Looking for something to take home from your next trip? Whether you are into art, history, books – or even adventure – Auckland’s thriving cultural attractions are home to experiences that will open your eyes to a living history and stay with you no matter how far you travel.
From historic Māori villages to secret WW2 tunnels and immersive historical exhibits, here are 5 of our top unforgettable picks.
1. Watch Auckland build around you at the Auckland Museum
The first stop is the incredible Auckland Museum. Home to an immersive collection of fascinating local and natural history, the museum also hosts some truly amazing exhibitions, from deep sea monsters to dinosaurs.
Explore the Tāmaki Herenga Waka Stories of Auckland exhibition to get a glimpse into the origins of Auckland and the Māori heritage behind this historic city. Meaning ‘the gathering place of many waka’, these permanent galleries contain interactive elements that will send you back in time, as well as a 360 degree exhibit that will place you at the heart of the city’s evolution as it builds around you.
Another unforgettable attraction in the museum is the War Memorial. Experience what it was like to be a soldier in the First World War at an remarkable interactive exhibit which explores multiple perspectives. You’ll even get hands-on piloting a plane mission above the trenches. You can also experience a moving Māori performance, performed daily, that will take you through the story of Auckland and New Zealand.
2. Explore secret World War 2 tunnels on Waiheke Island
Enjoy a rich mix of nature and history on the stunning Waiheke Island. Only a ferry ride from the city, this place feels as though it could be a world and another time away. Once you are there you can explore trails which wind along gorgeous beaches and pristine forests, and on the eastern side of the island the Stony Batter Walkway will deliver you to a fascinating network of historic WW2 tunnels and battlements known as Fort Stony Batter.
Strategically positioned in a location that commanded sweeping views of the Hauraki Gulf, Fort Stony Batter was built in 1942 under complete secrecy, and designed to withstand direct enemy hits. This intriguing defence structure remains perfectly preserved today, with over a kilometre of underground chambers and stairways – explore its hidden secrets on a tour. While you are on Waiheke you can also enjoy one of the local wineries and beaches.
3. Voyage back to new beginnings at the New Zealand Maritime Museum
Step aboard and get ready for a voyage that goes all back 1,000 years to Kupe, the great Polynesian navigator said to have been the first explorer to reach New Zealand after steering his waka hourua (voyaging canoe) across the Pacific, guided only by stars and ocean currents. From here you can explore a rich collection of stories and artefacts that details the evolution and growth of Aotearoa New Zealand.
The New Zealand Maritime Museum is home to over 130 vessels, including artifacts from the early days of Pacific voyaging, through to European vessels and steam engines. Experience the maritime heritage first hand by heading out on the 1923 heritage ketch The Ted Ashby, and view Waitematā Harbour from its elegant bow.
4. Experiences a Home Fires of Tamaki Tour
Not far from the centre of the city, you’ll find a beautiful whenua (tribal land) rich with the customs and living heritage of the local Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei people. Explore this magical part of the country with an experienced guide on a two hour tour. Offering an intimate glimpse into the stories and tales of a village life that has had to adapt to modern ways of living, you’ll visit the traditional Orakei Marae meeting house which overlooks the breathtaking harbour toward Rangitoto Island.
Tours can be booked via NewZealand.com.au.
5. Visit Toi O Tomaki – The Auckland Art Gallery
No list detailing Auckland’s cultural experiences would be complete without Toi O Tomāki, the Auckland Art Gallery. Home to over 17,000 works, this gallery has been collecting since 1888 and today houses major exhibits of historic and contemporary art. The works piece together a comprehensive history of New Zealand, with some artwork capturing the moment of first contact between Māori and European explorers in the 1600s. The oldest piece is a sandstone figure from an Indian temple, dated 10th century.
You’ll also find a wealth of touring exhibitions, including Māori, local and international work that will inspire, fascinate and stay with you long after you leave.
Find accommodation in Auckland
You’ll find plenty of options for accommodation in Auckland. Situated in Newmarket, the Quality Suites Alexander Inn is a short walk to the bustling heart of town. In the heart of West Auckland you’ll find Quality Hotel Lincoln Green, with the beautiful west coast beaches also only 30 minutes away.