When travelling to and around Aotearoa-New Zealand, the first port of call is generally the city of Auckland. Often overlooked for the likes of the country’s quirky and cultural capital Wellington or the South Island’s activity-laden Queenstown, Auckland has more to it than meets the eye: there are the beaches — both wild west coast and golden sandy swimming spots — an incredible (and ever-growing) food and drink scene, vintage shopping, and, more so than anywhere else in Aotearoa, a melting pot of cultures, meaning Saturday mornings can be spent eating Samoan chop-suey at the market, before a yum cha feast in the CBD, and Paradise Indian (the best of the best) for dinner.
Before beginning a road trip down the entire country, using one of Sixt’s luxury fleet vehicles (a white Mercedes-Benz that quite literally felt like floating on a cloud), we made sure to make the most of Auckland.
Here’s how to spend 24 hours in the city.
Start early with plenty of coffee at Dizengoff Cafe in Ponsonby (Orpan’s Kitchen, Odettes and Ozone are also great), then it’s essential to head to one of the black sand west coast beaches — Piha is probably the most dramatic for photos, see Cardi B’s for inspo, but they’re all incredible — to see the wild west coast in all its beauty. Stop at the legendary Piha Store on the way home for one of their famous homemade pies. Blue Rose in Sandringham is also a must for its hangi pies.
Return to the CBD for a late lunch at Ostro in Britomart, seated on the deck with panoramic views of the Waitemate Harbour. Catch a ferry across to Waiheke Island and make your way to one of many vineyards for wine and watch the sunset across the city. Then ferry back to K Road for a wine and dinner at one of the amazing spots popping up all over Auckland, such as Bar Céleste, before popping over to Ponsonby Social Club for a dance (Kirsten Dunst’s fave when she’s in town).
Hotel Britomart is gorgeous in the heart of the CBD with Britomart shopping precinct, Auckland’s art gallery and hospitality at your doorstep, plus downstairs you’ll find kingi — one of the city’s best seafood restaurants. If you feel like venturing to Waiheke Island in Auckland’s Waitemata Harbour, Oyster Inn hosts small boutique rooms with an amazing restaurant looking out to the outer gulf.
Cafeteria Allpress on Drake Street is the home of Allpress coffee with an on-site roastery serving fresh coffee made to perfection and a fresh breakfast and lunch offering. There are plenty of Allpress staff about to educate you through some of their special blends or even try some of their filter brews. Coco’s Cantina is situated on Auckland colourful K’rd (Karangahape Road). Sit on the street side and try their famous meatballs while enjoying the service from the team, which operates as one big local family.
Barilla Dumpling (a local and longtime favourite, and the place I go on the way in from the airport almost religiously) on Auckland’s famous Dominion Road is a great stop for a cheap and cheerful fast-paced meal while soaking in the action on the street. In Britomart, try Amano, a must-see for the amazing fit-out and a menu to match, Milenta is a personal favourite, and OCKHEE on Ponsonby Road is great Korean. The Refreshment Room is located in the foothills of the Waitakere’s with outdoor seating that makes you feel you’re nestled in the bush. They specialise in homemade Italian-style food made with passion. And, as mentioned prior, Paradise Indian for the best Indian food in town.
Downtown Britomart is at the water’s edge and is an emerging new shopping hotspot showcasing plenty of New Zealand designers and international fashion, mixed in with some of Auckland’s best hospitality. Commercial Bay is a fancy new mall with a lot of great boutique shops and restaurants. Ponsonby also offers a unique cluster of boutique fashion, furniture and coffee shops, and Karangahape Road is where you’ll find great vintage and a few cool concept stores.
Bush walks are so diverse and all in relatively close proximity. You can climb Rangitoto, a volcano in the middle of the harbour, or walk through the Waitakere Ranges cutting into the amazing west coast coastline with phenomenal views. Brick Bay Sculpture walk in the Matakana Wine Region is also an amazing place to spend a warm afternoon – The Glass House Kitchen offers all-day dining paired with Brick Bay wines. The drive from Auckland to Tawharanui is also breathtaking (especially when you’re driving a car like this:)