One thing you quickly learn when travelling is that locals are invariably keen to show you around their stomping ground. I’m the same way. There’s lots of things that frustrate me about living in Auckland/New Zealand (and by jove do I invoke the rights to voice them over and over again), but I always get super excited when I hear someone is coming to visit.
The fact is, nobody comes to New Zealand for the cities. You come for the outdoors. The Lord of the Rings scenery. The lakes, the bush, the mountains. To hike, ski, surf, skydive.
But odds are you’ll fly into Auckland, and though we may not have amazing shopping or eating or weather, we have some reasonably cool things to keep you occupied at least for a day or two.
I was shocked (MULLETED!) to learn from Solo Wayfarer, who recently stopped through, that Lonely Planet recommends the Waikumete Cemetery in West Auckland. This is not Paris, or New Orleans, where at least there are legit reasons to go visit the graveyards … I know Auckland isn’t the most exciting metropolis in the world, but I promise, we have more interesting sights to offer. I’m not going to present an itinerary here, because travel is so highly individual, but I have attempted to put together a shopping list, if you like, of various points of interest in Auckland. Mix and match! Then come visit!
In the CBD
Waterfront – you can’t visit without strolling the harbour. Check out Silo Park, Queen’s Wharf, etc
Britomart -not just a downtown station anymore, it’s a somewhat lively hub of shops and stuff
Queen St – our main drag, and some of the side streets like Vulcan Lane and High St
Aotea Square – take the obligatory photo with the Maori arch and snap the Town Hall next door
SkyCity – I’ve never been up it, but it’s one of those touristy (and expensive) things to do
Albert Park – it sure ain’t Central Park, but it’s our little oasis of green
Victoria Park Market – another shopping area that’s recently been revitalised
We got a few of these. The most famous are:
Mt Eden – with the panoramic views and deep crater we used to play in as kids
One Tree Hill – now No Tree Hill, and surrounding Cornwall Park
I can’t imagine why any international visitors would want to shop in Auckland, but if you do, you could try:
Ponsonby – hip cafes and boutiques
Newmarket – our equivalent of Fifth Avenue?
Parnell – a historic area that retains a village feel
La Cigale – the best thing about Parnell is this French style market
Otara - THE flea market in Auckland
Avondale - a close runner up
Clevedon - a little slice of country and an awesome farmer’s market
Auckland Night Markets – at various locations
If you’ve got a hankering to burn money, catch a ferry to:
Waiheke – you might spot sea life on the way across. Once you’re there, walk or bike around, drink some wine, take tons of photos
Devonport - a quaint little neighbourhood on the North Shore, a much shorter ride but you’ll still get lovely harbour views
Wild wild west
The best of the west can be summed up in three words: Beach. Bush. Waterfalls.
Think black sand, big surf, dramatic cliffs and rocks. Raw and majestic. It’s never as busy here as it is at, say, Mission Bay or Long Bay, which is awesome. The main beach is Piha, with Karekare right next door. Bethell’s, Muriwai and Whatipu are even less crowded options. There are plenty of walking/tramping tracks around, which’ll take you winding through the bush and often to waterfalls and waterholes. So worth it if you have time.
A little further afield: the idyllic north
Matakana – a charming little town with a farmer’s market, pubs and a divine ice cream place
Puhoi – where you must visit the Cheese Store and Tea Rooms
Goat Island - the place to snorkel
Tawharanui – secluded, white shores, well worth the drive
Last but not least, we gotta talk about food…
I’m not really into fine dining – which is just as well, since I don’t really earn an income commensurate to such tastes. For that kind of thing, I’ll refer you to Metro’s annual Top 50 list (of which I have visited six, and only been impressed by about half of those). I do like Cazador, which is sort of mid-scale but not super ritzy. My palate skews strongly Asian, though I do also adore Italian and Mexican – it’s just that the latter two are a LOT thinner on the ground here.
For Chinese – try our de facto Chinatown along Dominion Rd is bursting with noodles and dumplings
Malaysian – my favourite by miles is KK Malaysian in Epsom, but there are many other good ones
Indian – tons of options again, I like Satya and for vegetarian fare, Jai Jalaram Khaman
Ice cream – If you can find fresh fruit ice cream, say, on a random country road, go for it. But in Auckland, Kohu Rd has a cafe quite literally around the corner from our house, so I would consider it my civic duty to bring you there (give me an excuse!) and Giapo is pricey but tasty gelato right bang in the middle of Queen St in town.
Seafood – The Auckland Fish Markets aren’t just a place to buy fresh fish – there’s a few restaurants there, too
Finally, you have to visit a humble neighbourhood bakery. No, not like The Fridge in Kingsland or Pyrenees in Mt Albert. You gotta get out into proper suburbia (as a guide, beyond the limits of the Outer Link bus route). I don’t think I can overstate how unfancy a typical suburban bakery is; you just have to experience it. Buy a mince and cheese (or steak) pie, and feel like a local as you eat it.