Friday, June 8, 2012

Mini Travel Guide: Auckland, New Zealand

This is one of many Mini Travel Guides in which we dip our collective toes into international travel.  This guide comes to us via the lovely pair of Kate and Josie!

Auckland is New Zealand’s largest city, and its best. (Kate’s a born and bred Aucklander, and Josie’s a naturalized one, so we may be exhibiting bias.) It’s massively multi-cultural, and multi-geographical too - with mountains, beaches, farm land, harbors, several islands, surburbia and “the city” within its limits.


Must go
Waiheke
A 40 minute ferry ride from downtown Auckland, this island is a like a little slice of the Med. If you’re in the mood to splurge, visit the world-famous restaurants and vineyards of the likes of Mudbrick and Cable Bay. For the less loaded, take the bus to Onetangi Beach and eat on the waterfront. It’s always worth googling what activities are happening on Waiheke, too.

Piha
Fancy a drive? Head out to Piha, one of New Zealand’s most famous surf beaches, 45 minutes drive from town. You’ll be greeted by black sand for miles. After sunning yourself, having a surf or hiking through the nearby forests, have a meal at the renowned Piha RSA.

Newmarket
Shopaholics, this one’s for you. There are a lot of great places to shop in Auckland, but Newmarket has everything covered, from chain-stores to high end boutiques stocked with NZ and overseas designers, with a mall and department store to boot. Plus there are plenty of great cafes around to revive you between bouts of spending.


Must eat
Fish and chips
These aren’t something made only in New Zealand, but we’re surrounded by ocean on all sides, you know ours are good. And we provide incredible beaches to have them on too, and usually for a very good price. Nice anytime, but best within view of the sea. (We have a recommendation for that below, too!)

Flat whites
A flat white is the way Kiwis like their coffee. A strong and milky, but not too milky blend. Put it this way – Italy invented the coffee, but New Zealand perfected it. This is no latte. Top tip: if the barista asks you if you want small or large, leave immediately. Flat whites only come in one size.

White bait fritters
A sometimes-scarce local delicacy most often found in small town New Zealand, or at farmer's markets. The "real"way too make them is eggs and whitebait only, but if you manage to find them in their season, make sure you have them anyway you can!


Must do
Auckland Art Gallery
This stunning place has reopened after an extensive (that means massive) renovation. There are many great works of art to look at when you visit, just make sure you don’t miss the sculpture terrace. The cafe is stellar, too.

Anything at The Civic
One of Auckland’s architectural treasures, this 1929 building hosts international musicals as well as many of the better sit down music gigs. The “night sky” on the ceiling is worth the visit alone and if you miss the shooting star the first time, don’t worry, there’s a repeat!

Watch something sporty
New Zealanders love sport and can be found yelling encouragement or usually-good-natured abuse at sports grounds and televisions everywhere. Live sport s the best sport, so head along to see Auckland’s home teams the Breakers (basketball), the Blues (Rugby), Mystics (Netball), Warriors (Rugby League) or perhaps catch the Auckland Aces in a game of Twenty20 cricket – don’t worry, that version of the game is only a few hours long so great for beginners!


Travel on the cheap
The Domain
Of all the beautiful parks and spaces in Auckland, The Auckland Domain is one of the most sublime. Explore the Auckland Museum for a small entry fee, visit the Winter Gardens (in any season!) and have a Picnic under one of the many trees, or near the Band Rotunda.

Fish and chips in Mission bay

Being a country surrounded by sea means we pride ourselves on our Fish and Chips (or as locals pronounce it “fush and chups”). Take a trip out to Mission Bay and enjoy a feast of them on the beach while the sun sets.

Takapuna Beach
Takapuna, on Auckland’s North Shore, is famous for its beachy vibe. Visit Takapuna Beach Cafe and grab a take-away coffee or an amazing made-on-the-premises ice cream, then take a walk along the beach. It might be a cliched activity, but it is so worth it. (Takapuna Beach Cafe also makes some of the best breakfasts in Auckland, if you’re that way inclined.)


Cultural tips
Auckland has a huge blend of cultures, and embraces them all, so as long as you’re polite, you don’t really need to worry you’ll offend anyone. Just don’t confuse us with Australians. Ever.

Sport, especially rugby, is almost a religion in New Zealand. So doing some research on the All Blacks (our World-Cup winning Rugby Team) is a good idea. Oh, and if you see a man in an All Blacks jersey? He’s guaranteed to not be an actual All Black.

Thanks, ladies!  Any input from other Aucklanders?

I

13 comments

  1. I'm a born and bred Aucklander too!

    Two things to add:

    1. Piha- it is lovely, but can be dangerous. The surf is strong and rips can form too. Be careful to only swim between the lifeguard flags and don't go beyond your depth, especially if you are a poor swimmer.

    2. The Otara markets! These markets are incredible. They are in one of the poorest areas of Auckland. There is great food- lots of cheap fresh produce, tonnes of colour and a strong Polynesian influence.

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  2. Just wondering, isn't it the Australian who invented flat whites?

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  3. I'm an Aucklander and a few months ago I discovered Waipu Caves, it's about an hour and a half drive north, maybe a bit more, they are awesome!

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  4. Oh, I'm just dying to go to New Zealand. The first picture in this post just added fuel to the fire. So gorgeous!

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  5. Auckland and New Zealand ROCK!!! Born and Bred here!
    You will love Auckland and New Zealand, we are a friendly bunch and there is lots to do - Rainbows End in Manukau is a theme park with some fun rides, Kelly Tarltons Underwater World in St Heliers is cool, The Museum at Auckland Domain, The Zoo in Western Springs, MOTAT is also interesting seeing all the old transport. Lots to see - some come on down - YOU will not regret it!

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  6. There is so much to do in Auckland. In fact, just today I'm taking a random German traveller I met out for lunch and board games at a friend's place. Here are some of my favourite recommendations to travellers:

    1. Spookers - haunted attraction and corn maze at the old Kingseat asylum. This is a bit expensive and a ways out - you really need a car - but super fun (I got married there!)

    2. North Head - park containing remains of old military fortifications built when we feared attack from the Japanese. Great fun running around the caves.

    3. King's Arms - great little pub + live music venue that is, IMO, the best live music venue in the city (the civic, which is stunning, notwithstanding).

    4. Matakana markets, Hobsonville Point farmers market, La Cigale farmers market - all awesome.

    5. Transylvania Mini Golf - mini golf course under black lights. Silly but great fun!

    6. Prohibition - speakeasy themed restuarant on Ponsonby road - this place is EXPENSIVE - $120+ pp if you want a 3 course meal, but wow is it an experience. All your food comes down in a dumbwaiter, and the whole place is right out of the 20s. Even if you don't have to go, you should take a trip upstairs to visit the toilets.

    7. Museums - Maritime Museum, Howick Historical Village, and Motat are the ones I recommend.

    8. Mainline steam (i'm a volunteer here!) and Glenbrook Vintage Railway. We have a huge group of steam train enthusiasts in NZ, so we do a lot of trips. There's no better way to see the country.

    Hope that gives some more ideas!

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  7. I'm dying to go to New Zealand! I have a friend studying abroad there right now, and he loves it. It looks so beautiful (and interesting)!

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  8. I was born in AUckland and haven't heard of half these amazing tips!

    I also love the La Cigale French markets in Parnell and K'Rd/St Kevin's Arcade if you're after vintage finds and more interesting shopping options!

    Also a ferry trip over to Devonport for lunch or fish and chips on the beach is a must in summer. If you have more time, catch the ferry to rangitoto and climb the volcano!

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  9. Definitely Kings Arms! I love the War Memorial Museum in the Domain too. And for sports, I'd recommend a secondary schools First XV game for atmosphere, or Warriors game for the best mix of cultures and ethnicities. I hope this isn't weird to do; I wrote a post about some of my favourite places in the central city on my blog a couple of months ago, so in case someone is coming here, here's the link. Auckland rocks!

    http://www.stuckinsidemobile.blogspot.co.nz/2012/03/auckland.html

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  10. I loved Auckland when I was there earlier this year.

    "Flat whites only come in one size."

    I have never heard this, EVER. Flat white is an Aussie/Kiwi drink... I was a barista for 6 years and flat whites came in any size any other coffee comes in...

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  13. Well, I've moved from Auckland to the UK so obviously I'm not that fond of it...

    What I miss most (after being away for six months so far) are the beaches and the hot pools. Just north of Auckland there is the Waiwera hot pools and north west is Parakai. I used to go regularly and there's nothing like soaking in a pool and staring up at the stars.

    Auckland beaches are okay, but the best one are north of Auckland on the East coast (in my opinion). Powdery white sand, sea birds, basically no people, clean water... gorgeous!

    I'd also recommend the War Memorial Museum in the Domain - they do a good Maori cultural performance.

    Walking in the bush (forest) in the Waitakere ranges would be nice (maybe on the way to or from Piha?). The Cascades is a short walk to a waterfall.

    Generally, I tell folks to go to Rotorua, the Bay of Islands and Wellington. I'm not that good with recommendations in the South Island as I haven't seen that much of it and Christchurch has sadly been knocked down by earthquakes...

    Cheers,
    Eleanorjane

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