With three days in Auckland, there’s enough time to explore the city and harbors, amp up the adventure level with a choice of gravity-defying activities, and take an excursion to cultural and scenic destinations not far from the City of Sails. Here’s how to maximize a 3-day trip to this world-class metropolis on New Zealand’s North Island.
Day 1: Highlights and Harbors
Discover the vibrant city of Auckland on a hop-on-hop-off bus tour and get acquainted with the highlights at your own pace. Visit Mt. Eden, browse the Parnell Village boutiques, ascend the Sky Tower, and stroll around Auckland Domain, the city’s oldest park. Alternatively, opt for an aerial sightseeing tour by seaplane or helicopter, with guided narration about significant landmarks like the Auckland Harbour Bridge. You can also experience the city with a Maori guide and catch a cultural performance at the Auckland Museum. A must-do for families is a visit to Kelly Tarlton’s Antarctic Encounter and Underwater World for a look at New Zealand wildlife.
Once you’ve got the lay of the land, embark on a scenic harbor lunch or dinner cruise and take in spectacular views aboard a catamaran or sailing yacht. Alternatively, Waiheke Island, located in the Hauraki Gulf, is a popular destination for food and wine tours.
Day 2: Outdoor and Adrenaline Adventures
A proper New Zealand vacation requires at least one day in the great outdoors. A favorite family-friendly activity is whale-watching and dolphin-spotting in Hauraki Gulf Marine Park. You could also spend the entire day on the island of Tiritiri Matangi, a predator-free bird sanctuary, ideal for nature enthusiasts—take the ferry over, and then hike at your leisure or opt for a guided walk.
If an adrenaline rush is more your style, go straight to the top with the Auckland Harbour Bridge climb—the 360-degree views of the city are magnificent—or for even more of a thrill, take the plunge on a breathtaking bridge bungee jump. Sailing enthusiasts can join the crew of an actual America’s Cup yacht and try their hand at match racing. Yet another option is a jet boat ride on Waitemata Harbour, which spins you past the Sky Tower and other top city landmarks.
Day 3: Day Trips from Auckland
Subtropical islands, glowworm caves, historic sites, and pristine shoreline—there’s a lot within an easy day trip’s reach from Auckland. Head to Northland and cruise around the gorgeous Bay of Islands to the Hole in the Rock and back past Cape Brett Lighthouse. Or ferry over to the charming township of Russell and tour the Waitangi Treaty Grounds.
On the rugged West Coast, you can take an eco-walking tour in the rain forest of the Waitakere Ranges. Thermal sands and camera-worthy coves are found on the Coromandel Peninsula, another stunning alternative in the North Island’s great outdoors.
Lord of the Rings fans will want to head south to Hobbiton, where the Shire movie set and Bilbo Baggins’ hobbit hole await. On the way, take an underground boat ride through the illuminated grotto of Waitomo Glowworm Caves; end your tour in Rotorua or back in Auckland.