Choose from 123 Fun Things to Do in North Island
The Buried Village of Te Wairoa offers a unique glimpse into 19th century New Zealand life, as it was buried and preserved by volcanic ash in an 1866 eruption. One of New Zealand's most popular attractions, this archeological treasure houses a museum to the village and the interaction of Maori and colonial cultures. You'll see towering, carved Maori artwork in the museum and then tour the excavation points around the site.
If you're visiting New Zealand for its outdoor-centric lifestyle, the Buried Village is a good hub for great hiking. Beyond the village is the spectacular Waterfall Trail. It provides two different hiking tracks of breathtaking scenery and the famed rainbow trout that live and spawn in the Te Wairoa stream. The Tarawera area is crossed by several other trails, including one at Lake Okareka.
The Buried Village is located in a 12 acre park covered in trees and meadows. New Zealand is known for its outdoor beauty, and this attraction has it in spades; much of it is related to the rugged majesty of the volcanic mountains. Nearby are a host of activities; the volcanic landscape offers fantastic mountain-biking runs and you can also climb the crater of Mt. Tarawera. Two companies book plane tours that take off from the Buried Village.
- In addition to general admission tickets, it’s possible to buy a ticket that includes a Maori cultural performance.
- While international visitors must pay admission to the museum, Auckland residents get free entry and other New Zealand residents can enter by donation.
- The museum is in Auckland Domain, a large attractive park. If the weather’s good, take a walk in the Domain while visiting the museum.
- The museum houses both permanent and temporary exhibits, so there’s always something new to see.
- There are a couple of cafes inside the museum.
- Tours to the bridge tend to fill up quickly in the peak season (summer), so book ahead.
- To see the bridge from the water, catch a North Shore-bound ferry from downtown Auckland.
- The bridge is quite exposed to the elements, so take plenty of layers and sunscreen if climbing the bridge.
How to Get to Auckland
Your cruise ship will dock at Princes Wharf, which is in the center of downtown Auckland. As soon as you step off the ship, you'll be surrounded by shops and cafes and the city's main shopping district is just a 10-minute walk away.
One Day in Auckland
Start your day by visiting the observation deck at Auckland's Sky Tower, which reaches over 1,000 feet into the sky. Enjoy 360 degree panoramic views of the surrounding area and step onto one of the glass floor panels for a view down to street level. If you're feeling adventurous, you can bungee jump off the Sky Deck, dropping more than 600 feet.
After you catch your breath, head to the Auckland Museum, which features interesting exhibits about local history and geography and New Zealand's original inhabitants, the Maori people. The Auckland War Memorial Museum, the National Maritime Museum and the Museum for Transport and Technology are also worth a visit for those hoping to learn more about New Zealand.
If you want to experience some of the local charm of Auckland, spend some time exploring the elegant Parnell neighborhood with its arty boutiques, lively cafes and the Parnell Rose Gardens. Or, visit the funky, quirky Ponsonby neighborhood, featuring a mix of historic villa, trendy nightclubs and designer boutiques. You might also head further afield to the small, 19th century village of Devonport located across the bay from Auckland.
For a more active day in Auckland, try walking to the top of volcanic Mt Eden, hiking through the lava fields on Rangitoto Island or taking the ferry to Waiheke Island, where you can enjoy beaches, water sports or even wine tasting.
Located just east of the city center, Auckland Domain has a network of walking trails which weave their way through the forest. Unlike the pace of nearby downtown, peaceful moments abound in the park such as watching ducks land on the pond or relaxing on a bench in the shade. In the spring, cherry groves pepper the forest with a pink and vibrant hue, and during most times of the year you can find teams playing rugby on any of the large open fields.
For all of the open space, however, the largest draw of Auckland Domain is the building atop the hill. Constructed in 1929, the Auckland War Memorial and Museum is a three-story, neo-classical building with displays on everything from the nation’s war history to exhibits on Maori culture. While the museum itself is free of charge (though donations are often suggested), there is an extra fee to watch a performance such as a traditional Maori haka.
While visitors scour inside of the museum and pore over cultural artifacts, you’ll find people outside of the museum enjoying the expansive lawn. Or, further down the hill, wander the greenhouses of the famous Wintergardens for a sea of flowers and color.
Much of the park’s attraction, however, is simply enjoying the open space, and whether it’s eating a picnic while gazing at the skyline or going out for a jog, Auckland Domain is where city residents come to escape to nature.
- Devonport hosts arts and culture festivals throughout the year, which often include food trucks and live music. Check local listings to see what’s on while you’re visiting.
- Consider adding Devonport to an Auckland cycling itinerary, as bikes are allowed on the ferry from the CBD.
- Taking the ferry to Devonport is a good way to experience city skyline views without paying for an expensive cruise, as return tickets are very affordable.
Wild and lonely Cape Brett is a remote location on the scenic back road leading along the coast from Russell.
Along the route is the traditional Maori village of Rawhiti, the starting point for the rugged 7.5-hour trek to Cape Brett. On reaching the cape, hikers are rewarded with shelter for the night in the Cape Brett Hut.
For non-hikers, Cape Brett is a popular day cruise destination from Paihia or Russell. The cape is famous for its ‘Hole in the Rock’ on neighboring Motukokako Island, a natural archway formed by ceaselessly pounding seas over the centuries.
As well as spotting dolphins, penguins and other wildlife along the way, the cruise passes a lovely seaside landscape of sandy beaches and rocky cliffs, and the lonely lighthouse on the tip of Cape Brett.
Cape Brett Hole-in-the-Rock is on the northern tip of a peninsula east of the town of Russell. Motukokako Island is just offshore.
- This educational experience is suitable for all ages and allows families to participate in farming activities; children under 5 years old enter free.
- Choose between an Agrodome Farm Show or Farm Tour, or select both.
- Day trips combine the North Island’s top attractions, such as the Hobbiton Movie Set, Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland, and Rainbow Springs Nature Park.
- International visitors need to pay an admission fee, but New Zealand residents can access the permanent collections for free (bring your driver’s license, bank card, or proof of residence).
- There are free tours of the gallery in both English and Mandarin Chinese every day. Check the website for current timings.
- There’s an on-site cafe, or bring a picnic to eat in nearby Albert Park.
- The gallery often holds special educational events, including some especially for kids.
- There are three food outlets within the park: Cornwall Park Bistro, Cornwall Park Café, and the Creamery.
- Visitors can join the 3-mile (5-kilometer) park run that departs from the Band Rotunda every Saturday morning.
- Cornwall Park is on the 10-mile (16-kilometer) coast-to-coast walking route between Waitemata and Manukau harbors.
- Standard Sky Tower admission includes access to the Sky Lounge and the viewing platform.
- Free Wi-Fi is available throughout the Sky Tower.
- The tower is fully wheelchair accessible.
- Visitors can combine a driving tour that visits landmarks in the public park with guided sightseeing beyond Rotorua.
- Guests can also swim or soak in geothermally heated pools at the historic Blue Baths, but call ahead to make sure the baths are not closed for a private event.
- The Government Gardens offer one of the city’s most serene spots for a picnic.
- There are places to buy snacks, ice cream, and coffee, but it’s recommended to take a picnic to enjoy in the zoo.
- The zoo is large and requires quite a lot of walking. There are well-defined and paved paths for wheelchair and stroller access.
- The zoo offers a number of special activities, such as night tours, behind-the-scenes tours, birthday parties, and photography workshops. These should be booked in advance.
Located 30 minutes west of downtown Auckland, the Arataki Visitor Center is the official gateway to the surrounding Waitakere Ranges. Not only does this informative stop offer views looking east towards Auckland, but there are numerous bushwalks which depart from the center and explore the surrounding forest. Stare in wonder at towering kauri trees which explode from Earth towards sky, and soak in the simplicity of getting back to nature despite being so close to Auckland.
Inside the center itself, visitors can peruse the informative placards to learn about the region’s history, and various displays also discuss the park’s unique flora and fauna. This is also the stop to get the latest trail info as well as inquire about backcountry camping. From here, it’s only a short drive to the wonders of the park from waterfalls and trails to the fog-lined coast.
The center itself is set conveniently on the side of aptly-named Scenic Drive, and the Arataki Visitor Center is a must-stop destination for anyone exploring Waitakere.
Inside the park, two walking trails loop around the principal attractions, with the raised walkways snaking through the heart of the active geothermic terrain. Look beneath your feet and you’ll see steam escaping through the cracks in the boardwalk; just out of arm’s reach, pools of murky grey mud spit and splutter, as if gasping for breath. The landscape unfolds in a moon-like vista worthy of its name, swirling with deep craters, fumaroles and tropical vegetation. Located in the Wairakei Tourist Park – New Zealand’s largest geothermal field - since the 1950s, the Craters of the Moon is now looked after by the Department of Conservation and is open to visitors year-round.