AUCKLAND! I didn’t know you had it in you!
Considering the fact that every New Zealand traveller seems to have a hate on for Auckland I had low expectations…I imagined it being a dirty port with nothing to do and poor 70’s architecture. After my 1.5 days there pre Bali flight 1.0 I would have been in agreement with my fellow travellers. Not ‘hating’ Auckland, but certainly not loving it. The reason people probably don’t like it, is that it isn’t cohesive with what foreigners portray to be ‘New Zealand’. When you think NZ, you think the great outdoors: mountains, vineyards, lakes, ocean, sounds…you think bungee, caving, zorbing, surfing…Auckland is a city. There are buildings, brands, suits, and traffic…everything I love.
Perhaps my opinion is a bit different because I still miss Sydney every day and Auckland has the extra pace of a city that I haven’t had in over a month (even Wellington didn’t have the same pep to the step). Perhaps my disenchantment with Christchurch is similar to what people feel about Auckland…I was in my room for 5 days…a long time compared to most who stay for 1 or 2 nights, and everyone passing through said ‘this isn’t the real New Zealand’….which made me realize all over again how expectations drastically change your perspective on a city. Half of those same travellers loved Sydney and Melbourne…so they didn’t not like cities…they just didn’t want to be in one in NZ.
Anyway, that being said, why I loved Auckland….which if I may add is impressive seeing as how I was only in Auckland because of my missed flight to bali…not an extra couple days but an extra WEEK.
Similar to why I love Sydney, Auckland has different districts that are their own distinct communities. So, when I decided to walk a 23km loop through the main central places, I felt like I’d seen more than just one city.
My favourite, Ponsonby, is a mix of old buildings refurbished, and new modern designs. Ponsonby Road houses a Deli/Bakery, just south of lululemon on the west side of the road….and it is AMAZING. (Literally Ponsonby Deli is what is on my cc statement…wish it was more specific) I had a bacon and egg pie that might have been the best thing I ate in New Zealand. It was mostly egg white and low fat back bacon with tomatoes and spinach. Not your typical NZ individual meat pie, more like a slice of quiche…but so fresh, handmade crust, and so goooooood. I also picked up a pumpkin lentil enchilada to go…which to be fair should have been heated, but I was ravenous 15km later and had it cold for lunch at Mission Bay. There were about 20 other places I wanted to eat in Ponsonby, but the whole 500 dollar whoopsy thing had me on a budget. I also went to a free crossfit session at the lululemon store on Thursday night which I’m still aching from in a park nearby that had a picture perfect view over Auckland…which I must say isn’t hard to find as it seems to always be a hill (so maybe it is the real nz?)
Anyway, Wynyard quarter! Every inch of waterfront capitalized with cute cafes turned clubs at night and industrial container style restaurants and tapas along the North Wharf…and don’t forget the free outdoor movies every Friday night at Silo Park…A concrete park that actually is kinda cozy. Totally trendy, but also super classy…the Auckland version of the Rocks in Sydney…Many people group Britomart into the Wynyard quarter area because it’s still fairly waterfront. Don’t be like I first was and assume Britomart is JUST the transit station! Keep heading east and find high end shops including another lululemon with free yoga on Wednesday night! Also found Kikki.k, the best Swedish inspired stationary shop EVER and a place called Smart sushi which is a white man’s sushi dream….I don’t know if we can call it fusion because it doesn’t exactly mix in different ingredients…but using rice and seaweed as the ‘bread’ filled with chicken katsu and veggies for a sandwich is pretty cool….at least from my landlocked Albertan perspective. By far the best looking sushi I saw in all of Auckland! Make sure to hit the North Wharf at night! The skyline is incredible!!
Queen Street…am I secretly in Japan?? …in a good way. Lanes and side streets lined with independent pubs and street performers surprise you left and right as you head up the CBDs main road. Busy, but not too busy…and SO. Much. SUSHI!…as well as Japanese discount stores like Daiso where you can get everything under the sun (Literally….tupperware, false eyelashes, boxers, fake flowers..) for 3 bucks. There are also a lot of Japanese exchange students at Auckland University’s central campus…but I’m mostly referring to the sushi. Not to be missed, Giapo… an experimental gelateria….I had a Rose and pistachio gelato….amazing, and each scoop is treated like a work of art…pricy? yes…but so soooo worth it (you’ll find it on Queen just down from the cinema!)
Mount Eden! Now that’s a volcano with a VIEW. About a 2.5 hour excursion from most of the hostels on Queen Street if you walk the whole way (OR take public transit…MAX 1.90!!) Mt. Eden is a dormant volcano that is Auckland’s highest natural point (SkyTower is the highest building in the Southern Hemisphere…apparently?). The volcano part is kinda cool…but what’s really amazing is the 360 degree view of Auckland…hit it midday and at sunset for equally amazing views! (now THAT was a sunset!)
K’Road which was super keen on Pride week, nicely links Queen Street and Ponsonby Rd is lined with clubs, cafes, and copious amounts of late night food. It seemed a bit stingy to me….probably because pre missing my first flight I was being a high roller and fell in love with the class and older crowd in Wynyard/Queen Street….which was a great change from students and backpackers (let’s be honest, neither of the last 2 demographics buy a girl dranks). On the note of going out…There is a pub called Provendor? Anyway, its right next to Fix by the cruise ships….that has free bbqs on Friday nights. Also Auckland’s “Big Night Out’ is probably the best deal around…6 drinks, entry to 10 clubs, no need to follow the crawl…free pizza…Starts at QF Tavern Tues-Sat night and costs only 25 bones. Wednesday is Student night, then weekends or nights of rugby games are big…otherwise don’t expect anything too bumpin….Also, SO MANY OLD PEOPLE go out….Danny Doolan’s was supposed to be ‘amazing’….everyone was 40+…..good on em, but I peaced out next door to degree where 18 year olds were discovering fist pumping and requesting levels on repeat (we all have our nights)…
Side note: I also participated in 4 human pyramids as part of O week activities in Albert park….Memories…
What’s left…Ahhh Mission Bay…the beach! Actually much nicer than I expected, but same old…didn’t snack or anything so I can’t really give a fair review other than Auckland does have beach…and it’s a great run to and from the city. Also Parnell…didn’t care for Parnell, seemed like an old person’s Pononsbly…but some people really liked it. Things looked a little more quaint, little older…that’s all.
Then Auckland has Rangitoto and Davenport islands to the North as well as some sort of Waterpark I think… It ISN’T THAT BAD!
You will find $1 small coffees at Fix, tons of McD’s, Burger King, and $5 sushi. Also, take a walk down high street/Lorne street (one off of Queen) for great lunch cafes bound to be packed weekday lunchours. Revive is a chain that you will find through Auckland which offers gluten free, vegan, vegetarian, dairy free options galore in their fresh kitchen using in season ingredients for an ever changing menu. They are super affordable as well…A salad, soup, and roll for 10 dollars take away! Oooh you will also find heaps of 10 dollar indian lunch specials including curry, rice, naan, and a drink-proper steal! Also there is a sweet super industrial café/bar down Fort Lane….you will know it when you see it…I was only there every day….just far too self involved to know where I was…
That should give you a good start at enjoying a city that may not be ‘the great outdoors’ but still offers the friendliness and diversity of what I would say is ‘the REAL New Zealand’.