Auckland CBD

Auckland, the largest city in New Zealand’s North Island, is a popular entry point for exploring the country’s mountains, hot springs and serene lakes. But before you set off to see them, don’t forget to take a look around the city itself; you’ll be pleasantly surprised by its laid-back feel, pretty views and fabulous restaurants, all sent against the delightful backdrop of the Hauraki Gulf. Here are eight of our favourite things to do in Auckland:

Climb (or jump off) the Sky Tower

At 328 metres tall, Auckland’s skyline-dominating Sky Tower is officially the 25th tallest tower in the world. Nearly half a million people per year take the lift to the top, where they are treated to far-reaching views of the city and the sea beyond. The Orbit 360°C revolving restaurant is a good option up here, but for more of an adrenaline rush, you can also choose to don a full body harness and step outside, walking precariously close to the edge of the pergola, the wind whipping around you. Feeling extra brave? Jump off! With a harness of course, as part of the SkyJump experience.

How to do it: You’ll start our North Island by Campervan Journey in Auckland – our Travel Experts can add a Sky Tower visit to your itinerary.

Sail the Hauraki Gulf Islands

At the mouth of Waitemata Harbour lies a string of islands. The most famous of these, and ones you’re most likely to want to visit, are Waiheke Island (pictured) and Rangitoto Island, a dormant volcano with a distinctive cone-like shape. You can choose to sail amongst them on a harbour cruise, or head across on the ferry and spend the night. Rangitoto Island offers summit hikes and lava tunnels, while on Waiheke you can treat yourself to wine tasting, pristine beaches and plenty of art galleries and historic sights.

How to do it: Embark on a Rangitoto Volcanic Explorer tour on our 17-day Kiwi Wilderness Adventure, which also visits the Hobbiton set, Milford Sound and Abel Tasman – to name a few.

Go sea kayaking

Auckland is a great spot to try sea kayaking, whether you’re a complete beginner or have done it many times before. The sea is (usually) calm, the scenery spectacular and there are plenty of picnic-perfect sandy beaches to stop off at. It’s possible to kayak across the sheltered waters of Waitemata Harbour to both Rangitoto and Waiheke Island, or even spend the night on one of the islands if you’re looking for a true adventure. If you’re very lucky you might spot the odd kiwi (the bird) while you’re at it.

How to do it: Hire a kayak to Waiheke Island or take a boat ride there on our Best of Both Islands itinerary.

Look for whales and dolphins

Talking of wildlife, you’ve also got every chance of spotting bottlenose or common dolphins in the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park, sometimes in pods of 500-plus individuals. Orcas, Bryde’s whales, humpbacks and even blue whales can be seen, with the occasional sperm whale also spotted. Although you might come across a cetacean or two while kayaking, the best way to see one is on a whale and dolphin watching safari, which usually involves a short boat ride from Auckland’s Viaduct Harbour. You’ll also see gannets hunting, firing themselves into the water at speeds of 87mph in search of fish.

How to do it: Our Travel Experts can arrange a boat ride out to the Hauraki Gulf for you as part of our Essential North Island Journey. Chat to us to find out more.

Sample the local wine

New Zealand is famous for its fabulous wines, and sampling them in the sunshine by the water’s edge in Auckland makes them taste even better than usual. Wineries are all about, with four wine regions in Auckland’s immediate vicinity, so you can choose to tour the vineyards and take in the scenery on a foodie-friendly day tour or simply ensure that you order a local grape when you go out for dinner. Waiheke Island is a popular place for a sample or three due to its pretty coastal scenery and seriously tasty wines.

How to do it: Visit Waiheke Island and its pretty vineyards on our New Zealand by Campervan itinerary – a 24-day holiday around the twin-island nation.

Hike up Mount Eden

Just over two miles south of Auckland’s city centre, Mount Eden is a dormant volcano that rises 196 metres above the surrounding streets. Resembling a large, green hill with a crater in the middle of it, a walk to the top is a pleasant way to pass a sunny morning, and will give you some spectacular views over the area. There are plenty of cafés around too, so make a day of it and stay for lunch and some suburb wandering afterwards. You can even cycle to the top if you prefer.

How to do it: Chat to one of our Travel Experts about arranging a hike up Mount Eden.

Tour the museums and galleries

There’s no shortage of museums and galleries in Auckland, and the difficulty is choosing which ones to visit. It depends on your interests of course, but popular options include the War Memorial Museum (pictured), which covers natural, military and local history, the Museum of Transport and Technology (MOTAT) and the New Zealand Maritime Museum. If art’s more your bag then try the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki or the Nga Taonga Sound & Vision, which displays moving image and audio.

How to do it: Spend three days exploring Auckland and its fantastic museums on our Middle Earth Explorer trip, which also takes you to the best Lord of the Rings locations in the country.

Chill on the beach

The greater Auckland region is littered with beaches, some wide and sandy, some small and sheltered. So whether you’re looking for a place to flop down and enjoy the summer sun, or hoping to try some swimming, surfing or horse-riding in the waves, there’s definitely a beach for you. Believe it or not, you can even try snorkelling here, at the Goat Island Marine Reserve. Fishing is banned here, allowing the marine life to flourish: look out for snapper and stingrays.

How to do it: All of our Auckland holidays offer free time to relax and unwind.