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2 Days in Auckland – An Ideal 48 Hour Itinerary

2 Days in Auckland – An Ideal 48 Hour Itinerary

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If you only have 48 hours or 2 days in Auckland, then this blog will tell you how to spend your time exploring New Zealand’s largest city including useful tips such as where to stay and some budget-saving tips!

As New Zealand’s biggest city and the largest airport, chances are that on your holiday in New Zealand, you will start or finish (or both) in Auckland. There is a ton to do around Auckland and plenty of day trips from Auckland, but what is there to do in the actual city?

Unlike many touristic places in New Zealand, Auckland is a big city. Therefore, there is a lot to do and see and it can be overwhelming to know where to focus your time– especially if you only have 48 hours in Auckland!

But having lived in Auckland and traveled here numerous times, we have picked out the highlights of the city so you can maximize your time! This 2-day Auckland itinerary has it all, iconic city sights like the Sky Tower, my favorite beaches on the North Island, and even a luxury sunset cruise.

2 days in Auckland is short, but it will certainly be sweet! By the end of it, you’ll experience the ultimate introduction to the country and be ready to continue traveling to all of New Zealand’s bucket-list places.

Day 1 in Auckland

Visit the Auckland Museum

Art gallery in the Auckland Museum
Art gallery in the Auckland Museum

For those who don’t know, I actually lived in Auckland and worked at the Auckland Museum for 6 weeks. While this was a short stint, I learned just how truly impressive the Auckland Museum is!

With several floors, multiple exhibits, and new and changing feature exhibits every couple of months, this museum is one of the most advanced (and impressive) museums I have ever been to. You could easily spend an entire day at the museum, but most spend about half a day. There are plenty of interactive displays as well as a culture performance at 11:15 am and 1:45 pm each day.

The museum is located on top of a hill just outside the city center called “The Domain.” It can be reached by a 5-minute bus ride or you could even walk.

As a foreigner, you will pay a $28 NZD entry fee, but locals get in for free! The museum is easily one of the best free and cheap things to do in Auckland!

You can book your tickets in advance for the same price and it allows you to skip the line. This will save you time, as 2 days in Auckland will go by quickly! This ticket is general admission, which lets you see all three levels of the museum and ancient Maori artifacts. Any special exhibits you might want to visit can be purchased at the museum.

On one of your 2 days in Auckland, be sure to make time for the Auckland Museum! It will give you some insight into the history of New Zealand and ensure you leave your holiday with lots of cultural knowledge. You can purchase your museum tickets in advance here!

Afternoon tour to Piha Beach

The best views on my Auckland day trip, New Zealand!
Daniel hanging out at a viewpoint over Piha Beach.

Did you know that the best beaches in New Zealand are on the North Island? Better yet, one of my favorite beaches is a convenient day trip from Auckland, so obviously this is a stop on your first day!

Piha Beach is stunning- black sand, blue water, and vibrant green foliage all around boast New Zealand’s beauty! There really isn’t a coastline like Piha’s anywhere else in the world.

Piha Beach is 40 kilometers (25 miles) from Auckland, so if you rent a car or a campervan you can drive yourself. But, if you just have two days in Auckland, it might be simpler to take tours, like this 5-hour tour to Piha Beach! This way you don’t have to stress about navigating foreign roads, and you can dive deeper into New Zealand’s history and culture by having a local guide.

This half-day tour departs at 12:30, so you can hit the Auckland Museum in the morning and then visit Piha Beach in the afternoon! The drive to Piha is quite scenic as you go through the Waitakere Ranges, and once you reach the beach you’ll be in awe of the black sand and rugged coastline. The guide will lead you on a rainforest walk so you can see the diversity in this ecosystem, and you’ll have time to walk along the beach and simply enjoy this beautiful area.

This tour includes transportation from Auckland, snacks and coffee, and your local guide who is a wealth of information! I recommend this tour to those who want to learn more about the fascinating history of the North Island and who love the outdoors. You can reserve this 5-hour tour in advance for $185 NZD per person.

Sunset at the Sky Tower

View from the Sky Tower in Auckland
Spectacular views from up there!
Bailey enjoys the view at the Sky Tower in Auckland
It’s the best view in Auckland!

The Sky Tower is the tallest building in Auckland. It stands at 1,080ft tall (328m) and offers a 360-degree panorama of the city, making it the best place to catch the sunset!

You can go to the top of the Sky Tower for $40 NZD and spend two hours exploring all three levels. Purchasing tickets ahead of time will let you skip the line, which is helpful as sunset is often a busy time! But, its worth it because sunset is by far our favorite time to visit, it’s so beautiful!

You can also have dinner with a view from the top of the Sky Tower. Orbit 360° is the rotating restaurant and The Sugar Club is one of Auckland’s most famous restaurants. While food and drinks are a bit pricey up in the sky, it’s all about the experience here! We enjoy grabbing a drink while we watch the sunset, it’s a truly magical experience.

Whether you choose to go to the restaurant or just the viewing deck, you are guaranteed to have some amazing views! I recommend booking your tickets to the Sky Tower in advance, just to make this busy day a little less stressful.

The Sky Tower is open from 9:30 am to 8 pm on weekdays and until 10 pm on weekends. There are even more thrilling ways to experience the Sky Tower, like the SkyJump bungy, which is one of the most unique things to do in New Zealand!

Related Read: Escape the busy city life and experience New Zealand’s roots! One of the best cultural things to do in New Zealand is the Rotorua Maori Experience, which is only 2 hours south of Auckland.

Day 2 in Auckland

Take a guided sightseeing tour

group of tourists on the street in Auckland, New Zealand
Ready to learn all about Auckland? Photo Credit: Wirestock on Deposit Photos

Only having two days in Auckland means you have to maximize your time, so taking a sightseeing tour is the best way to do that! This is the ideal way to see the highlights of Auckland and learn about the city along the way. Plus, having a local tour guide to show you the hidden gems and give insight will make the most of your Auckland experience.

This 3-hour sightseeing tour will visit the Domain, Waitemata Harbour, Queen Street, and cross the iconic Harbour Bridge to visit the beaches on the North Shore. It also takes you to Devonport and Ponsonby (my favorite neighborhood), and then take in scenic views at Mount Victorica Reserve and Westhaven Marina. There are even more stops along this route, but you’ll have to take the tour to see it all! This is my top choice for seeing the best of Auckland on a time crunch, you can book this tour for $95 NZD per person.

However, if you’re traveling on a limited budget, you can join Auckland’s free 3-hour walking tour! Meeting every day at 10 am and 2 pm you can follow a local guide around the city and get some information about places only locals would know! While it doesn’t cover nearly as much ground as the guided sightseeing tour above, it’s still a good option!

For more information about the free walking tour in Auckland, check out their website.

Head over to Mt Eden Crater

mt eden crater
Going to the Mt Eden crater is something you should do during your 2 days in Auckland!

Only a short 20-minute bus ride from the city will have you at Mt Eden, where you can go for a walk to see a large crater! This is easily one of the most popular things to do in Auckland because the crater is just so large, and there is an incredible view of the city from here!

Mt Eden itself is actually a volcano that has been dormant for many years. The crater is the cone of the volcano from its last eruption.

Hiking to the crater on Mt Eden is completely free and will only take a couple of hours including enjoying the few and getting there and back to the city center.

Related Read: Road-tripping in New Zealand? Here are some tips on how to score a cheap campervan rental!

Enjoy a sunset sail and dinner

The Sky tower can be seen from all over Auckland
Views from the water!

After a busy day sightseeing around Auckland City, you can set sail and spend the evening unwinding on a sunset sailboat tour in Auckland Harbor. I can’t think of a better way to experience Auckland than to see the gorgeous sunset in Auckland Harbor- what a unique experience!

The cruise sets sail from Viaduct Harbour, which is super convenient and easy to get to as the dock is right in downtown Auckland. This activity starts at 6 pm and lasts for about 2.5 hours, which is just enough time to enjoy the water, sunset, and dinner!

You will feast on a 3-course meal of canapes, salad, sirloin steak, market fish, chocolate mousse, and the menu continues on and on! They really bring their A-game on this dinner cruise. A complimentary drink is given when you first arrive, and the bar is open the whole cruise.

While the dinner is something to write home about, wait until you see the views. You’ll pass the Sky Tower, Auckland Harbour Bridge, and Mt. Eden, all with informative commentary from the captain. You can even opt to steer the ship if you’d like!

I love dinner cruises, they are always such a romantic way to experience a city. If you want to eat dinner outside as opposed to the inside dining room make sure to wear warmer clothes or bring a sweater in case it’s chilly. You can reserve this dinner cruise for $150 NZD per person, but be sure to book it in advance to secure your spot.

Check out the nightlife

skycity casino auckland entertainment
Just some entertainment at the Skycity Casino.

Auckland has a lively scene when it comes to nightlife. As the largest city in New Zealand, it’s no surprise that there are a plethora of fun bars, music venues, and places to check out after dark. 

SkyCity Casino is one of the most popular places to hang out, full of multiple bars, nightclubs, live entertainment, and of course a bit of gambling! Casinos in New Zealand have a decent party atmosphere, so even if you’re not into gambling they are still really fun to visit. 

Just below the Sky Tower and SkyCity Casino is Federal Street, where there are a ton of bars and restaurants! However, one of my favorite rooftop bars is Sunset on Nelson Street. As you can imagine, this is another great spot to catch the sunset. It is a modern bar with swanky cocktails, so if you’re looking for an excuse to get dressed up and go out, Sunset is a great spot!

While 2 days in Auckland is a quick trip, you can discover a lot of the city’s culture in that time. Finishing it off with a fun night out is the best way to experience Auckland!

Related Read: After your 2 days in Auckland, check out Hot Water Beach for a night! This is one of my favorite places in the North Island, and a totally unique part of New Zealand.

4 Most Popular Day Trips from Auckland

Checking the mail at Frodos house at Hobbiton
Checking the mail at Frodo’s house at Hobbiton!

Auckland is centrally located to so many of the North Island’s must-see places. Either use one of your days to take a day trip from Auckland, or extend your stay if you have extra time! You won’t want to miss out on some of my favorite things to do on the North Island:

Hobbiton & Waitomo Caves Small-Group Tour Two activities New Zealand is most known for. This 12-hour tour will make for an action-packed day in two completely different settings. Firstly, if you don’t already know, Hobbiton is the set of both The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings films. You can nerd out as much as you like on the tour while you visit Bilbo Baggins’s home and the rest of the village. Next are the Waitomo Glow Worm Caves where thousands of glowworms will glisten above you!

Auckland Dolphin and Whale Watching Cruise – This 4.5-hour cruise on a luxury catamaran will take you on a quest to find whales, dolphins, and penguins! In this region, 6 possible types of whales can frequently be spotted. Your guides will also give commentary about the different animals as you go. This is the perfect tour for wildlife lovers.

Waiheke Island Wine Day Tour – Head out for a classy afternoon at several boutique wineries and even visit olive groves. You’ll get to taste the local wines of Waiheke and learn about each of the ones you sample. Transportation is provided from two different ferry locations in Auckland. If you love wine as much as we do, you’ll enjoy this tour!

Auckland Maori Tour – A truly remarkable indigenous experience where you will learn all about Maori myths, legends, and history from the Maori perspective. Lunch and round-trip transportation is included. You will stop at several significant cultural locations in Auckland, including Mount Eden.

Where to Stay for your 2 days in Auckland

Marsden Viaduct Hotel in AUckland
Photo credit: Marsden Viaduct Hotel

We’ve stayed in Auckland a handful of times and even lived here for a bit, so we know the best areas to stay! Here are some of my favorite hostels and hotels, whether you’re looking for a nice, cheap option or something a bit more lavish!

Attic Backpackers – $

Located just minutes from the Sky Tower in Auckland’s CBD, Attic Backpackers is my all-time favorite budget option in Auckland. It has a cozy and homey feel and a wonderful outdoor area that you can enjoy year-round. This is more of a hostel vibe, so there is a shared kitchen, bathroom, and dorm-style rooms, with a few privates available as well. 

Dorm rooms start as low as $50 NZD per night, and private rooms are around $140 NZD. You can check prices and book a room on Booking.com or Hostelworld.

Marsden Viaduct Hotel – $$

I love a good view that isn’t over the top in price! Marsden Viaduct Hotel overlooks the Viaduct and is a quick 5-minute walk from Wynyard Quarter. The area is full of Auckland’s best bars and restaurants, so you won’t have to go far to find anything!

Prices start around $275-$300 and can be upgraded for Viaduct views for more. This is a popular hotel choice, so be sure to reserve this accommodation on Booking.com.

The Grand by SkyCity – $$$

For our luxury travelers, you can’t go wrong with The Grand by SkyCity! This five-star hotel is located in Central Auckland, just a few minutes walk from the Sky Tower and all the other CBD entertainment. Featuring an on-site casino, restaurant, and spa, you won’t even want to leave the hotel!

Rooms are $350 and up, but sometimes you can find a good price on Booking.com!

There are plenty of great places to stay in Auckland, so you can check out all of the options here!

Budget Saving Tips for 2 days in Auckland

Bailey enjoys the views of Auckland from the water on a summers day
Auckland is a beautiful city!

Auckland, and New Zealand, in general, aren’t the cheapest of places. These are a few budget tips to help you while in Auckland so you don’t break the bank.

  • Use the website First Table for lunch or dinner reservations – this website is one of my favorites because for just a $10 fee you get 50% off all food for your entire table (it’s a steal!)
  • Stay at the Attic Backpackers – here you can do your own laundry, cook your own meals (or at least breakfast), and walk to most of the best locations in Auckland.
  • Take public buses instead of taxis and Uber – the public bus system in Auckland is easy to use and cheap!

Renting a Car or Campervan in New Zealand

Bailey takes a selfie with a JUCY campervan
Ready to hit the road!
Bailey stands infront of a JUCY campervan in New Zealand
JUCY is another favorite!

The first step to planning your New Zealand road trip is choosing your set of wheels! Most people rent a campervan or motorhome to get around, but you can also just rent a normal car and stay in hotels (as opposed to camping.)

You can search for rental cars online here in advance to compare car models and prices.

You can also do this with motorhomes and campervans on a website called Motorhome Republic. It shows all of the available campervans and motorhomes for your specific New Zealand road trip dates. You can compare prices and company reviews here too!

JUCY is our personal favorite campervan rental company in NZ. We love JUCY because they have such a range of both cars and campervans available, so you’re pretty much guaranteed to find something to suit your budget and travel style.

We’ve actually secured an exclusive discount code for our readers with JUCY. Just click here to browse their availability and use the code DTRAVEL24 at checkout to get 5% off! You must act quickly, though, as this code is only valid for bookings made before June 30, 2024, with travel dates before December 21, 2024!

You can check prices, availability and book with JUCY online here.

Star RV is another company we personally recommend but specifically for motorhomes! They offer larger motorhomes (as opposed to budget campervans) at really reasonable rates.

Star RV has actually given us a discount code for our readers too! Use the code DTRAVEL24 at checkout to get 5% off your motorhome rental! Note, this code is only valid for bookings made before June 21, 2024 with travel dates before Dec 21, 2024. Click here to browse availability, prices, and book with our discount code!

Thanks for reading!

The views from Lion rock at Piha Beach near Auckland, New Zealand
The views from Lion Rock at Piha Beach near Auckland, New Zealand

Auckland is a beautiful city with lots to offer in 48 hours in and around the city. Hopefully, this itinerary is enough to get you started and you can continue to explore more (especially if you have more time than just 2 days in Auckland!)

If you found this blog helpful be sure to jump over and check out our official New Zealand page. You’ll find over 100 different articles from regions around New Zealand. Otherwise, check out these related articles:

Is Hobbiton worth it? – Hobbiton review

10 Things to KNOW about Freedom Camping in New Zealand

Complete Guide to Visiting Cathedral Cove, New Zealand

scorpio1987Sajal

Friday 8th of February 2019

Amazing pictures, I love NZ too <3 Do check my blogs on https://mesmotsbysazz.com/

Destinationless Travel

Thursday 7th of March 2019

Thanks! We will check it out! :)