TRAVELVINCE AUCKLAND TIPS
• Auckland is not a very big city, making it a nice place to explore on foot. However, know that most of the area is made of old volcanoes, so be ready to climb some very steep hills. I would rent a car to explore Piha Beach and Karekare Beach. And save at least half a day for Waiheke Island.
• The CBD is the busiest area but I would not stay there (Viaduct Harbour area is also extremely touristy). Prefer Mount Albert, Ponsonby or Parnell, which are more pleasant and still very much central. Some hotels I would recommend are Hotel deBrett and Pullman Auckland. I ended up staying at the North Shore, at VR Takapuna and quite liked it. Since I had a car, it was easy to drive into the city via the Harbour Bridge, with very scenic drives in and out of the city and a great many beaches for jogging.
• If I had had more time I would have stayed at least one night in Waiheke Island, preferably at Cable Bay Views. However, if you, just like me, do not stay there, go early so you can have lunch in one winery and dinner (at sunset) in another. Be ready to walk. At the Queens Wharf, I bought a combo ticket which included the ferry and the hop-on-hop-off bus on the island. It was well worth it. At the end of the tour, I stayed at the Mudbrick Winery for dinner and took a taxi for the last ferry into Auckland. Other wineries of note are Tantalus Estate and Cable Bay Vineyard.
• Two of the nicest areas for bars and restaurants are Vulcan Lane + Britomart and Ponsonby. Vulcan Lane is right by the CBD and you can walk down High Street or O’Connell Street until you reach the cool area of Britomart. Ponsonby is more residential, but Ponsonby Road is a heaven of indie stores, cafés, and restaurants. You will see more tourists at Britomart and more locals in Ponsonby.
• Buy a nice picnic hamper and head to Piha Beach for the day. Stop first at Karekare, with its black sands to see where some of the opening scenes of The Piano were filmed. Then move over to Piha (the drive is breathtaking) and enjoy the late afternoon sun there. It doesn’t take more than 45-50 minutes to drive back to Auckland. Beware that the roads in New Zealand, albeit in very good conditions, were not made for fast driving. A simple 100-kilometre journey takes around 1h30.
• Food in New Zealand is outstanding. Cheese, lamb, fruits, and coffee are to die for. Enjoy eating at nice restaurants. Kiwis are also very friendly and love to chit-chat.
• Shopping: I am not a bit shopping fan but love browsing. There are many beautiful shops along Ponsonby Road and in and around Britomart. If you are a fashion fanatic you must drive to the North Shore to visit The Department Store. By the way, buy some Whittaker’s Chocolate as well (and NZ wines, of course). However, when it comes to books and magazines, I go crazy. Browse little Unity Books on High Street near Vulcan Lane and the amazing Mag Nation on Ponsonby Road.
• Gibb’s Farm!!! This incredible sculpture park is a private property and opens once a month by prior arrangement. If you plan well ahead you can score a place in the visitor’s list and enjoy superb art! It is one of those places that if you manage to get your name on the list you go ahead and book the trip!
FAVORITE RESTAURANTS, CAFÉS & BARS IN AUCKLAND
In and around BRITOMART
Amano | my favorite, open all day long with in-cre-di-ble food and drinks !!!
Federal Delicatessen | NY-style deli to die for!
Culprit | because it is such a cool concept!
Meat Fish Wine | more on the fancy side for a nice glass of wine and tapas
The Occidental | down-to-earth Belgian restaurant with amazing moules frites
Housebar | for a nice cocktail in cozy surroundings (fireplace in winter)
Cassia | for amazing modern Indian food
Shaky Isles Coffee | for that perfect flat white
The Jefferson | sleek whiskey bar with tasty bites
Wine Chambers | if you want to impress and be impressed
In and around PONSONBY
Sidard Restaurant | for that high-end gastronomic extravaganza
Dizengoff | the place for brunch on weekends
Prego | because Italians are everywhere!!!
Mr Toms Kitchen and Bar | a very happening corner place
Allpress Coffee | try New Zealand’s most famous coffee brand
Little Bird Organics & the Unbakery | for feel-good food
Ponsonby Central | a great food destination with plenty of choices
The Blue Breeze Inn | South Pacific food at Ponsonby Central – try the pork buns
In the OUTSKIRTS
Deco Eatery | a Turkish delight and a great stop on the way to or from Piha
Bestie Cafe | where the Auckland hipsters meet for coffee
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