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.
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.
This article was first published in 2015, however it has been updated to include information for travel in 2019.
AUCKLAND LONG WEEKEND
When to Visit Auckland
As we travelled to Auckland in August, it was 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, so don’t forget to bring some layers with you!
Auckland temperatures do go up and down a fair bit during the different seasons, however there is not really a bad time of year to visit.
What to See and 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 atmosphere. We had an action packed long weekend stay, without a lot of downtime, 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:
- Visit Mt Eden
- Shop unique items in Parnell village
- Stroll through the winter gardens
- Meet the animals at Auckland Zoo
- Learn about sea creatures at Kelly Tarlten’s SeaLife Aquarium
- Grab a meal at the Viaduct Harbour
- Take a harbour yacht cruise
- Check out the view from the top of the SkyCity Tower
- Tempt your luck at the SkyCity Casino
- Learn some history at the Auckland Museum
Travelling to Auckland soon?
3 Day Auckland Itinerary
Day 1 – Arrival
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.
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!
Day 2 – Guided Tour
On day two, we did a guided bus tour with Intercity Group – the 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 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 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 green house 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 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 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.
Following our aquarium visit, our tour took us to the harbour where we grabbed ourselves a quick lunch at the Viaduct Auckland before enjoying a leisurely yacht cruise. Our Auckland harbour sightseeing cruise 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.
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 couple of drinks while enjoying the cityscape, before heading back down for a restaurant dinner nearby. It consisted of the most delicious lamb shanks. Although I can’t remember the name of the restaurant. Oops!
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!
Day 3 – Shopping, Exploring and Food
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 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 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!
Random fact: Most of Married at First Sight New Zealand was filmed at Rydges Auckland.
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:
- Mt Eden
- Parnell village
- Winter gardens
- Auckland Zoo
- Kelly Tarlten’s SeaLife Aquarium
- Viaduct Harbour
- Harbour yacht cruise
- SkyCity Tower
One of the best ways to see this country is definitely with your own car or campervan to travel around at your own pace, without worrying about public transport the whole time.
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.
Time to plan your long weekend in Auckland!!
Have you been to Auckland? If so, tell us your favourite thing to see or do.
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