You may have seen my recent post reflecting on the first few months of travelling New Zealand. I thought I’d go into more depth and create a few travel guides for places we’ve visited.
Auckland seemed a good place to start, as we spent two weeks there before heading off on a South Island road trip. I’m currently staying in Auckland again, so there’ll be lots more to come from this crazy place!
Auckland (or Tāmaki Makaurau) is the largest Polynesian city in the world but. It’s the size of London, but its population is only 1.5 million. Most people land here when travelling to New Zealand.
Any large city is usually a cultural melting pot, and Auckland is no different.
We spent the first week there in Korea town, where the streets are lined with restaurants and cafes.
One thing to be aware of is that Queen Street, the main street in the central business district (CBD), is a huge hill. I only mention because I booked a hotel at the top of said big hill and had to walk up it every single day.
And that’s everything I know about Auckland. So I’ll get on with the good stuff.
We stayed in 2 separate places during our 2 weeks in Auckland. One, just off Queen Street, Ascotia off Queen. I wanted a proper hotel to help us sleep off the jet lag and get our bearings in comfort, and this was ideal.
Small rooms, but clean, and the bathroom was lovely. It was well fitted with air con and we appreciated the ability to make tea and coffee in the morning.
Next, we stayed at the YMCA on Pitt Street, just a few blocks over from our first hotel. I’d never stayed in a hostel before, and I wouldn’t rush to do so again but, if you’re a bit harder than me (not difficult), you’ll probably do alright here.
There are your usual Hiltons and such like in Auckland, but I’m not quite a billionaire yet so can’t tell you all about those.
There are also plenty of hostels and backpackers off Queen Street.
Getting around Auckland
I recommend the SkyBus from the airport to the CBD. It cost us $18 each and was super easy. Straight out of the terminal building and you’ll see a little red kiosk with tensa-barriers marking the queue. We got route 5 to Queen Street, but ask at the kiosk if you need help finding exactly where you need to be.
Buses are probably the best way to get around tbh, because Uber is too expensive.
Once in the city, the Link buses are a good option. There’s the red CityLink buses going up and down Queen Street if you really cba to walk. It costs about $1. There’s also the green Inner Link and orange Outer Link buses, which travel different routes around the city. If you buy an AT Hop card, the fares are even cheaper.
For all of your transport needs – trains, buses, information – visit the Britomart centre near the bottom of Queen Street.
You’ll probably want to walk for the most part. Although, don’t do what we did and try to walk to Herne Bay beach. It ended up taking us like 6 hours round trip in the scorching sun. Not fun.
Things to do
One of the best things we did in Auckland was visit the zoo. Hands down the best zoo we’ve ever been to. The enclosures are amazing. There’s plenty of shelter if it rains, loads of cafes, or you can sit on the grass and have a picnic.
We did experience an absolute downpour, so we sat under cover and watched the elephants for a while, and it was such a truly special experience.
I love elephants, and how beautifully grand they are, but I’ve never seen them do anything other than stand and walk before. These ones absolutely loved the rain, frolicking about, having a swim in their little pool, splashing each other, rolling logs, and trumpeting. I won’t forget that in a hurry.
Take the 18 bus from the city to the zoo. Again, we tried to walk because it was only an hour, but it was killer because of the heat and humidity.
We also took the free shuttle bus from the corner of Quay Street & Queen Street to Kelly Tarlton’s Sea Life Centre. Take your own food here, because there isn’t really a lot on offer. Walk along the pier opposite for a nice view of the city and out towards the volcanic island of Rangitoto.
We took the ferry to Devonport one day, which is a beautiful walk with lovely views back to the city. You can also freak yourself out by exploring the tunnels under North Head.
A few days before we left Auckland, we took the ferry to Waiheke Island which is well bloody worth it. It’s a stunning island, full of vineyards.
I recommend Cable Bay. You can walk (we got lost on the bush route so maybs stick to the main road if you’re as dizzy as we are), or get the bus.
They do a tasting for $10 (we shared 1 between 2). I’m not a wine buff AT ALL, and I can’t really handle the stuff, but it was actually really interesting.
We also had lunch at Cable Bay in their Verandah restaurant which is fairly pricey but absolutely stunning. The views are incredible and the food is just as fab. We split a pizza and panzanella and its some of the best food I’ve had in NZ to date. Cannot recommend enough.
We found a little tour to Piha, which has probably the most beautiful (and definitely most dangerous) beach in NZ. It’s around an hour away from the city, and we went via Kitekite falls (pronounced kitty-kitty lol not kite kite like I thought), which is some stunning stuff you need to see. There’s a picture of me standing at the top of the falls on Instagram, if you want to see that.
I have to say the shopping in Auckland was the absolute shit. I could have bought another suitcase of stuff.
Obviously, many of the high street shops and designers are different here. I’ve had to be so restrained, you don’t even understand.
Not to mention the markets, boutiques, charity shops, and vintage shops. I’m not a huge one for shopping in actual shops (slave to ASOS, hello), but I could’ve wandered around these streets for days buying outfit upon outfit. Also, there’s a ton of street style inspiration around to help things along.
Karangahape road (known locally as K’Road) is pretty cool. I think it used to be something of a red light district, but now it just kinda reminds me of Camden. It has a ton of retro and second hand shops, colourful bars and even more colourful characters.
The ferry ports and wharves make for a beautiful walk on a nice day. Start at the ferry building and walk all the way along to Silo park. Stop for a drink somewhere on North Wharf.
For a bit of respite from the busy city, have a walk through Albert Park. We found it peaceful, with students reading and workers lunching, and there’s a very pretty fountain in the centre.
If you’re feeling active, you could climb to the top of one of Auckland’s many volcanoes. The views are beautiful. My favourites so far are Rangitoto and Mount Eden. Plan ahead if you want to do Rangitoto, as there are only a few ferry departures a day. I recommend heading out there earlier so make sure you have enough time to explore before the last ferry back to the city.
Do not get stuck on the island, there is nothing on it!
Mount Eden is a bit of a green haven in the middle of the city. You can have a good nose at all the nice houses on the walk up to it, too. I wanted to climb Mount Eden near sunset, to get the pretty sky views over the city, and it’s totally worth it.
Take the Inner Link or Outer Link bus from the city centre up Parnell Road and get off at Auckland Domain. I would recommend just having a wander, visiting the winter garden, and the War Memorial Museum is interesting if you have the time.
Like I said, I’m staying in Auckland for a while now so, if you’re interested in keeping up with all the new stuff I’m finding, you can do so on Instagram.
Ever my favourite topic when it comes to travel guides.
Because, again, no money, I did not eat in the fanciest restaurants the city has to offer, which are many btw.
I did eat at chains like Zambrero (Mexican – awesome veggie burritos), Burgerfuel (burgers), and Sal’s (NY style pizza), which are all over the place and useful in a fix.
Other notable mentions are Burgz in the Elliot Stables (get the Farmstead which had a few people salivating on Instagram). Elliot Stables is kind of a food court where you just pick a table and order at any restaurant in the place.
Nearby, there’s Got Pasta which is a little food truck offering a very affordable carb fix for lunch (around $10).
I fell in love with Al’s Deli on the corner of Queen & City Road. They make their own bagels. I had the Royal on a plain bagel and, right, I know it’s just cheese & tomato but it was delicious. And I got a side of kale to be good to myself. He got the Plateau (buttermilk chicken and aioli in brioche) and was suitably impressed.
I have found far too many delicious brunch places in Auckland to mention in one post. One of the first places we found was Lorne Street Café. I had this spinach and feta brioche which I am a million % gonna try and recreate at home. It was pretty expensive though. It was also our intro to NZ coffee ordering. We had no idea what a short or long black was but these were the only options we could see so we ordered one of each. Turns out, they’re single and double espressos, respectively.
Lorne Street also faces out onto the fountain dedicated to women’s suffrage, which I quite liked. FYI, New Zealand was the first country to correct the mistake of women not voting.
Our favourite place has to be The Store at Britomart. I wanted all the options for brunch. Granola with the nicest strawberries; baked stone fruits with almond crumble; gnocchi with all the greens. Druelly emoji.
If you’re visiting in summer, take water with you everywhere. Water is free in eateries, and there are places in the street you can fill up your bottle.
It is really hot and really humid and, of course, NZ has no ozone layer so you’re very exposed to the sun.
This goes for any other season but, especially in summer, slap on allllll the SPF. 50+. Even if you’re one of those ‘tanning oil’ Brits when you go to Lanzarote for 2 weeks.