With an average flying time from Australia’s East Coast of just three hours, a visit to Auckland on New Zealand’s North Island makes the perfect short break escape. If you have just a couple of days to explore, here’s a suggested itinerary…
There’s so much to love about Auckland.
New Zealand’s biggest city is blessed with a picture-perfect position between two harbours, ensuring its waterfront is a hub of activity. It’s a vibrant and multi-cultural destination, packed with fabulous museums, galleries and world-class restaurants. And with many of Auckland’s top attractions located in close proximity to one another, it’s easy to take in most of the highlights during a short break.
Here are some ideas for how to spend 48 hours in Auckland. One thing’s for certain — it will make you want to come back for more!
9am: Visit Auckland’s fresh food markets
New Zealand has gained a world-class reputation for fine food, and if your short break in Auckland includes a Saturday, you can experience a microcosm of the best of Kiwi produce at the city’s fresh food markets. First, browse the 30-odd stalls at the Parnell Farmers’ Market. Next, head to nearby La Cigale’s French Market (which also operates on Sundays). Inspired by the food markets of Europe, this gourmet hub brings together an array of artisan food producers’ offerings. Olive oils, vinegars and divine pastries are just some of what’s on offer. The market also operates on Sundays.
11am: Enjoy brunch at La Cigale
If all of the sights and smells of the markets have made you peckish (which undoubtedly they have), sit down to brunch at one of the long communal tables at La Cigale’s celebrated bistro and enjoy the flavours of France with a local twist.
Noon: Take a stroll in Auckland Domain
Walk off any morning indulgences with a stroll across Auckland Domain — the city’s oldest and largest park. The 75-hectare green space boasts manicured lawns, walking paths, monuments and statues. The historic glasshouses of the Domain Wintergardens are a highlight.
1pm: Explore Auckland War Memorial Museum
New Zealand’s first people, the Maori, arrived in the Auckland area around 800 years ago. Their story is told by the Auckland War Memorial Museum’s amazing collection of more than 1,000 taongaor treasures of Maori culture. The War Memorial galleries hold an emotive collection dedicated to New Zealanders who have served in all wars.
3pm: Set sail at the Maritime Museum
Spend an afternoon at the New Zealand Maritime Museum discovering the roots of modern Auckland’s love of sailing. Galleries cover the arrival of Maori canoes, European explorers, and the waves of immigrants who made Auckland their home.
5pm: Visit the Viaduct for a pre-dinner cocktail
Auckland’s vibrant Viaduct district is a legacy of New Zealand’s first America’s Cup defence. It’s now a cornerstone of the city’s thriving bar and restaurant scene. Sardine is a great place to enjoy a pre-dinner cocktail while you admire the luxury yachts berthed in the marina.
7pm: Dine at Giraffe
Giraffe by New Zealand celebrity chef and restauranteur Simon Gault champions fresh, local ingredients with flourish. The menu changes daily according to the season and what produce is available, but stalwarts include top quality Kiwi seafood and lamb.
9pm: Indulge in a sweet treat at Giapo
End your day with a delicious delight at Giapo. Italian-born Giapo creates artisan ice cream, which can be enjoyed in a Yorkshire pudding bowl, topped with a chocolate rendition of the Auckland Sky Tower or (as in Giapo’s latest invention) in tiny cones worn on the fingers like edible jewellery.
9am: Breakfast at Britomart
10am: Take a ferry to Devonport
Board a ferry for a short 15-minute trip across the harbour to the charming seaside village of Devonport. Keep your camera handy. The ferry is one of the best places to snap a pic of Auckland’s skyline. After you disembark, browse the funky shops and galleries along Victoria Street. Then hike up the hill to Mount Victoria for more sensational Auckland views.
11am: Visit Fort Takapuna
While you’re atop Mount Victoria, explore historic Fort Takapuna — which was constructed in the 1880s to defend Auckland from the perceived threat of Russian invasion! Take a self-guided walk to see the remaining barracks, tunnels and gun pits.
1pm: Savour lunch or high tea at the Esplanade Hotel
If you’ve worked up an appetite, the historic Esplanade Hotel is the pick of the eateries in Devonport. Enjoy top-notch cuisine and quality New Zealand wines in a charming old-world setting that Miss Marple herself would love. The hotel does a classy high tea.
3pm: Get arty at Auckland Art Gallery
Returning to the city, head to the stunning Auckland Art Gallery. The gallery houses a fine collection of New Zealand and international art in what has become an architectural icon. The wing added in 2011 features a distinctive roof canopy of native kauri wood and has taken out a string of international architecture awards.
5pm: Enjoy a tipple at Sky Tower
Auckland’s Sky Tower is a defining feature of the city skyline, and at 328 metres high, it’s by far the tallest structure. Take in the incredible views from the Sky Café while sipping a pre-dinner New Zealand drop.
7pm: Splash out on dinner at Botswana Butchery
Wrap up your Auckland sojourn with a leisurely dinner at super chic Botswana Butchery. Situated in the historic 1912 Ferry Building (right on the waterfront), the location, décor and menu are sure to wow.
Need a place to stay?
The Quality Suites Alexander Inn is one of Auckland’s newest hotels and offers stylish accommodation in the heart of Newmarket — with its plethora of cafes, bars and restaurants. The CBD is within easy reach.
The Econo Lodge City Central offers great value accommodation right in the heart of the Auckland CBD. You can’t get any closer to the action than this. Choose from standard, studio, studio balcony and triple rooms.
The Comfort Inn & Suites Kudos is located just a few minutes’ drive from Auckland Airport and is perfect as a base for early flight departures.
West Auckland’s Quality Hotel Lincoln Green offers a leafy escape from the bustling CBD. Boutique wineries, bush walks and beaches are just some of the recreational options available to guests.
About the writer
Louise Reynolds is a Melbourne-based freelance travel writer and a regular contributor to The Big Bus tour and travel guide. Louise made up her mind at the age of about four that she would one day travel the world — and has so far visited around 30 countries spread across five continents. Her favourite way to explore the world is on foot and her boots have taken her walking on famous trails in Europe, South America and New Zealand.