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Auckland staycation – Art & heritage exploration

Find and explore outdoor military sites from the beginnings of human occupation of New Zealand to 1880’s Russian scare, New Zealand Land Wars and World Wars. Absorb the stories buried in historic cemeteries and the tales they tell about their occupants.

Short break ideas

Duration: 4 days
Start Auckland
Finish Auckland

Best time for Auckland heritage short break

Year round as many attractions are indoors.


Military service sector, Waikumete cemetery, Auckland, New Zealand
Military service sector, Waikumete cemetery, NZ
  • Chance to enjoy the company of locals who enthusiasm for the heritage of Auckland spills over in knowing the location of a truly great ice cream outlet
  • Howick a historic village where the past is captured in buildings, objects and artefacts wrapped around 7 acres of beautifully landscaped gardens
  • Wander through a historic cemetery or two among vintage roses, Victorian fenced graves and sculptures and image the horrors of the 1919 influenza pandemic which took millions of lives
  • Linger in a world class art gallery in Auckland’s city centre and enjoy Auckland’s heritage stories in the Auckland War Memorial Museum
  • Catch a ferry and explore Hauraki Gulf Islands and find military installations harking back to the Russian scares of the 19th century

In a day Auckland city centre heritage sites

Wander the city centre identifying buildings of heritage interest from an original 1920’s shopping mall to the exquisite detail in historic church windows and imposing public buildings from the Chief Post Office. Enjoy gazing at the Edwardian Auckland town hall.

.. READ MORE Auckland heritage buildings

For visitors who wish to glean insights from a professional guide join Auckland Walky tours on a private tour to discover its legends, landmarks and best places to eat. Stroll the lanes, hop on the locals’ bus, and hear entertaining stories at the heart of the city, on our top-rated Auckland walking tours. Personal and focused on your interests creates memorable moments.

Britomart Former Chief Post Office, now Britomart Transport Centre, Auckland, New Zealand
Britomart Former Chief Post Office, now Britomart Transport Centre, Auckland, NZ

In a day explore museums and galleries

Voyage and Discovery is woven into Aotearoa New Zealand’s human story. From Kupe 1000 years ago navigating the Pacific ocean to the turmoil of the 18th and 19th century, contemporary identity is migration, extraordinary journeys and new lives.


Auckland Museum


Explore the early journeys to New Zealand and discover the importance of the Pacific. New Zealand, a thread of islands in the southern Pacific ocean is shaped by the sea and the land.

Top sights Auckland Museum

  • Maori and Pacific cultural values, life stories and their role in discovering Aotearoa New Zealand is illustrated with heritage buildings, intact objects and detailed displays
  • Art and crafts from the Auckland region and elsewhere
  • The story of settlement in the Auckland region
  • Military heritage and stories
  • Domestic life snapshots with memorabilia, objects and visual displays


Allow up to ½ day exploring the collections.

… read more about the Auckland Domain Gardens

Auckland Museum is nestled within the Auckland Domain Gardens  with its cafes, Victorian glasshouses, walks and proximity to the Newmarket shopping district. Slowly explore lush subtropical gardens, create year round flora magic and seasonal treats from leaf fall to spring growth and renewal. Auckland’s spectacular gardens are within a stone’s throw of the city and easily accessible. Pop the gardens on your bucket list as places to visit. Check out garden locations and how to get there and remember to pack a picnic lunch for a day in Auckland’s natural spaces. Check out 10 gardens to visit in Auckland, things to do – Best Bits.


Auckland Stardome Observatory


Matariki – Maori New Year

Stardome Observatory is where the traditional Maori celestial observations are explained. Ngā whetū (the stars), ngā aorangi (the planets), and the many stories written in our night skies passed down from generation to generation. There are daily celestial navigation sessions  presented in the 360° planetarium theatre illustrating Southern hemisphere stars and constellations as seen from New Zealand.


Stardome is located inside Maungakiekie (One Tree Hill Domain), Auckland.


Daily: Admission fees apply.


  • Stardome’s entrance, planetarium, and toilets are wheelchair accessible
  • The planetarium has space for 3-4 wheelchairs depending on size and type
  • The Zeiss telescope is not wheelchair accessible and has four steps leading up to it


For further information and up to date opening hours and bookings check out Stardome Observatory and Planetarium.


Museum of the Royal New Zealand Navy

Relish time spent exploring a heritage suburb with its drawcard of one of New Zealand’s top specialist museums, Torpedo Museum, Devonport.

Devonport Naval Museum objects, Auckland, New Zealand
Devonport Naval Museum objects, NZ

Top sights of theTorpedo Naval Museum, Devonport

  • A family outing or a day exploring a Victorian suburb with a fascinating naval history
  • A museum with interactive exhibits, factsheets for younger viewers
  • Engagement with audiences with personal stories and memorabilia bringing the story of the New Zealand navy to life


Allow several hours exploring the museum. For fans of military history combine with a walking tour of nearby North Head Scenic Reserve


Maungauika/ North Head Park (Devonport)

North Head in Devonport was used as a coastal defence installation by the military. It features a 360-degree view, taking in the city, the North Shore, the Hauraki Gulf and Waitemata Harbour. The old tunnels, gun turrets are open to the public to explore. North Head or Maungauika is a good photo opportunity to view sunsets over Auckland city.

Opening hours: Every day 6am–10pm Opening hours are subject to change without notice.

Devonport historic northhead gun emplacements, New Zealand
Auckland's North Shore from North Head Historic Reserve, Devonport, NZ

Auckland Art Gallery Toi O Tamaki

The superb art gallery is testament to architectural creativity where the old and new are merged into a building that embraces the outside with views of Albert park as well pays homage to the gallery’s Victorian origins.


Before you enter the gallery look carefully at the art installations embedded into the building fabric.

Auckland Art Gallery exhibit using Albert Park to showcase the exhibt's message, Auckland, New Zealand
Auckland Art Gallery exhibit using Albert Park to showcase the exhibt's message, NZ

Top sights of the Auckland Art Gallery

  • Dynamic revolving guest collections as well as a permanent collection are the basis of the Auckland Art Gallery, Toi O Tamaki collection
  • World renowned Aotearoa New Zealand artists Charles Goldie, Ralph Hotere and Colin McCahon have permanent places in the public display area
  • Auckland Art Gallery holds a large and significant permanent collection of New Zealand art

Gift shop & cafe

Exhibitions offer visitors a chance to purchase a souvenir of their visit as well as there is an extensive collection of made in England art and craft objects. There is a cafe onsite.

Auckland War Memorial Museum known as Auckland Museum Tāmaki Paenga Hira

A landmark location above the Auckland Domain Gardens is the neo-classical Auckland War Memorial Museum. Neo- classical Greek revival style with its pillars and sense of stern dignity belies the contemporary take on Aotearoa New Zealand’s past, present and future inside the grand revolving entrance. The Grand Atrium is a bowl shaped welcome where Maori cultural activities take place, visitors are welcomed with the cafe and gift shop nearby.

Auckland War Memorial Museum top sights

  • Significant research library for materials relating to Aotearoa New Zealand and the Pacific
  • Superb family and friends programme engaging audiences in revolving exhibits and on loan exhibitions
  • Within the precinct of the Auckland Domain Gardens and the picturesque Auckland Historic Cricket Pavilion

Decorative arts and pictorial collections add to the richness of the collections which have, in part, been overshadowed by the glamorous Te Papa, Aotearoa New Zealand’s National Museum located in the capital, Wellington.

Opening hours

Daily from 10.00 am to 5.00 pm (except Christmas Day) with an admission fee for overseas visitors.

Auckland domain and War Memorial museum with residential suburb on the background. Auckland, New Zealand
Auckland domain and War Memorial museum with residential suburb on the background, NZ

Alberton Heritage Farmhouse – Auckland city centre

The city gradually swallowed up the land and the farmhouse with its acres was subdivided. Left is a grand mansion echoing the former glory of a magnificent turreted homestead nestled in the shadow of the gardens it once occupied.

Alberton Farmhouse, Auckland, NZ side view of garden from front entrance, Auckland, New Zealand
Alberton Farmhouse, Auckland, NZ

Top sights

  • Beautifully maintained colonial homestead dressed to impress with a ballroom, dining room and bedrooms
  • The story of a servant’s life is aptly illustrated with a steep narrow staircase leading to a spartan attic room
  • Dairy equipment, a well and laundry are testament to the hard physical labour required to operate a farm in the 19th century

For more details about Alberton, check out Alberton, Auckland Historic Homestead.

And there is plenty more to explore check out Auckland City Heritage Attractions.

In a day explore Howick Historic Village

Heritage fans are in for a treat. Discover a Heritage village, complete with original dwellings replicating the life of mid-19thc soldiers & settlers in the Auckland suburb of Howick.

Howick Historic Village top sights

  • Immerse yourself in a 19thc village atmosphere complete with vegetable plots, recreated domestic settings
  • Picnic in the 7 aces among shady trees, pond and extensive flowering borders
  • Enjoy meeting and greeting costumed volunteers on live days where settler lives are reenacted

Howick Historical Village

Explore the early settlement of Howick as it was in the mid to late 1800s. Open the doors of real homes. See how the early settlers would have lived as they went about their daily activities. Visitors will be struck by a life defined by sunrise and sunset where lighting was a weak fluttering raupo rush light and water was carried in buckets from an outdoor well. Sustainability and waste not, want not were the guiding principle of daily life.

… Learn more Howick Living Village 


Allow several hours to leisurely stroll the 7 acre gardens and buildings. There is a cafe on site.

Howick Historical Village fencible soliders campsite, Auckland, New Zealand
Howick Historical Village fencible soliders campsite, Auckland, NZ

In a day find out where the bodies are buried

Children, Waikumete cemetery, Auckland, New Zealand
Waikumete cemetery, NZ

Cemeteries where the bodies are buried is a contemplative place of quiet with planted trees, shady spots to rest. Relax and take in the history etched on gravestones. Auckland delivers with two historic cemeteries worth a detour.

Waikumete cemetery

A place to walk the dog, mull over the lives of people in the 1880’s, relate to the fear and sadness caused by the 1919 Influenza Epidemic, think about the natural burial reserve and find an awe moment as you stroll among the tombstones of Waikumete Cemetery. Waikumete Cemetery is an open burial ground hence visitors are requested to respect the wishes of mourners. Naturalised plants and a sense of timelessness peramates the spaces with plenty of opportunity to take a seat and take in the views.


Combine your cemetery strolls with an exploration of Auckland’s west coast with the fascinating Titirangi Te Uru Art Gallery and beyond.

Waikumete cemetery to Titiarangi

Where to eat & drink


Chelsea Sugar Factory cafe (Bookings essential)

Fun, funky and the theme pink is on overload. Even the car park has a pink theme with the car park bays painted pink, naturally.

Chelsea Sugar Factory cafe top sights

  • Heritage park with stunning views of the Waitemata Harbour, Auckland city skyline and yachts
  • Interesting factory tour of a working heritage sugar factory
  • Delicious cakes confections using sugar from the factory

For more information check out Where to eat & drink in Auckland’s heritage locations. Get into the 1840’s with brunch / lunch and anything in between in a rustic heritage cottage or ornate 19th century opulent homestead.


For more day trip ideas in the Auckland area check out 5 Heritage Regional Parks near Auckland, day trip: guide by Best Bits.

In a day military history buffs – where to go in Auckland

Discover forgotten military bunkers, forts, memorials and museums. Explore the story of Aotearoa New Zealand at war and peace. Auckland, as one of the largest cities in New Zealand, took its defence seriously. From the 1880’s scare of Russian invasion to World War gun bunkers were viewed as the first line of defence. Often defence installations have stupendously superb views with a panoramic sweep of Auckland’s harbours and waterways.

… READ MORE Auckland military trails


Travel pack information

Nitty gritty, Auckland travel facts, getting around and the best location to stay in Auckland.


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