Auckland is a great jumping-off point to explore some of the best things New Zealand has to offer, but it would be remiss not to enjoy what’s on the doorstep in this vibrant city. Put a few days aside to make the most of it, starting with Auckland’s impressive waterfront – Waitematā Harbour – where culture, adventure and epicurean delights mesh. From world-class dining with the best local ingredients to full-body pampering sessions and an unforgettable experience on the water, the Auckland Waterfront is a must-visit. Here are our favourite things to do in this end of town.
When the pandemic forced acclaimed chef Peter Gordon to return to New Zealand after three decades in London, he didn’t lay low for long. In November 2020 he opened the doors of his latest venture Homeland, unveiling an epic location on Auckland’s waterfront. This self-proclaimed “food embassy” celebrates everything Aotearoa has to offer. Passionate about New Zealand ingredients, Gordon supports local producers and the restaurant serves as a vessel to share stories and recipes from the country where he grew up, peppered with influences from his celebrated international career.
The menu reads like a love letter to New Zealand. Menu highlights include creamed Chatham Island paua (abalone), hāngī-cooked meats, locally made cheeses, and hyperlocal veggies. For a leisurely breakfast, granola is given a local twist thanks to Raglan coconut yoghurt and Niue honey, while your standard eggs on toast gets a glow-up with a toasted cheese scone and smoky tomato chilli jam. Sharing a number of lunch or dinner dishes is wise – so you can enjoy roasted carrots elevated with buffalo feta and cumin, moreish handfuls of cider-battered Moo Dew paneer tacos, and Greenlea scotch fillet with local kimchi hollandaise and wood-roasted greens. The same creative thinking is applied to the drinks – the kimchi Bloody Mary or the coconut twist on an espresso frappe are good places to start before you peruse the clever signature cocktail list.
In a harbour full of enviable locations, Bivacco is hard to beat. The all-day eatery (open daily from 11am) is an all-rounder – whether your day calls for a glass of local wine and a bowl of house-made pasta, a slow long lunch, or some sensational woodfired pizzas – with a vibrant atmosphere a non-negotiable addition. The space, designed by leading interior designer Paul Izzard, is a lush celebration of playful colours and textures, maximising the view and location. Head there on a weekday between 4pm and 6pm for a generous aperitivo hour, with a DJ on the decks until 8pm on Fridays.
Enjoy a day on the water as you embark on a whale-watching adventure departing from the Viaduct Harbour Marina aboard the Dolphin Explorer. Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf Marine Reserve has one of the highest marine mammal viewing rates in the country, ensuring a thrilling experience. As you cruise through these pristine waters, dolphins and whales are practically guaranteed (this charter enjoys a 95 per cent success rate) but keep an eye out for orcas, pygmy blue whales, sharks, turtles, and myriad seabird species while you’re at it.
Expert commentary from the crew and marine scientists add to the experience, while the licensed cafe will keep you fuelled while you lounge on the open deck. Departing daily at 10.15am and returning at 3.30pm, this tour promises an unforgettable day immersed in nature’s wonders.
Pamper yourself at Auckland’s only true five-star hotel, the Park Hyatt. Opening in 2020, the hotly anticipated arrival has had guests from near and far singing its praises. Whether you’re calling this place home for the night or not, the Park Hyatt Spa is the place to rest and rejuvenate. This luxurious retreat offers a range of spa experiences drawing from Ayurvedic rituals, holistic therapy and native ingredients. Choose from massages, beauty treatments, facials and foot rituals, or indulge in the Total Indulgence package for a lavish 3.5-hour escape. The treatment rooms exude indulgence from the moment you enter, and you can further unwind in the hydrotherapy and steam rooms, sauna or vitality pool. A post-treatment cup of tea will help to savour the moment before you step back into the real world.
The 25m pool is separate area and only available to hotel guests. However, the ‘hydrotherapy’ plunge pool is very much connected to the spa amenity and part of what makes it so iconic, much like the famous spas at other Park Hyatts around the world.
Rooftop bar Parasol & Swing is the work of a group of passionate bartenders from around the world. Look over the harbour water, while you sip on New Zealand wines or an expertly made cocktail from their constantly rotating menu divided into categories like Alive and Well, Seductive Slippers and Hot Stuff. The playful Grounds for Divorce features tequila, strawberry, pineapple, orange aperitif, charred capsicum and “a number to call”, while the warming Coffee Date includes Armagnac, spiced rum, sticky date syrup, coffee, PX sherry and hazelnut cream. The food menu combines Latin American and pan-Asian influences in a tempting selection of burgers and tacos alongside snacks like pork skewers and a prawn cocktail with Thai red curry.
During the day the sun glistens on the harbour while the fairy lights adorning the balcony frame the perfect spot to sit as the sun goes down. On weekends, the inside swiftly turns into a dance floor as DJs and live music take centrestage.
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Viaduct Harbour.