There’s two ways you can visit Auckland from overseas and that’s by Air or Water.
For the purposes of this article we’re going to assume you’re able to make it into Auckland Central (the city) either by boat (cruise ship) or from the airport. You’re probably short on time and have, maybe, 1-Day or it’s a Bust.
As a local, I think I’ve come up with a couple of ideas for you to make the most out of your short-stay in Auckland so let’s go!
#1 Auckland Central: Hop-on Hop-off Explorer
The Explorer bus is probably one of the quickest and easiest ways to see Auckland Central. In fact, it’s probably already recommended by all the cruise ships and travel guides you’ll find on your arrival.
The bus stop is just a short walk from the Auckland Ferry (Terminal) Building and a block away from the SkyBus (airport shuttle) stop.
If you’re short on time you can get a 1 hr ticket, stay on the bus for the entire loop and get off again at the same bus stop.
Time permitting, I recommend the following stops (in order of personal preference):
- Sky Tower (1 – 2 hrs) – for the best 360 views of Auckland
- Kelly Talton’s / Sealife Aquarium (1 – 3 hrs) – see sharks and other marine life
- Bastion Point Lookout (1/2 – 1 hr) – also for the views
- Auckland Museum (2+ hrs) – recommended for a half-day or longer trips
- Parnell Rose Gardens (1/2 – 1 hr) – this is seasonal so the roses may not be in bloom
The time frames (above) should allow you to see one, two or maybe three of the attractions but do your research for what you’d like to see most. Also, keep tabs on bus arrival times because if you miss your bus you could have another 30-60 minutes for the next one.
#2 City Centre & Wynyard Quarter: CityLink Bus
There are three Link buses; CityLink (red bus), InnerLink (green bus) and OuterLink (orange bus). Each covering a larger area from the City Centre to the inner suburbs.
If you’re really short on time the best of these is the CityLink (the red one) in which you’ll travel up Queen St to Karangahape Road and back down again to Wynyard Quarter. You’ll see most of what the city centre has to offer in the 30-45 minutes it normally takes to complete its loop.
The bus fare is about $1 per trip so you’ll need to pay again if you hop-off. There’s no audio commentary but the buses tell you what your next stop will be which is helpful for getting your bearings. Sometimes the bus stop reminder is turned off so pay attention to the map which should be printed on the inner walls like on a train.
The closest bus stop from the Ferry Building is on Queen Street, which starts directly across the road. Just look out for the red CityLink buses and catch one on the left-hand side. The buses on the right head to Wynyard Quarter and back to the same stop. It’s better to leave Wynyard Quarter for last.
After completing the entire loop from the bottom of Queen Street, hop-off at Wynyard Quarter and head towards Viaduct Basin. It’s a short walk back to the Ferry Building so use this time to take some photos and try one of the many restaurants in the area for lunch.
💡TIP: Good service is expected in New Zealand without having to tip. It’s not considered rude if you don’t tip and if you do the server will probably be surprised.
#3 From Britomart to the Art Gallery: A Walking Tour
Britomart has become a trendy up-market area in recent years and it’s just 5-10 minutes from the Ferry Building. If you happen to be there on a Saturday they have a very nice but small Farmer’s Market until noon.
From there you can walk up Queen Street and stop into one of the many stores for souvenir gifts and duty free shopping.
💡TIP: Shopping on a cruise ship can cost you a small fortune so try to reserve some of your shopping for your Ports of Call. Allow for currency conversion.
While walking up Queen Street you’ll eventually reach a major intersection where you can walk up Victoria Street West to Sky Tower or you can catch the green InnerLink bus there for about $2.50 (it’s not that steep of a hill though). After Sky Tower you can walk back down to Queen Street and head towards the Auckland Art Gallery on Kitchener Street.
See the Google map (below)…
After the Auckland Art Gallery, you can either go to the cafe for lunch or one of the many other cafes, food courts and restaurants in the area.
Some notable stops:
- Albert Park – just behind the Art Gallery
- Smith & Caughey’s – a store like Myers (Australia) or Macy’s (USA)
- Elliot Street – Elliot Stables (more food) and shopping
- High Street – a mix of everything (cafes, book stores, designer clothes stores, etc)
So there you have it!
Three options for what you can do when visiting Auckland and when you only have a few hours to see it. Feel free to mix and match ideas.
Let me know if you have any further queries in the comments section below and I hope you have an awesome time. Take care!