The Rugby World Cup-winning team entered the arrivals area to be met by cheering crowds.
The crowd, some in face paint and All Blacks shirts, cheered wildly as Richie McCaw lifted the Web Ellis Cup.
One fan, Cheryl, got up before dawn to travel from Tuakau, in the Waikato, for the welcome.
She said the excitement of seeing the team was worth the early wake-up.
"This is the first time I've been here to welcome them home and I think they're a fabulous team.
"You can't beat them. And I think Richie McCaw has been the greatest leader for this team ever, so I'm going to miss seeing him with the team if he leaves."
RNZ's John Campbell was at the airport and told Morning Report that among the crowd were children who had been waiting for hours to see their heroes.
"It was deafeningly raucous, and kind of joyful .... this morning was something special, I think because it simply arose from the desire of people to be here - it wasn't choreographed, it wasn't orchestrated it was just folk turning out."
He said the All Blacks looked at bit stunned at the huge reception and Richie McCaw and Ma'a Nonu said they were "stoked".
The crowds were large enough that police and the airport company warned about potential traffic delays.
Meanwhile Prime Minister John Key told Morning Report he had not spoken to McCaw about a knighthood.
"I haven't talked to him about it deliberately because I don't think he would take it unless he's retiring, and I've absolutely no idea if he is retiring or not.
"I see there's media speculation, but I am quite mates with him, and I wouldn't want to put him in a position where I asked him a question where he'd feel he'd need to answer, and I don't think I should do that. He'll make his own call in terms of what he's doing in his playing career and he'll publicly say that."
The All Blacks won the hard-fought World Cup final against Australia on Sunday 34 - 17.
The team, and the Webb Ellis Cup, are to have their formal Auckland welcome at an event which starts at Victoria Park at 11am, with players due to arrive about midday.
Organisers of the welcome at Victoria Park said it would go ahead no matter what the weather was like. There have been some heavy showers in Auckland so far this morning.
An organiser said people might need their gumboots, but the event's starting time would not change.
Auckland mayor Len Brown said he was expecting an enthusiastic response for the celebration.
There will be similar public events in Christchurch tomorrow, and Wellington on Friday.