Auckland is not only the main gateway to New Zealand, but also a common stopover point when flying with Air New Zealand between Australia and the Americas. Auckland is a cool city, and just on your doorstep you’ll have access to volcanoes, beaches, wineries, national parks and even sites from the Lord of the Rings films. So it’s well worth breaking up your trip by spending a few days in Auckland!
Whether you’re just in transit or staying for a few nights, this AFF guide will help you to make the most of your Auckland stopover.
How to get from Auckland Airport to the city
Auckland Airport is located around 20km from the CBD. In good traffic, the trip takes around half an hour by taxi… but often takes longer as the roads can get busy.
There are no train services to Auckland Airport. SkyBus does operate in Auckland, with fares from Auckland Airport to downtown costing NZD19 (~$18) one-way. The trip to North Harbour costs NZD25 (~$24). A cheaper but longer alternative is to catch a public bus to Onehunga or Papatoetoe train stations, and catch a train to Britomart (the central station) from there.
Uber is available at Auckland Airport and there is now a designated Uber pick-up area. As another cheaper alternative to taxis, kermatu recommends the Super Shuttle service which operates on a shared basis with fixed fares.
In terms of transport to/from the city nothing beats SuperShuttle. Extremely reliable. Used about 60 times and only once was there no shuttle waiting at the airport on arrival into airport which led to a 20 minute wait. Otherwise 100% on time / availability. Recent price drop from $35 to $25 cash for a solo traveller airport to city or vv. ($26 if by credit card). Cheaper per person if more than one.
Things to do in and around Auckland
When you’re not enjoying some of the city’s many fine restaurants during your Auckland stopover, you can get some great views from the Sky Tower. There are of course plenty of art galleries and museums, too. If it’s your first time visiting the city, Auckland Free Walking Tours offers guided tours on a tips-only basis.
Outside of the CBD, Ponsonby is also a great spot for bars and restaurants. Or, head along the waterfront to the lively beachside suburb of Mission Bay.
Just a short ferry ride from downtown Auckland are Devonport and the islands of Waiheke and Rangitoto. Both islands are great for day trips and offer quite unique experiences. Waiheke Island is famous for its outstanding wineries, restaurants, markets and beaches. On the other hand, Rangitoto Island is a volcano with no permanent residents or shops on the island, and offers some great walking trails, including to the summit where you’ll have a great view over Auckland. If you’d prefer to look around from the comfort of a vehicle, there are also guided Volcanic Explorer tours available on Rangitoto Island.
For some beautiful Kiwi nature, the Huana Range Regional Park is less than an hour away from the city. Denali writes…
If you have 3hrs to spend or on the way to the airport, Hunua Falls. It’s about 45mins by car and super easy to access. Postcard photo OP.
If you have a full day to spare during your Auckland stopover, you could even hire a car and drive to the set of Hobbiton, near the town of Matamata. There are guided tours of the movie location available and it’s a lot of fun, especially for Lord of the Rings fans. The drive from Auckland to Matamata is also a very pleasant trip (once you’ve got out of Auckland’s city traffic).
There are some train services in Auckland but these are of limited use to tourists. You’ll probably find it easier to get around using buses and ferries. You can purchase an AT HOP card (similar to an Opal, Myki or Go card) and use this to pay for most public transport.
Where to stay near Auckland Airport
If you have a late arrival or early departure from Auckland during your stopover, the convenience of the Novotel Auckland Airport hotel is unbeatable. This hotel can be expensive, but it’s located in the carpark right outside the international airport terminal. kermatu writes…
For accommodation near the airport the Novotel Auckland Airport is exceptional. It is a bit pricey but worth it for convenience and cost-saving getting to the city.
I timed it once as 40 seconds from exiting the international customs arrival doors to standing at the Novotel’s reception desk to check-in. I can’t think of a more convenient airport hotel. Direct, flat walk across two pedestrian crossings and you are there.
Rooms are modern, well equipped, very quiet (other than corridor noise) and with great bathrooms. As an Accor Platinum I am always upgraded to the Exec floor with good views and often the suites, but every room is good in my experience.
There are a range of cheaper budget hotels located within a short drive of Auckland Airport. Many of these are connected to the airport by the “yellow bus” which operates a loop service from the airport to nearby hotels at regular intervals. Yellow bus tickets cost $6.
The best Auckland Airport lounges
In the international terminal of Auckland Airport, both Air New Zealand and Emirates operate excellent lounges. Unfortunately, the opening hours of the Emirates Lounge are limited. If you’re flying Qantas as a Gold, Platinum or Platinum One member, you are entitled to use the Emirates Lounge but this is only open for a few hours prior to each Emirates flight departure. If you’re flying at another time (such as early in the morning), you’ll be relegated to the inferior Qantas lounges which are in desperate need of refurbishment.
The international Strata Lounge is used by Virgin Australia and is also available to Priority Pass members. This lounge is nothing special but perfectly adequate.
In the domestic terminal, only Air New Zealand operates lounges. There is a very nice airside lounge, as well as a smaller regional lounge available to passengers on regional flights that don’t have to clear security screening. Access is available if you’re flying on Air New Zealand and you have Star Alliance status or a Koru Club membership. You can also get Air NZ lounge access as a Qantas Gold, Platinum or Platinum One member if you’re booked on a domestic Air New Zealand codeshare flight marketed by Qantas (with a “QF” flight number). Qantas codeshares on domestic Air New Zealand flights are only available in conjunction with an international booking on Qantas, and cannot be booked as standalone flights.
Do you have a great Auckland stopover tip to share? Join the discussion on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum: Auckland (AKL) Stopover Tips
P.S. We’ve recently added 12 new cities to our Stopover Guides forum! Do you have a great stopover recommendation about Perth, Brisbane, Manila, Nadi, Guangzhou, Honolulu, Bali, Tokyo, Frankfurt or Kuala Lumpur that other travellers might find useful? Add your suggestions to the dedicated thread for that airport, and your advice could make it into another AFF Stopover Guide article!