Let’s be real, Aucklanders. Animals really are the way to our human hearts, there’s no denying it. Floppy-eared, fan-tailed, fluffy-pawed—whatever the creature, we love them all at The Urban List. So much so, that we’ve conjured up a little list of the best things to do in Auckland if you’re an animal lover (or, more of an obsess-er).
#1 Cat Cafes
If there’s one way to a person’s heart, it’s cake. And cats. Or even better: both at once. At Auckland’s BaristaCats Café and aptly named The Cat Lounge, you can have your cake, and eat it too—in the company of a bunch of purry, furry friends! Heaven. On. Earth. Sip on a warm, decadent creamy hot choccy while devouring a velvety slice of cake...with a warm, fuzzy kitty sprawled across your lap. A bite to eat will leave you wondering what we did to deserve cats and cake. Seriously people, we lucked out here.
#2 Cat Yoga
As if all the cat craze couldn’t get any better, there’s another feline-friendly frenzy to get around. Cat lovers and yogis, you’re gonna wanna get a chair and sit down for this one. Cat yoga is a thing, and it exists in Auckland. Not even joking. BaristaCats Café is literally answering aaaaall our feline-loving, foodie and now yogi prayers with their regular cat yoga classes on every Monday. From 5.30 pm you can get stretching-a-la-feline for a whole 45 minutes alongside our favourite furry friends, plus enjoy a refreshing bevvy and some q-time with the little meowsters at the end of it all. Meowmasté.
#3 Dog Beaches
Y’know what’s great about living on a long, thin and kinda wiggle-shaped island? The fact that it means we’re literally surrounded by beaches. Endless Beaches. One big, looong beach that just loops right round our country. How darn cool is that? Thankfully there’s a tonne of top-notch dog beaches that are friendly for our floppy-eared, furry friends! Grab ya hat, and the leash and head out to these beaches for a stroll that your pooch will love, and more importantly love you for. Don’t have a dog? Not to worry, will all the pups barking about these places, you’re bound to make a furry friend or two.
#4 Butterfly Creek
Sure, your home-grown swan plant might be the biggest and baddest on the block, and a hit with the local monarch butterflies, but can it attract a Papilio Polytes Common Mormon (and no, we’re not talking about door-knockers)? Butterfly Creek’s tropical hot house is the place to head to in order to get up close with some of the most weird and wonder fluttery friends ever. Not only do they have exotic flutterbyes here, it’s also home to some cold-blooded pals like frogs, lizards, an alligator and New Zealand’s only giant saltwater crocs. There’s also petting zoo with llamas, goats, bunnies, lambs (just not in the same enclosure, obvi).
#5 Auckland Zoo
The epitome of activities for animal-lover things to do in Auckland has got to be none other than Auckland’s very own Zoo. Where else can you find a whole savannah full of pride-land beauties and slushy muddy-creature infested lagoons, right in the heart of the city? From cheeky monkeys swinging from branch to branch to elephants having a wee splash in the pool and tigers chillaxing in the sun—the Zoo is full of fun for us animal-lovers. Home to over 875 animals and sprawled over a whopping 16.35 hectares, a visit to the zoo is always a visit to remember—espesh if you opt to do a behind the scenes experience like hand-feed the red pandas and giant Galapagos Tortoise.
#6 Kelly Tarlton’s
What animal-lover hasn’t been to Auckland’s coolest sub-marine experience? Literally built underground and underwater, a trip to Kelly’s is the best thing for an animal fan to do in Auckland, and ultimate way to become one with aqua life. Here you can say hello to all kinds of scaly and slimy (sometimes downright spooky) sea creatures from the comfort of outside the aquarium. Or, if you’re feeling really game, get splashing with the sharks in a caged snorkel or a legit shark dive. Of course, not to be overlooked is the enclosure of uber cute widdle penguins, waddling about being their darn adorable selves. Just a heads up: you will ‘awwww’ out loud on multiple occasions.
#7 Stingrays At Whangaparaoa
While it’s not in the immediate city, greater northern Auckland is fantastic for animal-lovers. For some real-life encounters, head on up north to Whangaparaoa’s Gulf Harbour and get up close and personal with some of the coolest aquatic creatures about. This little greater-Auckland community is home to two mighty fine little stingrays that have been lovingly named Brutus and Stumpy by the locals. These cool guys along with their snapper, kingfish and other finned pals can usually be seen getting their feed at Pier Z in the afternoon after a hard day out doing… well, whatever stingrays and fish do all day. Grab ya fush food, prepare for a few splashes and head on up north for the feeding frenzy.
#8 Muriwai Gannet Colony
If you’re a true animal-lover and want to see nature in its absolute purest form, we’ve got just the spot for you. Venture on up to Muriwai Beach on Auckland’s West Coast for a truly amazing gannet encounter at the birds’ very own cliff-side colony. Here, not only will you get stunning views of the choppy West Coast sea, you’ll be able to gaze at, quite literally, the biggest bird squad you’ll ever see. We’re not talking about one or two of these feathered friends. Not even a whole family of gannets. We're talking about a whole flippin’ colony of oodles and oooodles of gannets—mums, dads, aunts, great-great-grandparents and seventh-cousins-twice-removed—they’re all there.
#9 Ambury Farm
Want to live out the country life but you also can’t bare to stray away from the city for long? We feel you on that. So when we need the smell of freshly cut hay and the sound of clucking spring chickens in our lives, Ambury Farm is the obvious option. With a huge range of farm animals on-site, this is a hot-spot is one of the best things to do in Auckland if you luuurve animals. It’s a total hit with families of all ages—because let’s face it, no one’s too old or too cool to pat cute little baby sheep. Chooks, sheep, cows, bulls, peacocks—the whole of Old MacDonald’s farm is here and it’s baah-mazing.
#10 Sheep World
Any guesses as to what fuzzy friends might be living here? Yep, you know it—it’s none other than our national animal (second to the kiwi, ofc), the humble sheep! A 45-minute drive out of Auckland and a visit to Sheep World will take you deep into the heart of our country’s farming culture. Here you can get up close and personal with the totez adorbs woolly creatures year round and even get the chance to feed the little lambies for your dose of ‘aaawww’. Not only that, you can dig deep into your kiwi roots and get in (well, errr, watch) all the action at a live sheep shearing show. You’ll come away cultured, cultivated and totally clued up on what basically is a national pastime for us Kiwis.
#11 Honey Centre
We know, teeechnically bees are insects. But whatevs, they ain’t human and we love them, so they’re getting their well-deserved place on this list anyhow. The Honey Centre is THE place to be if you’re a fan of these bizzy-buzzy little dudes (and/or the deliciously sweet treat they bless us with). A little bit out of the way for us Jafas, this mecca of honey is a sweet 45 mins drive out of the big smoke. Here you see the bees buzzing about around their hives, working their magic in the honeycomb and being all around good little workers. You can also taste your way around their sweet, sweet honey made on-site, and buy a range of honey and beeswax products to take home.
#12 Western Springs Park
Getting some fresh air in the city is an utter breeze with Western Springs being a stone’s throw from any inner-city ‘burb. In fact, it’s kinda hard to believe that this slice of tranquillity is smooshed between Point Chev and Grey Lynn. But hey, we’re not complaining one bit. With big lush trees and willows lining the park and sprawling lakes, this park is nothing less than post-card picturesque and makes for the most tranquil inner-city walks imaginable. With a gaggle of feisty geese and mischievous swans calling this place home, your wander through the ‘Springs is always guaranteed to be a memorable one too. Having your egg sandwich nicked or getting the fright of your life from an overzealous feathered friend is all part of the experience here.
#13 Tiritiri Matangi Island
Paradise island is indeed a place, and it’s in our backyard. Okay, well it’s not exactly right on our doorstep... it’s more of a car and a ferry ride away—but what’s important here is that we’ve found this total gem of a spot, which is preeeetty much the godfather of wildlife sanctuaries. From the moment you set foot onto this island, you’ll be truly enchanted by all the native and endangered species you’ll come across, as well as the serenade of bird songs you’ll be treated to. Get your boots on, grab your bird-watching binoculars, pack a picnic lunch and get on out to this island for the perfect day out taking in all the best nature and wildlife NZ has to offer.
#14 Goat Island
While this spot isn’t filled with goats (much to our disappointment too, we feel ya), it is home to a bunch of totally rad cold-blooded friends of the swimming variety. In fact, Goat Island is the most spectacular marine reserves in Auckland. Or NZ. Or really the whole world, for that matter. Here you’ll find snappers swimming alongside schools of sprats and you’ll even spot the odd jellyfish blubbering around the place. All the finned-folk in this reserve are protected and are totally at ease with humans, meaning you can swim and snorkel along-side them in crystal clear water taking in all of the beauty of the pristine underwater surroundings around you. It’s basically the ideal place to channel your inner Ariel and transform into the mermaid you always dreamed of.