Best of Auckland


• 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.

Piha and Karekare are just around the corner

• 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.

Dinner at sunset at Mudbrick Vineyards

Cable Bay View on Waiheke

• 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.

Some architectural gems can be found in and around Vulcan Lane

• 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.

Breathtaking views arriving at Piha Beach

Drive in the middle of the jungle to reach Piha and Karekare

• 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.

• Both the Auckland Art Gallery and the Auckland War Memorial Museum in the beautiful Auckland Domain are well worth a visit. There are very nice photography exhibitions at the War Memorial.

Lots of green spaces in front of Auckland War Memorial

I love art

• 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!


In and around BRITOMART

Amano | my favorite, open all day long with in-cre-di-ble food and drinks !!!

Amano’s amazing fresh food

Ortolana | small and relaxed, voted one of the world’s 100 best by Monocle

Federal Delicatessen | NY-style deli to die for!

Culprit | because it is such a cool concept!

Taco #3 Confit duck leg tortilla. Iceberg, peanut cracklin’, hoisin soured cream, plum sauce.

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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

Have a whole pan of mussels. I recommend the wine and garlic sauce!

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

True, it was a rather heavy brunch… but tasted amazing.

Prego | because Italians are everywhere!!!

I love this tree in front of Prego Ponsonby

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

Pork buns to come back again and again



Deco Eatery | a Turkish delight and a great stop on the way to or from Piha

Deco Eatery is a small piece of Istanbul in Titirangi

Bestie Cafe | where the Auckland hipsters meet for coffee


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