A few weeks ago, I tried to prise my son from his i-pad. A bit of a big ask, I know, as he was in the middle of a particularly important off-world slaughter. But I did point out that it was a beautiful day and it would be a crime to waste it.
His reply? There’s nothing to do in Auckland.
I made it my mission to prove otherwise. So I started making a list of things to do in Auckland.
Lists are good.
They help you win arguments, and you get to tick things off them, which gives you a warm sense of accomplishment.
Creating lists is good too – because you uncover facts you never knew existed.
Okay, I was aware that there are lots of activities to enjoy in Auckland, but before compiling my list, I never realized just how many activities there are. And a lot of them are free, which is always a good thing when organising family outings.
Here are a few of the gems I uncovered, indoors and out. So you don’t even need a beautiful Auckland day to enjoy them.
FYI – I have taken my son to most of these, between computer games of course. But hey, as a parent, you’ve got to take what victories you can.
Activities to enjoy in Auckland
The Coast-to-Coast Walk – FREE
Pack some snacks and a bottle of water and walk from one side of the country to the other – in around four hours. The Coast to Coast Walkway kicks off in Onehunga (on the edge of the Manukau Harbour) and travels East through beautiful parks, over dormant volcanoes and across urban landscapes before finishing in Viaduct Harbour, 16 kilometres away.
Why head south for the winter when you can ski all year ‘round right here in Auckland? Based on Auckland’s North Shore (just before Silverdale), Snowplanet is the largest covered snowdome in the southern hemisphere. There’s heaps to do even if you’re not a seasoned skier or snowboarder. There’s a Winter Wonderland for the kids, and a cosy restaurant with floor to ceiling views of snow-covered slopes.
The Auckland Museum – FREE
Its official title is the Auckland War Memorial Museum, and yes, there are some stunning exhibits that cover every conflict Kiwis have been involved in, but that’s just part of what’s on offer in this massive iconic building. It’s also home to the largest Maori taonga in the world, an interactive volcano exhibit, a tree house full of the stuff you’ll probably remember having as a kid (depending on your vintage), fascinating animal exhibits and a cool room for kids full of creepy crawley stuff and fun things to do. After all that indoor activity, there’s the sprawling Domain to let off some steam, peaceful bush walks, cool picnic areas, ponds full of geese and ducks and the Wintergarden with lush tropical plant life. It really is a place where you can make a day of it.
Take the Ferry to Devonport
All aboard for a cruisy quick trip across the harbour to the historic town of Devonport. Once there, you can stroll along the boulevard, with a slice of Auckland’s urban history on one side and beautiful harbour views on the other. Explore the boutique shops, chill out in the park and chill out even more in one of the many restaurants and cafes that line the main road.
Visit North Head and the Navy Museum – FREE
You can include this in your Devonport trip (if you’re feeling energetic) or make a separate trip. Either way, it’s worth your while. Walk up Devonport’s North Head and explore the historic tunnels and gun emplacements that were built back in the late 1800s when everyone thought the Russians were going to invade. There are stunning panoramas of Auckland and the harbour to enjoy – then it’s a casual walk down to the Royal Navy Museum where you immerse yourself in more of the country’s maritime heritage and enjoy a relaxing café style lunch on the water’s edge. There’s a cool playground for the kids too – and an even bigger one in the sprawling sports grounds just across the road.
Head to Rangitoto Island
A relaxing Fullers ferry ride takes you to Auckland’s youngest volcano. Get a fascinating snapshot of the island’s history (walk along the coast past quaint Kiwi baches nestled among the Pohutukawas) and then head up the slopes, through lava crops, scrub land and forest. At the top you’ll be treated to 360º views that are better than pretty much any computer game you can think of (even my son was suitably impressed). On the way back down there are some lava caves that are worth making a bee-line to.
Heaps of Regional Parks – FREE
Auckland has regional parks. Lots of regional parks. 26 in face. Some on the hills, some by the sea, and some in between. There are bush walks, beach walks and farm walks (take the kids to Ambury Farm at Mangere Bridge where they can get up close to friendly goats, sheep, chickens, horses… you know, farm animals) and beach walks. The Arataki Visitor Centre at the top of the Waitakeres is a great destination too. There are lots of interesting tidbits in the centre itself (including up close and personal encounters with geckos, stick insects and wetas) – and it’s a great base for numerous bush walks of various lengths and fitness levels.
More Beaches than you can shake a stick at – FREE
And yes, Auckland has lots of beaches, from peaceful inner-city bays with golden sand and historic boulevards to wild west coast beaches with their black sand and exhilarating surf. One of those west coast beaches (Muriwai) is also home to a lively Gannet colony. Grab an icecream or some hot chips and take a stroll or just sit back and soak up the view.
MOTAT and the Auckland Zoo
Auckland’s Western Springs is a veritable treasure trove of fun family things to do. The Springs itself is a massive park, with numerous paved footpaths that wind through bushland, parkland, and past lakes teeming with birdlife. There’s a giant playground for when the kids decide they’d had enough of walking. And right next door (on either side of the park) is Auckland’s incredible zoo (that just keeps getting better and better) and the Museum of Transport and Technology, with working trams, miniature trains, an historic village and a whole slew of hands-on technology stuff.