping, a giant swing, Shweeb racing (biking on a monorail) or skydiving!

Agrodome sheep show Rotorua

Tip: Instead of doing a self-drive, you can book a day tour from Auckland that includes both the key Rotorua sights (like Te Puia and the Agrodome) and the Waitomo Glowworm caves (more on that one below). We recommend Greatsights, who we did our Rotorua tour with, as they were excellent! Find the latest prices and book here.

Lake Taupo

So its definitely a bit of a longer drive from Auckland – about three and a half hours to be exact. But you can definitely still do a day trip out to see Lake Taupo, the biggest lake in all of New Zealand! This beautiful lake offers more than just its enormous glassy surface as it also boasts the most popular natural attraction in all of New Zealand, Huka Falls. If you have the time, we recommend you do a short walk (about 45 minutes) from the hot springs to Huka Falls, for some amazing views.

Huka Falls near Lake Taupo

Like Rotorua, Taupo also has some geothermal parks including Craters of the Moon which, as the name suggests, feels like an otherworldly experience. Strangely enough, the town is also home to the ‘world’s most unique McDonalds’. Seriously, it’s a thing. Voted first out of 35, 000 restaurants around the world because you can literally eat your Big Mac in a converted airplane!

Bay of Islands

Around a 3 hour drive from Auckland is Paihia, the coastal town that is the jewel in the Bay of Islands. What’s the Bay of Islands, you might ask? Well just 144 of the most beautiful islands set in magically turquoise water and boasting amazing beaches and heaps of hiking trails, if tramping is your thing!

We’ve got a whole article just on Paihia and what to do there if you’re interested. Want the highlights? Well in Paihia you can take a boat tour out to the islands, to see where James Cook first made landfall in New Zealand. You can dine on fish and chips at the wharf, stroll around the Waitangi Treaty Grounds which is known as the ‘birthplace’ of New Zealand or check out some of the incredible waterfalls in the area, like Haruru Falls or Rainbow Falls.

Roberton Island lookout Lee

Hobbiton

You can’t visit New Zealand without heading to Hobbiton. Honestly, we’re not even huge Lord of the Rings fans and we were fascinated by this movie set. You might know that New Zealand is famous as the filming location for both the LOTR and Hobbiton film series. And Hobbiton itself is the star in those, and now a permanent fixture near a small town called Matamata.

There are tours departing for Hobbiton directly from Auckland (book one here and do it in advance – you’ll notice they sell out!), and really are well worth it. We loved our journey around the movie set as its of an impeccably high standard and guided by hugely passionate LOTR fans who not only keep you entertained for the duration of it, but also give you some insider secrets that even a casual LOTR fan would be salivating over. Plus you’ll end it all at the Green Dragon pub with a homebrewed mug of cider, beer or apple juice for your troubles.

Hobbiton near Rotorua

Waitomo Glow worm caves

We mentioned them above since Waitomo isn’t too far from Rotorua, but you can definitely just make a day trip out of visiting the renowned glow worm caves of Waitomo! Essentially this is a tour of this unique phenomenon – an underground cave where you not only see amazing stalactites and learn about the area, but a mesmerizing boat ride in a cavern full of amazing glow worms, shining bright blue in the inky black darkness.

Do it as a day trip from Auckland (it takes about 2 hours and 20 minutes to drive there), or make it a combo day tour with Rotorua by booking it with GreatSights directly out of Auckland.

New Plymouth

Firstly, a quick disclaimer: we haven’t been to New Plymouth. We just didn’t have the time on our last trip to New Zealand. So we’ve put it on the list because we haven’t personally visited it but also, technically, it’s a nearly 5 hour drive and so not really a day trip, unless you love time in the car.

That said, we’ve been told a few times that it is well worth a quick visit and you could always book one night in this oil-rich town on the west coast. The city is known for its many eclectic art galleries, relaxing city parks and heaps of great walking trails, if you’re that way inclined. There is a 13km promenade walkway, the New Plymouth Coastal Walkway, giving you epic ocean views or trails in Egmont National Park, under the watchful eye of the incredible Mount Taranaki.

When is the best time of year to visit Auckland?

If you’re keen to get the warmest, and in general the driest months for your time in Auckland, then January and February are the ideal months. The later in January you can go, also the better especially if you’re also looking to visit some of the more summer holiday destinations around Auckland. Don’t forget that New Zealanders tend to have their longer holidays around the December and January festive period. So, if you’re planning to visit over this time make sure you plan and book well ahead!

March and December are also generally good months in Auckland with warm weather, but early December and later March can have much more changeable weather.

So, you’ve made it to the very end of our Auckland guide. What did you think of our 1 day in Auckland itinerary? Let us know if we’ve missed anything by commenting below, or get in touch if there are some other activities you think we have to include.

Also, if you’re looking for other New Zealand guides, check out our New Zealand travel guides section where we have loads of great itineraries and road trips, from the Bay of Islands in the north, all the way to Queenstown in the South Island.

What camera equipment and other gear do we use?

We’re living proof that you don’t need the most expensive gear to travel the world and take good photos. Here are some of our must have items that make it into the packing list for all our travels.

Disclosure: The Travel Scribes were very fortunate to be hosted by Cordis for our stay in Auckland, and were invited by Auckland Whale and Dolphin Safari to try their tour. However, all views and recommendations are our own, and we were not paid to include either the Cordis or Auckland Whale and Dolphin Safari as part of this itinerary or anywhere on our website. We have included the hotel and tour as we believe that they are both great options for anyone visiting Auckland.


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