New Zealand and Australia have been on my bucket list since forever. Instead of celebrating Christmas, my birthday, our anniversary, and Jeff’s birthday (all within a month and in that order), we took the plunge and went down under on the trip of our lifetime! I’m excited to finally tell you about everything we did in each city on this trip. First stop – where to stay and top things to do in Auckland, New Zealand!
Auckland is a major city on the North Island and the most populated city in the entire country of New Zealand. It has everything from good food, shopping, arts and culture, adventure, islands, and beaches. It’s no wonder that Auckland is rated as the third most liveable city in the world!
WHERE TO STAY IN AUCKLAND
After a long haul flight from Seattle, we were so ready to hit the sack and rest at the SKYCITY Grand. This highly rated five-star hotel is beautiful, clean, and has all the essentials you would want (comfy bed, luscious robes, in-room Nespresso, to name a few). The real appeal, though, is its incredible central location. In the Top Things to Do In Auckland section below, I’ll list out how far everything is from the hotel. But even if you don’t stay here, you sure won’t miss it. The SKYCITY Grand is part of the iconic Sky Tower and next to some of the most popular restaurants in Auckland, including Depot Eatery. We also tried our luck at the casino here, which is the only casino in Auckland! Find more about rates and availability here.
TOP THINGS TO DO IN AUCKLAND
With so many things to do in this city, we tried packing in as many activities as we could during our short three-day stay. However, with a little bit of jet lag, it felt like we only had 2.5 days. Here are the top things to do in central Auckland.
Queens Street (6 min walk from SKYCITY Grand)
Queens Street is at the very heart of Auckland. You can’t miss this bustling street with endless restaurant options, department and boutique stores, bars, and art exhibits. Don’t forget to visit the Britomart where you’ll find a quaint farmers market!
Waiheke Island (15 min walk to Viaduct Harbour from SKYCITY Grand, 40 min ferry ride to Island)
Waiheke Island is about 40 minutes from Auckland via a ferry ride. Depending on your interests, there are other popular islands like Rangitoto Island and Devonport, but you’ll want to reserve one full day for island activities. We picked Waiheke Island since it has wineries, local shops, and beaches.
You can do a full on winery tour where the ferry and transportation are all covered ($125+ NZD). However, we took the budget, less restricting route. We hopped on the Fullers 360 ferry, which leaves about every 30-45 minutes and is $36 NZD for an adult roundtrip ticket. Once on the island, we purchased our own public bus tickets ($10 day pass), and took it everywhere including to the main village area, two different wineries (Wild On Waiheke is now my all-time favorite winery), and, of course, the beach!
Viaduct Harbour (15 min walk from SKYCITY Grand)
Take a stroll around the Viaduct Harbour. This is Auckland’s stunning waterfront and it’s filled with hip restaurants and gorgeous views. You can also admire the grand yachts and watch ferries take off here. This is where you’ll embark on ferries to go to the different islands as well.
Sky Tower (1 min walk from SKYCITY Grand)
Towering at 328 meters (1,076 feet high), the Sky Tower is a distinctive landmark you can spot miles away. Enjoy sweeping 360 views of Auckland here or dine at one of their cafes or restaurants. For you adrenaline junkies out there, you can jump off the Sky Tower (SkyJump) or walk on the outside at the top (SkyWalk)!
We are bummed to have missed these due to time, but based on the huge number of reviews, you need to check out the Auckland War Memorial Museum as well as Toi o Tāmaki, a free art gallery on Queens Street!
WHERE TO EAT IN AUCKLAND
Giapo (7 min walk from SKYCITY Grand)
A short seven minute walk from SKYCITY Grand, you’ll find the sweetest ice cream shop that I’ve ever been to (literally). Giapo offers the most beautiful and decadent desserts that will satisfy anyone’s sweet tooth! It’s pretty pricey ranging from $10-$18 NZD, and there are typically huge lines, but it’s totally worth trying! I mean, have you ever seen ice cream like this before? I can’t remember the exact flavors we got, but the strawberry one pictured on the left was my favorite!
Depot Eatery (1 min walk from SKYCITY Grand)
While planning for our trip, Depot Eatery was literally mentioned in every single Auckland travel guide. It was also located right at the base of our SKYCITY Grand hotel so this was a no brainer! Everything was seriously so delicious; I still remember how each dish tastes as I’m writing this. We ordered the oysters, street corn, lamb ribs, and pork hock (pictured above).
Major Sprout (7 min walk from SKYCITY Grand)
To be honest, I wanted to come here because it looked very “Instagrammable”. But not only was Major Sprout immaculately decorated inside, the food exceeded our expectations. I mean how beautiful are the pancakes above! Don’t they look like they were made for unicorns?
After our sweet but short stay in Auckland, we headed off to the Waitomo Caves, Hobbiton Movie Set, and Rotorua. I’ll be sharing more details in the next posts!
SKYCITY Grand provided me a complimentary media stay in exchange for this post. Thank you for supporting companies that make Just A Tina Bit possible!