Took a penny tour of Downtown Auckland on an 8 hour layover!
If you arrived at the airport, you may be surprised to find that the Sky Bus is probably the easiest way to get to downtown Auckland. For $39NZD, you can buy a round trip ticket from the airport. Both Sky Bus lines will make the same loop route through the center of the city, giving you close access to the piers and to the Sky Tower, the tallest manmade structure in the southern hemisphere.
The Aqueduct Basin is full of popular restaurants and bars, and is also home to the New Zealand Maritime Museum. Unfortunately for me, none of this was open when I arrived early in the morning, around 8:00am… Understandably, plenty of people were on their way to work as it was Monday. Boat tours to other islands near Auckland are found at the docks. In case you want to take the metro around town, the Brittomart station is found near the docks.
Downtown Auckland is a little hilly at times. It actually reminds me of Downtown Los Angeles in that respect. That being said, there are a lot of shops that you can browse through on the street and in a couple of arcades as well. Just be sure you have your sneakers on to lug your stuff through a couple of inclines.
The Sky Tower
On that point, the Sky Tower is practically on top of a hill. This makes sense, as the main point of this tower is to provide excellent views of the city! In order to go up the tower, you actually have to go down some escalators first to a gift shop. The cashiers sell $29NZD tickets to go up the tower. You will go up to the observation deck, and if you’re lucky enough to get a sunny day like I did, you can see for miles!
There is also a Sky Café one floor down from the observation deck that you can access. Seeing as how it was mid-morning for me, I did get a little hungry for something breakfast-like, so I ordered a smoked salmon bagel and a chai latte. It was pretty neat to enjoy that overlooking the city.
You may get asked to buy a $39NZD photo book on the way out with a green screened picture of yourself that you had to take prior to ascending the sky tower. I didn’t have my wife on me for this mileage run to talk some sense into me. So, I caved…
Further Investigation Required
Given my layover, I did not have enough time to sightsee and to find something good to eat. So, I prioritized sightseeing as I figured that a lot of hip restaurants wouldn’t be open so early in the morning. To that end, I didn’t find much to sightsee in downtown Auckland. I thought about trying out the Maritime Museum, but I opted for the Sky Tower instead and was not disappointed! Hopefully next time, I get to try some of the nightlife!