How to see Auckland in a day or two
from a Hop-on, hop-off bus
Auckland really is a city of surprises. You’ll find unusual sights around every corner – but that’s only half of the fun. This cosmopolitan city is also your gateway to a myriad of magnificent sights further afield... New Zealand is famous for its unique vistas created by the many volcanoes that have erupted here over the centuries, and you can explore many of these magnificent sights with Auckland as your base. From here, you can visit spectacular island retreats, laze on a secluded beach, drive past lush vineyards and so much more.
But don’t rush away just yet. There is a lot to explore right here in the city, sights that will give you an insight into this little country’s modern present, bright future and fascinating past. From experiencing a taste of the Antarctic as you walk with penguins, to discovering an indescribable underwater world usually only seen by deep sea divers, Auckland offers something for everyone. And that’s before you start exploring its stunning art galleries and museums, the lively waterfront area, and the excellent shopping on offer here.
To help you learn all about New Zealand’s different cultures, including the Maoris, the Polynesians and Asians, there is only one way to explore Auckland, and that’s on a comprehensive hop-on hop-off bus tour where you can hop on and off the bus at leisure. The bus not only stops at 10 of the city’s most fascinating sights; there’s also a satellite bus that takes you from the famous Auckland Museum to visit 5 of its best-kept secrets. And that’s all included in the price!
How much does it cost?
At the time of writing, an adult pays slightly more than US$ 32 for an all-day pass, or almost US$ 53 for a 2-day pass, while a child pays half of that. They also have a "family pass" which is valid for 2 adults and up to 6 children from 4 to 15 years inclusive, and is usually sold at a really good price (click here to see the exact details).
In summer (1 Sept to 13 April), departs daily from Ferry Building/Queen’s Wharf at 9am and every half hour after that until last bus leaves at 4pm
In winter (14 April to 30 Sept), departs from Ferry Building/Queen’s Wharf every 60 min from 10am with last bus departing at 3pm.
Satellite Bus departs from Auckland Museum at 10.30am and every 60 minutes thereafter until the last bus leaves at 3.30pm
Places to see and things to do along the route
The Auckland bus tour begins and ends at the Ferry Building at Queen's Wharf. Located on Auckland’s waterfront, it’s the centre of Auckland’s harbour activity. Built in 1912, the Ferry Building is still active today. People catch the ferry from here to Devenport, Waiheke and the other isles in the Hauraki Gulf.
A short and beautiful video about Auckland
The Ferry Building is an ideal location from which to do some sightseeing. From here you can explore downtown Auckland as well as the harbour, the Viaduct and the Queen’s Wharf areas. Across the road you’ll find the Britomart Transport Station, and Queen Street, Auckland’s main street. Also here is the Westfield Downtown Mall, with its extensive food court.
1. First hop off point is at Bastion Point Lookout, from where you will have a magnificent view of Auckland, Waitemata Harbour Bridge, Devenport, Rangitoto Island and more. Bastion Point is also an historic reserve, home to some lookout bunkers and gun emplacements dating back to the Second World War. You’ll also find the Savage Memorial Gardens here. This memorial is dedicated to the country’s famous Prime Minister, Michael Joseph Savage. If you wish to visit Mission Bay Beach, you can walk down the hill. This is a popular swimming beach, with lots of shops, restaurants and cafes..
If you decide to visit Mission Bay Beach, make sure you leave enough time to get back to the bus or you might miss it. There is an alternative route you can take, too. Just walk along Tamaki Drive which is located on the waterfront, and you will be able to pick up the bus at the next stop on its route, Kelly Tarlton’s Underwater World (see below).
2. Your next hop off point is at Kelly Tarlton’s Underwater World which offers a variety of fascinating experiences. Enjoy the Antarctic Encounter, an opportunity to see a live underground penguin colony up close. This unusual underground world is actually a complete simulation of an Antarctic environment. To visit the penguins’ frozen home you travel on heated, soundproof Snow Cats, which is quite an experience.
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There’s more fun and excitement in store at Underwater World, a colossal aquarium created by the famous New Zealand diver Kelly Tarlton - hence the aquarium’s name. To explore Underwater World, you travel along a mobile walkway through a tunnel under the sea. You’ll find yourself surrounded by a magnificent variety of over 1,500 fish, as well as giant stingrays, eels and sharks. This gives you a diver’s view of the magical underwater world – another unique experience.
Please note: You’ll find the entrance to the aquarium right at the bus stop. However, the exit is at the other end of the car park, so you must leave some time to walk back to the bus stop, or you will miss the bus.
A short and nice video about Kelly Tarlton's
3. From your next stop you can hop off to explore Parnell Rose Gardens, a magnificent garden full of 5,000 rose bushes, including some very rare roses. This is a great break from Auckland’s busy streets, a chance to relax before taking in some more exciting sightseeing. Right next door you’ll find the Nancy Steen Garden which is another oasis in the middle of the city, boasting beautiful antique roses and some ancient trees – keep a look out for the Pohutukawa which is two centuries old, and one of Auckland’s oldest trees, a Kanuka.
4. Holy Trinity Cathedral is the next spot to explore along your route. Keep a look out for the Cathedral’s simple kauri altar and its magnificent stained glass windows. Of particular interest is the blue-toned rose window, designed by the English artist Carl Edwards. The Cathedral is located in the aptly named Cathedral Precinct in Parnell and while you’re here you should also take time to explore the former Cathedral Church here, called St Mary’s.
5. The next hop off point is an important one. Not only can you explore magnificent Auckland Museum from here, but it’s also where you can hop on to the Interchange Bus (see below).
Auckland Museum is a treasure trove full of fascinating items and information on New Zealand’s history. You can also find out about the country’s ancient natural history in the section full of Pacific Island and Maori artefacts.
You can explore another of Auckland’s beautiful gardens, the Winter Gardens, which are located nearby. They have an idyllic setting, right next to a pond and a natural spring.
The Auckland Museum stop is also the point where you can HOP ON TO THE INTERCHANGE, a Satellite Bus that takes passengers to see 5 other fascinating sights…. Please look below this itinerary for all the details.
6. You can explore Parnell Village, the oldest suburb in the city, from your next hop off point. The area is famous for its stunning art galleries, boutique-style shops and a variety of cafes and restaurants.
7. Next stop is at the Civic Theatre in upper Queen Street. Built in 1929, this Art Nouveau building boasts an exquisite Indian-style foyer. You must also take a look inside the theatre which is lavishly decorated and has a beautiful starlit ceiling.
The theatre is located in the middle of Auckland’s main thoroughfare, which offers excellent shopping. Also here is the famous Auckland Art Gallery, where you can view some of New Zealand’s largest collection of art treasures, both local and international.
8. The next hop off point is at Auckland’s Sky City Complex, a lively entertainment centre full of cafes, bars, restaurants, a casino and a hotel. You’ll also find the city’s landmark, the Sky Tower, here. You can take a glass-fronted lift to the top of this tower, the tallest man-made structure in the Southern Hemisphere. There is a choice of three viewing platforms from where you can enjoy spectacular panoramic views. The best time to go to the top is at sunset, when you can soak up the spectacle below with a drink in the Sky Lounge.
9. Hop off at the Tram Stop and take an authentic 1920s heritage tram along the Wynyard Loop to explore Auckland’s newest waterfront attraction, the Wynyard Quarter. Here you’ll find a maritime-themed children’s play area, as well as the excellent boutique fish market, the Auckland Fish Market, and a selection of delectable seafood restaurants on the North Wharf.
10. En route to your next stop, the bus takes you past the America's Cup Viaduct Harbour, to your next stop, the start and end point of the tour, the Ferry Building at Queen's Wharf. This Edwardian building was built in 1912 and is still used as a ferry terminal today.
Just a short walk away from the Queen’s Wharf is the America’s Cup Viaduct Harbour, a place that is important to New Zealanders because of their involvement in the America’s Cup Yachting regatta. New Zealand is very proud of the fact that they are only the second country ever to win the regatta from America. The country hosted the regatta at Viaduct Harbour in 2000.
Take THE INTERCHANGE, a Satellite Bus that departs from the Auckland Museum to 5 other fascinating sights. The Satellite Bus then returns to the museum to enable passengers to continue on their hop on, hop off tour of Auckland….
A. First stop is at Eden Garden, one of Auckland’s best-kept secrets. It’s a magnificent garden paradise boasting a huge collection of camellias as well as, rhododendrons and azaleas.
A panoramic view over Auckland, from Mt. Eden
B. Next stop is at Mount Eden, Auckland’s famous extinct volcano with its majestic 50m-deep crater. Aside from the spectacle of the volcano itself, the views from Mount Eden are breathtaking. The bus does not go all the way up to the summit. It stops 300m from the top, and passengers can walk up if they are adventurous (and fit) enough.
C. On the way to your next stop, the bus drives past Eden Park, the country’s largest stadium and the venue for the 2011 World Cup Rugby Final. It then stops at St. Lukes Westfield Shopping Centre, one of Auckland’s largest malls offering a variety of shops, restaurants and entertainment.
D. Next hop-off point lets you explore Auckland Zoo, a lovely modern zoo that is home to a variety of animals, including the local Kiwi bird – New Zealands best known icon.
E. From your next stop you can explore the Museum of transport and technology (MOTAT). The museum is made up of two separate museums, MOTAT 1 and MOTAT 2, both offering excellent interactive displays that explain New Zealand’s technological history.
The Interchange Bus returns to AUCKLAND MUSEUM, from where you can HOP OFF and carry on the rest of the Explorer Tour. See itinerary above!
And here is something worth knowing about: Taking a hop on hop off bus tour is one the best ways to see any large city, as it saves you plenty of precious holiday time and takes you EXACTLY where you want to go... (Not to mention the great cityscape views you can enjoy on the way...). Our "Hop on hop off guides" cover quite a few cities across the world, including Singapore, Hong Kong, Sydney, The Blue Mountains, Perth, Canberra and many other destinations..... (Click on the links to go directly to the city-guide of your choice, or click here to go directly to our world hop-on, hop-off guide).