The Ultimate Guide to Backpacking in Auckland
Welcome to the Auckland Region, a land of volcanoes, forested hills, regional parks, beaches, islands and New Zealand’s largest city. Not only does Auckland stretch out into the waters of the Hauraki Gulf, but the whole region encompasses many different landscapes. For this reason, Auckland makes for an amazing backpacking destination.
Known as the “City of Sails”, all around the coast of Auckland you’ll see the water covered in boats. At one point, it was said that there was one boat to every three Aucklanders. The coastline is also a drawcard with its white sand beaches found in the suburbs.
But the boats are not only what Auckland is famous for. The city is easily identified by its iconic Sky Tower, which stands tall and proud as the tallest building in the Southern Hemisphere. There are some more natural forms that stand tall around the city too, as Auckland has 48 volcanic cones. So take a look at the backpacker guide below to see what the incredibly varied region of Auckland has to offer for backpacking!
Things You Can’t Miss in Auckland
- Experience Auckland Central nightlife with weekly backpacker events
- While you’re bar hopping, you’ll likely see the Sky Tower lit up – or, head up to the top to check out the views (more info and book tickets on Viator, Tripadvisor, Klook or KKday)
- Explore the islands out in the Hauraki Gulf; walk on Auckland’s youngest volcano and discover beautiful beaches on Waiheke Island
- Choose from many beaches along North Shore‘s coast
- Head to the suburbs, whether it’s walking in the rainforest of the Waitakere Ranges or shopping too much in the inner suburbs and Sylvia Park.
And that’s just a taste! Check out some amazing experiences (that are still kind to the backpacker budget) in the 20 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Auckland. Or go all out and discover the best of all activities in the 25 Best Things to Do in Auckland.
Backpacking in Auckland Central
With towering buildings, it can sometimes feel like Auckland City is in its own little bubble. Especially because Auckland Central has snippets of everything. There’s all the convenient services, shops, entertainment venues and nightlife, plus, plenty of squares and big green open spaces. The Auckland Domain is the largest of these green areas. A number of walks take you through wooded areas that you would never think could exist in a city!
Things to Do in Auckland Central
- Check out Maori carvings, WWII memorabilia and more at the Auckland War Memorial Museum (get your ticket on Klook, Viator or Tripadvisor)
- Take the ferry to Devonport to explore the WWII tunnels at North Head and swim at Cheltenham Beach
- Climb up Mt Eden for amazing city and island views
- HIke the Coast to Coast Trail for a true backpacking experience in the city
- Explore the bushwalks and Winter Garden in the Auckland Domain.
With a whole lot of backpacker hostels, no doubt you’ll find yourself staying in Auckland Central at some point. Don’t waste your time here; check out what there is to do with our guide, Auckland Central – Guide for Backpackers.
Auckland nightlife is as if it has been made for backpackers with a super cheap bar crawl and backpacker events. Just check out our Guide to Auckland Nightlife for more information.
Backpacking the Hauraki Gulf Islands
From the downtown Ferry Building – a big orange building easily spotted from the end of Queen Street – you can take a ferry ride to one of the islands of the Hauraki Gulf. Around 50 islands are dotted around the Hauraki Gulf, part of the Pacific Ocean that lies next to Auckland. Check them all out in our Auckland Hauraki Gulf – Guide for Backpackers or The 10 Best Islands in Auckland to Visit. Otherwise, here’s a quick rundown…
Rangitoto Island and Motutapu Island
A highlight is Rangitoto Island, Auckland’s youngest volcano, which offers amazing bush walks over black volcanic rock. Find out more in The Guide to Rangitoto Island and Motutapu Island.
For beaches and vineyards, head to Waiheke Island. This island is civilised with bars, activities, fun methods of transport, and relaxing beaches. There’s so much to do, so be sure to see Waiheke Island – Guide for Backpackers.
Great Barrier Island
Excellent backpacking that is way off the beaten track is at Great Barrier Island. It may take a 4h30min (off-season) or a 2-hour (peak season) ferry ride to get there, but with so much to discover like natural thermal pools and the scenic coast, it is worth the journey. And guess what, we have a guide for that too: Great Barrier Island – Guide for Backpackers.
Tiritiri Matangi Island
New Zealand has some incredible native wildlife, which is best seen at Tiritiri Matangi. See the 3-eyed lizard and a “living dinosaur”, the tuatara, the takahe with its shocking blue feathers, and the little blue penguin. Learn more about the island and book ferry tickets on Viator, Tripadvisor or Klook.
For more information on these incredible islands, take a look at Auckland Hauraki Gulf – Guide for Backpackers.
Backpacking Auckland North Shore
Moving into the upper suburbs of Auckland, North Shore is the area you arrive in when you cross the Harbour Bridge from Auckland Central. Alternatively, take a quick ferry ride across the water from the downtown Ferry Building.
Delve into the World War Two tunnels in North Head, Devonport. North Head also offers great views looking back on the Auckland skyline and over to Rangitoto Island. Venturing further north, go shopping in Takapuna and take a bushwalk in Birkenhead at Le Roys Bush Reserve or the Birkenhead Domain.
Finally, with 20 beaches lining the North Shore coast, you can pretty much take your pick on what water activity you want to do. It’s not uncommon to see paddleboarders and kayakers out on the water. Take the North Shore Coastal Walk to make sure you hit all of the beaches. A lot of the beaches on the east coast are especially scenic with the distinct volcanic shaped Rangitoto Island out in the distance.
Discover more about North Shore in our guide, Auckland North Shore – Guide for Backpackers.
Backpacking in the Other Suburbs of Auckland
The Auckland suburbs stretch far and wide in the Auckland region. 13 suburbs are divided between 5 districts. Within some districts, there is wilderness, walks and waterfalls, while in others there’s shopping and entertainment. We have a whole separate guide to the suburb, which you can check out at Auckland Suburbs – Guide for Backpackers. Otherwise, here’s what’s going on there to see if it’s worth the backpacking mission!
The Best Auckland Inner Suburbs
The inner suburbs mainly offer alternative shopping than what is found in Auckland Central. However, there are volcanic cones to climb in Mt Eden and One Tree Hill and birds to feed at Western Springs.
Going further over yonder, there’s the district of Manukau, which is likely to be the first and/or last place you go to in New Zealand, because this is where New Zealand’s busiest airport is. As well as catching your flight, you can catch a theme park ride at Rainbow’s End, and shop in the large shopping centre, Sylvia Park.
Rodney and Franklin
You’re always close to the sea in Auckland, but the best place to go for beaches is Rodney, where its coast has wildlife from a gannet colony at Muriwai to a superb snorkelling spot off Goat Island. The best surf beaches can be found at Waitakere, especially at the renowned Piha black sand beach. Waitakere also holds waterfalls and rainforest in the Waitakere Ranges. Find out more in Waitakere Ranges – Guide for Backpackers. More walks can be found in the Hunua Ranges in Franklin, Auckland’s southernmost district.
Like we said, we have much more information on backpacking the Auckland suburbs over on Auckland Suburbs – Guide for Backpackers.
More About Backpacking in Auckland
That’s it for our guide to backpacking in the Auckland region but by no means the end of our backpacking advice. Check out the following guides for more tips!
- Auckland City Centre – Guide for Backpackers
- Auckland North Shore – Guide for Backpackers
- Auckland Suburbs – Guide for Backpackers
- Auckland Hauraki Gulf – Guide for Backpackers
- The Travel Guide to Auckland on a Budget
Finally, make sure to bookmark our essential 30 Tips for Backpacking in New Zealand and plan the rest of your trip using the New Zealand Backpacking Itinerary: Three Weeks or North Island Backpacking Itinerary: Two Weeks.