3 Days In Auckland – The Ideal Itinerary

Tuesday, June 30th, 2020

Read about '3 Days In Auckland – The Ideal Itinerary' on USAVE, the place for all things car rental.

Whether you are heading away for a long weekend or planning a quick 3 day getaway, Auckland is the ultimate urban destination. Visitors to New Zealand’s biggest city can enjoy the hustle and bustle of the central city, with plenty of cafes, restaurants, shopping, galleries, museums and attractions or choose to relax and unwind out on the water and explore the great outdoors in the Auckland region – or a bit of both!

Planning for just 3 days in Auckland means you are going to have to be a bit selective when it comes to fitting everything in so we have put together this handy guide to how to spend 3 days in Auckland with options for those who are looking for adventure and those who would prefer to relax and enjoy the sights.

Day 1 Explore The Central City

First up you’re going to want to get out and explore the city a little, get your bearings and find some good coffee! First thing in the morning while you wait for everything to get started for the day, why not take a leisurely walk along the waterfront.

The Viaduct Harbour area has a great selection of breakfast cafes – take your pick! Now it’s time for fun! Choose your activities for today, you should easily be able to schedule at least two of these, one for the morning and one for the afternoon – it helps if you book ahead.

Auckland Skyline

Best Adventure Activities In Auckland City

Getting straight out on the edge it’s time to get adventurous kiwi style! These are our top picks for adventure activities in the Central City.

1. Sky Tower

This unmissable Auckland icon will draw the eye as soon as you arrive in Auckland so let’s tick this one off first. While heading up to the Sky Deck for the stunning 360 degree views is a great start, the Sky Tower also offers the SkyJump and SkyWalk activities for those who want to take it up a notch.

Yes, you can jump off the Sky Tower using a purpose-built base-jump by wire set up, this includes a 192 metre controlled fall – it definitely is the most memorable way to descend the Sky Tower! The SkyWalk includes walking around the outside of the tower on a platform while attached to safety wires and the opportunity to participate in some extra scary challenges such as leaning out over the side to see exactly what 192 metres looks like from above … there are no handrails here people!

  • Sky Tower. Allow 45 minutes (if just visiting the Sky Deck, the Sky Café and main observation level), priced around $32 per adult, $13 per child.
  • SkyJump. Allow 1 hour, minimum age 10 years, priced around $225
  • SkyWalk. Allow 1.5 hours, minimum age 10 years, priced around $150
  • Opening Hours. The Sky Tower is open from 10 am to 8 pm across the month’s May to October, and 8.30 am to 10 pm across November to April.
  • Location. Corner Victoria and Federal Streets, Auckland. See map for directions to the Sky Tower here.

2. Auckland Bridge Bungy

Loved the thrill of jumping off the Sky Tower and want to jump off something else in Auckland? Then the Auckland Bridge Bungy is the one for you! This one will take it to a whole new level with a 40 metre high free-fall while attached to a bungee cord – you can even touch the water if you want!

  • Time. Allow 2 hours
  • Location. 105 Curran Street Extension, Westhaven Marina, Herne Bay, Find directions and map for the Bridge Bungy here.
  • Age Requirements. Minimum age 10 years.
  • Price Indication. $165
  • Opening Hours. 9 am to 4.30 pm
  • Extras. Take a jacket and flat comfortable shoes.

Best Auckland City Sightseeing Activities

Prefer to see the sights from a more grounded perspective and without having to jump off anything? Then here are our top picks for taking in Auckland’s best sightseeing opportunities in much less extreme kind of way.

1. Auckland War Memorial Museum

Even if you aren’t into museums the Auckland War Memorial Museum is definitely one not to miss. If the beautiful building, its grand hallways, and architecture isn’t enough to inspire then its interesting collection of displays and interactive ‘Weird & Wonderful’ gallery is sure to impress.

Support this local museum and explore the historic aspects of New Zealand at War, our pacific origins, and an extensive collection of Māori treasures (taonga). Taking a behind the scenes tour is highly recommended and will only add to the experience.

  • Time. Allow 2 hours (including a guided tour)
  • Location.  The Auckland Domain, Auckland. See map for Auckland War Memorial directions.
  • Behind The Scenes Secret Museum Tour. Allow 45 minutes, starts at 11.30 am sharp, meet in the Grand Foyer.
  • Price Indication. Entry to the museum is free, although donations are much appreciated.
  • Opening Hours. Open daily 10 am to 5 pm.

2. Auckland Harbour Cruise

You simply can’t visit Auckland without getting out on the water – it is known as the City of Sails after all! Taking an Auckland Harbour Cruise is the best way to really get a feel for Auckland and its surrounds while also enjoying a relaxing experience with some of the most memorable photo opportunities.

There are several great companies offering a range of harbour tours with everything from lunch and dinner cruises through to fishing and diving charters and island hopping. Our pick this time around is the Relaxing Journeys Harbour Cruise because it offers a great selection of the sights and two departure times per day (10.30 am and 1.30 pm).

  • Highlights. The Auckland Harbour Bridge, the historic naval base at Devonport, Bean Rock Lighthouse, and views of Rangitoto Island in the distance.
  • Time. Allow 1.5 hours
  • Departure Point. Downtown Auckland Ferry Terminal, Quay Street, Auckland Waterfront. See map for directions here.
  • Price Indication. $55 per adult, $35 per child (5-15 years).
  • Extras. Hot drink and muffin are included, bar and café are available on-board.

Day 2 Waiheke Island Here We Come!

Visiting Waiheke Island is one of those must-do things when in Auckland. The island is not only an iconic piece of Auckland’s landscape, it has historically provided Aucklander’s with a memorable weekend getaway and celebratory destination.

Expect to find some of the most beautiful beaches and bays in Auckland along with a world away from anywhere feel among the rolling farmland and wineries dotted about the island. Scheduled ferry services are available throughout the day, allowing you to come and go as you please. You can even take your car across if you wish.

Waiheke Island

Best Waiheke Adventure Activities

While Waiheke is known for its stunning scenery and relaxing atmosphere it also has an adventurous side, here are a few of the best adventure activities on Waiheke Island.

1. Sea Kayaking 

Probably one of the best things to do while visiting the island, sea kayaking is a great way to experience the beautiful waters surrounding Waiheke from a very different perspective.

Single and double kayaks are available for hire by the hour or for a more memorable experience guided kayak tours are the best option. These tours will take you into the caves, bays and around rocky outcrops as you make your way along the shoreline providing plenty of photo opportunities and the chance to take a break and wander along the secluded beaches.

  • Departure Location. Tours begin at Matiatia Harbour.
  • Time. Allow at least 2 hours up to a half day.
  • Price Indication. $125 for half day tour, $85 for 2 hour tour, or $45 for two hour freedom hire.
  • Extras. Bring a warm jacket and sunscreen.

2. Waiheke Zipline

Combine nature, sightseeing and the thrill of ziplining in this unique Waiheke experience. The team at Eco Zip Adventures offers free pickup from the ferry terminal followed by a tour of the island highlights, then it’s back to EcoZip headquarters to gear up for the triple zipline adventure.

There are three separate zip lines with side by side dual cables covering around 200 metres each. The ziplines carry you high above the forest canopy and a local vineyard while offering incredible views out over the water and back towards the city.

  • Time. Allow 3 hours.
  • Location. Free pick up from the Matiatia Ferry Terminal or Oneroa Village.
  • Price Indication. $129 per adult, child $79
  • Extras. Complimentary drop off at the ferry terminal, or other location by arrangement.

Best Waiheke Sightseeing Activities

Only on Waiheke Island to sample some of the famous food and wine? Or take in the breathtaking scenery? Then these sightseeing activities are the ones for you!

1. Food and Wine Tasting Tour

You simply can’t visit Waiheke Island without sampling some of the famous boutique wines and local produce. Most of the thirty-something resident wineries on Waiheke provide cafe/restaurant facilities or cellar door wine tasting options so your options are varied.

Our top picks for must-visit wineries are listed below, or you could think about taking a guided winery tour. Tour costs and destinations will vary depending on the time you have, whether or not you wish to dine as well, and how many people there are in your group.

  • Tantalus Estate. Situated in the Onetangi Valley (70-72 Onetangi Road), Tantalus Estate has a beautiful restaurant with views out over the vines and rolling hills. Check the website for restaurant opening times. This is our best pick for fine dining.
  • Mudbrick Vineyard & Restaurant. Ticking all the boxes, Mudbrick has an onsite restaurant, cocktail bar and bistro to cater for all as well as accommodation options and vineyard tours. Mudbrick is located at 126 Church Bay Road, Oneroa, Waiheke. Our best pick for the full Waiheke Island winery experience.
  • Wild On Waiheke. Offering much more than just a great meal and wine tasting Wild On Waiheke provides archery and laser clay bird shooting as well as an awesome children’s playground and giant outdoor chessboard. Situated at 82 Onetangi Road, Wild on Waiheke is our best pick for fun for the whole family.

2. Guided Walking Tours On Waiheke

Taking a guided walking tour is one of the most popular activities on Waiheke Island. It allows you to really see some of the best parts of the Island at a leisurely pace while immersing yourself in nature as you go.

If you have a reasonable level of fitness we highly recommend the Rocky Bay Waiheke Island Bush and Beach Walk. This walk does require a time commitment of 5 hours but you aren’t walking for that entire time as this does include lunch and time for a swim at the end.

  • Highlights. Giant Pohutukawas and Nikau Palms, Te Whau Peninsula, Whakanewha Regional Park, and the Dotterel nesting grounds.
  • Time. Allow 5 hours on the Island, plus the ferry ride there and back.
  • Departure Location. The Ferry Wharf in Matiatia. See here for map.
  • Price Indication. $140 – $175 per person includes free 9:15 am pickup in Oneroa if needed.
  • Extras. Bring your swimming gear, sun hat and sunscreen. Comfortable walking shoes are a must.

Day 3 Piha Beach And Muriwai

Piha and Muriwai are two of the most popular beaches for local surfers looking for the best waves. Both beaches are over on the West Coast complete with stunning black sand and rugged coastlines. We suggest making a day of it on the West Coast and visiting both beaches as each has something different to offer.

To make a loop out of the drive head on out to Piha first then on to Muriwai, then it’s a quick trip back to the city via State highway 16. The drive from Piha to Muriwai is approximately 1 hour and it takes you deep into the beautiful and serene Waitakere Ranges Regional Park – well worth the trip!

Piha Beach

Piha Beach

Driving through the beautiful Waitakere Ranges, and winding your way over to Piha Beach is one of those times where the journey is just as much a part of the destination. The forest-clad hills of the Waitakere Ranges provide a beautiful backdrop to this very kiwi drive along a narrow and winding road.

Once you reach Piha it is very much the quintessential kiwi beach complete with local café, fish and chip shop and Surf Life Saving Club. Don’t worry if you aren’t a surfer, take the opportunity to explore the prominent Lions Rock protruding from the centre of the beach, or just wander along the beach you will find some great coastal walks available at both ends of the beach.

Best Adventure Activities At Piha

Ok, so you’ve come to Piha to surf, haven’t you? Let’s get started!

1. Learn To Surf

The Piha Surf School can set you up with all the gear you need and get you out of the water in no time. They provide beginner, intermediate and advanced surf lessons as well as offering reasonable surfboard and wetsuit hire.

  • Time. Allow 1.5 hours for surf lessons and around 1.5 hours afterward for having fun in the waves to practice what you’ve learned.
  • Price Indication. $70 – $80 per person for group lessons, $120 for private lessons
  • Location. 138 Seaview Road Piha, see map for directions here.

2. Climb Lion Rock

Climbing up Lion Rock is a must-do when visiting Piha Beach. The views from the top are awesome and it’s a great way to get the lay of the land. The track to the top is short and steep so be prepared. There are steps in places and also a rope you can hold on to. Unfortunately, you are unable to climb all the way to the top (due to dangerous rock falls) but you will be able to get to the viewing area about three-quarters of the way up.

  • Time. Allow 30 minutes (this depends on how long you wish to sit and take in the views at the top).
  • Price Indication. It’s free!
  • Location. It’s in the middle of Piha Beach – you can’t miss it!

Best Piha Sightseeing Activities

Happy to leave the wild surf to those who know what they are doing? Taking a walk a Piha is the best way to fully appreciate the sights and sounds of Piha Beach here are two great options – one at the southern end and one at the northern.

1. Marawhara-White-Rose-Laid Thompson Track Circuit

If you make your way up the beach to its northernmost tip you will discover the entrance to the Marawhara-White-Rose-Laid Thompson Track Circuit. This track provides access to some of the best west coast views in Auckland, along with the chance to spot some of the resident wildlife in their natural coastal habitat.

  • Time. Allow at least 2 hours to complete the entire circuit.
  • Price Indication. It’s free!
  • Location. The parking area on North Piha Road or from the walking track sign at the northern end of Piha Beach. See here for a map of the walks at Piha Beach.

2. Tasman Lookout Walk

A short 20 minute walk up onto the cliffs at the southern end of the beach will bring to you the Tasman Lookout. From here you can see back down the beach, Lion’s Rock and out over the ocean. The track is steep and there are steps in place in some areas.

  • Time. Allow 1 hour in total (this allows plenty of time to sit and enjoy the view).
  • Price Indication. It’s free!
  • Location. Walk toward the end of the car park at the southern end of Piha Beach you will see a sign and steps leading up into the trees.

Muriwai Beach

The drive from Piha to Muriwai will take you around an hour and winds its way through the Waitakere Ranges. Definitely one for the wildlife lovers out there, Muriwai is home to its very own gannet colony nesting on the cliffs. October to November is the best time to see the gannets as this is when the chicks are born, but year-round there is always something to see. 

Muriwai also offers surf lessons and surfboard hire and there is a camping ground that provides basic accommodation for campervans and tents as well as a handful of simply furnished cabins. Always book ahead if you plan to stay overnight to ensure availability.

Muriwai Beach

Best Adventure Activities At Muriwai

 Muriwai is a slightly larger settlement than Piha and offers a wider range of accommodation and activities. Here are our top two picks for adventure activities in Muriwai.

1. Learn To Surf

Just as with Piha there are surfing lessons available at Muriwai – seek out the Muriwai Surf School next to the playground as you head toward the main parking area off Motutara Road. Group lessons are available for beginners, intermediate and advanced surfers, with private lessons also available for intermediate and advance levels, all equipment is provided.

  • Time. Allow 2 hours for your lesson.
  • Price Indication. $70 – $120
  • Location.  458 Motutara Road, see here for directions.

2. Horse Back Riding On The Beach

Experience the beach from a whole different perspective with the team at Muriwai Beach Horse Treks. With options for all levels of riders including beginners, intermediate and advanced, and rides from 1 to 3 hours long there is something for everyone. This will be one of your most memorable Auckland adventures!

  • Time. Allow between 1.5 to 3.5 hours depending on your trek selection. You must arrive 30 minutes before your departure time.
  • Price Indication. $70 to $230
  • Location. Coast Road, Muriwai Beach, see map for directions here.

Best Sightseeing Activities At Muriwai

Prefer to explore the more nature-based aspects of your destination? Then take a look at these sightseeing activities in Muriwai.

1. Muriwai Gannet Colony

Visiting the Muriwai Gannet Colony is a must-do when in the Auckland area. The best time to visit is between October and November as this is when the chicks are hatching. There are two lookout points located along the Maukatia Gannet Path with great views out over the Ōtakamiro Point nesting area. Always take care not to disturb the birds as you go.

  • Time. Allow around 1.5 hours, the walk takes approximately 25 minutes but you will want to stick around for a bit to watch the birds do their thing!
  • Price Indication. It’s free!
  • Location. Entry to the Maukatia Bay Gannet Path is from the car park on Waitea Road. See here for a detailed map.

2. Muriwai Beach Loop

This loop walk is a great way to explore a bit more of the area and enjoy the relative seclusion of this coastal paradise. Essentially this track does a complete loop of the Muriwai Golf Course, starting from the car park and heading north following Coast Road until it meets the beach then returning along the beach.

  • Time. Allow at least 1 hour 30 mins for the loop.
  • Price Indication. It’s free!
  • Location. Park up at the main car park and head back along Motutara Road to turn down Coast Road towards the Fire Station. See here for a detailed map.

Need transport for your 3 day Auckland adventures? USAVE has a great range of affordable rental cars, with everything from nifty little hatchbacks and family-sized sedans through to 12 seater people movers – perfect for traveling around Auckland and beyond.

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