Living in Australia means most international destinations are quite a distance away, however one destination that is close by is New Zealand. For us living in Queensland, it is closer to fly to New Zealand than it is to fly to the other side of Australia. Much cheaper too! So when the hubby turned 30, one of the gifts I got him just happened to be a long weekend in Auckland. We travelled to Auckland in August, which is winter in New Zealand. We anticipated it would be freezing, however Auckland is near the top of New Zealand on the North Island, and the weather was fairly mild (thankfully), as I will admit I’m not great with cold. It sat around 14-15 degrees celsius each day, but warm in the sunshine. Our arrival time was in the afternoon, so there was not a lot of exploring that first day. We did go for a walk around our accommodation, with an opportunity for some happy snaps down by the wharf, before finding ourselves a nice restaurant for dinner.
We stayed at Rydges Hotel in Auckland. It was a great place to stay as it was affordable, in a convenient location and had all the basic hotel amenities we needed. It also had a great in-house restaurant, where we had dinner on our last night. Our meals were amazing and the fact that the New Zealand dollar was weak compared to the Aussie dollar back then made all our fine dining a whole lot cheaper. Outside our window also had the perfect view of the Skytower Casino… and the bungee style platform for the thrill seekers. No… we didn’t try it! But we enjoyed watching other people jump off.
On day two, we did a guided bus tour with Intercity Group – the Auckland’s Great Day Out tour. It took us from our hotel to Mt Eden. What surprised us was that Mt Eden was more like a giant crater than a mountain, although the views up the top were impressive. From there we went to the Winter Gardens, which was pretty to see. We stopped briefly to check out the War Memorial Museum from the outside, for a quick photo opportunity.
There was a brief stop in Parnell village for morning tea and souvenirs… although it was so brief all we got was a pastry to eat. We got a tour around Auckland Zoo, which included a native animal presentation for our tour group. We got up close and personal with a kiwi bird. So cute and strange all in one. We also got a guided tour around the main zoo attractions, which was great. We really enjoyed Auckland Zoo and can’t wait to take our kids there one day. The tour also took us to Kelly Tarlten’s Sea Life Aquarium. Like the zoo, this is a place the kids will love with up close and personal aquatic viewing through the aquarium tunnels and plenty of animal encounters. The highlight is the Penguin exhibit which actually incorporates a ride as you view the penguins in their enclosure. It happens to be the world’s largest Antarctic penguin colony exhibit, so well worth the visit. Following this, our tour took us to the harbour where we grabbed ourselves a quick lunch before enjoying a leisurely yacht cruise. This gave us the chance to check out the sights on the water and we each got the opportunity to steer the yacht for a few minutes.
Our day ended with an included entry pass up to the top of the SkyTower, giving us amazing views of Auckland by night. We treated ourselves to a couple of drinks while enjoying the cityscape, before heading back down for a restaurant dinner. It was a massive day but definitely a great way to see the key Auckland city sights when you are short on time! On our final day, we did a little shopping, and a whole lot of walking, checking out parts of the city on foot and enjoying lots of glorious food. We also spent a little time in the SkyTower casino, watching the high rollers risking big cash. And of course hubby insisted we stop at a quaint little pub for a beer – something he never misses the opportunity to do!
We really enjoyed Auckland. The sights were lovely. With the harbour and cityscape, Auckland actually reminded us of Sydney… minus the crowds. The food was amazing. Lamb shanks, seafood, juicy steak. Yum! And our accommodation was perfect for a short stay.
Rydges Auckland – Great central location, modern rooms and free wifi. Walking distance to Viaduct Harbour. Booking.com has great deals for hotels worldwide, minus the booking and cancellation fees. Also be sure to try out The Cut restaurant on the ground floor of the hotel.
We flew with Jetstar Australia, however there are many airlines that fly direct to Auckland, depending on where in the world you are travelling from. Webjet is a great flight comparison website.
We booked our full day tour with Intercity, who provide bus travel and tours within New Zealand, including airport transfers and tours similar to the one we joined. Our tour included the following Auckland sights:
- Mt Eden
- Parnell village
- Winter gardens
- Auckland Zoo
- Kelly Tarlten’s SeaLife Aquarium
- Viaduct Harbour
- Harbour yacht cruise
- SkyCity Tower
Auckland is a great destination for family travel if you want somewhere away from the hustle and bustle of bigger cities, with enough attractions to keep the whole family happy. With more than a weekend in Auckland, there are lots of larger day trips to other parts of New Zealand that would be great to do… next time. Time to plan your long weekend in Auckland.
Have you been to Auckland?
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