Here you’ll find a detailed itinerary on what to see in Auckland in just two days; where to stay, what to see, and how to tour the city on a budget!
Auckland is considered to be one of the world’s most liveable cities, with over 180 different ethnic groups adding up to one big, bustling, cosmopolitan and vibrant place. With its good climate, beautiful natural environment, beaches, and parks, it’s no wonder it’s such a populated city!
Arriving into Auckland after a long, grueling flight was an extremely pleasant experience (especially after having just flown from South America where I was hiking in Patagonia for the 3 weeks prior.) There are a handful of cafes, bakeries, sandwich shops, and Asian restaurants if you fancy a bite, and there are even showers down by International arrivals to freshen up after your flight! What a brilliant idea.
Getting Around the City
The airport is about 25 minutes to the CBD which is where I stayed. You can either take the airport bus for $18 or take an Uber for $30, which is obviously a better deal if you have 2 people to split between!
There are a ton of places to rent a car just outside of the airport. This is where you’ll come back to if you decide to drive yourself around the island, however, if you stay in the CBD it was a lot easier for me to NOT have a car. Parking is limited and the fees are outstanding.
You can easily walk throughout the business district, or take public transportation. There is a bus that goes through the city, and the city is almost finished building their underground subway system which will make getting around even easier and quicker!
Where to Stay
If you’re only staying in Auckland for two days, I found it much more convenient to be staying downtown in the CBD so I could walk to everything. You can take Uber throughout the city if there is somewhere else you want to go for a reasonable price.
(When I was there in February, the Chinese New Year and Auckland International Lantern Festival was going on. This was quite the experience. I did take an Uber to the park but probably could have walked faster as the number of people flooding the streets was appalling. Try 60,000 + people… no thank you!)
The hotel we stayed at was about a 15-minute walk to the waterfront where you’ll find restaurants, bars and shops; the standard waterfront set up but with a San Francisco style pier. Actually, the entire city reminded me of the vibe in San Francisco with the hills and eclectic nature, wide variety of Asian restaurants, markets, hilltop parks, etc.
What to Do
Pick an island, any island! There are about 6 different islands you can choose between, but if you only have the afternoon, I recommend visiting Waiheke Island, as it is one of the closer islands with a TON of options; wine tasting, swimming, sailing, biking, crabbing, brewery hopping, you name it!
Visit Waiheke Island
For $40pp you can take a 35-minute ferry to Waiheke Island. The ferry to the island leaves every half hour until 5 pm, and returns back to Auckland on the half hour until 10 pm. You’ll purchase a return ticket before getting on the boat, so figure out how much time you think you’ll need for swimming, lunch, wine tasting, bike riding, etc.
Once you arrive to the island, you can literally hop off the boat and arrive to the nearest beach village (Oneroa) by foot in 20 minutes. Here you can have lunch overlooking Oneroa Bay, and afterwards take a dip in the perfectly calm, pristine water just below.
The walk into the village takes about 20 minutes from the ferry terminal (mostly uphill), so plan accordingly with your water and eating schedule. Once you get into town, there are a handful of options for breakfast and lunch on the main strip.
We enjoyed lunch with a view at Vino Vino, which surprisingly did not break the bank! Half a dozen New Zealand oysters and a beer cost approximately $14, and if you’re a fan of oysters, Waiheke is the place to splurge where I found some of the most perfect, fresh oysters I’ve ever had.
If you’re not interested in lunch and would prefer a more liquid-based diet, head to the wineries. You can either walk (more uphill, about 35 minutes from the ferry), or hire a taxi once you get off the boat.
There are about 6 wineries you can hop between. I only went to one as I took my time swimming in the bay and only had about an hour and a half left. I had done research on which were the “most favorited” wineries, and I ended up choosing Mudbrick Vineyard – hilltop, ocean view winery offering a small bites menu available for purchase and $10 tasting flights of your choice of white or red wine.
I pretty much drank Sauv Blanc my entire time in New Zealand (when in Rome, right?), so I opted for the white tasting flight, crisp and refreshing on a hot day after exploring the island!
You can take a taxi back down to the terminal for about $5 if you’re strapped on time, or you’re just feeling a little lazy and hazy from sipping in the sun. Catch another quick 35-minute ferry ride back to Auckland, and it’s as easy as that!
Catch a Happy Hour at the Waterfront
I chose the return ferry to Auckland arriving back at 5:30 pm, just in time for happy hour!
Dr. Rudy’s Rooftop or Saint Alice Bar – light fare, oyster specials, 25+ rotating taps, craft cocktails, local wine ($1 oyster happy hour, $8 glass of wine, $7 draft beers.) Make sure to bring your passport to Dr. Rudy’s as they won’t let you in without – even if you’re almost 30!
Wander at Mount Eden
Mount Eden is a super cool little neighborhood just south of the CBD. There are a bunch of amazing brunch spots, coffee shops, and gift shops to check out. Walk towards the residential area and begin your walk up to the top up the hill (about 20 minutes.)
Enjoy panoramic views of the city. You can see the Sky Tower from here as well as the Auckland Bridge, and if it’s a clear enough day you can see a bunch of the surrounding islands.
Ride to the Top of the Sky Tower
This is probably the most touristy thing to do in the city, but it is an awesome spot to get views of the city and waterfront. If you’re feeling bold, you can head to the top of the tower and bungee jump! This is a much more exhilarating option (and pricier).
The cost to get to the top of the tower cost $20. There is a café at the top of the tower, and if you’d rather just walk around and see the 360 views, the floor is glass bottom – so you’re still getting a bit of a thrill! You can also see the bungee jumpers flying through the air if you keep an eye on the windows.
Sample 2–Day Itinerary
Morning: Have breakfast at Albert Park Café and head up the hill to Albert Park where you can take a stroll through the trees
- Get a Thai Massage at Auckland Thai Massage – $45 for an hour, you can experience a wonderful, traditional Thai massage in the heart of the CBD (central business district)
- Head towards the Ferry terminal wandering down Queen St. (main shopping district in the CBD)
Afternoon: Hop on the 12 pm ferry to Waiheke Island
- Get lunch in Oneroa Village at Vino Vino, go swimming in the bay, head up to the wineries
- Return to Auckland 5:30 pm; catch happy hour at the waterfront at Saint Alice
Evening: 7 pm Dinner at Kushi Japanese Bar in the CBD for some delicious sushi!
Morning: Check out Café Mont or Fraser’s Cafe at Mount Eden (you will have to take the bus or catch an Uber from the CBD)
- Walk up to Mt. Eden and check out the city views
- Make your way back to CBD and head up to Sky Tower
Afternoon: Wander to Ponsonby
- If you’re wanting to get your fill of the hippest bars and best boutique stores, then Ponsonby is the place to visit. The area is a mere 10-minute distance from Auckland’s central business district
- Catch a comedy show or Broadway musical, or head up to Auckland Domain to see the sunset
Evening: Dinner at Mexico Britomart for a truly authentic taste of Mexican cuisine. Located on the waterfront in the CBD.
This is an accelerated route to get you to Auckland’s hotspots in just two days. I could have spent another week exploring the city, but there’s so much more to see on your New Zealand journey!
The Traveling Yogi