Whilst Auckland was by no means my favourite place in New Zealand, I definitely think a New Zealand bucket list is incomplete without a visit to Auckland. Even if that’s only to provide contrast and make you appreciate the natural beauty of the South Island even more!
From climbing up volcanoes and jumping off towers, to visiting subtropical islands and the famous Hobbiton, there’s no chance of getting bored on a trip to Auckland (even if you have to travel outside of the city to find the real good stuff!). Plus, when there are so many great cheap eats in Auckland, your stomach won’t be complaining either! So without further ado, here is my guide on how to spend three days in Auckland.
Day One: Explore the City
So what did I think would be the best way to tackle jet lag and jump straight (literally) into this beautiful country? By jumping off its tallest building. Well, start as you mean to go out, as they say… The Sky Jump is New Zealand’s highest jump at a whopping 192 metres and only base jump by wire. If you sign up for the Sky Jump you’ll be plummeting off the tower at 85km an hour!
However, it’s far less scary than bungee jumping, as you’re not going headfirst, making it a good way to slowly ease yourself into New Zealand’s adventure scene. It’s perfect for both young and old with a minimum age of 10 and no maximum age.
Tickets cost £115 and your ticket also lets you go back up the Sky Tower anytime on the day you jump (more on that later) so you can appreciate the view without thinking about the fact you may be hurtling towards your death. If you don’t quite fancy throwing yourself off the tower just yet, you can opt to do the Skywalk instead where you walk along a narrow walkway around the outside of the Sky Tower at 192 metres high. You’ll get spectacular 360° panoramic views of Auckland, its hills, the harbour and the islands beyond!
Climb Mount Eden
Possibly the most iconic view of Auckland and one you cannot leave the city without seeing is the one from Mount Eden. Mount Eden is Auckland’s highest volcano and a great place to catch spectacular 360° views of the city and get up close and personal to the crater in the middle of the mountain from when the volcano erupted about 15,000 years ago.
Top tip: Get a bus to the base of Mount Eden instead of walking all the way there because you’ll waste an hour of your life and you won’t be missing out on any great sights. I learnt that one the hard way.
Explore downtown Auckland
While there is nowhere I think you NEED to see in Auckland’s CBD, it’s lovely to wander around the city and just soak up the atmosphere anyway. Viaduct Harbour and Wynyard Quarter are really nice areas to explore, as is Mission Bay a little further out of the city. Or, if the weather’s a bit crap, why not pop into one of the city’s many museums or art galleries, like the Auckland War Memorial Museum or New Zealand Maritime Museum?
Watch the sunset at the top of the Sky Tower
Told you we’d be back up here, didn’t I? If you’re going to go up the Sky Tower at any time (entry is £22 if you don’t do the SkyJump), then do it at sunset. It was great to see the city from this perspective in both the day and the evening. The Sky Tower is already one of the best photo spots in Auckland but it’s even more special at sunset! It was lovely sitting back watching the sun going down and the city becoming more and more illuminated as the evening drew in.
Day Two: Visit Waiheke Island
Waiheke, I LOVE you, I bloody love you!!! Waiheke Island was one of my favourite places in the whole of New Zealand, not only because the weather was blummin’ wonderful, as I mentioned in my New Zealand Packing Guide, but because it was just so beautiful.
Catch a 40-minute ferry from the Auckland CBD for some wine tasting on Waiheke Island, a subtropical island located in the Hauraki Gulf. With more than 20 vineyards and wineries, there is something to suit every taste (if wine is your choice of poison, that is).
However, even if you’re not a fan of wine Waiheke Island boasts 92 square kilometres of pristine beaches, stunning coastal headlands, and seaside villages too. Most wineries also offer gourmet meals so if you prefer eating your calories rather than drinking them, don’t worry, your stomach won’t suffer!
Be aware that you’ll have to get around by public transport as the island is too big to explore on foot. I booked a ticket for the Waiheke Island Explorer Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour in advance, and I found that it was the most flexible and cost-effective way to get around the island. Tickets cost £31 in total for both the ferry ride and the bus tour.
Check out a vineyard
The vineyard I chose to visit, as pictured above, is Batch Winery, the highest-altitude vineyard on Waiheke Island which you can find near the end of the bus tour. Batch boasts incredible 360° views from Coromandel to the Sky Tower. Plus, it has a laid-back restaurant serving classic Kiwi dishes with a modern spin and locally-sourced ingredients. I went for their house-made pork and fennel sausage on mash with onion gravy, fried eggs and salad. Yum!
However, don’t take my word for it! In November 2015, Waiheke Island was rated the fifth-best destination in the world to visit in 2016 by Lonely Planet, and was also voted the fourth best island in the world by Condé Nast Traveller. My day trip to Waiheke Island was by far my favourite part of my time in Auckland. I could not recommend visiting there more if I tried. Right, fangirl Luce over and out.
Day Three: Visit Hobbiton
Okay, nope, spoke too soon. FANGIRL LUCE IS BACK IN FULL FORCE! Visiting Hobbiton was just a dream come true. If like me you are a huge fan of The Lord of the Rings then Hobbiton will be heaven on earth for you. I booked a day trip to Hobbiton from Auckland with InterCity for £80, leaving the Sky City Bus Terminal at 8am and returning to the same spot at 7:30pm. It’s a long day (over six hours travelling to and from Matamata in total) but absolutely worth it. While they may not be the most reliable, InterCity are by far the cheapest option for visiting Hobbiton from Auckland, unless you hire a car.
The whole area surrounding Hobbiton is just as beautiful as Hobbiton itself. As you pull up to the filming location, lush fields of green roll into view. I had major heart eyes for this area of New Zealand, let me tell you! You have to go around Hobbiton with a tour guide (they make it very clear that you cannot stray from your group) and the tour lasts about two to three hours in total.
There are over 44 hobbit holes in Hobbiton including the famous Bag End and Sam and Rosie’s house. After exploring the site, the final stop on the tour is The Green Dragon Inn where you each get a free drink (I went for the apple cider), which is much welcomed after walking up and down and all around.
So have you ever visited Auckland? What did you think? Was there something you did there that you loved that I missed off my guide?
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