It’s the biggest city in New Zealand and the place many overseas visitors will first arrive during their trip. Not surprisingly, you could spend days strolling its streets and discovering everything Auckland has to offer. There is so much to do and the scenery is stunning, thanks to its setting on Waitematā Harbour.
Compared to parts of Europe and North America, Auckland never gets really cold. At the chilliest point in the year, around July, the temperature usually ranges from about 5ºC at night to 14ºC during the day. So, you’ll need to rug up, but you won’t be battling blizzards (or any snow for that matter).
Here are some of the best things to see and do in Auckland during winter.
Take it Indoors
If the weather turns or you simply just want to warm up before heading back outside, there’s a plethora of galleries, museums and other spaces to enjoy.
Keep yourself occupied for a few hours by checking out Auckland Art Gallery. The exhibitions change regularly, and there is always something going on. Join one of the general collection tours (Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday at 1.30pm) or check the website for upcoming events, like musical performances, lectures or Sunday yoga among the artwork.
Even the design of Auckland Museum is impressive, but if you want to find out more about the country and its long history, this is the place to go. On the ground floor are exhibitions about the story of the Pacific, the diversity of Pacific Island communities, and the history of the Māori people. There are even several full-sized buildings, including an intricately carved meeting house, within its walls. Head upstairs to immerse yourself in natural history and learn how New Zealand split from Gondwanaland, explore the Imaginarium or discover how volcanoes shaped the country.
It might be too cold to jump in the ocean, but if you want to see what’s below its surface, take the rental car across Hobson Bay from the city and spend a few hours at SeaLife Auckland. Walk beneath the water in the shark tunnel, visit the turtles at the rescue centre, marvel at the colours and varieties of marine life in re-creations of different environments, and watch as the king and gentoo penguins go about their day.
The Best of Outdoor Auckland
Unless you’re staying out in the suburbs, you probably won’t need to get in your rental car to visit Auckland Domain. This inner-city park is spread over an impressive 80 ha and boasts native forest, manicured gardens, an amphitheatre, fernery, ponds, fountains and marble sculptures. It’s also where you’ll find Auckland Museum. If the weather’s playing nice, follow the Lover’s Walk and enjoy the peaceful surrounds, but be sure to take in the Wintergarden. Consisting of two huge greenhouses, this is where tropical plants grow and flower all year round.
Take an hour’s drive out of the city to the town of Parakai to warm your body right through. Like the name suggests, Palm Springs Geothermal Pool Complex is all 1960s retro inspiration without the California temperatures. There are three pools, all filled with naturally heated water drawn from deep underground. The coolest one is a pleasant 34ºC, with the rock pool reaching a balmy 42ºC.
If you’re simply looking for some ripping fun, a 20-minute drive southeast of the city will have you arriving at Rainbow’s End. This theme park is big on adrenaline, with rides like the Stratosphere, which has a 360-degree rotation and a height of 30 metres. There’s plenty of tamer fun to be had too, with dodgem cars, go karts, bumper boats and a sideshow alley. During June and July, book Winter Lights Twilight or Night Rides to finish the day off with a bang.
The Call of the Ocean
You’re right… It’s far too cold to be thinking of plunging beneath the waves, but there is something romantic about a deserted, windswept beach. West of Auckland are a string of improbably beautiful beaches. Visitors of a certain age may remember Jane Campion’s movie The Piano, and they can be on Karekare Beach, where many of the outdoor scenes were shot, in less than an hour. Just a 15-minute walk from the beach will take you to Karekare Falls. Just south is Whatipu Beach, with its epic dunes, craggy headlands and vast stretches of sand. Chances are, you’ll be the only ones for miles.
If you fancy a long drive to take in the scenery, point the rental car towards Matapouri Bay. This jewel in the Northland region is about a three-hour drive from the city. Its sweep of white sand is as pretty as a picture, but when the weather turns cold, it’s all but deserted. You can explore the rock pools undisturbed and take a walk along a headland trail. When you’re ready to warm up, head to Matapouri Bay Store for a hot parcel of fish and chips.
Ready to discover Auckland and its surrounds in winter? First, you should hire a rental car.