City Guide: Where, What, How In Auckland, New Zealand


A scenic view from Mission Bay, Auckland
A scenic view from Mission Bay, Auckland

With the end-May and June school mid term holidays around the corner in Singapore and the June school holidays hitting Hong Kong from end June through to August, it’s the perfect timing to go on a long holiday. And a long holiday is the best time to properly get to know and fully explore a holiday destination. Our go-to recommendation is Auckland, New Zealand. If you are hoping to escape the Summer heat then it is the perfect spot to enjoy the cool crisp of the Winter season as the seasons are in reverse from the rest of the world.

What do you do in Auckland? Lots .. especially if your holiday is all about chilling out and savouring the sights. Last December, I ventured over from Hong Kong and as the journey entailed almost a ten to eleven hour flight, I took the opportunity to make this a more relaxed holiday to really explore Auckland and take in the beauty and bits of what visitors have often called one of the world’s most scenic countries.

WHERE TO STAY?

To decide where to stay you first have to recognise that Auckland is a bit of everything – city, town and beach so I spent a few days in all three locales.

The Langham Hotel, Auckland
The Langham Hotel, Auckland

City living – in the heart of the city, there is no better location to stay at then The Langham Auckland. This beautiful and well-appointed hotel lies in the heart of the city on Symonds Street so you can just about walk around its immediate surrounds to get a taste of shopping, the great cafe culture, water front restaurants near the harbour and the in-city parks.

If you want a bit of a treat, we highly recommend checking into a Club Floor room at the hotel. The access to breakfast, complimentary tea, all day drinks, snacks and the free wifi will make your stay completely worth the while.

Whilst there we also recommend a must-do which is a massage or day treatment in the Hotel’s Chaun Spa for a complete relaxing treat and to complete your stay, nothing like the Wedgewood high tea at the Hotel’s Palm Court Lobby Lounge.

The Palm Court Lobby Lounge - The Langham Hotel, Auckland
The Palm Court Lobby Lounge – The Langham Hotel, Auckland
The Langham's exquisite Wedgewood Afternoon High Tea
The Langham’s exquisite Wedgewood Afternoon High Tea

You will see that this is the place for locals and high tea lovers who want to enjoy a ‘chi-chi’ treat in the middle of the afternoon, great service, a lovely piano lounge ambience, chatting over what must be the classiest nibbles in the city.

Small town getaway – to get a feel of what a small town feels like, you must spend a night or two in the village of Devonport. We checked into the heart of town at the Devonport’s Esplanade Hotel. This hotel is nothing short of quaint and charming from its friendly service to the tea with scones on the menu and the big and hearty breakfast (which was really good) and included in the room rate.

The charming Esplanade Hotel in Devonport, Auckland
The charming Esplanade Hotel in Devonport, Auckland
Tea and Scones, anyone?
Tea and Scones, anyone?

Just outside the Hotel which fronts the park and beyond that a small beach front, there are also several excellent restaurants, a lovely library, a small cinema, bars and even a well-stocked supermarket. Hotel guests also get 24 hour free parking if you are driving.

Rent a bike, segway or take a ferry ride!
Rent a bike, segway or take a ferry ride!

Also across the hotel is the ferry pier where for about NZD$7 you can take a ferry into the city or just rent a segway or a bicycle and cycle around the town – just to get a feel of small town living.

Beach Retreat – true blue Kiwis will tell you that there is no place to live in Auckland except along the Shore – the North Shore that is. This is beach lovers and surfers paradise and those who love the lifestyle will fall in love with the Takapuna area.

Takapuna Beach
Takapuna Beach

We stayed at the lovely Takapuna Oaks which has its own beach front and is a short drive from the main Takapuna town which is a bustling town centre with Shore City as its main high street mall.

The Takapuna Oaks at twilight
The Takapuna Oaks at twilight
A view of Auckland city from the balcony of the Takapuna Oaks Hotel
A view of Auckland city from the balcony of the Takapuna Oaks Hotel

A great place for a quiet and serene retreat and a glass of wine, the outdoor balcony on the dining room at the Oaks offers blissful views of the Auckland city skyline just across from the hotel.

WHAT TO DO?

I love the simple pleasures. My itinerary for a chilled holiday in Auckland:

The White Lady - Auckland's most famous food truck and burger stop
The White Lady – Auckland’s most famous food truck and burger stop
The absolutely delicious burgers - this was only about NZ$7!
The absolutely delicious burgers – this was only about NZ$7!

Eat at a food truck – over at the corner of Commerce and Fort street, check out The White Lady which sells the best tasting burgers that I have ever had.

Check out the waterfront restaurants for a gourmet evening out – known as the Viaduct Harbour area, there are over 30 waterfront restaurants to explore. Even if you walk around just outside this precinct, you will find many other interesting eats.

Go shopping at the outlet malls at Onehunga or one of the city’s larger malls at Sylvia Park.

One of the secret waterfalls we discovered on one of our hikes
One of the secret waterfalls we discovered on one of our hikes

Take a nature walk – there are so many tracks to walk or hike

Look out for a weeknight market at random empty carpark lots on weeknights or go to the many weekend markets, all over Auckland
Look out for a weeknight market at random empty carpark lots on weeknights or go to the many weekend markets, all over Auckland
Decadent donuts injected with a chocolate infusion
Decadent donuts injected with a chocolate infusion

Explore the markets – during the weekend, there are city and farmer’s markets and at night – there are markets (on weekdays) at various empty parking lot locales throughout the city that sell food and bric-a-brac. All loads of fun!

Make a date with lady luck at the Auckland Sky Tower Casinos or just go up the tower for a 360 degree view of Auckland.

WHERE TO GO?

Day trip to Waiheke island – think of a boat trip, a bit of a hike into another charming seaside town, vineyards and good food, a beach to explore, zip lining and you have a day out at Waiheke, a nearby island that makes a great day trip.

Waiheke, a pretty island getaway that has resorts, vineyards and good eats for a great day trip
Waiheke, a pretty island getaway that has resorts, vineyards and good eats for a great day trip
Waiheke has lovely vintage shops that you can explore
Waiheke has lovely vintage shops that you can explore

Drive to Rotorua – this is Volcano country, famous for its geothermal hot springs, mud pools, geysers. The area has many attractions and is about a 3 hour drive from Auckland itself but definitely worth a day trip if not at least an overnight stay.

Explore Auckland Zoo or Aquarium or the various theme parks

Fullers Ferries operate several daily cruises
Fullers Ferries operate several daily cruises

Harbour Cruise – or just take a leisurely cruise with any of the deals from Fullers along the scenic coastline.

Coromandel – another beautiful escape from Auckland is this beautiful, natural hideaway retreat that has somewhat become the Hamptons of Auckland.

Hobbiton – you can’t miss this one especially if you have made it all the way to the land down-down under! There are Tours of the movie set, dinner, a farm-stay and various events with lots to see – if you make the drive down to ‘middle earth’.

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