New Zealand's Largest City Has Exceptional Natural Beauty, With Pristine Beaches, Verdant Volcanic Peaks, and Lovely Hotels

How to plan the perfect trip to Auckland, New Zealand.

Aerial View of Auckland City featuring ocean and Harbour Bridge
Photo: Damian Alexander/Courtesy of Visit Auckland

There are so many new and exciting things to see in Auckland now that travelers can once again visit New Zealand. Commercial Bay is a relatively new addition to the city, which has revolutionized the CBD's retail and hospitality scene. There's also the reinvigorated Viaduct Harbor, with several new luxury hotel offerings, and the Britomart precinct – an exquisite industrial transformation that has been two decades in the making.

Regardless of these world-class developments, most of Auckland's charm lies in its natural beauty, with pristine beaches, verdant volcanic peaks, and twin harbors facing the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea.

International travelers often view Auckland as a stopover on the way to Queenstown or The Bay of Islands, but there are many reasons to make it a destination on any New Zealand itinerary and spend at least a few days experiencing all of the magical things it has to offer.

Time Zone

New Zealand Standard Time (NZST).

Best Time to Go

The best time to go is during New Zealand's summer, ideally between December and the beginning of March. A big part of New Zealand's appeal is its natural beauty, and all of the outdoor activities around the city are definitely best experienced when it's warm and sunny.

Summertime also brings a lot of music and arts festivals, and every January, Auckland's version of Wimbledon takes place in the city at the ASB Classic tennis tournament. Regardless of the season, New Zealand weather can change in a pinch, so make sure you pack all the essentials to be prepared for any situation.

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Things to Know

Auckland is New Zealand's largest city, where urban life and natural splendor intersect. You can easily walk around the CBD, but the best way to properly explore the city is by car, as the key suburbs are quite spread out and public transport can be indirect and time-consuming. It's definitely worth visiting Newmarket, Ponsonby, Parnell, and Takapuna over on the North Shore while you're there – there are some beautiful beaches and fantastic cafes and boutiques.

Locals are friendly and always willing to provide directions. It's also a safe place with a very low crime rate, which is another reason why it's often on listed as one of the world's most livable cities.

Tipping is not the norm in New Zealand, though some travelers opt to add gratuity when dining out.

Currency: NZD (check the current exchange rate).

Language: English

Calling Code: +64

Capital City: Wellington

How to Get Around

Trains: The train system in Auckland is not quite as extensive as what you would find in other metropolitan cities, but there are four main lines that connect to the Britomart Train Station. It's a relatively new development, so everything is clean and modern.

Ferries: Fullers and Sealink both operate from downtown Auckland and provide routes to Devonport, Waiheke Island, Rangitoto, Hobsonville Point, and Half Moon Bay. It's a scenic way to travel around the city.

Taxis: Corporate Cabs and Co-op Taxis are the main driver services in Auckland. Both are clean and reliable with friendly drivers. It should cost under $75 from the airport to the CBD, regardless of the traffic.

Buses: CityLink buses run regularly and have stops all around Auckland. This map illustrates the main routes. There are also bus services that cater to wider suburban areas but beware of hopping on during rush-hour as the motorways can get very congested.

Car apps: Uber and Ola are the main car apps used in Auckland, both with comparable pricing.

Best Hotels

Park Hyatt Auckland

Exterior of Park Hyatt Auckland
Vidhya Raithatha/Courtesy of Hyatt

Address: 99 Halsey Street, Auckland, 1010, New Zealand
Phone: +64 9 366 1234
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Occupying a prime waterfront position in Wynyard Quarter, Park Hyatt is Auckland's glossiest new luxury hotel, perfectly appointed for the international jet set. It features four restaurants and bars, a day spa, a fitness center, and versatile event spaces. There are 195 spacious rooms (double the size of standard rooms in the city), including 23 suites with panoramic harbor views. In classic Park Hyatt style, the décor is sleek and modern, and there are references to New Zealand's indigenous culture throughout.

The Hotel Britomart

Address: 29 Galway Street, Britomart, Auckland, 1010, New Zealand
Phone: +64 9 300 9595
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Britomart has been completely reinvigorated over the past 20 years, and this highly anticipated hotel is the precinct's crown jewel. The Landing Suites are particularly notable, each furnished with elegant interiors and three with garden terraces and stunning views of the Waitemata Harbor. It's the perfect option for travelers that want to be right in the thick of it, as it's surrounded by the CBD's best shopping and dining, as well as major transportation hubs.

QT Auckland

Rooftop deck at QT Hotels & Resorts
Courtesy of QT Hotels & Resorts

Address: 4 Viaduct Harbor Ave, Auckland, 1010, New Zealand
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Following successful outposts in Queenstown and Wellington, the QT opened its doors in Auckland's Viaduct in 2020 and swiftly became popular with both tourists and local revelers that frequent its sprawling rooftop bar. The vibe is comparable to the likes of The Standard and W Hotels, with an eccentric, Millennial-focused take on luxury. Local influencers have been engaged as collaborators to help keep guests in the loop with the best the city has to offer; there's even a 'Director of Chaos' that can curate an extravagant night on the town.

Hotel Fitzroy

Address: 43 Richmond Road, Grey Lynn
Phone: +64 9 558 1955
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For travelers seeking more of a neighborhood vibe, Hotel Fitzroy is an excellent option, located in a heritage villa in the backstreets of Ponsonby. It's within walking distance of many of the city's trendiest cafes and cocktail bars, and its low-key, boutique atmosphere offers an authentic look at how locals live. There are only 10 rooms (two of which are considered luxury suites), so it's very intimate. Breakfast is served in-room and in the evening drinks and hors d'oeuvres are provided in a social setting in the library.

Sofitel Auckland

Address: 21 Viaduct Harbour, 1010, Auckland, New Zealand
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Since opening in 2012, The Sofitel has been considered Auckland's leading luxury hotel, and has been the preferred address for celebrities and dignitaries visiting the city. It recently underwent an extensive makeover, which was unveiled in 2020, just in time for the America's Cup events. The result is a chic, contemporary hideaway with a distinctly French flair. Hermès amenities are included in the rooms and there is an opulent new spa with state-of-the-art accoutrements and treatments to rejuvenate guests after a long flight (of which most are, unless you're coming from Australia). Opt for the Opera Suite for a truly luxurious experience.

Best Restaurants


Address: 210-218 Victoria Street, Auckland

Located in Victoria Park Market, Milenta is a stylish South American bistro where you can dine al fresco and marvel at the creations being whipped up in its open outdoor kitchen. Many of the dishes are cooked traditionally over a wood coal fire, creating a warming scent to fill the space. Try the pohutukawa smoked oysters or the kingfish tiraditos. After dinner, head over to its neighboring cocktail bar, The Shy Guy for a nightcap.


Address: The Hotel Britomart, 30 Customs Street East, Auckland
Phone: +64 9 300 9596

Helmed by the visionary duo behind Ponsonby's popular Orphan's Kitchen, Kingi is an elegant all-day restaurant where you can enjoy sustainable seafood and delicious cocktails. Some of the signature dishes include the crayfish roll with carrot kimchi (a rendition of the classic lobster roll), Yellow Belly flounder, and Chatham Island blue cod wings. There's always a lively atmosphere and it's situated in the heart of Britomart, surrounded by some of the city's best nightlife, so it's a great place to begin a night on the town.


Interior of Daphnes Taverna
Jono Parker/Courtesy of Daphnes Taverna

Address: 71 Ponsonby Road, 1011, Auckland, New Zealand
Phone: +64 21 906 815

Inspired by a pre-COVID sabbatical around Europe, the award-winning restaurateurs behind Odette's have brought a slice of Greece to Ponsonby. The convivial space is imbued with a Mediterranean flair, with warm terracotta tones and multiple indoor and outdoor dining options. On the menu, you'll find a modern take on traditional Greek fare: souvlaki, feta salads, whole flounder, spanakopita, and mezze dishes, best experienced family-style. Daphnes is one of the city's liveliest new restaurants and is one to mark on any Auckland itinerary.


Address: 66-68 Tyler Street, Britomart, 1010, Auckland, New Zealand
Phone: +64 9 394 1416

Auckland's culinary credentials have been significantly elevated by Amano owner Hipgroup (recently acquired by Savor). Each of the group's locations around town have a solid formula: inventive seasonal cuisine, chic interior décor, and a character that always feels vibrant and suited to the neighborhood. Amano is the perfect example, presiding in a century-old, exposed brick building in Britomart, with a lively atmosphere and appealing menus built around provenance. Catering to the needs of city denizens, the restaurant offers an elegant dining space that is the perfect starting point for a night out, alongside a bakery with a delicious lineup of sandwiches and pastries to-go.


Interior of Ada at The Convent Hotel
Courtesy of The Convent Hotel

Address: The Convent Hotel, 454 Great North Road, Grey Lynn, 1021, Auckland, New Zealand
Phone: +64 9 883 4454

Ada is one of Auckland's liveliest new restaurants, located within the new Convent Boutique Hotel in Grey Lynn. Italian-inspired fare is served in a rustic, airy space that caters to both large and small groups. Some of the menu highlights include handkerchief pasta with pork ragu and ricotta, pizza fritta with nduja, taleggio, and oregano, and chocolate panna cotta with hazlenuts. The cocktails are also excellent.


Address: 2-16 Watt Street, Parnell, Auckland, 1052, New Zealand
Phone: +64 9 309 0277

Barulho has enlivened Parnell's dining scene, serving a rotating menu of Spanish tapas and sharing plates, fresh out of a charcoal oven. Some of the star dishes include the seafood cazuela, the smokey braised lamb, the beef empanadas, and the paprika-grilled octopus. The desserts are also worth sticking around for; try their local rendition of the classic Portugese custard tart, topped with black dorris plums, or the churros with dark chocolate sauce and cinnamon sugar.


Interior of Onslow
Courtesy of Onslow

Address: 9 Princes Street, Auckland CBD, Auckland 1010, New Zealand
Phone: +64 9-930 9123

Josh Emmett is one of New Zealand's most admired chefs with several successful restaurants to his name (including Queenstown's Rata, The Oyster Inn, Madam Woo, and formerly, Ostro). His newest venture, Onslow, is located at the base of the new luxury residential development, The International, right in the center of the city's main business hub. It's a polished space that feels refined, and somewhere in between a bistro and fine dining. The menu is filled with innovative variations on recognizable staples: fried chicken with caviar, a crayfish éclair with spiced bisque, and beef with braised shortrib, parsnip crème, and port truffle jus.


Food from Lilian
Courtesy of Lilian

Address: 472 Richmond Road, Auckland, 1021, New Zealand
Phone: N/A

This charming neighborhood restaurant offers crowd-pleasing dishes that are delicious and reasonably priced. There are pan-European sharing plates, woodfired pizzas, wines sourced from some of the world's best wine regions, and delicious cocktails, including the hit Guava Sour and an Espresso Martini with salted caramel vodka.

Things to Do

Cooking class at Homeland

Learn how to make classic New Zealand cuisine from one of the country's most lauded chefs, Peter Gordon. After spending 30 years abroad putting local ingredients on the world stage, Gordon recently returned and launched Homeland as a restaurant and cooking school. It's an immersive environment where local producers are given a platform through the restaurant, retail store, and the cooking school. Up to eight classes are held each month.


Matakana is Auckland's version of Napa Valley, dotted with vineyards and rustic al fresco restaurants. The most interesting one to visit is Brick Bay, which has a sculpture trail with contemporary installations spread throughout a serene bush path. On the weekends, there is a Farmer's Market hosted in Matakana Village, where you can buy artisan cheeses, pastries, pies, crepes, and condiments. It's also worth visiting Omaha Beach or Tawharanui Regional Park while you're in the area, which each take less than 15 minutes by car.

Auckland Art Gallery

Exterior of Auckland Art Gallery
Courtesy of Visit Auckland

Auckland Art Gallery is New Zealand's largest art institution. It's an integral part of the city's cultural scene and the building itself is an architectural delight, receiving a variety of global awards. There are currently 17,000 artworks within the collection, including an impressive range of historic and contemporary paintings, sculptures, and prints. In addition to showcasing local artists, it's hosted a variety of international exhibitions, including Yayoi Kasuma's Instagram-friendly 'Obliteration Room' and classic masterpieces from the likes of Monet, Renoir, Magritte, Degas, and Van Gogh.

Visit Waiheke Island

aerial view of Waiheke Island with sand, trees and houses on the shore and boats in the ocean surrounding
Damian Alexander/Courtesy of Visit Auckland

Venture over to Waiheke Island for a day trip and explore the beautiful vineyards. There are several that are particularly notable, including Tantalus Estate and Mudbrick (which both boast elegant restaurants that are perfect for celebrating special occasions), and Man O'War, which is only accessible via boat. There are many beautiful beaches to visit (Oneroa, Palm Beach, and Onetangi are some of the best), and it's worth making a trip to The Island Gelato Co. in Oneroa Village for a scoop of amaretto icecream. From downtown Auckland, it's a 30-minute ferry ride, or if you're feeling extravagant, charter a helicopter and enjoy the spectacular views from above.

Auckland Museum

The exterior of Auckland Museum
Chris McLennan/Courtesy of Visit Auckland

Housed in one of the country's most magnificent heritage buildings, The Auckland Museum provides an insight into New Zealand's origins and evolution. The permanent collection features a natural history gallery, a significant collection of Maori artefacts, and a war memorial to honor those who served. There are limited exhibitions on rotation, including LEGO brick creations, which is running until May and Sea Monsters, launching in June.

Walk around North Head

Devonport volcanic cone with Auckland city and skytower in the background, beach and houses below
Damian Alexander/Courtesy of Visit Auckland

Head over to Devonport on the North Shore and walk around North Head Historic Reserve. The volcanic mountain is the country's most significant coastal defense site, with military relics that are still intact from the 1940s, built in anticipation of an invasion that never occurred. Its position affords some of the most stunning views of the Hauraki Gulf, the Auckland skyline, and Cheltenham Beach below.

Explore the West Coast Beaches

Spend a day exploring Auckland's black-sand beaches on the West Coast. Piha and Muriwai are popular surfing spots with rugged natural landscapes and scenic walking tracks. The currents can be extremely strong, so look out for the red flags that mark the designated safe zones to swim.

Have the best gelato outside of Italy

Head to Giapo on Queen Street for the best gelato in the city. Giapo Grazioli and his wife Annarosa are dedicated to serving up creations that are as delicious as they are artistic. "It's the most popular dessert food in the world and it didn't seem right that it always had to look the same in cones and cups or on sticks," Giapo says. On the menu you'll find a selfie cone with a chocolate frame, a squid cone that looks like a mini sculpture, cones topped with sourdough donuts, and an incredible variety of flavors.

Best Shopping

Commercial Bay

Address: 7 Queen Street, Auckland, 1010
Phone: +64 27 368 8659

Featuring over 100 fashion, beauty and dining locations, Commercial Bay is the CBD's premier shopping destination. International designers including Hugo Boss, Tommy Hilfiger, Kate Spade, Sandro, and Calvin Klein are situated alongside celebrated local brands, Elle + Riley Cashmere, Wynn Hamlyn, Kate Sylvester, and multi-brand boutique, Superette. There's also an incredible beauty offering, with Dior Cosmetics, nail salons, and modern aesthetic spas. Come here for lunch or dinner, the dining options are fantastic, from the more formal Ahi and Poni, to casual fare at Best Ugly Bagels, Roti Bros, and Green Door Pizza.

Karen Walker

Interior of Karen Walker
Courtesy of Karen Walker

Address: Ground Floor, The Hotel Britomart, 31 Galway Street, Auckland, 1010, New Zealand
Phone: +64 9 309 6299

Karen Walker is New Zealand's most internationally renowned fashion designer, with a distinct style that plays between masculine and feminine. Her collections are timeless and often feature elegant baby doll dresses, floaty chiffon blouses, vibrant signature prints, and some of the very best tailored suiting around. Eclectic eyewear has also become a hallmark of the brand, as have her jewelry collections with whimsical motifs, including the signature Runaway Girl. The newest boutique, Playpark by Karen Walker, is located on the ground floor of Hotel Britomart, and features Walker's current-season collections, alongside an exclusive edit of pieces from some of her favorite brands.

Smith & Caughey's

Address: 253-261 Queen Street, Auckland CBD, 1010, New Zealand
Phone: 0508 400 500

Smith & Caughey's is Auckland's version of Saks, featuring an expansive range of designer fashion brands, beauty products, handbags, and homewares. The iconic department store first opened in 1880 and has been a bastion of style and celebration ever since. The original Queen Street location has a distinctly Art Deco style and looks as though it could easily be recast in Manhattan, with an old-world charm that's very unique in the young city. The top level is dedicated to entertaining, with exquisite dinnerware from Versace, Waterford, and Vera Wang (among other leading brands), and there's a Bennett's Chocolate boutique with an incredible selection of handmade chocolates (try the white chocolate and caramel truffles with Feijoa vodka – they're divine).

Kate Sylvester

Address: 134 Ponsonby Road, Ponsonby, Auckland, 1011, New Zealand
Phone: +64 9 360 5283

Since launching her namesake brand in the early '90s, Kate Sylvester has evolved into one of New Zealand's most adored and iconic brands. Her chic ready-to-wear collections are designed to outlast trends and are inspired by things that she loves, be it art, music, or literature. Everything is produced locally, and the designer cofounded Mindful Fashion New Zealand - a collective that is committed to supporting the local textile industry. There are three boutiques in Auckland (Ponsonby, Newmarket, and Britomart) which all carry her main collection, diffusion line, Sylvester, and the designer's exclusive eyewear, footwear, and jewelry collections.

Simon James Store

Address: 230 Jervois Road, Herne Bay, Auckland, 1023, New Zealand
Phone: +64 9 376 6955

Design lovers will adore Simon James Store, which offers a refined edit of furniture, homewares, beauty products, and fashion. Here you will find renowned global brands such as Tom Dixon, Aesop, Mattiazzi, and Oliver Peoples, alongside showstopping decorative accents and styles from burgeoning local fashion darlings, GEORGIA ALICE and Paris Georgia. There are two boutiques in Auckland, one in Herne Bay and one in Newmarket, both conveniently close to some great local cafes.


Address: 4 High Street, Auckland CBD, 1010, New Zealand
Phone: +64 9 303 2128

Ruby is a beloved New Zealand fashion brand with a chic and playful aesthetic. Ladies in the market for a new look are always guaranteed to find something that they love here, whether it's a pair of heeled sandals, versatile wardrobe staples, or a stylish seasonal dress. Everything is wearable and reasonably priced and there are several boutiques located in key shopping districts throughout Auckland (High Street in the CBD, Newmarket, and Ponsonby).


Address: 11 Teed Street, Newmarket, 1023, Auckland, New Zealand
Phone: +64 9 520 2911

Muse is a multi-brand boutique with a curated edit of contemporary fashion from local and international designers. There are locations in both Ponsonby and Newmarket, each decorated with gorgeous Millennial pink interiors. Here you will discover elevated essentials from fresh local brands like Harris Tapper and Rebe, and cozy staples from Muse's in-house cashmere line that is crafted in Nepal.

Neighborhoods to Know

Ponsonby: Like many reinvigorated areas in Auckland, Ponsonby hasblossomed over the past 20 years. It's renowned for its low-key but vibrant nightlife, trendy restaurants and cafes, and contemporary boutiques. It's also home to Ponsonby Central, which is akin to Chelsea Market in New York, with a variety of eateries, bars, and social spaces that are always bustling.

Takapuna: Head across the Harbor Bridge and you'll arrive in Takapuna, where there are sprawling beaches, excellent restaurants, and great shopping options. Like most of the North Shore, the area is largely residential, but it's a great place to visit whether it's for a day at the beach or to walk along the coastline. Stop at the legendary Takapuna Beach Café for brunch or a scoop of gelato from its adjoining takeout joint.

Newmarket: Newmarket is one of the city's major retail destinations, anchored by a sprawling Westfield mall and shops lining Broadway. Some of the more high-end boutiques are tucked away on Nuffield Street and Teed Street, and there are some great restaurants in Osbourne Lane and celebrated local designers, including Kathryn Wilson and Juliette Hogan.

Parnell: Bridging the city and Newmarket, Parnell is a sophisticated neighborhood made up of cafes, restaurants, art galleries, boutiques, and residential real estate. It's also home to botanic gardens and is beautiful place to wander around on the weekends.


Go by Seasons: The temperatures remain fairly constant in Auckland, varying only about 20 degrees Fahrenheit between seasons.

January: 61°-78°
February: 61°-80°
March: 59°-73°
April: 55°-68°
May: 51°-64°
June: 47°-60°
July: 45°-58°
August: 46°-59°
September: 49°-62°
October: 52°-64°
November: 54°-67°
December: 59°-72°

Apps to Download

Uber: Ridesharing.
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MetService: Weather.
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Google Maps: Directions.
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