After visiting Auckland every time I come and go from New Zealand I’ve gotten to know the city well as a tourist. If you’re planning to spend 3 days in Auckland this itinerary will ensure you’re in for a good time.
Because you know what? I enjoy Auckland.
Yup, never thought I’d say that as someone who grew up south of the Bombay Hills. Auckland is a gorgeous city with lots of diversity, don’t listen to the haters.
Before reading on, do note there’s is a large amount of walking in this itinerary. If you can’t walk long distances you’ll be better off choosing another itinerary.
Day 1 of 3 Days In Auckland
Key Attractions: The Viaduct, Free Walking Tour, Giapo, & Devonport
On the first day you’ll stay in and around the CBD to start, before heading to the North Shore in the middle of the afternoon.
Note: at the time of writing (September 2018), the free walking tour’s run Thursday to Sunday. If your first day in Auckland is a Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday, switch this day’s itinerary to a walking tour day. You can check the latest walking tour schedule here.
Explore The Viaduct
With most cafes not opening until 8 or 9 am, there’s no rush to get started in the morning. The Viaduct is a popular place in the evenings (expensive), but it’s a great place to walk in the morning too. Spend 45 minutes watching people on their work commute (grab a coffee, we Kiwi’s make a good one).
If you wanted, you could go to the Tepid Baths (indoor pools) that open at 5.30am, but otherwise take a look at the yachts in the harbour, the morning sunlight hitting the skyline, and keep an eye out for a place you might want to have dinner at later on.
Join The Free Walking Tour
The free walking tour beings at 10 am, so make sure to be at the meeting point by 9.55 am (by the Ferry Building).
This was my first walking tour in New Zealand, and I was intrigued to see how it’d compare to European walking tours given New Zealand’s young history. But I can confirm the walking tour in Auckland is great.
There are always stories to tell, and over the course of 2.5-3 hours, you’ll learn lots about Auckland, the people, and kiwi culture. You’ll learn a few Maori words as well, which I’m sure you’ll appreciate if you’re from abroad. As always, make sure to leave a donation (koha) after the tour.
Queue Up For Ice Cream At Giapo
After the walk, reward yourself with an epic ice cream from Giapo. I thought people only queued up food in America but it looks like the trend has spread (you might get lucky though). The Giapo team have got your back and when it’s your turn to order all will be well in the world (check out the menu!).
I even decided to write a post to figure out why Giapo can charge premium prices for their ice cream.
Take The Boat Devonport
After spending most of the day in the CBD, it’s time to head back to the Ferry Terminal (99 Quey Street) to get the ferry (12 minutes) to Devonport. Ferries leave every thirty minutes in the afternoon and a return ticket costs $12.50 for adults and $7.50 for children. Depending on how much daylight left you have to remain (you should have at least an hour in the middle of winter) you could:
- Visit the Torpedo Bay Navy Museum
- Explore the North Head Tunnels (must do)
- Relax on Cheltenham Beach
- Walking up to the Mt. Victoria Lookout
- Shopping on High Street
These activities will be more than enough to fill in the rest of the day. If you want, you could have dinner in Devonport with the ferries running until at least 10 pm every day. If not, head on back to the CBD and maybe eat at one of the restaurants you were eyeing up earlier in the morning. Sleep well, as tomorrow is going to be a big walking day.
Quick sidenote: Devonport can also be a place where you base yourself if you’d rather not stay in the city. It’s still possible to adventure to the majority of the places on this itinerary starting from Devonport each day.
Day 2 of the Auckland Itinerary
Key Attractions: The Coast to Coast Walkway, and something extreme.
The second day of this 3-day itinerary for Auckland involves a lot of walking with an injection of adrenaline.
Note: I would recommend booking your SkyTower/Bridge activity in advance. Some of them, like the Bridge Climb don’t run late into the evening so you might want to do that in the morning and spend the rest of the day on the Coast to Coast walk.
Experience The Coast to Coast Walkway
The Coast to Coast Walkway makes up 16km of New Zealand’s Te Araroa Trail (that runs the length of the country). On this section of the trail, you start at the Viaduct and finish up by Manukau Harbour in Onehunga. Along the way you pass a bunch of Auckland’s top things to do, including:
- Auckland Domain
- Auckland Museum
- Mt. Eden
- Cromwell Park
- One Tree Hill
- Auckland University
- Albert Park
If you haven’t been to any of these spots yet, this is the best way to get them all done on one day. The rest of the walk is through stretches of suburbs which can be interesting. When you leave Cromwell Park on your final stretch into Onehunga, you’ll also come across the Royal Oak Shopping Centre if you need to refuel.
If you were to walk without a break you could finish in as little as three hours. But I recommend taking your time, take photos, visit the museum, and grab a bite to eat (picnic?).
Leave the Viaduct to start walking at about 8 am. If you’re planning to visit the Museum start from Onehunga and walk from there as the Museum opens at 10 am. I would say you can expect to take 5 – 6 hours walking the Coast to Coast if you’re not in a rush (not dawdling either). So expect to be back in the CBD by mid-afternoon.
Get An Injection Of Adrenalin At The Skytower or Skybridge
After the big walk, I’ll give you a few options to choose from here:
- Sky Jump
- Sky Walk
- Bridge Walk
- Bridge Jump
These aren’t cheap activities but when in New Zealand, you’re obliged to give at least one ago.
Don’t like the idea of doing these extreme activities? Head to the top of the SkyTower, New Zealand’s tallest building, for some awesome views.
This is an exhausting day but if you still have time left, head to the Auckland Gallery which you’ll have walked past on the free walking tour to lots of New Zealand & International artwork.
Visiting Auckland: Day 3 Itinerary
Key Attractions: Piha Beach, Waitakere Ranges, & K’ Road
On the last day in Auckland, it’s time to head out of Auckland City to West Auckland, where the lifestyle is a polar opposite of city living.
A Day Trip To Piha!
The only downside about this for some people will be the lack of public transport to Piha (population, 600). If you haven’t rented a car, you can get there on a shuttle bus that runs from the city or take the train out to the last station in Waitakere and taxi from there (expensive).
When you reach Piha, you’ll notice a dramatic change in the landscape. From a CBD built alongside a picturesque harbour to the rugged coastland, wild surf, and black volcanic sand.
The Piha surf is arguably the most famous in the country thanks to the tv show Piha Rescue. The programme showed time and time again how dangerous the surf can be if you don’t follow the lifeguards instructions and swim outside the flags. So, always stick to swimming inside the flags and listen to the lifeguards.
Piha’s Lion Rock can’t be missed (it looks like a lion sitting down), and you’ll have plenty of time to climb to the top for panoramic views. If you’d like to discover other nearby beaches, you have two choices: Whites Beach to the north, and Mercer Bay to the south, both of which can only be accessed by foot from Piha.
If you’ve had enough beach time, Piha Cafe is a cozy place to grab a bite to eat, before heading into the Waitakere Ranges. Here you’ll find a wide variety of hikes available for all levels. The Kitekite are a must, they might only be 40 metres in height, but they’re gorgeous.
You could spend your last night in Auckland out in Piha, but it’s a bit isolated and if you haven’t got a car, making the commute back to the city in the morning to continue your New Zealand adventure isn’t fun.
An Evening On K’ road
After you’ve cleaned up from your beach day at Piha, it’s time to check out one of Auckland’s most well-known streets, K’ Road.
K’ Road (Karangahape Rd) is at the southern end of Queens Street in the CBD. K’ Road has gone through several reincarnations. It was a popular shopping street in the 1960’s, before becoming better-known as a red light district in the 80’s but has gone through a gentrification phase to where it is today. You’ll find people from all backgrounds here for the hipster cafes, unique shops, and galleries that are found amongst the nightclubs and variety of restaurants, from the high-end to classic takeaway kebab shops.
We’ll be heading here in the evening after a big day out at Piha, so take a walk along the road and some of the side streets and find a place to eat that suits your budget. I’ll leave it up to you to decide how to finish your trip in Auckland, your bed may be calling, or the atmosphere of K Road’s nightlife might pull you in.
The above plan for travelling around Auckland saw us visit museums, absorb some history, embrace cultures, explore beaches, and more. If you’ve got any questions about your time in Auckland, do ask, and I’ll do my best to help!