Where to Eat, Stay, and Play in Auckland, New Zealand
Both Ponsonby Road and Karangahape Road, bordering the city center, have more charm. Both are excellent places to get to know New Zealand’s independent creators and designers. Karangahape Road is famous for its vintage shopping and art galleries, as well as drag cabaret and gay bars. Stop by Crushes to find goods and gifts made in New Zealand, and Tautai Gallery to see exhibitions from emerging and established Pacific artists. Adjacent Ponsonby Road features a string of independent boutiques. Step into the apothecary style fragrance store Curionoir, browse the aesthetic jumble of vintage homewares at Flotsam and Jetsam, or peruse wares from New Zealand fashion designers such as Kate Sylvester or Juliette Hogan.
Both roads have cafes aplenty, and picking up a flat white is a quintessential part of living like an Aucklander. Stop by Orphan’s Kitchen on Ponsonby Road for an inventive brunch menu, or Daily Bread for incredible baked goods. Bestie Cafe on Karangahape Road is a restful place to pause. Located in the historic Saint Kevins Arcade, the cafe offers views across Myers Park to the Sky Tower.
Despite being a city of 1.6 million—enormous by New Zealand standards—Auckland’s skyscrapered center is barely 45 minutes from bush or a beach, in any direction. Strike out west and follow narrow roads through native bush to reach Piha, a legendary surf beach and laid back coastal enclave. Climb Lion Rock, jutting up from the middle of the beach, for sunset views of the salt spray drenched coastline.
One of the best ways to spend a day in Auckland is to hitch a ride on a ferry across to Waiheke Island’s pristine beaches and coastal walkways. Most people come here for the wine; the island is laced with rows of grapes which are bottled into luscious Bordeaux blends. Enjoy wine tasting with sweeping views at wineries like Mudbrick, Tantalus Estate, or Stonyridge.
If you’re more interested in wildlife than wine, take a ferry to the island sanctuary of Tiritiri Matangi instead. Here you can see some of New Zealand’s rarest native birds, like the saddleback, kōkako, and takahe. Or, spot marine wildlife on a whale and dolphin safari. Whale watching trips leave from downtown Auckland and tour the Waitematā Harbour to spot the dolphins, Bryde’s whales, and even sharks, seals, and penguins.
Where to stay
There’s no shortage of stylish hotels clustered around Auckland’s waterfront. Hotel Britomart is one of the newer additions to Auckland’s hotel offerings, opening in 2021. The hotel is a bastion of calm in the buzzing Britomart shopping area, with strong sustainability credentials and impeccable design. Local materials are championed throughout the hotel—the timber-lined room interiors more closely resemble stylish cabins than inner city hotel rooms. If you don’t want to stray too far for dinner in the evening, kingi is Hotel Britomart’s superb seafood restaurant.
Art- and design-focused QT Auckland by Auckland’s Viaduct Harbor has the added bonus of a rooftop bar popular among the city’s office workers. Some of the more personality-driven places to stay in Auckland are a little removed from the central business district. On a quiet, tree lined street in Ponsonby is Hotel Fitzroy, which houses 10 luxurious rooms in a restored 1910 villa. In the neighboring suburb of Grey Lynn is The Convent Hotel, which is exactly what it sounds like—a renovated convent. The former nunnery reopened as a boutique hotel in 2020, with 22 character filled rooms. The Convent Hotel is also home to Ada, a restaurant wildly popular with locals.