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Auckland is New Zealand’s biggest city and often the first port of call for visitors. With so much to offer, Auckland should not be overlooked on your New Zealand itinerary and is deserving of at least 3 days.
Based around 2 large harbours and home to many volcanic cones, you’ll find some beautiful island day trips, delicious cuisine, excellent museums and so much natural beauty. Read on to discover why you should plan a 3 day Auckland itinerary:
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3 day Auckland itinerary
Auckland itinerary – when is the best time to visit Auckland?
The best times to plan your Auckland itinerary are either in autumn (March to May) or spring (September to November) as these months offer warm and pleasant temperatures and fewer tourists.
However the summer months of December to February have glorious weather and are a wonderful time of year for swimming at Auckland’s many beaches or enjoying alfresco drinking and dining along the waterfront or at Waiheke Island wineries.
You can easily travel around Auckland on a mix of buses, trains and ferries and the best way to pay to ride them is by using an Auckland Transport HOP contactless card.
You can purchase a card and top up the money on it at many locations across the city including ferry terminals and train stations. A full list of locations can be found on the Auckland Transport website.
Uber is also available in Auckland and is a convenient way to get around the city.
3 day Auckland itinerary
Day 1: City exploring
Start the first day of your Auckland itinerary with a delicious breakfast at Federal Delicatessen on Federal Street – a take on an old school NYC Jewish delicatessen serving bagels, salmon latkes, pancakes, bottomless coffee and other yummy breakfast/brunch dishes.
Federal Delicatessen is located at the bottom of the iconic Sky Tower – New Zealand’s highest building and the tallest freestanding structure in the Southern Hemisphere.
After breakfast head up to the viewing deck at the top of the Sky Tower for amazing 360 degree views of the city and islands in the Hauraki Gulf.
Entry to the top is $32 per adult (if purchased online in advance). However if you have a reservation for either Orbit 360 or Sugar Club restaurants then entry to the viewing deck is included (so you might want to save a visit to the tower if you plan to go to these restaurants later in your Auckland itinerary). Book a Sky Tower ticket >
If you are after a bit more excitement then you can also do a SkyWalk round the pergola or SkyJump off the Tower! We did the SkyWalk and absolutely loved it! Read more about the experiences at skyjump.co.nz.
Trip to Devonport
Next take a short 10 minute walk from the Sky Tower to the Downtown Ferry Terminal to board a ferry to Devonport – a charming suburb on Auckland’s north shore.
The ferry ride is 12 minutes long and the ferries depart every half an hour (and every 15 minutes at peak times). You can use your HOP card to pay for the journey.
Devonport is a relaxed bayside village filled with Victorian buildings, boutique gift shops, cafes and historic bars. The highlight of a trip to Devonport are the epic views from the top of the volcanic cones of North Head and Mount Victoria. Both are a short and relatively easy uphill walk.
If you have time during your Auckland itinerary and it’s a sunny day then head over to the gorgeous Cheltenham beach – a sandy bay with calm ocean waters which are perfect for swimming or relaxing.
Late lunch in Auckland CBD
Take the ferry back to the city and take a short stroll to the Britomart complex for a late lunch at one of the eateries there.
Recommended spots include Ortolana – a small, relaxed bistro serving European fare, and Cafe Hanoi – a contemporary northern Vietnamese restaurant. Check out this list of restaurants on Metro magazine’s website >
For dessert we recommend Milse – a contemporary dessert bar or the famous Giapo for innovative ice creams (queues can go around the block!).
Next, take a short Uber taxi or bus 27H or 27W from Britomart station to the base of Mount Eden. This is the highest volcano in Auckland and the easy 2km walk to the crater at the top will take you around 1 hour to complete.
The summit is one of the best spots in the city to watch the sun set so make sure you time it perfectly.
Alternatively if the weather is not looking great during your Auckland itinerary, then instead of heading over to Mount Eden, spend the rest of the afternoon visiting nearby Auckland Art Gallery or Auckland Maritime Museum, or take a train/bus/taxi over to the Auckland War Memorial Museum in Auckland Domain.
In the evening we recommend heading over to Viaduct Harbour – a vibrant waterfront harbour that has over 30 bars and restaurants.
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Day 2: Waiheke Island day trip
No Auckland itinerary would be complete without a day trip to Waiheke Island. This island is packed with beautiful beaches, wineries, nature walks and shopping/dining, and is located a 40 minute ferry ride away from downtown Auckland.
You can visit the island independently and get around using public buses, or you can visit as part of a group tour which will take you to a few different wineries. Check out these Waiheke trips >
The Auckland HOP card excludes the Waiheke Island ferry, but the card can be used on buses on the island. You can purchase your return ferry ticket from the ferry terminal or book online here >
For a more details on how to get around and what to do on Waiheke Island check out our ultimate guide to Waiheke Island >
Day 3: City or island day trip
For your final day of your Auckland itinerary we have suggested 7 different options for fun activities to suit a range of interests. Some are day trips out of the city, whilst some are based inside Auckland City.
1. Rangitoto Island
Rangitoto Island is a dormant volcano and formed by an eruption almost 500 years ago, Visiting Rangitoto is an easy day trip that can be reached in 25 minutes by catching a ferry from downtown Auckland.
The walk to the summit is an easy gentle incline takings 2 hours to complete a return journey.
The path takes you through an abundance of native plants and rugged lava fields, and there are wooden viewing platforms at the top where you can see unadulterated 360 degree views of all the surrounding islands and the city skyline.
You can book a return ferry at the ferry terminal or on the Fullers website.
2. Tiritiri Matangi Island
Tiritiri Matangi Island is a wildlife sanctuary and one of New Zealand’s most important and exciting conservation projects.
Here you can learn about the island’s wildlife, revegetation and history, and discover the best spots to see native birds. Read more about how to visit on the Tiritiri Matangi website >
3. Mission Bay
Mission Bay is a beautiful beachside suburb with stunning views of Rangitoto Island. The small village is located a 20 minute bus ride from Auckland CBD (or if you fancy a nice coastal walk – it will take 90 minutes).
Mission Bay’s beach is safe to swim in all year round, and the Promenade has a variety of bars and restaurants.
Other things to do in the area include heading up the hill to Bastion Point which has some lovely gardens and a WWII memorial, Kelly Tarlton’s Sea Life Aquarium, and Fergs Kayaks – who hire out roller blades, paddle boards and kayaks, as well as running guided kayak tours.
4. Waitakere Ranges
The Waitakere Ranges are a huge 16,000 hectare region in west Auckland with rugged black sand surf beaches, waterfalls, native rainforest and many scenic walks.
The Waitakeres are not accessible via public transport so you will need to hire a car for the day or you can book a Waitakere Ranges Wilderness Experience Tour from Auckland or Auckland City, Beaches & Rainforest Premium Small Group Tour.
5. Whale and Dolphin cruise
Watch whales and dolphins up close aboard a 65-foot luxury catamaran in Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf. Tours last 4.5-hours and depart from the Viaduct Harbour. Book a Whale and Dolphin Watching Half-Day Eco Cruise >
If you are a Lord of the Rings fan then a day trip to the Hobbiton movie set is a must do.
The set is located in the town of Matamata which is a 2 hour drive away from Auckland, but there are guided group tours which depart from Auckland such as the Hobbiton Movie Set Tour from Auckland >
7. Auckland Maritime Museum ship sailings
Take an hour-long cruise in Auckland’s Harbour aboard the Ted Ashby – a heritage scow. Sailings run twice a day between Tuesday – Sunday and cost $26 per adult. Book a sailing trip in advance online >
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Auckland itinerary day 3 evening
After finishing one of the above activities, head over to the Wynyard Quarter and Silo Park. The Wynyard Quarter is a reclaimed piece of land on the waterfront that has lots of lovely bars and restaurants, whilst neighbouring Silo Park hosts many events and exhibitions.
If you are visiting during the summer months then Silo Park has a weekly outdoor cinema, plus street food stalls every Friday night.
Auckland Fish Market is also located in this area and is an indoor-outdoor hub with 8 eateries and a courtyard bar.
Alternatively, other great dining spots in the city centre include Depot – a stylish oyster bar, or Elliot Stables – a premium indoor food court with a range of international restaurants.
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3 day Auckland itinerary – accommodation options
Budget accommodation options
The Attic Backpackers
Hostel located in the heart of Auckland City with large outdoor covered deck, dining area and kitchen. Large and small dorms as well as female only dorms, private single and twin rooms. Check out prices and availability for The Attic Backpackers.
Mid range accommodation options
Airedale Boutique Suites
Hotel in an art deco building just 10 minutes’ walk from the Sky Tower. Check out prices and availability for Airedale Boutique Suites.
The Parnell Hotel
Apartments located in suburb of Parnell with kitchenette, onsite bar and restaurant and free parking. Check out prices and availability for The Parnell Hotel.
VR Queen Street
Self-catering accommodation in Auckland’s CBD (15-minute walk from Sky City). Check out prices and availability for VR Queen Street.
M Social Auckland
190-room designer hotel overlooking the vibrant Princes Wharf. Check out prices and availability for M Social Auckland.
Stylish boutique hotel in the heart of Auckland CBD, with a bar and fitness centre. Check out prices and availability for Hotel DeBrett.
SKYCITY Grand Hotel
Part of the SkyCity entertainment complex, this 5-star hotel has rooms and suites with views of Auckland Harbour and the city skyline. Facilities include a heated indoor pool, day spa, bar and award winning restaurants. Check out prices and availability for SKYCITY Grand Hotel.
Sofitel Auckland Viaduct Harbour
Luxury hotel with spectacular waterfront location in Auckland’s viaduct harbour. All rooms have private balconies, floor-to-ceiling windows and over-sized bathrooms, and the hotel has a large indoor pool and fitness centre. Check out prices and availability for Sofitel Auckland Viaduct Harbour.
Trendy new hotel located in the downtown Britomart district with indoor heated pool and rooftop bar. Check out prices and availability for SO/ Auckland.
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