New Zealand is home to only four main cities, Wellington, Auckland, Christchurch and Queenstown. When we first looked into booking our flights from Australia to New Zealand we had our hearts set on arriving in Queenstown. Why? Dave’s a skiing buff and we would arrive in New Zealand just in time for the season to start on the South Island. Which also coincides with the kid’s winter holidays – oops! Needless to say that the flights into Queenstown were going to cost a small fortune. One that we just don’t have. So naturally, we found ourselves looking for the cheapest airport to fly into which in turn ended up being Auckland.
I’ll be honest I didn’t know much about Auckland except that it has a children’s hospital, a definite point of interest for me as a travelling paediatric nurse! But other than that we didn’t know much about the city other than that Lonely Planet refer to it as ‘scrappy’. Once we touched down in New Zealand we decided to spend our first day wandering the streets of Auckland which certainly took us by surprise. So should you plan for one day in Auckland or more? In this blog I’m taking you through how to spend one day in Auckland and at the end I’ll let you know whether or no I think its enough!
Where is Auckland?
Before planning to visit Auckland make sure you’re aware of its location. Auckland is situated in New Zealand’s north island and it’s quite a distance from the country’s capital, Wellington. If you find yourself flying into Auckland then it’s in a great location to start a New Zealand road trip, especially if you want to travel the North Island. Auckland is also a great place for a base in New Zealand if road tripping ain’t your thing. The city acts as a gateway to some awesome North Island day trips! Popular day trips from Auckland include the Hobbiton Movie Set which I can vouch for as being literally amazing and Waiheke Island. With Auckland airport, just a mere 30 minutes drive away from the city making it easy for transfers after arrive as well.
Car/Campervan Hire in Auckland
Okay. If you do want to go on a road trip then New Zealand, closely followed by Australia, is the place to do it! Car hire in New Zealand is super cheap and we even managed to hire a campervan in winter for only $1000 for 6 weeks! After hiring 2 campervans in Australia for almost triple that price I was already falling for New Zealand before we arrived. You’ll easily be able to find a suitable car hire in Auckland or just book in advance and collect at the airport. Most of the rental companies in Auckland are on Aintree Avenue just a short car journey away from the airport.
Taxis are situated just outside the departure terminal as is the Kiwi-goa. The Kiwi-goa is like a tuk-tuk with a trailer and is generally cheaper than the taxis. If you are hiring transport in Auckland then I suggest making sure you have at least another additional day to spend one full day in Auckland (rather than half a day after you’ve collected the car etc). Despite being small and massively underrated Auckland is a lovely city to explore.
Things to Do During One Day in Auckland
It may not be the hub of New Zealand but there are plenty of things to do in Auckland! We spent one day exploring and enjoyed Auckland a lot more than we anticipated.
One Tree Hill
Start the day by visiting One Tree Hill and before you ask, no it has nothing to do with the American TV show One Tree Hill. In Auckland One Tree Hill or ‘Maungakiekie’ is essentially a volcanic peak found next to Cornwall Park a mere 12 minutes drive from the CBD. It’s a wonderful place first thing in the morning and even to watch the sunrise if you can get up early enough. One Tree Hill found its English name because of a single tree that stood on the summit near the monument. The original tree, sacred totara was cherished by the Maori people but cut down by European settlers for firewood. Settlers replanted a pine tree as its replacement which was attacked by Maori activists.
Explore Auckland CBD
The central business district or city centre is fairly small but has some hidden gems to be discovered. We took ourselves on a self-guided tour of Auckland which took us to some gorgeous nook and crannies within the city. We can’t take credit for the route though as that has to be given to the one and only Lonely Planet – follow this link to take a look at the City Ramble Auckland Walk. But I’ve outlined some of our favourite spots below! The walk takes roughly three hours and covers most of the city so don’t worry if you only have one day in Auckland.
Depending on how and from which direction you enter Auckland you may have seen the gorgeous skyline and the star of the show, the sky-tower. The sky-tower is also known as ‘SKYCITY’ sits 220 metres above street level as Auckland’s tallest building. Located in the heart of the city it simply cannot be missed! Venture up the sky tower for incredible 360-degree views of the city below.
If you’re a daredevil then you can even walk around the outskirts and bungee jump off the building! The only downside to the Sky-Tower is the price, $32 per adult to get to the observation area which I think is a little steep but still a great way to see the city from above! You can find restaurants, bars and shops inside the Sky-Tower too.
Vulcan was our favourite find in the city of Auckland. This little street whisked me back to the streets of York in England for a moment as I walk down the cobbles and took in the smell of freshly brewed ale! Vulcan Lane is lined with historic bars and makes for the perfect afternoon beverage spot. The Occidental Belgium Bar & Cafe was calling us from the moment we turned the corner. The fresh smell of gravy and roaring fire had us running to the door during our one day in Auckland in June (winter in New Zealand). The interior is just as wonderful as the vibes you get from the outside. It felt like we’d been transported back to Europe at Christmas!
Aotea Square is otherwise known as the heart of the city. Whenever there is something going on in Auckland it’s usually held at Aotea Square. We found an ice rink in the square! In July you’ll also find night markets in Aotea Square too. The weather in Auckland can vary especially in the wintertime so if you find yourself with a rainy day Aotea Square if where the cinema, bowling alley and restaurants are in the city.
University Clock Tower
If you love unique architecture then you’ll love the university click tower in Auckland. It was easily my favourite building that we spotted during our one day in Auckland. I’m not an architectural expert but I do love admiring pretty buildings in new cities and this one was certainly wonderful. It again reminded me of being back in Europe especially as the street aligning the tower lined with trees shedding their leaves for winter. To get the clock tower walkthrough Albert Park a lovely park filled with lavish greens, feature waterfalls and statues.
This walkthrough the heart of Auckland was a great way to be introduced to this city. If you do decide to enjoy this walk in Auckland then I would consider not bothering with the Wynyard Quarter. I was a little disappointed with the Wynyard Quarter on the harbour. I had anticipated the quarter being a hub of cafes and bars but it still appeared to be under construction. If you only have one day in Auckland I would for sure skip this part!
Sunset at Mount Eden Summit
My favourite discovery during our one day in Auckland was Mount Eden! Mount Eden Summit is a brilliant place to watch the sunset in Auckland. Make sure you climb to the summit just before the sun goes down for the day and watch the city glow in orange and pink.
Mount Eden is actually a dormant volcano. At just under 200 metres above sea-level, it’s the highest natural point in the city. Below the summit, you can see a huge crater that runs about 50 metres deep from the last eruption which is said to have been 28,000 years ago. Mount Eden has since been transformed into a lovely park popular with tourists, runners and bikers. You can go right up to the crater edge but obviously entrance into the crater is forbidden – it’s scarily steep although Dave and I did wonder how fun it would be to sledge down!
There are carparks both at the foot and summit of Mount Eden but if you can I recommend parking at the bottom and hiking to the top. The walk is only short. It took us about 20 minutes from the carpark. You can take the scenic route (AKA scrambling up the hills) or follow the paved road all the way up to the top.
If you do have any spare time after spend one day in Auckland then visit Takapuna Beach! The sunrise from the beach is sensational and the area is lovely filled with cute little cafes and restaurants. There’s a walking route that follows the shore and you’ll find some keen fishers down at Takapuna too.
Freedom Camping in Auckland
If you’re after hotels to stay in Auckland then that’s where I’m not going to be much help! But if you’re looking for places to freedom camp in Auckland you may be interested in this bit! Luckily thanks to the awesome app Wikki Camps – which I highly recommend downloading – we found a car park just an hour north of Auckland to freedom in for the night. Okay, some of you may be thinking that’s a long way from Auckland to freedom camp but it was our first night and we hadn’t quite figured out where and how we could freedom camp yet!
This freedom camping site is in Gulf Harbour, a gorgeous seaside town and I also recommend visiting if you get the chance! The camping area is basically the car park right at the end of the marina. There is space for about 15 campers complete with toilet facilities! Apparently, it gets pretty busy in the summer months so you may need to arrive early but we arrived in June 2019 and there were only a few other campers there.
Street Address: Gulf Harbour Car Park, Laurie Southwick Parade, Gulf Harbour
If you do freedom camp please make sure you are doing so responsibly. Make sure to take all rubbish with you! You are able to get rid of dump water at this campsite and there is running water although the tap wasn’t working during our stay.
Powered Campsites in Auckland
Freedom camping isn’t for everyone and is only allowed for self-contained vehicles. So, if you’re not self-contained then you need to head to a campsite. These are at a cost but not a massive one and are usually well worth it with great facilities. We stayed at Takapuna Beach Holiday Park for a night before departing Auckland and really enjoyed our stay. The campsite has both powered and unpowered sites and is located right on the beachfront. The amenities are clean and the sunrise in the morning was beautiful as I mentioned before. Highly recommend this place if you’re unable to freedom camp or simply don’t want too.
So to answer the question, do you need one day in Auckland or more? You can definitely see the majority of the city in one day but I’m sure they are so much more to explore a further field. We didn’t visit the Auckland museum because of time so I know we’ll go back to do this and we didn’t take the ferry to Waiheke Island. To do everything in Auckland take two to three days but the main city is easy to see in one day.
One Day in Auckland Itinerary
- Sunrise at One Tree Hill
- Walk Around the City
- Visit Auckland’s Sky Tower
- Experience Aotea Square
- Explore Vulcan Lane
- Find the University Clock Tower
- Head to Mount Eden OR the Sky Tower for sunset
For more time in Auckland
- Visit the Auckland Museum
- See Takapuna Beach
- Take a day trip across to Waiheke Island for wine tasting!
Have you ever been to Auckland? I would love to know your thoughts! Let me know in the comments below. If you enjoyed this post then please share it with your friends – you never know who might be visiting Auckland soon!