Things to do in Auckland
Auckland is the biggest city in New Zealand with a population of over 1.6million and is ranked as one of the world’s most liveable cities according to the 2019 Mercer Quality of Living Survey! It is growing year on year and there are number of developments being built, as well as a new trainline which is due to be completed in 2024. As a result, there were quite a lot of building works going on when we visited! Set out below are my recommendations of things to do in Auckland:
Visit Waiheke Island
First on your list of things to do in Auckland must be Waiheke Island (also known as New Zealand’s Island of Wine!) which is a 45 minute ferry ride away. The ferry departure point was a 20-minute walk from our apartment and ferries usually operate every 30 minutes on the hour and half hour. A return ticket is $46 or $68 if you purchase a hop on hop off / ferry combo ticket. More information can be found here and here.
We debated whether to buy the bus ticket but decided to explore the part of the island nearest Matiatia ferry terminal so didn’t think we would get full use. Upon arrival we followed signs to the local bus (they are timed to meet ferries) and a one-way bus ticket to anywhere on the island is only $3.50! Absolute bargain, especially if you go to the East side to Onetangi. There appear to be two main buses:
- Bus 502 which stops at Oneroa, Pope’s Corner, Palm Beach, Ostend and Omaha (Rocky Bay)
- Bus 50B which stops at Oneroa, Surfdale, Wellington Road, Ostend and Onetangi
We jumped off at the second stop in Oneroa to wander around the beach and the seaside town. There were clear signs down to the beach and it was much quieter and peaceful than I expected. The stretch of beach is walkable and there are tables and chairs dotted around but no sunbeds. It isn’t a particularly pretty beach but certainly worth a leisurely walk in the sand! Oh and have a go on the tree swing!
At the end of the beach, we saw signs for a viewpoint so of course we climbed 10 minutes and were greeted with a beautiful view of the beach and sea.
We waited until midday (!) to have our first wine at aptly named Vino Vino which had a terrace area overlooking the beach. Established since 1993, they offer their a la carte menu and a small lunch menu (12pm-3pm) as well as plenty of wine!
Their steak ciabatta with salad, onion jam and a blue cheese sauce and grilled Moroccan chicken ciabatta drizzled with tzatziki minted yoghurt with fries were very reasonably priced at $10 and extremely filling. Of course, this was washed down with a couple of white wines (Man O War and Dog Point). I also definitely agree with their motto that ‘drinking good wine with good food in good company is one of life’s most civilized pleasures’!
After lunch we treated ourselves to a delicious strawberry and prosecco flavoured gelato from Island Gelato. Expensive but good!
One of the main reasons people visit Waiheke Island is for their vineyards (there are over 30)! There are so many dotted around the island, but some can be hard to reach and require a taxi (the hop on hop off bus passes some but not all). Waiheke Island grows several grapes: Chardonnay, Viognier, Pinot Gris, Marsanne, Syrah, Malbec and Merlot and we spent the afternoon trying them out!
After our lunch at Vino Vino, we walked 30 minutes to Mudbrick Vineyard with beautiful views of the vineyards on the way! It was pretty much all uphill so do bear this in mind.
We started off with the wine tasting in the cellar door where 4 wines from the ‘Light Fresher Tasting’ section were $11 (the more complex style wines were $15 for the tasting). This was a great way to sample different types of wine and learn a little about each one.
We had the following wines with our tasting:
- Methode Traditionelle NV Marlborough
- Pinot Gris 2019 Marlborough
- Sauvignon Blanc 2019 Marlborough
- Rose 2019 Hawkes Bay
The first one was their version of a champagne which is fermented twice (the second time in the bottle for 15 months!). The rose was fantastic – the skin contact is only for two hours (the longer you leave it, the darker the colour) with strawberry notes and a dry finish.
After the tasting, we made our way to the rooftop bar and lavender terrace where the views are expansive and sipped on two larger glasses of our favourite wines on a rather comfortable beanbag! Lucky for us the sun was shining, and we could have stayed there for hours. The views just get better and better the higher you climb. We thought it would be really packed but the mixture of beanbags, stools and chairs and tables allowed enough space for everyone.
My only tiny hesitation was the fact that the wine on the rooftop was not served in stemmed wine glasses. The shape is the same, so the wine technically tastes the same but psychologically I love a wine stemmed glass. I also find that a wine ‘tumbler’ gets warmer as you are holding the glass rather than the stem. Personal preference and lots of people probably would not mind!!
Mudbrick also have a restaurant and bistro area with similarly great views, but they advise you book ahead.
Less than a 10-minute walk from Mudbrick is Cable Bay vineyard. Similarly to Mudbrick, they offer tastings in their cellar door with four priced at $10. There wasn’t as much interaction with the wines as Mudbrick but they were happy to answer any questions we had. We had the following wines on our tasting:
- Pinot Gris, Awatere Valley 2018
- Viognier, Waiheke Island 2018
- Chardonnay, Waiheke Island 2017
- Five Hills, Waiheke Island 2018
Our favourite was the Five Hills produced on the island itself.
The vineyard has a restaurant and verandah for food but if the tables are not reserved, you can sip on wine in this section.
There are very limited tables available outside, which is a shame when the sun is out. The setting, however, is still beautiful with vineyards for what seems like miles! Our wines (Merlot Rose, Waiheke Island and Pinot Noir 2017, Awatere Valley) were excellent.
We booked a taxi back to the ferry terminal due to time which cost a rather expensive $17 for a five-minute journey. However, we were glad we opted for that as the 6pm ferry back to Auckland was absolutely packed and some people had to wait for the next one!
Explore Auckland on a hop on hop off bus tour
Auckland is fairly spread out with many parts accessible only by a long walk or local bus. We decided to explore Auckland on a hop on hop bus tour with Hassle Free Tours who operate their buses through Soaring Kiwi Tours.
Hassle Free tours offer two lines: the red city line and the blue Western line. The red line runs every 30 minutes and generally takes one hour, traffic dependent. The stops / sights on this route are:
- Skycity departure (well signposted)
- Viaduct Harbour
- Bastion Point
- Sea Life Aquarium
- Parnell / Holy Trinity Cathedral
- Auckland Museum
- Auckland Domain
- Albert Park / Auckland Art Gallery
The blue Western line takes you out of the city centre every 30 minutes and stops at:
- SkyCity (departure point)
- Eden Park
- Westfield St Lukes Mall (where you can get some bargains!)
- Auckland Zoo (see the Kiwis!)
- Museum of Transport and Technology
- Western Springs
- Harbour Bridge
- Wynyard Quarter
It costs $39 for the city line, $46 for both lines which are available for 24 hours and $62 for a 48-hour pass, which also gives you free entrance to the Sky Tower!
The Blue Western Line
On the Western line, we stopped off at Eden Park (NZ’s largest sports stadium and venue of the 2011 Rugby World Cup final) and walked 45 minutes – 1 hour to the top of Mount Eden. Look out for this sign to take you to the top:
Mount Eden is the highest volcano in Auckland which last erupted 15,000 years ago. The actual walk to the summit only took around 20 minutes (2km) and we were presented with beautiful views of Auckland and the surrounding hills.
After the walk there and back to the bus, we had built up an appetite! We stayed on the bus until Ponsonby, which is an upcoming neighborhood in Auckland and tucked into lunch at Prego. There are also several boutique shops in Ponsonby to have nose into.
Back on the bus after lunch, we took in the views at the Harbour Bridge, stared at all the yachts wishing we had one and made our way to back to the city centre. The hop on hop off bus was a great way to see more of Auckland!
Devonport is located at the very southern point of Auckland’s North Shore and is one of the city’s oldest suburbs. It is accessible by ferry in only 12 minutes for $15 return and ferries run every 30 minutes.
Devonport is a historic suburb with a relaxed seaside feel, beaches and viewpoints. We explored Victoria Road, the main street of Devonport, with its boutique shops and small cafes and restaurants. After some lunch we headed up to the summit of Mount Victoria which took around 20 minutes one way and were greeted with picturesque views of Auckland and the Hauraki Gulf.
We didn’t get the chance to visit but Cheltenham Beach is only a 20-minute walk from the ferry terminal.
Dine and Drink by the Harbour
Our favourite area in Auckland was the Viaduct Harbour / Wyndham Harbour area which had an array of restaurants and bars and a buzzing atmosphere. Our favourite restaurant by far was Soul Bistro which you can read more about here.
East London Girl: Things to do in Auckland