72 Hours in Auckland, New Zealand with Kids

Auckland skyline at sunrise, Auckland, New Zealand. Photo by Maurizio De Mattei/Adobe Stock

Spread over volcanic hills and two harbors on the North Island, Auckland is the center of culture, music, food and arts in New Zealand. Also known as Tāmaki Makaurau, Auckland is brimming with urban adventures and natural beauty, making for an ideal family city break.

72 Hours in Auckland New Zealand with Kids
Auckland’s skyline at sunrise. Photo by Maurizio De Mattei/Adobe Stock

The Maori, New Zealand’s indigenous people, settled Auckland in the 14th century. They arrived in the area from Polynesia, and their culture is an integral part of the fabric of the country. Locals here refer to themselves as Kiwis, which dates back to World War I and comes from the kiwi, a flightless bird that is a national symbol of New Zealand.

To make the most of a 72-hour stay in Auckland, we suggest getting a macro view of this singular destination on day one, followed by a day exploring the islands that surround the city and then embracing activities that speak most to your family on your final day.

72 Hours in Auckland New Zealand with Kids
Mount Eden, a dormant volcano, offers panoramas over the city. Photo by superjoseph/Adobe Stock

How to Spend 72 Hours in Auckland with Kids

Day 1

Embrace the topography of this beautiful city with a visit to Mount Eden, the highest natural point in Auckland. Visitors can join a guided tour to learn about this iconic dormant volcano, also called Maungawhau, and its history as a fortified Maori village. A beautiful boardwalk around the crater and summit that was built in 2020 offers fantastic views over the Waitemata Harbour.

From there, check out Queen Street, the main thoroughfare through Auckland’s central business district (CBD). There is plenty of room to roam and enjoy the open-air shopping as well as a bounty of cafes and pubs. Art enthusiasts will want to drop in at the Auckland art gallery Tai o Tamaki, which is the center of artistic dialogue in the city. Don’t miss a visit to Sky Tower, an iconic part of the Auckland skyline that offers visitors stunning 360-degree views. The most adventurous teens and young adults can even opt to base jump by wire off the tower or take a dizzying skywalk out to the viewing platform. On firmer ground, the new virtual reality Sky Slide lets guests feel the thrill of sailing down the imaginary glass tubes that swirl around the Sky Tower.

72 Hours in Auckland New Zealand with Kids
The local landmark Sky Tower provides an adrenaline rush for older kids. Photo by Sam D’Cruz/Adobe Stock

For elementary-age daredevils, a trip farther out to Rocket Ropes near the Auckland airport, with ropes courses specifically for kids ages 2 to 6 and 6+, may be just the ticket. If you still have energy to burn, the nearby Odyssey Sensory Maze is a unique chance for older kids to tackle a series of quirky physical obstacles and challenges to emerge from an underground lair.

Afterward, continue to enjoy the central Auckland vibe with a visit to the bustling Viaduct Harbour on the edge of the CBD. Evening is a great time to marvel at the marina’s luxury yachts (Auckland’s nickname is City of Sails for this very reason), or go earlier in the day to check out the New Zealand Maritime Museum.

72 Hours in Auckland New Zealand with Kids
Brilliant red Pohutukawa blossoms dot Rangitoto Island. Photo by janice/Adobe Stock

Day 2

The islands adjacent to Auckland are super easy to navigate thanks to ferries from downtown, and today is a chance to enjoy the scenery and offerings of Waiheke or Rangitoto.

Waiheke (pronounced why-heck-ee) is the second largest island in the Hauraki Gulf, about a 30-minute boat ride from central Auckland. Some have compared Waiheke to the Hamptons of Auckland, and it is famous for its beaches, wineries and beautiful landscapes. Favorite family beaches on Waiheke include Onetangi and Palm Beach. There are also more than 40 wineries with tasting opportunities and beautiful property to enjoy on the island. Families rave about Eco-Zip, an outdoor adventure park with ziplines over the scenic vistas and vineyards.

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Rangitoto Island is home to both the youngest and largest of Auckland’s volcanoes, various endangered native species and the world’s largest Pohutukawa forest (an iconic tree with bright red flowers that is indigenous to New Zealand and a popular choice for Kiwi Christmas trees). The trip to Rangitoto itself is an integral part of the experience, with stunning vistas on display as you approach this 600-year-old volcanic cone rising from the Hauraki Gulf. Popular with hikers and day trippers, the walk to the summit takes about an hour and also offers the chance to explore the lava caves (make sure to bring a flashlight!). Other options for exploration include guided rides on the 4WD road train or renting a kayak.

72 Hours in Auckland New Zealand with Kids
Stroll through the Lord of the Rings movie set at Hobbiton. Photo by David/Adobe Stock

Day 3

Today offers the chance to dig into a facet of Auckland’s many treasures depending on your family’s interests.

  • Sporty families will want to consider the All Blacks Experience to go behind the scenes of this world-famous rugby team. Learn about what it takes to become an All Black and get a feel for the energy of their traditional pre-match haka (a battle dance native to the Maori people). Younger kids will be excited to try the interactive zone to test their own rugby skills.
  • Movie buffs will be delighted by the Hobbiton movie set, familiar to Lord of the Rings fans around the world. The tour visits all the iconic Middle-Earth locations and gives a thorough overview of the making of the movie while highlighting the beauty of the Waikato region, which is a character unto itself. The most devoted fans might opt to visit the Shire and then have a Hobbit banquet feast inside the Green Dragon Inn.
  • Active families will be wowed by Snowplanet, Auckland’s indoor snow park, where you can ski or snowboard throughout the entire year. There are more than 8,000 metres of real snow and visitors can take lessons or try snow tubing. There is even an onsite restaurant, making for a great day out.
  • Central Auckland offers plenty of fantastic sightseeing options, such as the Auckland Zoo or the highly interactive Museum of Transport and Technology (MOTAT), both located in Western Springs Park. MOTAT is a haven for budding scientists with hands-on exhibits such as Machine Makers and plenty to marvel at, including Aviation Hall. Another option for marine enthusiasts is Sea Life Kelly Tarlton’s, Auckland’s aquarium, which features a shark tunnel, sea turtles and the Antarctic Ice Adventure, home to New Zealand’s only colony of sub-Artic penguins.

TIP: Auckland is an enticing destination that offers families endless options to enjoy its natural beauty throughout the year. For planning purposes, remember that for U.S. visitors, the seasons here are reversed, making a trip over the summer a pleasant respite from the heat.

Relevant Links:

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