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If you’re planning a short weekend trip to Auckland, New Zealand, this is the itinerary for you. This guide covers all the best things to do in Auckland, from top attractions to off-the-beaten-path experiences. It also includes tips on where to stay, eat, and drink. Start planning your 3-day Auckland itinerary!
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!
When Simon turned 30, one of the gifts I got him was a long weekend in Auckland.
This article was first published in 2015, however, it has been updated to include information for travel in 2022.
OUR AUCKLAND LONG WEEKEND ITINERARY
Thankfully there is plenty of things to do in Auckland for short stays! We made the most of our 3 days in Auckland by seeing and doing as much as we could with our time.
Plus even more incredible destinations within a short distance too, in case you want to take a day trip from Auckland during your stay!
We’ve had the chance to visit Auckland a few times now and it is a great city for a few days or longer stays if you plan to create a full Auckland itinerary that explores further into the North Island!
Auckland is a year-round destination, but the best time to visit is between December and March.
The weather is warm and sunny during this period, making it ideal for outdoor activities. If you’re visiting during the summer (December to February), be aware that it’s also the busiest time of year.
Accommodation and tour prices will be at their highest, and you may need to book in advance
If you want to save money, visit during the shoulder season (during Autumn and Spring). The weather is still pleasant during this time.
We seem to always visit 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). It sat around 14-15 degrees celsius each day, but warm in the sunshine, so don’t forget to bring some layers with you!
Auckland is a large city, but luckily there are plenty of ways to get around. The best way to see the city is by public transport.
The Auckland Transport website is a great resource for planning your journey. You can also use the AT HOP card, which allows you to travel on all bus, train, and ferry services. If you’re planning on doing a lot of sightseeing, consider buying a day pass.
Another option is to rent a car. This is a good idea if you’re planning on visiting some of the city’s beaches or driving out to one of the many vineyards in the surrounding area. Just be aware that traffic can be heavy during peak times.
Find A Rental Car:
What To Do in Auckland
There’s no shortage of things to do in Auckland. There are plenty of great places to visit and attractions in Auckland that are suited to visitors of all ages.
Auckland is a beautiful harbour town with lots of great food and a welcoming atmosphere.
We had an action-packed long weekend stay, without a lot of downtimes, so you can easily fill in a longer stay if you have the time.
Whether you are in Auckland for a week, a day or a 3-day itinerary like ours, you will have plenty to fill your time.
Here are some of our favourite things to do in Auckland:
Use our Auckland weekend itinerary to help you plan your own short-stay itinerary for Auckland. We have included our exact itinerary as well as tips for how you can incorporate other Auckland activities into your own visit.
Day 1 – Explore the City
Start your trip with a wander through Auckland’s central business district. Stroll down Queen Street, the Auckland CBD main shopping thoroughfare, and explore some of the side streets.
Our arrival time was in the afternoon, flying Air New Zealand, so we did not see a lot on our 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.
You will have no trouble finding nice restaurants and bars along the harbour.
Outside our hotel window, we also had the perfect view of the Auckland Skytower & Casino… and the bungee-style platform, which is crazy popular for thrill-seekers. No… we didn’t try it! But we enjoyed watching other people jump off. Our room gave us a perfect view!
On day two, we did a guided bus tour with Intercity Group – Auckland’s Great Day Out tour.
Without our own transport and being our first time in Auckland, we figured this would be the perfect way to see a lot of the city in a short time, as is often the case when you only have a weekend!
Our bus tour picked us up from our hotel and took us to our first stop of 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 very impressive. It was FREEZING up there though with the wind blowing!
From Mt Eden, we went to the Winter Gardens, which was pretty to see with gardens and fountains, and a greenhouse with different species of plants. No doubt it is a popular spot for wedding photos!
We stopped briefly to check out the War Memorial Museum just outside the Winter Gardens too while we were there.
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, but it was nice to see the cute little town, which is a popular stop in Auckland for tourists and locals.
After lunch, we enjoyed a private tour around AucklandZoo, which included a native animal presentation for our tour group.
We got up close and personal with a kiwi bird. So cute and strange-looking. They are such unique animals.
We met some of New Zealand’s other most famous native animals during this time, and we got a guided tour around the main zoo attractions, which was great.
The tour then 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.
Our Auckland harbour sightseeing cruise allowed us to see the sights on the water and we each got the opportunity to steer the yacht for a few minutes.
Can you believe they trusted me to do this? Madness!
Our day ended with an included entry pass up to the top of the SkyTower, giving us amazing views of Auckland by night. Taking in the views of the Skytower is one of the best things to do in Auckland at night.
We treated ourselves to a few fancy drinks while enjoying the cityscape, before heading back down for a restaurant dinner nearby.
It was a massive day but definitely a great way to see the key Auckland city sights when you are short on time!
The day trip was great value and it’s pretty amazing how much we crammed in. We also had a very entertaining tour guide and bus driver, who gave us plenty of laughs along the way. We definitely recommend the tour if you are visiting Auckland for a short stay!
You can also do a half-day tour and visit the remaining attractions of interest at your own pace afterwards!
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, Simon insisted we stop at a quaint little pub for a beer – something he never misses the opportunity to do! Then it was back to the airport to fly home to Australia, that being the end of our 3-day Auckland itinerary.
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.
Accommodation & Dining:
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, including free wifi and walking distance to the Viaduct Harbour.
It also had a great in-house restaurant, where we had dinner on our last night.
Dining out in New Zealand was a great experience overall. Our meals were amazing everywhere we went.
We flew with Air New Zealand, and it was a short 2.5 hour flight from Brisbane. There are many airlines that fly direct to Auckland, depending on where in the world you are travelling from.
You can book a half day city tour, similar to the one we took, which will provide bus travel and sightseeing around the city. Our tour included the following Auckland sights, which can also be booked individually before you travel:
If you have 2 weeks in New Zealand, or longer, you can cover a lot of ground and see much more than beautiful Auckland, and possibly even get to New Zealand’s South Island too! Our next trip will definitely be a self-paced driving holiday with the kids over a couple of weeks.
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.