When you arrive in Auckland to start your New Zealand vacation, your first thought may be to head straight out of town for the North Island’s greener pastures. But don’t make that mistake -- the country’s largest city is often overlooked, allowing its lovely waterfront, revamped historical centers, and islands of Hauraki Gulf to go unvisited. If you have one day to spare, fill it with this on-foot itinerary (and don't forget to pack those walking shoes!).
Viaduct Harbour Waterfront
Walk north from Victoria Park Market to Viaduct Harbour, formerly known as Viaduct Basin, where a collection of upscale apartments, bars, and eateries line the waterfront walkways. The area (which once hosted the America’s Cup) provides a pretty place to work off your breakfast. Along the water, check out sleek yachts in the marina and enjoy views of the harbor -- the best place to start is the Auckland Fish Market -- then stroll in an eastern direction toward the Ferry Building.
Next to the Ferry Building, pop into the Fullers tour kiosk to buy a ferry ticket to Waiheke Island ($36 NZD or about $28 USD round-trip). Depending on the day of the week, the ferry departs approximately every hour and takes about 40 minutes. An oasis of rolling hills, vineyards, and beaches, Waiheke Island is not to be missed, and while many visitors spend a couple of days there, it’s very easy to do an afternoon trip. If you’re up for it, walk on scenic hiking trails from the Matiatia ferry terminal to nearby wineries Cable Bay and Mudbrick, or buy an all-day bus pass for $10 NZD. The village of Oneroa is the perfect spot for lunch.
Return to Auckland by ferry -- yes, they run throughout the evening -- and reward your sightseeing efforts with a well-deserved beverage or two at Britomart, a 16-acre shopping and dining precinct that lies between the waterfront and downtown Auckland. Housed within a network of restored heritage buildings are designer shops, trendy bars and restaurants, cobblestoned lanes, and outdoor gathering spaces. Try Little Sazerac for vintage-inspired cocktails like a Smokey Old Fashion or, you guessed it, a Sazerac. You can also head to Brew on Quay for craft beer on a rooftop terrace.