Stadsgidsen: Auckland door de ogen van een localmei 30, 2020
Confession time. I may have been born in Rotorua, but now I definitely call Auckland my hometown.
Almost 50 years living in New Zealand’s biggest smoke will do that. I still get a mini-thrill cresting the Bombay Hills to see the city’s impetuous sprawl framed by two harbours and, down on the waterfront, Auckland is finally realising the natural advantages of its unique location.
Gently arcing coves along Tamaki Drive are balanced by the wild and often windswept beaches of West Auckland, while the Hauraki Gulf is flecked with easily-accessible island escapes. Urban ridges and valleys created by Auckland’s volcanic past cradle neighbourhoods offering flavours from around the world, and the city’s diversity makes it the de facto cultural capital of the South Pacific.
Yes, the traffic can be a challenge – let’s just call it a work in progress OK – but the occasional Friday afternoon motorway tangle is more than balanced by everything else the nation’s biggest city offers.
Best coffee spot
The clue’s definitely in the name. Bestie is a caffeine-fuelled highlight amid the heritage, high-ceilinged ambience of Karangahape Rd’s St Kevins Arcade. Look forward to quite probably Auckland’s most spacious cafe – responsible social distancing is a piece of cake – and views out to the palm-lined pathways of Myers Park. Explore around St Kevins Arcade and K Rd for interesting shopping, including vintage clothing, Kiwi music and quirky retro homewares, before returning for modern Lebanese flavours at Gemmayze St, or craft beer, natural wine and American-inspired eats at Lowbrow.
Best brunch spot
More great coffee – this time from Auckland-based organic roasters Kōkako – and another sensitively-restored historic building make Grey Lynn’s Postal Service Cafe an Auckland standout. An energetic buzz attracts Macbook-wielding freelancers, loyal locals with their well-behaved dogs and fans of the city’s best organic and vegan brunches. Even committed carnivores should sign up for the Huevos Rancheros, the closest to an authentic Mexican breakfast I’ve found in New Zealand. Gotta love the sweetcorn salsa and grilled goat’s cheese and, of course, everything’s always better with a couple of fried eggs.
Best lunch spot
Hello Beasty and hello to some of Auckland’s best Asian fusion cuisine. Regional Chinese, Korean and Japanese culinary influences all merge at this Viaduct Harbour spot with super yacht views and a compact sunny patio. Book ahead to secure an outdoor spot, relax with Asian-inspired cocktails made with soju and yuzu, and order up a few plates from a menu made for sharing. I’m a big fan of partnering the slow-cooked Sichuan lamb with a crisp pilsner from the Sawmill Brewery in nearby Matakana. From Hello Beasty, it’s a short stroll across the Te Wero Island drawbridge to the bars and restaurants of the Wynyard Quarter. See if anything from Auckland craft breweries including Liberty, Behemoth and Hallertau is on tap at 16 Tun.
Best dinner spot
Nikkei cuisine blending Japanese and Peruvian influences is the focus at Azabu on Ponsonby Rd. Diners are spoilt for choice along Auckland’s pre-eminent cafe and restaurant strip, but Azabu is something special. It was coincidentally our last restaurant outing before lockdown kicked in, and we can’t wait to get back for crunchy tostadas topped with tuna sashimi or spicy lamb cutlets and smoky aubergine. Around 700m along the road, Ponsonby Central is popular for its diverse eating and drinking spots. Check out Miss Istanbul (Turkish), El Sizzling Chorizo (Argentinean), or Olas Arepas (Venezuelan) for tasty evidence Auckland is definitely the country’s most cosmopolitan city.
Kelly Tarlton’s Aquarium on Tamaki Drive is the ideal destination for any budding marine biologists or Antarctic explorers in the family. Built in and around former holding tanks on the Auckland waterfront, giant see-through tunnels allow visitors to be surrounded by various denizens of the deep. Say g’day to King and Gentoo penguins – on display in the world’s largest Antarctic and Sub-Antarctic penguin colony – or visit on a Saturday or Sunday morning to embark on a Shark Cage Adventure in the Shark Tunnel. Note penguin and shark encounters are temporarily on hold at Level 2 restrictions, but online vouchers for future visits are available for purchase.
It’s popular to escape across to Waiheke Island for a day trip on the 45-minute passenger ferry from downtown, but the island’s really best explored with a car. Pick up a rental when you get there and it’s easy to fill at least a couple of days. How’s this for an itinerary for two? Ziplining above island vineyards with Eco-Zip Adventures, beer-tasting at the Alibi Brewer’s Lounge, followed by dinner upstairs at Tantalus Estate or Spanish-inspired tapas at Casita Miro. Alternatively, wood-fired pizza from Dragonfired on Little Oneroa Beach, followed by something seasonal from Island Gelato, is a sand-between-the-toes back-up plan I’m always happy to recommend. During summer, the drive out to remote Man O’War Bay is a Waiheke classic.
Aucklanders are a laidback and friendly bunch – no, really – and solo travellers will find it easy to meet people amid the casual dining scene emerging along Karangahape Rd. Places like Celeste, Clay, Apero and Cotto all blur the line between bar and restaurant, and most have a few shared tables. Say Hola! to Pablo at the Peruvian-inspired Madame George for me. Great Barrier Island (Aotea) is just a 30-minute flight away, and experiences with friendly locals include world-class stargazing with Good Heavens, forest hikes with Star Treks and e-motorbike rental from Motubikes. Reopening in September, Pete and Lucy at Paddles & Saddles offer good-value accommodation at their historic waterfront house and can arrange kayaking, paddle-boarding and fishing.
Staying true to our national DNA, Auckland offers plenty of ways to scare yourself silly. Head to the Sky Tower to undertake the SkyWalk, a knee-trembling – in my experience anyway – opportunity to negotiate a narrow circular pathway 192m above the streets of downtown, or to take a leap of faith with the controlled fall of the SkyJump. And because we’re in New Zealand, there’s also the opportunity to bungy jump off the Auckland Harbour Bridge. Other Auckland adventures to add to your traveller’s CV include paddling across to Rangitoto Island with Ferg’s Kayaks and America’s Cup-style yacht match racing with Explore.
Best photo spot
A convenient walking destination for me before, during and after lockdown, at 196m, Mt Eden (Maungawhau) is the highest of the 50 plus volcanic cones dotting the Auckland landscape. Access to the summit is restricted to pedestrians and cyclists and, following an uphill stroll of around 20 minutes, visitors are rewarded with 360° views of the entire Auckland isthmus. Rangitoto Island rises gracefully from the Hauraki Gulf, the Sky Tower punctuates the CBD, and the Harbour Bridge links to Auckland’s North Shore. Start your walk from near Tahaki Reserve on Mt Eden Rd for the option of coffee and brunch at Whau Cafe on the mountain’s slopes. The adjacent Maungawhau Visitor Experience Centre has an excellent display on Auckland’s volcanic field and the maunga’s Māori history as one of the region’s most important pā sites.
Located near both Karangahape Rd and Ponsonby, Verandahs Parkside Lodge fills a gracious two-storey heritage villa with colourful dorms and larger single, double and family rooms. The nightlife of K Rd is nearby – check out Whammy Bar, the Wine Cellar and Neck of the Woods for live gigs – and the 11 different cuisines of the good-value Ponsonby International Food Court offer choice aplenty.
Close to Spark Arena for big concerts and a short walk to the Ferry Building for trips to Waiheke and the heritage suburb of Devonport, the Adina Apartment Hotel has options from studios for two people to two- and three-bedroom apartments accommodating up to six. All have kitchenettes or full kitchens and there’s a convenient Countdown supermarket nearby. On Saturday mornings, Britomart’s Takutai Square hosts a good farmers market.
With easy transport links, short rideshare journeys, access to Hauraki Gulf ferries and diverse opportunities for eating and drinking, the Wynyard Quarter area is a convenient place to stay. The Sofitel Auckland Viaduct Harbour has an absolute waterfront location, while Quest on Beaumont combines studio and apartment options near leafy Victoria Park.
Sofitel’s newest Auckland property has a great rooftop bar and is also deliciously near quite probably the best ice-cream shop in the world. How’s that for a win-win? Before taking in harbour and island views from SO/Auckland’s HI/SO cocktail bar, cross the road to Giapo for dessert alchemy combining science and intense creativity. New Zealand’s best fashion designers have flagship stores in the nearby Britomart Precinct.
Claim to fame
Auckland’s known as the City of Sails, but it’s also a City of Islands. Beyond the attractions of Waiheke and Great Barrier Island, ferries also journey from downtown to the lava fields of Rangitoto, Tiritiri Matangi’s bird sanctuary and for swimming and trail walking on historic Rotoroa.
This article was produced with the support of Tourism New Zealand. Read more about our partnership content here.