Auckland Weekend Itinerary: Top Things to Do in 3 Days

Panorama of Auckland downtown during sunset
Panorama of Auckland downtown during sunset

For many people, a weekend vacation is one of the most awaited time in their lives.

It’s a time to disconnect from work and refresh the mind. It’s the best way to spend precious time with friends and loved ones.

Weekend getaways present the opportunity to see new places and learn about different cultures.

For travel enthusiasts, Auckland is one of the must-visit places in their list – and for excellent reasons. Auckland is not only New Zealand’s largest city, but it also has something to offer every kind of traveler or adventure-seeker. Here are several reasons why travelers should visit the “City of Sails”:

  • Learn about New Zealand’s ethnic diversity – Auckland is the most ethnically diverse region of the country
  • Breathtaking panoramic views and coastlines
  • Impressive range of food choices – and great wine!
  • Enjoy wildlife even without going to the zoo – the good news is that there are no dangerous animals in New Zealand!
  • A plethora of outdoor activities to enjoy
  • Auckland is a reasonably safe city for tourists

Transportation: Out and About in Auckland

Traveling to a new city can be a daunting experience, so it is best to know the best options for getting around. Fortunately, there are many options to travel to different parts of Auckland.

You can hail a taxi or book a rental car from point A to B, but if you are keen on saving money (and avoiding traffic), you can walk to get to your destination. Auckland also has an efficient Link bus system if you want a cheap and hassle-free way to move around the city.

Auckland downtown view with river

The islands near Auckland can then be accessed through the city ferries. Here is a quick guide on transportation options in Auckland:

Walking: Auckland’s central business district (CBD) can easily be accessed by walking. Traveling by foot is an excellent way to move around, primarily if your accommodation is located in the CBD. To reach other parts of the city, however, you should book a taxi or ride one of the public buses.

Ferry: Travelers planning to visit the neighboring islands like Waiheke should take Auckland’s ferry system. The operating hours of the city’s ferries vary, so it is best to check the schedule beforehand.

Car: Driving a rented vehicle is one of the most convenient ways to move around Auckland, especially if your itinerary will take you beyond the city. Tourists can book a rental car at the Auckland airport or through the hotel concierge. If you have a valid driver’s license from the U.S., you do not need even to get an international driving permit. Take note that the rush hour in Auckland is from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and from 4 p.m. up to 6 p.m.

Taxi: There are numerous taxi services in Auckland that can bring you to your intended destination. Taxis will typically charge NZ$3 to start and followed by NZ$2.15 for every succeeding kilometer. You can also take advantage of Uber or Zoomy, which are ride-hailing services in Auckland.

Bus: As mentioned earlier, one of the most convenient ways to get around Auckland is through the Link buses, which operate daily as early as 6:30 a.m. up to 11:30 a.m. The CityLink and the OuterLink serve the central business district. Its route passes through central Auckland, and its inner suburbs, respectively.

AT HOP cards are available online and various retailers and can be used for trains, ferries, and bus rides.

Auckland Accommodation: Where to Stay

Panoramic view of Auckland attractions to visit on a weekend

Auckland is a unique destination because waters surround it, but it also has the comfort and convenience of a big city. The great thing about Auckland is that there are luxury accommodations as well as budget options.

Here are suggestions on where to stay in Auckland for your 3-day weekend vacation.

Central Business District: Auckland’s CBD is the area easily accessible to the Link buses and other modes of transportation. One of the benefits of staying in the CBD is that restaurants, bars, supermarkets, and other services are within reach. It is close to Queen Street, the Sky Tower, and the public parks in case you want to take a walk. 

It is recommended to stay in CBD if you will be mostly using public transportation and it is your first time to visit Auckland. For luxury accommodations in the area, there is The SkyCity Grand – a famous landmark in Auckland, or the Hotel DeBrett. The budget traveler will find reasonably-priced rooms at the City Lodge. Backpackers will also find hostels in the CBD area, such as the Metro Adventurer Backpackers.

Parnell: If you prefer upmarket areas but do not want to stay in the CBD area, Parnell is a good option. Located just outside the city skirts, Parnell is just about twenty minutes away from the central business district. Parnell Road has fine dining, nightlife, galleries, and is near the Rose Garden and Auckland Domain.

Parnell has several accommodation options for travelers with different budget limitations. For example, the Quest Parnell is not as fancy as the deluxe hotels in the CBD area, but is strategically located and features the amenities of a serviced apartment. If you are looking for a quality yet affordable hotel in this area, the Quality Hotel Parnell is your best bet. On the other hand, the City Garden Lodge is recommended for those seeking hostel accommodations.

Mission Bay: This is the best area to find accommodation in Auckland if you love staying near the beach in Mission Bay. Located in the central East, Mission Bay is an excellent choice for travelers looking for high-end food, entertainment, and accommodation options.

Mission Bay offers a suburban ambiance despite it being quite near the central business district. It will not be difficult to find luxury accommodations in Mission Bay. One that is close to Kohi Beach and Mission Bay is Kohi Beach B&B. If you are looking for more reasonably-priced accommodations, the Mission Bay Guest House is worth checking out. 

3-Day Weekend Itinerary: Top Things to Do in Auckland

Ocean near Auckland to see in 3 days

There are many places to visit and activities to try in Auckland; so, it is best to come up with an itinerary for a three-day weekend. The plan should also include booking a suitable accommodation and airport shuttles in Auckland. Creating a schedule helps travelers maximize their weekend getaway in Auckland. Here’s an example of what travelers can enjoy in a three-day Auckland weekend vacation:

Day 1 – Get Acquainted with Auckland

For first-time Auckland visitors, it is always a good idea to be acquainted with the city before checking out what the outskirts of the region have to offer. There are walking tours provided by hostels, and visitors benefit from it by learning more about the city and its history. These free tours will also give travelers an idea of where to go during their 3-day weekend in Auckland, such as:

  • Start off at Wynyard Quarter: The “City of Sails” boasts of scenic waterfront areas, and Wynyard Quarter is one of them. The place also has restaurants so tourists can grab a bite while enjoying the scenery.
  • Marvel at the Sky Tower: When in Auckland, one should not forget to make a detour to the Sky Tower, which is the city’s tallest structure. Apart from bungee jumping at SkyJump, one can also marvel at the sights and scenery from the observation deck.
  • Take a Walk at Albert Park and Auckland Domain: After enjoying the sight from up above, travelers can walk to Albert Park, a public park located in central Auckland. After taking a stroll there, you can then head to the University of Auckland which is just nearby and open for tourists to visit. If you want to learn more about Auckland’s history, then the Auckland Domain is the perfect place for you. This is where the War Memorial Museum is located and it is filled with different cultural and historical collections for travelers to behold.
  • Don’t Miss Queen Street (Auckland Central): Auckland travelers can end their first day by heading off to Queen Street, the busiest spot in the city. This is the place where travelers can do their shopping, delight in various cuisines, and have some evening fun.

Day 2 – Go on an Outdoor Adventure

Waiheke island near Auckland, 3 days itinerary

An Auckland weekend getaway will never be complete without spending a day on an outdoor adventure. Whether it’s a vacation with a group of people or alone, there’s always something worthwhile to do outdoors.

  • Visit Waiheke Island: There are plenty of things to do on a day trip at Waiheke Island but you have to start early. The Whakanewha Regional Park, for example, is best for travelers who want to swim or camp. The Oneroa Beach, on the other hand, is a picturesque beach conducive for sunset walks on the shore. For a dose of history or culture, head off to the Stony Batter and Waiheke Community Art Gallery. Lastly, a visit to Waiheke Island will never be complete without going on a wine-tasting adventure at Man O’ War Vineyards, Tantalus Estate, or Wild on Waiheke to cap.
  • Climb the Auckland Harbour Bridge: Travelers looking for an adrenaline-packed outdoor adventure should climb and bungee jump from the Auckland Harbour Bridge. Aside from getting a bird’s eye view of Auckland, the 131 feet (40 meters) jump will surely be a memorable one.
  • Hike to Mt. Eden: Auckland’s ancient volcano is one of the most popular and surreal tourist destinations. Mt. Eden’s walking trail is challenging but worthwhile to do. Travelers can enjoy the scenic views of the city from 196km above sea level and marvel at the crater dome of the dormant volcano.

Day 3 – Embark on Unique Explorations

Giraffes in Auckland zoo

The third and last day of an Auckland weekend vacation should be as exciting and enjoyable as the previous day’s activities. Auckland offers unique attractions that will make tourists want to come back soon.

  • Visit Auckland Zoo: An Auckland trip will not be complete without a stop at the Auckland Zoo. Animal lovers will enjoy spending the day observing Auckland’s unique animal species like the Otago Skinks, NZ Fur Seals, NZ Longfin Eels, and North Island Brown Kiwis. Auckland Zoo is also home to some international animal species like American Alligators, Emus, Galapagos Turtles, Giraffes, Greater Flamingos, Lions, Tasmanian Devils, and Tigers.
  • Explore SEA LIFE Kelly Tarlton’s Aquarium: Explore Auckland’s underwater world at SEA LIFE and enjoy the Antarctic Ice Adventure (penguins), Seahorse Sanctuary, Shark Tunnel, and Tidal Touch Pools. It is one of Auckland’s top tourist spots, so travelers should get tickets in advance.
  • Experience the Hobbiton Movie Set: Despite being 2 hours away from Auckland, the Hobbiton movie set deserves a spot in a 3-day Auckland weekend itinerary. Anyone who has seen the Lord of the Rings movie will be thrilled to see the picturesque setting of the famous movie trilogy in Matamata, New Zealand. The fee to visit Hobbiton includes a guided tour (around 2 hours) and bus to and from the set.
Green hills of a golf club in Auckland, weekend itinerary

If you only had one day to spend in Auckland, it is best to make the most of your 24 hours. Here are the spots and sights that you should not miss when you drop by Auckland for a day:

  • Have a hearty breakfast at the Viaduct Harbour while enjoying the marina view.
  • A quick visit to the New Zealand Maritime Museum lets you in the history of Maori and Polynesian boats and vessels.
  • Stroll along Queen Street, do some shopping as you wish, and enjoy lunch at one of the best restaurants or cafes in the city center.
  • A trip to the Auckland Art Gallery should also be the things to do in your one-day itinerary.
  • Kiwis are known to be fond of nature. Be like a local and visit one of the well-kept public parks in the city.
  • Dinner and drinks are the last order of the day. Try to strike up a conversation with the friendly locals!

Where to head off next after Auckland? Satisfy your wanderlust by checking out these stunning towns a few hours away from the City of Sails:

  • Mount Maunganui: An all-in-one spot for nature and beach lovers
  • Whangaparaoa: Offers an excellent mix of sandy beaches, parks, and golf courses.
  • Waipu: This coastal town is a haven for surfing enthusiasts.
  • Awhitu Peninsula: Hit the walking trails or get on a mountain bike to explore the town.

Conclusion

Three days is relatively short if you want to enjoy everything that Auckland has to offer. This is because Auckland presents many attractions that travelers may be confused about where to start. You can, however, plan your itinerary as it can help travelers make the most of their trip so that precious time is maximized.

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