We’ve compiled the best of the best in Auckland - browse our top choices for the top things to see or do during your stay.

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  • 1. Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki

    City Center

    The modernist addition to the Auckland Art Gallery has breathed life and light into a structure built in the 1880s. The soaring glass, wood, and stone addition, which some say looks like stylized trees, both complements and contrasts with the formal château-like main gallery. A courtyard and fountain space at the front is home to ever-changing works. The gallery, adjacent to Albert Park, has some 15,000 items dating from the 12th century but also shows innovative and challenging contemporary art that draws big crowds. Historic portraits of Māori chiefs by well-known New Zealand painters C.F. Goldie and Gottfried Lindauer offer an ethnocentric view of people once seen as fiercely martial. Goldie often used the same subject repeatedly—odd, considering his desire to document what he considered a dying race. New Zealand artists Frances Hodgkins, Doris Lusk, and Colin McCahon are also represented here, and there are shows and performances. The gallery has made a tilt to offering more international exhibitions so check with the website for the latest show. Free collection tours are given at 11:30 and 1:30. The café is hip and busy, and the gift shop offers a range of books, original artworks, and keepsakes.

    5 Kitchener St., Auckland, Auckland, 1010, New Zealand

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Free, except for special exhibits
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  • 2. Auckland War Memorial Museum


    The Māori artifact collection here is one of the largest in the world, housed in a Greek Revival building in one of the city's finest parks, with views to match. Must-sees include a fine example of a pātaka (storehouse), a fixture in Māori villages, and Te Toki a Tapiri, the last great Māori waka (canoe). Made of a single log and measuring 85 feet long, it could carry 100 warriors, and its figurehead shows tremendous carving. To learn more about Māori culture, attend one of the performances, held at least three times daily, that demonstrate Māori song, dance, weaponry, and the haka (a ceremonial dance the All Blacks rugby team has adopted as an intimidating pregame warm-up). The museum also holds an exceptional collection of Pacific artifacts and hosts high-quality visiting or issue-specific exhibitions. If you want a bit of talk and music in the evening check out the once-a-month panel discussion followed by live music known as Late at the Museum. The museum is also home to two cafés. On Anzac Day (April 25), thousands gather in front of the museum in a dawn service to recognize the gallantry of the country's servicemen and -women.

    Park Rd., Auckland, Auckland, 1052, New Zealand

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: NZ$28
  • 3. Goldie Vineyard

    First to plant grapes on Waiheke were Kim and Jeanette Goldwater, whose eponymous wines have since earned a reputation for excellence. It's also home to Auckland University's Wine Research Institute for postgraduate research into wine as well the Goldie Room, a fantastic eatery that offers superb food and, of course, wine. Personalized tours can be arranged. The estate is known for the Long Lunch, which is a nine-course degustation menu that is held about four times a year and sells out very quickly.

    18 Causeway Rd., Surfdale, Auckland, 1081, New Zealand

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Mar.–Nov., Wed.–Sun. noon–4; Dec.–Feb., daily noon–4
  • 4. Rangitoto Island

    Hauraki Gulf Islands

    When Rangitoto Island emerged from the sea in a series of fiery eruptions 600 years ago, it had an audience: footprints in the solidified ash on its close neighbor Motutapu Island prove that Māori people watched Rangitoto's birth. It is the largest and youngest of about 50 volcanic cones and craters in the Auckland volcanic field, and scientists are confident it will not blow again. During the 1920s and '30s hundreds of prisoners built roads and trails on the island, some of which are still used as walkways. Small beach houses were erected by families in the early 20th century. Many were pulled down in the 1970s before their historical significance was recognized. Thirty-two remain, and a few are still used by leaseholders, who are allowed to use them during their lifetimes. (Afterward, they'll be relinquished to the DOC). The island's most popular activity is the one-hour summit walk, beginning at Rangitoto Wharf and climbing through lava fields and forest to the peak. At the top, walkers are rewarded with panoramic views of Auckland and the Hauraki Gulf. Short detours lead to lava caves and to the remnants of a botanical park planned in 1915. Wear sturdy shoes and carry water because parts of the walk are on exposed lava flows, which are hot in the sun. You can swim at Islington Bay and at the Rangitoto Wharf in a specially made pool.

    Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand
  • 5. SEA LIFE Kelly Tarlton's

    This harborside marine park—the creation of New Zealand's most celebrated undersea explorer and treasure hunter—offers a fish's-eye view of the sea. A transparent tunnel, 120 yards long, makes a bewitching circuit past moray eels, lobsters, sharks, and stingrays. You can also have an encounter with King and Gentoo penguins and their keepers in their icy abode, and take home photos to prove it. This attraction is popular and limited to four people a day so it pays to book ahead.

    23 Tamaki Dr., Auckland, Auckland, 1062, New Zealand

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: NZ$41, Closed Tues. and Wed.
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  • 6. Stonyridge Vineyard

    This vineyard has followers all over the world. The Stonyridge Larose, made from the classic Bordeaux varieties, is excellent and the vintage often sells out. Reservations for lunch at the Veranda Café, which uses local produce including olive oil and wine, are essential. This place is popular with the helicopter-in crowd.

    80 Onetangi Rd., Ostend, Auckland, 1081, New Zealand
  • 7. Te Motu Vineyard

    The friendly Dunleavy family started planting vines in 1989. Now its Te Motu Bordeaux blend, which is made only when conditions are right, is on the wine list at many Michelin-starred restaurants in France. The winery gives tastings, but it's best to call first to check for times. Don't be fooled by the restaurant's name, the Shed; it caters to a fussy clientele for its grown-on-site garden-to-plate cooking. The wine list, which always features Te Motu wines from the heritage cellar, changes monthly. Reservations are essential.

    76 Onetangi Rd., Onetangi, Auckland, 1081, New Zealand

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Tastings from NZ$20, Winery and restaurant closed Mon.--Wed.
  • 8. Tiritiri Matangi Island

    Hauraki Gulf Islands

    You can see rare native birds up close at Tiritiri Matangi, a bird sanctuary open to the public and accessible by ferry from Auckland or Gulf Harbour on the Whangaparoa Peninsula. Gentle, well-maintained, signposted trails lead to the top of the island and the oldest lighthouse in the gulf, still in operation. The island is free from predators, and the birds are unafraid. Tiritiri is home to at least 18 takahe, large blue-and-green flightless birds with red beaks that are part of a nationwide breeding program for the rare species; you can usually spot them eating grass near the lighthouse.

    Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Ferry NZ$82 round-trip, guided walks NZ$10
  • 9. Waiheke Island

    Once a sleepy summer vacation retreat and hippie haven with beach houses dotting its edges, Waiheke is now home to 35 vineyards (many the passion projects of their owners), architecturally impressive holiday homes owned by the well heeled, and old-school tiny weekend escapes. The island has earned an international reputation for its vineyards, and many local cafés stock Waiheke wines unavailable elsewhere. The annual Waiheke Jazz Festival at Easter attracts renowned overseas performers. From the ferry landing at Matiatia Wharf you can walk five minutes to the small town of Oneroa, the island's hub, with its shops, cafés, bars, and real estate agents. Another minute's walk gets you to Oneroa Beach, one of the most accessible beaches. The north-facing beaches—sheltered bays with little surf—are the best for swimming. The most popular is Palm Beach, 10 minutes by bus from Oneroa. Around the rocks to the left is Little Palm Beach, one of Auckland's three nudist beaches. Another great beach, Onetangi, is on the north side of the island, 20 minutes from Matiatia by bus. Whakanewha Regional Park, on the south side, is a lovely bush reserve leading down to a half-moon bay. You can hike and picnic here, and the wetlands are home to rare birds such as the New Zealand dotterel. You can get to the park from Oneroa by shuttle bus. If you go in summer or on weekends, it pays to get ferry tickets early as the island draws big crowds on fine days.

    New Zealand
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  • 10. Albert Park

    City Center

    These 15 acres of formal gardens contain a mix of established and seasonal plantings, a fountain, and statue- and sculpture-studded lawns. They are a favorite of Aucklanders, who pour out of nearby office buildings and two adjacent universities to eat lunch and lounge under trees on sunny days. Good cafés at the universities serve well-priced takeout food and coffee. The park is built on the site of an 1840s–50s garrison, which kept settlers apart from neighboring Māori tribes. On the park's east side, behind Auckland University's general library, are remnants of stone walls with rifle slits. The park is home to festivals throughout the summer and the Auckland Art Gallery is on its edge.

    Bounded by Wellesley St. W., Kitchener St., Waterloo Quad, Auckland, Auckland, 1010, New Zealand

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Free
  • 11. Auckland Domain


    Saturday cricketers, Sunday picnickers, and any-day runners are some of the Aucklanders who enjoy this rolling, 340-acre park—not to mention loads of walkers, often with dogs. Running trails range from easy to challenging, and organized 10-km (6-mile) runs occur throughout the year. The Domain contains some magnificent sculpture as well as the domed Wintergardens (open daily 10–4), which houses tropical and seasonally displayed hothouse plants. In summer, watch the local paper for free weekend-evening concerts, which usually include opera and fireworks. There are superb views of the city and harbor from the top of the park. Take a bottle of wine and a basket of goodies and join the locals—up to 300,000 per show.  While the Domain is safe during the day it is not a place to be at night unless you're there for a concert with a big crowd.

    Entrances at Stanley St., Park Rd., Carlton Gore Rd., and Maunsell Rd., Auckland, Auckland, 1052, New Zealand
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  • 12. Auckland Zoo

    Western Springs

    Since the 1990s, this zoo, 6 km (4 miles) west of Auckland, has focused on providing its animals with the most natural habitats possible, as well as on breeding and conservation. To catch a glimpse of New Zealand flora and fauna, spend time in the New Zealand Native Aviary, where you walk among the birds, and the Kiwi and Tuatara Nocturnal House. A number of music events are held in summer on the zoo grounds.

    Motions Rd., Auckland, Auckland, 1022, New Zealand

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: NZ$24
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  • 13. Babich Wines

    The Babich family has been making wine in New Zealand since 1916, beginning first in the far north, where Josip Babich joined his brothers from Croatia and planted grapes near the gum fields. The 72-acre Henderson cellar site has a range of tastings and snacks; years ago it was amid farmland but now is almost surrounded by houses as the population in west Auckland has grown.

    15 Babich Rd., Auckland, Auckland, 0612, New Zealand

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Closed Sun.
  • 14. Civic Theatre

    City Center

    This extravagant art nouveau movie theater was the talk of the town when it opened in 1929, but nine months later the owner, Thomas O'Brien, went bust and fled, taking the week's revenues and an usherette with him. During World War II, a cabaret show in the basement was popular with Allied servicemen. One of the entertainers, Freda Stark, is said to have appeared regularly wearing nothing more than a coat of gold paint. Now the café at the front of the Civic bears her name. When you sit down to a show or movie you'll see a simulated night sky on the ceiling and giant lions with lights for eyes on stage. The theater is host to an ever-changing roster of movie premieres, intimate rock concerts, live theater, and dance parties.

    Queen and Wellesley Sts., Auckland, Auckland, 1010, New Zealand
  • 15. Ferry Building

    City Center

    This magnificent 1912 Edwardian building continues to stand out on Auckland's waterfront. It's still used for its original purpose, launching ferries to Devonport as well as to Waiheke and other Hauraki Gulf islands. The building also houses bars and restaurants.

    Quay St., Auckland, Auckland, 1010, New Zealand
  • 16. Great Barrier Island

    Hauraki Gulf Islands

    Also known as Aotea, Great Barrier Island is the largest in the gulf with a population of around 1,100, and is mostly agricultural. It's popular with surfers—particularly Awana Beach—and the population swells in summer as the boating crowd moves in, mooring in its many sheltered bays. Access is by ferry, air, or yacht.

    Auckland, Auckland, 0961, New Zealand
  • 17. KareKare

    Film buffs will recognize KareKare and its black sand from the dramatic opening scenes of The Piano. Its size means you will never feel hemmed in, even in the peak summer months when it attracts big visitor numbers despite the steep road access. You'll need to pack a lunch as there are no shops. The pounding waves make for great swimming and surfing, but again, go in only when the surf patrol is operating as there are strong rips and undertows. Fit walkers should explore the southern end of the beach. You can venture past the point but only go at low tide because getting back is difficult when the tide comes in. The sunsets are spectacular anytime of year. Amenities: lifeguards in summer; parking (free); toilets. Best for: sunset; surfing; swimming; walking.

    KareKare Rd., Auckland, Auckland, 0772, New Zealand
  • 18. Mission Bay

    About 10 minutes' drive from the central city, Mission Bay off Tamaki Drive draws the crowds year-round and summertime can see families and community groups from all of Auckland picnicking side by side. Dining options run the gamut from fast food to formal-ish restaurants. Three extremely good ice cream parlors and an abundance of good coffee round out the culinary options, and it's not uncommon to see long lines at each joint and then people eating sitting on the seawall. Be aware though it can get very busy in summer and finding a place to park can be a nightmare. Amenities: food and drink; parking; showers; toilets. Best for: sunrise; swimming.

    Tamaki Dr., Auckland, Auckland, 1071, New Zealand
  • 19. Mt. Victoria

    Long before European settlement, this ancient volcano was the site of a Māori pā (fortified village) of the local Kawerau tribe. On the northern and eastern flanks of the hill you can still see traces of the terraces once protected by palisades of sharpened stakes. Don't be put off by its name—this is more molehill than mountain. The climb is easy and the views are outstanding. Mt. Victoria is signposted on Victoria Road, a few minutes' walk from the Esplanade Hotel.

    Kerr St., Devonport, Auckland, 0624, New Zealand
  • 20. Muriwai Beach

    The black sand of Muriwai Beach is a must for those exploring the West Coast. Combine a trip here with a visit to any of the many wineries in the area. The beach is great for surfing, kitesurfing, walking, and swimming, but don't venture into the water if the surf patrol is not operating, and always swim between the red and yellow flags. It is a great spot for a long walk and in summer it draws huge crowds. In winter you may be accompanied by wild winds, but it's still enjoyable if you're warmly dressed. Alternatively, get up-close-and-personal with the local gannet colony from the DOC viewing platforms; you can see the chicks in December and January. Amenities: food and drink; lifeguards in summer; parking; showers; toilets. Best for: sunset; swimming; walking.

    Motutara Rd., Auckland, Auckland, 0881, New Zealand

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