48 hours in Auckland: Nature & The City in Two Days
This is a 2 day guide to Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city. The first thing you should know about Auckland is that, geographically, it’s massive and attractions can be quite spread out. If you’re staying for a while or want to make the most of your 48 hours in Auckland (and depending on what you want to do), it can be a good idea to rent a car. This is especially true since Auckland is a great base for day trips to several famous beaches, rivers, lakes, waterfalls and hiking spots. If you want to get by on public transport then I recommend finding accommodation in the heart of the city or in Central Auckland since the suburbs can be sleepy and buses don’t always run late! Of course, you can also buy a ticket for a hop-on/hop-off bus which actually isn’t a bad idea if you want to visit the top attractions and cool beachside suburbs all in one day.
The second thing you need to know about Auckland is that the city is built on 49 volcanoes. Don’t worry, they’re dormant, but it will mean that walking in the city can be a bit of a hike for some. On the bright side, there are numerous places that are perfect for getting great views of the city or watching the sun go down for free.
Here’s my recommended 48 hours in Auckland itinerary:
Day 1: Morning – Devonport and Volcano Hiking
For the first of our 2 days in Auckland we’re going to spend the morning at the beach and then go and explore the CBD.
Devonport is a small bayside village with cafes, pubs and a few shops. One of the reasons I recommend Devonport is that you get there via ferry. While it’s only a short 12 minute trip, you get to see the city skyline, the harbour bridge and the huge number of boats docked in Auckland’s marinas (Auckland is also known as the City of Sails and you’ll see why!). In my opinion, it’s worth it even to catch the ferry there and back again just because it’s so great to be out on Auckland Harbour with the city all around you.
When you get to Devonport, it’s worth spending some time walking through the town or having an ice cream on the beach. Then, you’re faced with a decision because there are two volcanoes you can walk up for an even better view of the city. (Don’t be intimidated by the word ‘volcano’, it’s more like a large hill covered in grass!) Mount Victoria is the nearest and it will take you about 20 minutes to walk from the Ferry Terminal to the top. It’s a nice idea to pack a picnic or buy some battered fish and chips from the shops at the foot of the mountain before you walk up.
If you’re ready for a longer walk then North Head (also a volcano) is worth the walk, about 35 minutes along the beautiful coastline. Although if you don’t fancy it, you can catch a bus most of the way from the Ferry Terminal. North Head is a historic reserve; It used to be a military battlement and the tunnels and a couple of cannons, still remain for you to explore. You’ll see why if you look at a map, North Head is positioned right at the mouth of Auckland Harbour and the height of the mountain made it the perfect defense site. Some of the best views of the city skyline can be seen from the top as well as another famous Auckland sight: Rangitoto.
Rangitoto is an island and yet another volcano (!). It’s iconic silhouette is often referred to as the backdrop of Auckland because it can be seen from many vantage points in the city and is often seen in the background of photos. If you like hiking and have more than 48 hours in Auckland, you can actually spend the day hiking through the bush to the top of the uninhabited island. You have to catch a ferry here also (unless a 2 hour kayak takes your fancy) but make sure you plan in advance because the ferry only runs once or twice a day.
Day 1: Afternoon – City Slicking in the CBD
Now it’s time to explore the city! The main street in the CBD is Queen Street, you’ll no doubt end up here at some point during your 2 days in Auckland. This is where you’ll find all kinds of shopping and food. Some of the main attractions to visit on Queen Street are the Civic Theatre, opened in 1929, where you’ll find Auckland’s theatre shows and film festivals. And further up is Aotea Square, the entrance is marked by a large carved wooden arch, created by Māori sculptor, Selwyn Muru.
If we begin our trip Downtown where the Ferry Terminal is, we can walk down the main road, Quay Street, to Wynyard Quarter and Silo Park. This is a great area for grabbing a drink or a bite to eat, albeit sometimes a little bit pricey but it’s also a nice place to talk a walk right along the edge of the Viaduct. If you’re a foodie, you’ll love the choices of restaurants and if you’re there on a weekend, check out the markets.
Next on our 48 hours in Auckland itinerary is to head up the SkyTower! This is New Zealand’s tallest tower at 220m and is obviously a great place to see the city. It’s a 20 or so minute walk uphill or you can catch a bus. It’s worth booking ahead for the SkyTower’s observation deck, not only is it cheaper to book online but it also ensures you get a ticket. There are also a few restaurants and a cafe at the top.
Dining at the restaurants means you get to enter the observation deck for free which makes it a good deal because your money spent, gets to go on food! But again, make sure you reserve a table in advance! This can easily be done online. If you have a car, they’ll also subsidise your parking so be sure to get your ticket validated.
The restaurant you should try is Orbit. As the name implies, the restaurant actually revolves for 360 views as you dine. Or if you have the money to spend, I’d highly recommend trying The Sugar Club restaurant and bar. If you’re eating at a restaurant, you can explore the Observation Deck as much as you like, before or after you dine. Sections of the floor are made of glass so you can stand on it and look straight down at the city below! Make sure you keep an eye out for people doing the SkyJump (jumping off the SkyTower) or the SkyWalk (walking around the edge of the SkyTower) or if you’re brave enough, try them yourself!
Day 2: Morning – Mt Eden
This morning we’ll be exploring yet another volcano. What can I say? In my opinion, the nature in New Zealand beats out all of the other attractions so much of your 2 days in Auckland should cover this. This time we’re exploring Mount Eden, the biggest and most famous volcano of them all with a massive crater in the top (no, there’s no lava, just more grass).
There are several buses you can catch here from the city and it’s only a 15 minute walk to the top. You’ll see tourists with hiking sticks but they’re a little over-prepared! You used to be able to drive up the mountain but this has been banned due to conservation reasons (if you need disability access, just phone them and they’ll arrange to let your vehicle in). There are a few tracks that people have made to access the mountain from all sides but I recommend walking up the road – make sure you go up one way and down the other so you explore the whole thing!
Next, we’ll head down the mountain and head to Mt Eden Village where you’ll find some of Auckland’s best cafes. Auckland is known for great coffee so make sure you grab one from one of the cafes. A cheap Kiwi suggestion for lunch is a mince pie from one of the bakeries. Now, when I say mince, I mean beef mince and when I say pie, I mean a crispy, flaky puff pastry affair. If you want to go the whole hog, wash it down with a bottle of L&P (which stands for Lemon and Paeroa). It’s a classic Kiwi soft drink offered by Coca-Cola and is as popular as Fanta or Sprite.
Day 2: Afternoon – Mission Bay
Next, we’re heading to Mission Bay, another seaside suburb not to be missed while spending just 48 hours in Auckland but larger and more lively than Devonport with cafes, restaurants and pubs. To get there from the city you’ll need to catch a bus (you will find is often one of the stops on a hop-on, hop-off bus if you want to make life easier for yourself).
There are loads of activities in Mission Bay. You can hire rollerblades, kayaks, waterbikes, paddle boards, tandem bikes and more which are great for exploring the coast or you can simply walk down the beach. If you do want to bike or rollerblade, I recommend going from Mission Bay and along the coast to the neighbouring seaside suburbs of Kohimarama and St Heliers and finding some gelato on the way.
Make sure to buy some deep fried mussels, fish and chips and eat it by the beach – a bit of a Kiwi tradition. Mission Bay is also situated directly opposite the aforementioned Rangitoto so make sure you take a snap. If you’ve got extra time and don’t mind a walk, head up to the Bastion Point lookout. Bastion Point is another great spot for views of the city and the Hauraki Gulf and Waitematā Harbour. The scenic lookout has gardens, water features and a memorial to Michael Joseph Savage, one of New Zealand’s favourite prime ministers.
Evenings in Auckland City
For Nightlife, I’m going to recommend three different but equally great places you can go during your two days in Auckland. The first is K Road (or Karangahape Road, found at the edge of the CBD) which has a multicultural atmosphere, cheap food and some of the best gay bars and karaoke in Auckland. Second is Ponsonby which is a more affluent area with good food and great bars. And thirdly, the CBD, which is nice and easy to get to and has a huge range of options for all budgets.
After dark is also when the city lights up! I recommend walking or biking along the Pink Path, also known at the Lightpath. It’s a neon pink pedestrian/cycle path in the middle of city that also lights up bright pink at night. You can view the lit-up SkyTower from here too but of course, you could visit during the day if you wanted to squeeze it in. You can enter at either end – the Nelson St entrance or off of Canada St opposite Mercury Plaza at the bottom of Mercury Lane.
For a romantic dessert date, my number one suggestion is to go to Giapo Gelato. It is pricey for ice cream but totally worth it. They don’t display the ice creams like you would expect, instead, they want you to choose your flavours by tasting them! They do a whole range of innovative Kiwi flavours with New Zealand ingredients and dairy. I recommend the Afghan flavour – an Afghan is a crumbly chocolate cookie made with crunchy cornflakes and topped with chocolate icing and a walnut. It’s a true Kiwi treat – keep an eye out for them in bakeries and cafes too!
If you’re wanting to find cheap restaurants that are open all hours of the night, head to Dominion Road. If Auckland had a China Town, it would be here. Now, Dominion Road is 7.3km long so you’ll want to look for the Dominion Road/ Balmoral Road intersection or enter 529 Dominion Road into Google Maps.
Bonus Suggestions for 48 Hours in Auckland:
If you like art, check out the Auckland Art Museum in the CBD or the sculpture trail in Auckland Domain.
If you’re a thrillseeker, besides the SkyJump and SkyWalk at the SkyTower, you can try the Auckland Harbour Bridge Climb or even bungy jump off it! After all, bungy jumping was invented in New Zealand.
If you like wine, take the 35 minute ferry to Waiheke, an island that is home to 30 wineries! The beaches here are also spectacular so take the day to explore and have a lovely meal with a glass of New Zealand wine at one of the restaurants or wineries.
If you’re interested in New Zealand history and Maori culture, check out the Auckland Museum. You’ll find Maori artefacts and a Marae that you can go inside (a traditional Maori meeting house). There is also an exhibit on New Zealand’s part in World War I and II. The building itself is beautiful to behold and is lit up beautifully at night. It is situated in the Auckland Domain, one of the large protected park grounds in the city. In walking distance, you’ll also find Auckland Domain Wintergardens and the suburb pretty of Parnell.
If you’re interested in doing a road trip and exploring beyond Auckland for the day, some great day trip destinations you might like to research are: Piha, Muriwai, Waitomo, Kitekite Falls, or the Karangahake Gorge.
If you like gardens, check out the Auckland Domain Wintergardens (check opening hours, walking distance to the museum), the Parnell Rose Gardens (in season) or Eden Gardens at the bottom of Mt Eden (charge applies, check hours).
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About the Author
Hello, I’m Sara, a graphic designer from Auckland, New Zealand. I now live in the UK and work as full-time cruise blogger at BeyondCruise. We love helping cruisers find their perfect cruise! We create cruise guides and cover news, ships, ports and blog about our cruises. You can follow me on IG, FB, Twitter and Pinterest all at @beyondcruise