Auckland invites visitors to enjoy its thousands of miles of water, tour its gulf islands, watch movies in its oldest and largest park based around an extinct volcano, and visit numerous beaches including Mission Bay Beach with its seaside promenade. Each day will captivate adventurers’ imaginations with a new exciting excursion, from learning to surf, viewing the artisans at Giapo spin up ice cream into unique shapes, sitting under the star-filled sky on bean bag chairs with the latest feature on-screen, and exploring Waikeke Island’s rolling hills of award-winning vineyards overlooking stunning Hauraki Gulf. Before booking a trip to check out this Kiwi city, please refer to the following list of the best non-touristy things to do in Auckland, New Zealand.
1. Enjoy an evening of cinema under the stars
Each January throughout April, Auckland’s parks host the Movies in Parks event. Visitors can get their blankets ready or rent a bean bag seat to enjoy classic and current movies under the stars. Before settling in to watch your favourite flick, arrive pre-sunset to participate in festivities such as face painting and crafts, take pictures with storm troopers, or enjoy a mocktail from the movie-themed bar. After the festivities, get a popcorn and blanket to keep you warm under a cool evening during your cinema under the stars experience–if the weather permits, of course.
Movies in Parks
Address: 25 Fort Richard Road (Sturges Park)
Website: Movies in Parks
Opening hours: Varies (check website)
2. Shop for fresh produce for one day only
Visit New Zealand’s largest one-day market every Sunday to check out some of the freshest produce in the country. There are no food stalls on site, however there are merchants selling a wide selection of clothing, crafts, antiques, and the list goes on. Under an array of colourful tents, visitors will find fresh produce from Polynesian and Asian countries on a floor that can maintain a population of between 15,000 to 20,000 visitors each day.
Address: Avondale Racecourse, Ash Street
Website: Avondale Market
Opening hours: Sun: 8am - 8pm (open Holidays)
3. Surf's up at Muriwai Surf School
Visitors coming to Muirwai Beach have the opportunity to take surfing lessons in a group or individually at Muriwai Surf School. Surfing may look easy, but it is not as easy to get up and stay on your board as you may think, especially with the continuous waves. After receiving instructions on surfing techniques and board control, the students will be taken out to the water with their boards along with instructors to catch waves. The students will be given a briefing on ocean safety and awareness prior to heading out into the waves. Paddle hard, place your hands in the center of the board, rise slowly, and try to maintain your balance before an oncoming wave takes you out.
Muriwai Surf School
Address: 458 Motutara Road, Waitakere
Website: Muriwai Surf Scool
Opening hours: Mon - Sun: 10am - 6pm
Price: 70 - 275 USD
Spend an afternoon riding along Waiheke Island’s stunning views of the Pacific Ocean en route to three of the island’s vineyards. Enjoy commentary about Waiheke’s acclaimed artisan wines by your driver-guide. You can also get an all-day bus pass to explore the island by yourself and hop on a round-trip ferry service from Auckland. Visitors will indulge in award-winning wine during tastings at Mudbrick Vineyard and Te Whau Vineyard where they can enjoy amazing views of Hauraki Gulf’s stunning sapphire waters and surrounding islands.
Waiheke Island Wine Tasting Tour from Auckland
Duration 4 hours 30 minutes
5. Share a bottle of rum with a pirate
SCHOOL HOLIDAYS ARE BACK!! Bring the kids down to swashies and get a FREE Pink Panther (a.k.a the Pink Pirate) with every kids meal!!Posted by Swashbucklers Restaurant on Monday, 28 September 2015
Ahoy Mateys! Pull up a seat at the wooden bar and order a bottle of rum to share with the pirates telling tall tales of adventures sailing the waters off New Zealand. Enjoy the Pirates Platter consisting of oysters, shrimps, breaded scallops, battered fish, and king prawns while taking in stunning views of the ocean and dining on the outdoor patio, marina-side. Visitors may even get a glimpse of a tall ship sailing the waters while enjoying their fish and chips outdoors. This family friendly tavern-style restaurant with nautical decor has aquariums throughout making it fun for the children as well.
Address: 23B Westhaven Drive
Website: Swashbucklers Bar
Opening hours: Mon - Sun: 11am - 11pm
Price: 11 - 27 USD
6. Join in pop culture trivia at Zookeeper's Son
Auckland visitors can enjoy an evening of trivia during a visit to the Royal Oak contemporary pub. Before getting ready to participate in the weekly institution that is Quiz Night, enjoy a meal of fish and chips, chicken schnitzel, or one of their many pizza choices. Once handed the topic of the evening, get ready to raise your paddles and participate in an evening of fun entertainment for all.
Quiz night at the Zookeeper's Son
Address: 715 Mount Albert Road, Royal Oak
Website: Zookeeper’s Son
Opening hours: Sun - Tue: 12pm - 11:30pm; Wed- Sat: 11am - 11:30pm
Price: 11 - 27 USD
Join professional surf instructors for a 1.5-2 hour lesson at beautiful Piha Beach. Lessons range from beginners to advanced and include the opportunity for children and adults to slip on their wet suits and catch a wave at this amazing surf destination. Pay attention to surf hazard instruction on rip tides and other dangers you may encounter prior to entering the water. Then after practicing your technique, head out with your board and your instructor and have some fun riding the waves without too many wipe outs.
Private Surf Lesson at Piha Beach, Auckland
Duration 1 hour 30 minutes
8. Go bowling at Dr. Rudi's Rooftop Brewing Company
Enjoy dinner at this rooftop bar prior to strapping on your blue suede bowling shoes. The two bowling lanes are available throughout the day to use so visitors could get their game on even after a breakfast of french toast or bacon and eggs. With a varied menu to choose from including pizza, burgers, fish and chips, various platters, etc., visitors will be able to enjoy their evening out at the bowling alley.
Dr. Rudi's Rooftop Brewing Company
Address: Level 2/204 Quay Street, VIADUCT
Website: Dr. Rudi’s Rooftop Brewing Company
Opening hours: Mon - Fri: 8am - 4pm; Sat & Sun: 11am - 4pm
Price: 11 - 27 USD
9. Order a creatively designed scoop at Giapo
Head over to Giapo for some of the most creatively designed ice cream or sorbetto cones you’ve ever experienced. From ice cream in eclectic forms such as picture frames, chocolate-dipped squids, and a tower reaching high into the sky, eating these cool treats will present a challenging but delicious experience. If not up for more daring options, try a cup or single scoop decorated with hearts, nuts, and other toppings in various flavours. Delicious selections include refreshing boozy blackberry with champagne, hazelnut, chocolate mousse, cornflake topped with crunchy cookies, and other finger-licking good choices.
Address: 12 Gore Street
Opening hours: Mon - Sun: 12:15pm - 10:30pm
Price: 3 - 15 USD
10. Check out the creative illuminations at the Chinese New Year Lantern Festival
During February each year, Auckland Chinese New Year Celebrations culminate in the beautifully enlightening Lantern Festival. Visitors are welcome to view the lovely handcrafted lanterns of artisans at the Auckland Domain park each evening. The festival features 100 stalls where visitors can enjoy Asian cuisine and crafts. Make certain to check out the life-sized dragons, swans, and colourful lanterns dangling from the trees throughout the park.
Chinese New Year Lantern Festival
Address: Park Road, Grafton
Opening hours: Thu - Sun: 4:30pm - 10:30pm (each first to second week in February annually)
Fun in the sun Kiwi-style
Besides the numerous activities listed above, there is also taking a stroll over harbour bridge, ascending Sky Tower to observe the city of Auckland, or ferrying over to Devonport’s historic seaside town. Some of these interesting things to do are seasonal, so make certain to check any websites specializing in festivals and events so as to plan your trip to get the most out of what piques your interests. After enjoying the many non-touristy things to do above which will have you feeling like a local; hopefully they will help enhance your vacation to Auckland, broaden your horizons, and even help get you out of your comfort zone a little.
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