Auckland’s streets seem to continually rise and fall, offering up innumerable vantage points from which to gain an impressive view of the water and the CBD skyline. From all locations, the needle-like Sky Tower offers a point of orientation. The locals may bemoan the quality of the public transport, but with such walkable streets it needn’t matter for those happy to keep their explorations to the cafe speckled inner city suburbs.
In particular, we recommend the Paddington-esque Ponsonby Road (and adjoining Jervois Road). This stretch has some serious cultural credibility among Aucklanders, but our tip is to also explore some of the leafy residential streets that stretch off it – you’ll see some incredibly charming houses and, if in Herne Bay, you may just find a little pocket of beach at the end of the nature strip.
Vendors of quality coffee are abundant, considered clothing boutiques are numerous (and offer truly friendly service) and, if you pick wisely, the night time venues are smarter than you may anticipate.
It’s Sydney but without the same swank, scale or price tag. We’ve encouraged you to cross the Tasman for the weekend before and after the pleasant experience we had in Auckland recently we certainly encourage you to do so once again.
Tyler Brûlé apparently claimed that Auckland was a great city but unfortunately had no hotels worth writing home about. But while it may not be Monocle approved, this revamped deco hotel in the centre of Auckland – with its award-winning restaurant – is still a pretty good place to rest your head. DeBrett’s modern rooms are inviting and not short of colour (wait till you see the carpets and you’ll understand). With the Australian dollar the way it is, the rates are quite reasonable too.
2 High Street, Auckland
Zus & Zo
A super-popular place for brunch with a minimalist interior. Great Dutch pancakes. Gets the morning sun if you sit outside. They’ll be opening another venue in Takapuna Beach, in the north of the city, come October.
228 Jervois Road, Herne Bay
A slick, concrete and black metal space designed by established local architects, Imperial Lane serves up classic breakfast dishes with a twist, like the French toast with poached tamarillo and vanilla bean fromage blanc.
7 Fort Lane, Auckland
The food is satisfying, but a visit to this enormous space on the fringe of the city is worth it just for the concept of the space, which is filled with vintage motorbikes in mint condition (including a number of classic Indians). It sells custom motorbike parts and is speckled with Americana. If you want to try on some Red Wing boots whilst having a coffee, this is the place to do it.
90 Wellesley Street, Victoria Quarter
Seven Seeds-esque but smaller and tucked away down a residential street. Pleasantly quiet. A nice selection of sweet treats to accompany the quality coffee offering.
42 Douglas Street, Ponsonby
Busier and a bit more slick than Supreme in its décor (if that’s your thing), this is the place to get Allpress coffee straight from the roastery. If you’re a really dedicated Allpress coffee fan, it’s worth having a look at their nifty Cafe Finder app on the App Store while in Auckland.
Corner Drake and Adelaide Streets, Freemans Bay
One of the best feeds in town (or even NZ some would say), opened by renowned Kiwi chef Al Brown. Share dishes are the name of the game here, but the proportions are more generous than you’d expect and the food is succulent. The freshly shucked oysters are particularly popular. Think Gill’s Diner-style interior.
86 Federal Street, Auckland
Just as in Melbourne, Mexican food has hit Auckland in a big way. Mexico in Britomart, with its little laneway tequila bar off to the side, is a good place to taste-test how the Kiwis do it. The brick walls, covered in picture frames, give the space a homely feel. They have also just opened in Takapuna.
23 Britomart Place, Britomart
Italian al fresco dining. Prego is an institution that has been around for over 20 years. Featuring an open fire and a leafy courtyard, it’s always buzzing with activity. Despite not being near the water, something about it is reminiscent of downstairs at St Kilda’s Stokehouse in Melbourne.
226 Ponsonby Road, Ponsonby
This is your Incu or Chiodo equivalent. A fastidiously curated set of brands for guys and girls, such as Comme de Garçons, Isabel Marant, Rag & Bone, New Balance and Apolis (just to name a few). Best shop in Auckland in our books.
5 High Street, Auckland
Contemporary men’s tailor that also carries an excellent ready-to-wear collection, over the road from Fabric. Very sharp. The Kent switchblade resin combs are a particular favourite.
2-4 High Street, Auckland
Another High Street destination and well worth it if your style is a bit more street-oriented. Very friendly service. Stocks brands such as Norse Projects, Our Legacy, Carhartt and Herschel. Boys and girls gear. Just had a drop recently of the new Vanishing Elephant girls’ range.
55 High Street, Auckland
The name says it all. There are a number of these scattered throughout Auckland. We recommend the one in Ponsonby, with its small but well-curated selection of accessories.
2/171 Ponsonby Road, Ponsonby
Over the road from Karen Walker, next to the Fire Station. Again, one of a few across Auckland. A contemporary men’s tailor similar to that of Crane Brother’s but with a slightly more vintage twist, and stocking some excellent leather sneakers. The classic, vanilla coloured wagon they park out the front each day is a great touch.
186a Ponsonby Road, Ponsonby
Flotsam & Jetsam
One of the most interesting (and well named) shops we came across in Auckland. A caringly selected collection of pre-owned and new goods spanning furniture, pieces for the kitchen, books and various other knickknacks. The sun floods pleasantly into this corner shop space and the service is so friendly that you may just be offered a complimentary flat white simply for having a peruse. An absolute must.
86 Ponsonby Road, Grey Lynn
Douglas + Bec
Lovely little design boutique at the ‘other’ end of Ponsonby. Be sure to take in the classic architecture of the double-storey pink building across the road.
9 St Mary’s Road, Ponsonby
Tyler Street Garage
Good rooftop with views of the water in a newly developed area on the fringe of the city. Quality selection of local beers on tap. An example of what our waterside bars should be like.
120 Quay Street, Auckland
Melbourne laneway-style bar. Dimly lit with a simple interior. One of the first good bars following this area’s redevelopment. Small-scale gigs run through from Wednesday to Saturday each week.
6-10 Roukai Lane, Britomart
A rather swish after-hours underground venue. If you can manage to get in, and feel like a late evening, follow the staircase down and taste-test a few of their numerous martinis.
27 Galway Street, Auckland
Ponsonby Social Club
Another ambient, dimly lit, but lively venue. Features regular DJ sets, which might be a little too lively for some, depending on your mood. The exposed-brick front entry is open-air and worth having a drink in if the weather is balmy enough.
152 Ponsomby Road, Ponsomby
On the first level of the redeveloped Imperial Lane building (above the aforementioned cafe), Everybodys has quite a glamorous vibe. A bistro menu is on offer but come here first and foremost to have a cocktail in the impressive open-air courtyard, nestled in the centre of this heritage-listed site.
7 Fort Lane, Auckland
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki
Well worth a few visits. Has recently been renovated and the atrium space above the main entrance is currently (at the time of writing) housing a spectacular installation of oversized inflatable flowers by Choi Jeong Hwa from South Korea. Good mix of contemporary and classic New Zealand art. We particularly recommend seeing some of the Colin McCahon paintings. The gardens that surround the gallery are also well worth having a stroll through.
Corner Kitchener and Wellesley Streets, Auckland
Gow Langsford Gallery
Across from the Auckland Art Gallery, this is quite an influential commercial art space. Recently celebrated 25 years. Be sure to go around the corner into Wellesley Street to view the artwork on show as part of their Window Project, and to view their Lorne Street space on the reverse side.
Corner Kitchener and Wellesley Streets, Auckland
Historic suburb across the water from the CBD. It’s worth catching the ferry across for something a bit different. For excellent view of the city (and the dormant volcano Rangitoto), walk up to the top of Mount Victoria.
If you feel the urge to see a film whilst in pleasant little Devonport, be sure to drop by The Vic cinema. This charming facility has been running since 1912 and is the earliest purpose-built cinema in the Southern Hemisphere.
56 Victoria Road, Devonport
If you’re impressed by the sound of Auckland and wondering when to hop across, consider doing so when the sun is beaming and their outdoor Taste of Auckland festival is on November 15–18.