Although Auckland is not New Zealand’s capital city, it is the largest city. Being the place most travellers enter the country almost everyone will spend some time here. Fortunately it’s a great city to visit at any time of year, with loads of free or cheap things to do for those on a budget. If it’s a bit rainy or cold then check out these Auckland indoor activities; if it’s a glorious summers day then read on…
10 Things To Do in Auckland in Summer!
1. Auckland Memorial Museum
There’s no better place to escape the heat in summer than heading indoors to the beautiful Auckland Museum. With 360 degree views of the city, Rangitoto Island and the Sky Tower from the doorstep, it’s not only a chance to be immersed in Maori culture but also a chance to get some snaps of Auckland.
On entering the building you’re offered the chance to watch a cultural Maori performance. The performance, by Ngāti Whātua Maori tribe’s people, culminates in a spine-tingling rendition of the ‘haka’, a tribal war dance. From here the museum is full of the history of New Zealand; the struggles between Maori tribes and early colonial settlers and what it really looked like back then. The newest exhibitions in the museum include another crucial moment in New Zealand’s history, the suffrage movement which celebrates 125 years since women got the vote. There is also The Secret World of Butterflies, for the first time ever. The museum is the home of the National War Memorial Museum with an entire level dedicated to both World War 1 and 2.
It’s easy to make a day out of a visit to the Auckland Museum as it’s located within the Auckland Domain. The Domain is Auckland’s oldest park and at 75 hectares is also one of the largest. Why not have a picnic in the grounds, feed the ducks or just explore the extensive grounds?
2. Giapo Ice-Cream
Summer isn’t summer without having an ice-cream, and New Zealand has excellent ice-cream! In Auckland though you’ll find an ice-cream place that is a bit different. This place is Giapo, it’s not just delicious ice-cream, it’s an entire experience.
Giapo has been world ranked as the best gelato place in the world and Lonely planet has it as possibly the best ice cream on the planet. This is a totally un-missable experience when you are in Auckland!
From the moment you walk in the door you’re greeted with a brand new spin on how ice cream should be experienced. You won’t find a colourful range of ice creams laid in front of you like a normal ice cream store. Instead you’re greeted with an extensive menu which includes gluten-free, halal and vegan options. The smiling staff greet you and will happily explain to you why Giapo is something new and different to Italian gelato and American ice-cream.
There are loads of options to choose from but fortunately they’ll let you try anything before you buy it. And sure, you can purchase the beautifully crafted sweet treat in a cup or a cone but why do that when you can try a whole new experience? These ice-creams are art! You can eat a colossal squid, use ice cream to take a selfie, or even wear your ice cream before you eat it. Yes, really!
3. Mission Bay
No-one wants to be stuck in the city on a glorious summer day, so make sure you head out to Mission Bay for some beach time. Depending on how energetic you’re feeling you could walk there, hire a bike or just jump on one of the regular buses. If you’re walking or cycling there are a few little places on the way that you can stop and take a dip in the sea or just rest for a short while.
Mission Bay really has that summer vibe. There are some excellent bars with outdoor seating that have spectacular views of Rangitoto Island. After lunch or a refreshing beer head down to the beach and sunbathe or go for a swim in the sea. One of the best things to do in Mission Bay is to take a kayak tour to Rangitoto Island. Just make sure you cover yourself in sunscreen as the sun in New Zealand is hot!
4. SeaLife Kelly Tarltons
One of the places you can stop at on the way to Mission Bay is SeaLife Kelly Tarlton’s. It’s the perfect place to visit in the middle of the day when the sun is at it’s hottest.
As far as aquariums in New Zealand go this is the one that you do not want to miss. Kelly Tarlton wanted to bring the underwater world to everyone and so he built the worlds first curved aquarium tunnel equipped with over 1500 fish and sea animals.
During his travels Kelly collected various artefacts from shipwrecks across the world which are scattered across the aquarium. Name any kind of sea creature and it will be there, with everything from penguins to sharks, jellyfish and sea horses, there is an animal for everyone. What’s really special about Kelly Tarlton’s is their dedication to animal preservation and rehabilitation. It’s the only place in New Zealand that rescues and rehabilitates turtles.
If adrenaline is your thing, jump in a cage and snorkel and swim with the sharks Much like most places you go in Auckland, this one also has amazing views of the city from the outside.
5. Great Barrier Island
The reason why people visit New Zealand, above all, is for the nature we are blessed with. Auckland has many great spots to see this iconic dose of nature but possibly none more so than Great Barrier Island. With more walking tracks than you could possibly imagine, animal marine reserves and hot springs – this is the one stop you need to make for a full injection of nature. The island is so remote and so dedicated to protecting the abundance of wildlife that it is solely powered by a generator and solar power.
On the island you can hang out with native birds and wildlife, heli-fish, snorkel and something really special – visit a Dark Sky Sanctuary. The area is one of only two places in the world given this special status so star-gazers are in for something special due to the scientifically measured darkness which gives it this special title, as well as the fact that there are no outdoor lights.
The island is so untouched that just by taking one of the many walks you can stumble across untouched natural hot pools. The Kaitoke hot pools are the only undeveloped hot pools in Auckland and an easy 80-minute walk will get you there.
6. Puhoi Cheese Factory, Pub and a Kayak – all in one!
If you drive 45-minutes north of Auckland you’ll find a quaint little rural community called Puhoi. Once there you’ll find New Zealand’s oldest pub, decorated with trinkets from all over the world as well as some symbolically kiwi items. After a pub lunch (or before) you can take a relaxing paddle down the Puhoi river. It takes about an hour and leads you to the picturesque Wenderholm park.
In the summer months, you can do the whole kayak trip as a guided moonlight tour. If this isn’t enough to fill your day, head up the road from the Puhoi pub to the world famous Puhoi Valley cheese factory. The chocolate milk is divine! If there is one thing that New Zealand knows how to do, it’s dairy.
There’s also the Puhoi Museum which pays homage to the original bohemian settlers of the community.
7. Sky Tower
Being the major city in New Zealand has it perks, one of them being the iconic skyline. Whether you’re beachside, city side or hill side, the one thing you’ll notice about Auckland’s sky line is the Sky Tower. At a colossal 328 metres high and a long time (20 years) feature of Auckland it’s no surprise this is one of the most popular destinations in Auckland. In the cloudless skies of an awesome summer day the views are amazing!
The view from the sky deck offers 360 views of the 80 km stretch of city and also offers fine dining with a real view. If you’re looking for something a bit more thrill seeking you can sky jump off the tower or sky walk around it, on the outside. It also partners up with the iconic harbour bridge which you can bungy jump off. It may not be for everyone so instead you could enjoy one of the many restaurants it offers. Or head down to the casino for live music, black jack or a drink at one of the many bars it offers.
8. Waiheke Island
A visit to Auckland is not complete without a day trip (or overnight trip) to the serene Waiheke Island. Head to downtown Auckland and jump on the 40-minute ferry. Leaving every half hour, buy a day pass that includes public transport on the island to get you in-between wineries.
Once you arrive you’ll be spoilt for choice as to where to head for your first wine of the day. My tip, start with Stoneyridge, which the Guardian has recommended as one of the best wineries in the world. It sits on top of a hill and the views are to die for.
Waiheke isn’t just known for the wine and food but activities as well. There’s art galleries, yacht charters, resorts, walks and ecozip lines. It’s probably worth visiting for more than just one day as it’s the perfect place to spend a summer weekend.
If you’re a bit of an adrenaline junkie then you should consider jumping out of a plane. You can find Skydive Auckland in Parakai which is a short drive out of Auckland. Once up in the plane the view over Parakai is amazing and the scenery is beautiful. You can see both The Tasman Ocean on the West Coast and the Hauraki Gulf and Pacific Ocean on the East Coast. Wow!
Skydiving is on many backpackers bucket list but fear can stop a lot of people from having this experiencing. Fear is healthy, but don’t let fear stop you from having this amazing experience.
The view during this skydive over Auckland is spectacular. The team who work at Skydive Auckland are all really lovely people who know how to calm your nerves and help you have an unforgettable freefalling experience. They are in fact living the dream and love sharing these experiences every day.
10. Piha Beach and the Waitakere Ranges
Somewhere well worth a visit is Piha Beach, located on the West Coast. Not only is the beach beautiful but it has black sand, a mixture of volcanic sand and iron oxide. Being black, the sand gets hot quickly so always take footwear because you will burn the soles of your feet!
Piha Beach is famous for surfing, as are many of the beaches on the West Coast, just stay between the flags!
Before heading to the beach head into the Waitakere ranges for a walk and to discover some pretty waterfalls. Kitekite falls has very cold water, thankfully the sun will warm you up quickly when you get out! Or if you really fancy it then go canyoning in the Waitakere Ranges. A day of abseiling, sliding and jumping into rock pools and much more.
I highly recommend getting together with a few other backpackers and hiring a car for the day to visit Piha.
Want to hear about some more things to do in Auckland? Check out What To Do in Auckland
Author: Bridie Chetwin-Kelly is a recent graduate of journalism. She works both freelance and full time for one of New Zealand’s leading lifestyle magazines. She enjoys writing about music and food in her spare time.