Great for a long weekend away, this 3-day itinerary takes you from the sparkling downtown waterfront to the wild west Auckland beaches, and wraps up with wine and dining among the vines. Sounds perfect right?!
DAY 1: EXPLORE CENTRAL AUCKLAND AND THE HAURAKI GULF & ISLANDS
Start the day in the sea air with a relaxing wander around North Wharf – Wynyard Quarter. There are loads of eateries along the strip, grab a coffee and breakfast treat at Rushworth Cafe or have a proper sit-down brunch at North Park. If you’re travelling with kids, they’ll burn off their early morning energy at the Silo Park Playground. As you stroll along the waterfront, you'll come to the Wynyard Crossing, a lift bridge over the marina that connects to the Viaduct Harbour precinct. Boaties might enjoy a stop in at the Maritime Museum – then make your way to the downtown ferry terminal for some island hopping.
Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf is dotted with beautiful islands that can be reached with ferry trips of 75 minutes or less. Jump onboard to Rangitoto Island and in just 25 minutes you'll be exploring lava fields and pōhutukawa forests. Discover the history on Rotoroa Island or listen to the sounds of the native birds on Tiritiri Matangi Island. A 40-minute ferry ride takes you to Waiheke Island, also known as "the island of wine", with over 30 vineyards and wineries. Or when a bird’s-eye view of the gulf is more your style, take to the skies for an awe-inspiring flight with Auckland Seaplanes, offering daily departures from Waiheke Island.
If an afternoon indoors is in order, head to the Sky Tower precinct. Take in the panorama at the top of the Sky Tower or join one of the tours and interactive experiences (it’s a good idea to book in advance). Weta Workshop Unleashed is Auckland’s newest film effects workshop and, also nearby, check out the All Blacks Experience. This 45-minute guided tour has all the legends of New Zealand’s national sport, including a haka demo and the chance to test your own rugby skills in the interactive zone.
Tick off your shopping wishlist at downtown’s Commercial Bay, Central Auckland’s newest retail and hospitality district. You’ll be able to find the perfect gift or that tech item you forgot to pack. If lunch or dinner in the CBD is on the menu, Commercial Bay's casual eatery zone has delicious international flavours and seating with an ambience to suit everyone’s taste. There are great restaurants tucked away in intimate corners, or with harbour views. Ahi offers a beautiful and laid-back food and wine experience – they're on a mission to deliciously define New Zealand cuisine.
For an evening drink, get into the Viaduct bar and restaurant scene at Dr Rudi’s (there’s a bowling alley too) or walk to Britomart for cocktails at Caretaker, followed by an exquisite ice cream at Giapo. 'Smashed', 'Selfie' and 'Sourdough donut', are just some of the deliciously tempting cones the folks at Giapo are creating. This area has a super-cool range of eating and drinking establishments, plus Britomart is Central Auckland’s transport hub, which makes getting back to your accommodation that little bit easier.
DAY 2: GO WEST - TAKE AN AWE-INSPIRING TRIP OUT TO WEST AUCKLAND
Auckland’s west coast is a magical place for nature lovers and adventure seekers. With black sand beaches and lush bush to explore, a day trip out west is a must-do on an Auckland short break. Bush & Beach offers tours (with a pick-up from Central Auckland) that take in waterfalls, rainforest and cliff tops. If you’re self-driving, pack a picnic, and cruise out to wild and wonderful Piha Beach or Te Henga (Bethells Beach). The Arataki Visitor Centre is en route and has all the information on the area, epic views from the deck, as well as free Wi-Fi.
The Waitākere Ranges have some of the best walks on offer – and you'll get snaps of incredible scenery. Te Henga Walkway, Ōmanawanui Track and Mercer Bay Loop Walk have varying difficulty levels, while the villages at Karekare and Piha are both good places to pick up snacks and supplies, with local cafes for fish and chips or coffee.
Older kids and adults with a lust for adventure and adrenaline activities might be keen on canyoning at Piha Beach.
If you’ve gone further afield to Muriwai Beach and the gannet colony (the gannets nest from August to March each year) or for rope courses and flying foxes at Tree Adventures, stop in Kumeū for a late lunch or dinner. Home to brewery-eateries like Hallertau and the Tasting Shed, Kumeū is also Auckland’s oldest wine region. Then again, you may like to savour your Auckland vineyards experience and make a day of it by heading to Matakana on Day 3...
DAY 3: MAKE YOUR WAY TO MATAKANA FOR WINE AND DINING
Just a 50-minute drive north from Central Auckland, a trip to Matakana gets you out in the country air. Start your day at the Matakana Farmers' Market, open Saturdays 8am-1pm, rain or shine. Satisfy your taste and curiosity as you explore stalls selling fresh local artisan goods – it’s a foodie’s heaven and the perfect place to pick up supplies for a picnic. Then wander through Matakana Village to discover the Matakana shops and art galleries. Honest Chocolat is a crowd-pleaser, with chocolates made from ethically sourced ingredients and lots of vegan and dairy-free options. You'll find some of the best chocolate you've ever tasted in their store!
Famous for its vineyards and wineries, you’re quite literally spoiled for choice for a long lunch, romantic dinner or family feast in Matakana. Ascension Wine Estate is on the way in from Central Auckland, while Brick Bay Wines and Sculptureum offer sea views, sculpture trails, and cellar doors just a few steps off the beaten track. Sculptureum is an art and culture experience, with Rothko restaurant and bar, three sculpture-filled gardens, six art galleries and a vineyard. There is, as they say, something for everyone.
Of course, just in case everyone doesn’t feel like spending the entire afternoon among the vines, head up to Goat Island Marine Reserve and get out on the water on a Clearyak (a see-through kayak), or the Glass Bottom Boat. There are great walks out this way too, Ti Point Coastal Walk is a charming short walk, and Matheson Bay walk takes you through grasslands and bush.
Ever noticed how after a big lunch it feels like you'll never need to eat again? But somehow a few hours later you're hungry for dinner! Matakana has you covered for your evening meal, whether that's something light and sophisticated or hearty and cosy. After a relaxing dinner at Matakana Estate, you may just decide to book in to stay the night, or Takatu Lodge on Whitmore Road is another beautiful vineyard experience that offers lovely accommodation. If dinner and the movies sounds good, head to Matakana Village and The Vintry for an elegant taste of wine from a number of local vineyards, then see what’s on at the Matakana Cinema.
Auckland's wild west offers up rugged black-sand coastline with a forest backdrop and charming beachside cafes.
Famous for its wine, fabulous food, markets, sculpture tracks, restaurants and vineyards and less than an hours drive from Central Auckland.
Explore lava fields, pōhutukawa forests and watch the sunset over Central Auckland at this iconic landmark.
Tiritiri Matangi Island
A wildlife haven, pristine beaches and a network of walking trails through native forest are just a ferry ride away from Central Auckland.
Feeling a world away, but only a 40-minute ferry ride from Central Auckland is the impressive Waiheke Island. Known for its notable wines, laid-back vibes, and beautiful scenery, it’s an Auckland must-do.
A unique island of arts, heritage and conservation. See and learn about endangered species, explore the walking trails or take a swim at one of the many beaches.
Goat Island Marine Reserve
Te Henga (Bethells Beach)