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48-Hours in Auckland: Where to go and what to see

Auckland, New Zealand skyline | 48-Hours in Auckland, New Zealand | What to do on a layover in Auckland

New Zealand’s largest city is the gateway to the land of the All Blacks, world-class wineries, Lord of the Rings, and so much more! Before heading off to your next stop – whether it’s another city in New Zealand, the South Pacific, or Australia – be sure to set aside a couple of days to explore this incredible destination.

If you are looking for the best things if you only have two days in Auckland, this is the post for you! Discover what to do with 48-hours in Auckland – or the perfect length for a stopover in New Zealand!

Day One

Auckland Sky Tower

Get a birds-eye view of Auckland from the southern hemisphere’s tallest structure, the Auckland Sky Tower, and take in the sweeping views of the volcanic isthmus and harbours that frame the city.

Tickets cost (NZ$28 at the time of writing), but admission to the observation deck is free if you dine at the rotating Orbit restaurant at the top or dine at The Sugar Club. For the adventurous, consider taking the SkyWalk around the perimeter of the tower or try the skyJump – yes, that is bungee jumping from the Auckland Sky Tower!

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Mount Eden

Did you know there is a dormant volcano in the middle of Auckland? Mount Eden overlooks the city centre and is a popular place for families and people to picnic or walk on the weekend. And with picturesque surroundings, it’s easy to understand why it’s so popular!

If you choose to walk from the city centre it’s quite a long uphill walk, but a great challenge. Reward yourself with brunch or a coffee at one of the great cafes on nearby Mount Eden Road after.

Waiheke Island

You could easily spend days exploring Waiheke Island, but it’s also a fantastic day trip from Auckland. A haven for beautiful vineyards, olive groves and beaches, this island is just a 40-minute ferry from downtown Auckland but feels like its a world away!

For those seeking an active adventure, one of the island’s cliff top trails may be to your liking or renting a bike and cycling around the island. Food lovers will enjoy the locally sourced produce – honey, olive products, wines and more can be found available to taste and purchase around the island. Finally, beach lovers will enjoy spending time at one of the islands white sandy beaches.

For those who aren’t keen on staying at an airport hotel near Auckland Airport, waking up to the sound of the ocean at one of Waiheke Island’s range of beach houses or hostels may be more to your liking.

A Night Out

Less than 2km from the city centre, Ponsonby is one of the cooler areas of town, especially for those seeking a great night filled with good food and great bars.

A personal favourite, Bedford Soda & Liquor is a restaurant bar offering great food and creative drinks (think baubles of cocktails or liquid nitrogen brews). It may sound a little pretentious, but trust – it’s anything but! Be sure to check out their Meatball Menu while there.

Day Two

Auckland Art Gallery

The Auckland Art Gallery reopened in 2011 after a four-year expansion, and is one of the prettiest places to spend a few hours (especially during winter in Auckland!) Inside, highlights include a gallery of turn-of-the-century portraits of tattooed Maori leaders by Charles Goldie, and works by Cezanne, Matisse and contemporary Kiwi artists. Open daily, 10am to 5pm. Free entrance, but charges may apply to exhibitions.

Waitakere Ranges

The scenic Waitakere Ranges are a 45-minute drive west of Auckland and it’s worth exploring this epic rainforest if time allows. My recommendation is to book a private tour of the native bush and deserted black sand beaches with a local guide to get the most of the experience. Many tours include Auckland hotel pick-ups.

Enjoy a Seafood Feast

Located in the middle of the Pacific and surrounded by harbours on each side, you’d hope that Auckland’s seafood delivers on flavours – and let me tell you, it does just that!

I feel a little out of the loop as my last visit hasn’t been for a few years, but Princes Piers’ The Crab Shack, FISH, or Euro are three restaurants which kept being mentioned by local friends when I asked there where to eat on my upcoming trip!

QT Hotel Auckland, New Zealand

Where to stay in Auckland

QT Auckland4 Viaduct Harbour Avenue, WesthavenOne of the coolest boutique hotels in Auckland and also one of the newest having opened in November 2020; the QT Auckland is located in downtown Auckland on the water’s edge in the Viaduct Harbour. Rooms are sleek, modern rooms with the quirky touches QT Hotels are known for. While there, be sure to check out the Rooftop at QT Auckland for the perfect place to dine by day or have a few cheeky drinks at night.

The Hotel Britomart29 Galway Street, Auckland CBDIn a non-descript building made from hand-made bricks, The Hotel Britomart is a beautiful place to getaway in Auckland. All 99 guest rooms are 22 sqm in size and come with snug timber-lined walls, beautifully tiled bathrooms, built-in sofas, hand-made ceramics and minibars full of locally sourced treats. Best of all, the best of downtown waterfront Auckland is just outside your front door.

ibis Budget Auckland Central20 Wyndham Street, Auckland CBD With just 144 budget hotel rooms in Auckland, ibis Budget Auckland Central has a range of rooms, some featuring balconies and some with kitchenette facilities. Rooms are light, bright, and furnished basically. For no-fuss accommodation in a sensational location amongst Auckland city’s vibrant heart, the ibis Budget Auckland Central may be the right hotel for you.

How to get from Auckland Airport to the city?

The Auckland City Express SkyBus offers a great cost-effective means of getting directly into Auckland City.

For $17 each one way (or $32 return), they will take you directly from the airport into the city.  The service operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, taking between 40 and 50 minutes, though I recommend leaving additional time for travel during peak hours.

Bookings can be made online, at the curbside kiosks/bus stops, and also onboard (with an Auckland Transport HOP card).

Alternative Pricing:

  • Children (4 – 16 years of age) $2.00 one way/$4 return
  • Seniors (with NZ or Au identification) $16 one way/$30 return.

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