24 Hours in Auckland
I have a trip planned to Australia for Christmas that will actually give me time to see the region. My visit to New Zealand gave me only 24 hours in Auckland. Here is how I spent the time and what sites I took in during my 24 hours in Auckland.
Entrance Visa: US Citizens get a free visitors visa upon arrival. Sadly it isn’t even a stamp in a passport. With a US passport you just go through eCustoms. They scan your passport and take your photo. That’s it. The agriculture check took more time and was more thorough.
Money: New Zealand uses the New Zealand Dollar. As of August 2016, it is worth about US $0.73. The easy way I remembered conversion was to think of everything I saw was on sale for 25% off. It made it pretty easy to figure things out.
ATMs were quite common and credit cards were taken everywhere I saw.
Orientation: Auckland Airport is located about 20km (13 miles) from the city center. There are two separate terminals; International and Domestic. If you are not renting a car you can take the SkyBus in to the city for NZ$18. When I took the bus it stopped at the Domestic terminal after I got on and then didn’t take the most direct route to the city. All in it took about 45 minutes on a Saturday morning. The main stop in the city meets up with a smaller shuttle that loops to various hotels and stops. The staff are helpful and you can buy your ticket at a kiosk just outside the terminal.
The city of Auckland is located in a narrow portion of the North Island of New Zealand. The city center faces north and is built on a bit of a hill overlooking the bay. As it was formed by volcanic activity, there are other islands close by that you can visit for a day trip. There are also a number of peaks around the city; many of which are green park land.
There is commuter train service but the only public transit (currently) in the city center to speak of is bus and ferry. Fortunately the city center is quite walkable. From the waterfront to the SkyCity is only about a 10-15 minute walk. Most other points of interest from there are another 10-15 minute walk. Farther out destinations, should you choose to go there, are accessible by taxi.
Waterfront: As I was staying at the Hilton Auckland on the waterfront, I started my 24 hours in Auckland there. The main point of interest is the ferry terminal that can take passengers to Devonport (10 minute ferry ride) or Waiheke Island (40 minutes) as well as other destinations. Waiheke is known for its wine vineyards and I was told it is best to spend a full day there. The 10 minute ride to Devonport seemed much more doable (see below).
Viaduct Basin/Wynyard Quarter: Just to the east of the waterfront is the trendy district. I ended my day by having dinner here. If you walk from the Viaduct Basin across the Wynyard Crossing bridge (lit up at night) you enter the newly developed Wynyard Quarter that has a ton of restaurant options (and the soon to open Park Hyatt Auckland). It still has an industrial feel and you can get some fresh fish, but you can also get Thai food, pizza, just about anything you can imagine.
SkyCity: After exploring the waterfront I headed up the hill into town to visit SkyCity, the casino/hotel/entertainment district. The development seems a bit out of place; like someone took a Vegas resort and dropped it in the middle of the city. The SkyTower is definitely worth a visit early on in your trip. From the observation decks (the highest 220 meters in the air) you get some amazing views of the city and beyond. A ride up will cost you NZ$28 (August, 2016).
Of course you can also pay a lot more for the opportunity to jump off the tower or circumnavigate it on an outside catwalk. I opted to stay inside.
Elliott Stables: Assuming you will eat dinner in the Wynyard Quarter, a great lunch spot after your journey up the SkyTower is the Elliott Stables. Just a few blocks from SkyCity, this upscale foodcourt is built in an old horse stable. Each restaurant takes up a stall (or two). You order at the restaurant and eat in the center communal dining area. You have many options to choose from and there is bound to be something that appeals to your tastebuds.
Queen St: After lunch a stroll down Queen St will allow you time to digest but also do some shopping. Just one street up is High St for more local fashion options. If you are not a shopper, the street is still a direct route back down to the waterfront where you can catch a ferry to Devonport.
Devonport: For NZ$12 you can purchase a round trip ticket on the Fullers ferry to Devonport from Auckland waterfront. The ferry takes less than 15 minutes and runs every half hour during peak times.
Devonport is a quiet beach front neighborhood with a walking path known as King Edward Parade. At one end is the ferry terminal and the other end the navy museum. A steep but short hike takes you up Mt Victoria with great views back of downtown Auckland.
After the hike there are plenty of spots to grab a bite to eat, something to drink, or do some thrift store shopping. I was there in the heart of winter and it was still pleasant enough to walk around and explore the town before taking the ferry back.
There are a lot of other things to do in Auckland: art galleries, museums, additional hikes, sailing, zoo, etc. However, if you have just 24 hours in Auckland I think this list will be a good place to start.