In our amazing world, there are as many ways to travel as there are places to explore. For convenience, there are the package tours where everything is done for you. Your itinerary, hotels, transportation, most meals, tours, and tickets are taken care of by the tour leader and the local guide.
But if you have two weeks to spare in Auckland, I suggest exploring the city and the surrounding areas freeform like a local. Here’s how:
1. Stay in a schooner yacht at Auckland Viaduct Harbour
Airbnb host, John, has a 70-foot classic schooner yacht for rent. Named Haparanda, the yacht comfortably sleeps up to six people and is securely moored to the dock so it won’t sail away. The yacht is moored in Viaduct Harbour, one of the best locations for anyone wanting to explore the city’s CBD (central business district). There are restaurants, coffee shops, specialty stores and bookstores. It is only around a five-minute walk to the ferries, trains, and buses that connect to other parts of Auckland.
The Viaduct Harbour is home to over 30 bars and restaurants and is the place to be for breakfast, lunch, dinner and night entertainment. Here’s a list of 10 bars in the area:
- Bubble Champagne Bar
- Danny Doolans Bar
- Fox’s Ale House Sports Bar
- Bungalow 8 Bar
- O’Hagans Bar
- Spy Bar
- Soul Bar & Bistro
- Cowboys Bar
- Natural Bar
- The Crew Club
2. Stay somewhere recommended by locals
Trippy member Katie Simons from Los Angeles asked:
What’s the best neighborhood in Auckland for a first-time visitor?
I’ve never been to Auckland and I’m a little overwhelmed by all the hotel options. I’d like to stay in a hotel that is central and gives me good sense of what Auckland is like. I’d love to know where locals tell their friends to stay when they visit, and why those areas and hotels are special. thanks!
When spending more than a week in a destination, I find that getting an apartment is a better option than hotels. It’s nice to have the extra room, the fully equipped kitchen and at times a balcony to admire the view. Where you stay is crucial, and I always look for apartments that are safe, within walking distance to public transportation, in charming neighborhoods and near all the attractions.
In Auckland, I would recommend Takapuna, Devonport, Mt Eden, Parnell, and Epsom neighborhoods. These neighborhoods are not too far from the city center, have attractions in their own right, and have numerous dining options which you won’t be able to completely explore in two weeks.
In our recent trip, we stayed in the Takapuna and Epsom areas for three weeks. Also, we stayed with a friend in the Bucklands Beach neighborhood, located quite a distance from the city. Takapuna has a beach, a variety of restaurants and supermarkets like Countdown. Everything is within walking distance. Bucklands Beach though far is accessible by ferry from Half Moon Bay Marina to Auckland CBD Ferry Terminal on Quay Street.
Grace Bridges from Auckland recommended:
For me as a local, the hotels are pretty far removed from an authentic experience. I recommend the Takapuna Beach Holiday Park, which has campsites but also motel units, cabins and fixed-site caravans, all right by the ancient lava shoreline. Note that this is not in the centre of Auckland city but you can easily get there by bus in under 15 minutes. Auckland is so much more than its centre! Takapuna and the surrounding area has plenty to offer as well, and the Holiday Park is within walking distance to lots of restaurants, shopping and entertainment.
3. Shop at neighborhood grocery stores and fresh markets
Want to know how much a loaf of bread in Auckland cost? What type of vegetables and fruits are in season? Or what the locals eat? Go to a grocery store!
Pak ‘n Save, New World, and Countdown are three major supermarkets in Auckland. Auckland’s supermarkets carry a variety of local New Zealand-grown wines besides the usual fresh produce, grocery, and homewares.
Eat like the locals – get Vegemite and try it on toast! Or buy a bag of fresh New Zealand Greenshell mussels. These mussels are cheap, fresh and delicious, and pair well with New Zealand-grown Sauvignon Blanc.
There are several weekend fresh markets in Auckland you may want to visit, like Parnell Farmer’s Market (every Saturday from 8 a.m. to 12 noon) and La Cigale Market at Britomart in the heart of the city (every Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. on Saturday and 9 a.m. on Sunday to 1 p.m.)
If you have a car, I suggest venturing out to Matakana Village Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings. This by far is one of the best fresh markets in Auckland for baked goods, fresh produce, and cheeses. I recommend eating in one of the restaurants and cafes. Check out the pottery galleries and wineries in the area.
Matakana is home to Matakana oysters and ten wineries.
4. Take the local buses and ferries
Not only is Auckland’s public transportation economical, it is the best ways to see the neighborhoods. Public transportation gives you the opportunity to rub shoulders with the locals, at times literally.
Those who stay in Devonport, a historic town in the Northshore, can take the 12-minute ferry trip from Devonport to Auckland CBD. It operates every half hour throughout the day from Pier 1 in CBD to Devonport terminal for free. Ferries also operate to Birkenhead, Half Moon Bay, Waiheke Island and other neighborhoods.
5. Where to eat
Trippy member Linda Gunthner from Brighton asked:
Great, reasonably priced restaurants in Auckland?
Will be in Auckland for 2 days and would like recommendations for reasonable priced restaurants with good food. Any suggestions?
Terrance Wrist from Auckland wrote:
Auckland has recently seen a blossoming of fantastic new eateries around the central areas and developed its own foodie culture. I’d suggest going to Britomart Pl and Wynyard Quarterand walking around looking for something you might enjoy, it tends to be on the higher end of price range but there are cheap eats too, Cafe Hanoi Britomart and Baduzzi are some of my favourites.
Alternatively another area is Ponsonby which is more the gastro style, shared plates sort of cuisine and has some of Aucklands most popular restaurants. Sidart Restaurant is my favourite but very pricey, The Blue Breeze Inn is also good there again look around online around these areas and you should be good.
Optimist McLean from Dunedin recommended:
To be honest, there’s a lot of good competition in the CBD, and as long as you’re not visiting a “name” chef (who often have good specials anyway, as there are around 10 of them sprinkled through the CBD), you’ll end up in a place of quality food at reasonable prices. Many restaurants don’t even bother with bookings – just wander around Queen St and its adjacent ones, see where the crowds are, and avoid the ones that aren’t crowded 😀
If you’re in the Browns Bay neighborhood drop by Deep Creek Brews and Eats for the best barbecue meat and craft beer. Visit their other locations – Cove on Waiheke Island and Coast in Orewa.
For dessert, I recommend Milse in Britomart and Chocolate Boutique Café in Parnell.
6. Go to the library
Auckland has 55 library branches and four mobile libraries. You can read magazines, newspapers, and books, and use the internet at any of the branches. You may not be able to check out the books, but you can enjoy the facilities and quiet environment.
7. Things to do in Auckland
Katie Simons asked:
Best free things to do in Auckland?
I’m going to be in Auckland next month and will be on a pretty tight budget. I’m looking for the best free and inexpensive things to check out! I love the outdoors, art, museums, you name it. Thanks!
Having lived in Auckland for over three and half years and visited recently, I agree with the following things to do as suggested by Carolyn, Trevor, and Wendy.
Carolyn Cossey from Drury New Zealand suggested:
There’s heaps to do in Auckland on a budget. We have a world-class art gallery which is completely free, and offers free daily tours twice a day. Spend half a day doing the Auckland coast to coast walk, it will include walking up two of the city’s most famous summits for amazing views. For a bit of a cost to visitors, $55 you can have an amazing experience, including a cultural performance Auckland War Memorial Museum. And the best and cheapest way to experience the ‘City of Sails’ is to hop on a ferry to Waiheke Island. Once you get there buy a $10 all day bus pass. And then there are the markets, get to Otara or Avondale for bargains, and cultural experience. Hope this helps!
Trevor Moodie recommended:
There is plenty to do in Auckland in Summer – it pretty much comes alive – check out http://www.eventfinda.co.nz/concerts-gig-guide/events/auckland
And Auckland Tourism site http://www.aucklandnz.com/ is also worth referring to.
There are a lot of concerts, gigs, event and festivals – many free – during this period. The Splore Music and Arts festival is scheduled for February, as is the Lantern Festival. Worthy of a visit is Waiheke Island – a ferry ride from Auckland transports you to a unique Island culture. Not to be missed. It will be hosting the Headland Sculpture on the Gulf exhibition. While you are there visit one of the many Island wineries – you will also find them situated West and North Auckland.
The Viaduct Harbour Avenue and Wynyard Quarter are also great places to relax and enjoy (wine , food, coffee..or simply watching the boats and people pass 🙂
Wendy Rayman from Auckland offered the following tips:
There is a heap of free ‘stuff’ you could do in Akl for a day – especially if you like outdoors.
There are several fantastic hikes you can do along our coastlines or in our Waitakere ranges.. checkout http://regionalparks.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz
Our waterfront is amazing as well – viaduct harbour.
Our gardens are great – One Tree Hill Cornwall Park (One Tree Hill), Auckland Botanic Gardens Manukau Gardens.
You can also check out our Auckland War Memorial Museum and our Museum Of Transport And Technology (MOTAT)
Shopping and bar scene in Parnell and Ponsonby is great and then our waterfront – Viaduct Harbour Avenue is good for strolls and dinner, etc.
North Shore beaches – Long Bay is a great day trip as well.
My list of things to do (not listed above):
- Stroll along Mission Bay for the beach vibe and food
- Hike to the top of Mt. Eden for the views
- Have a picnic at Cornwall Park before walking up to the top of One Tree Hill
- Walk up to the top of One Tree Hill for the views
- Eat fish and chips at any of the local beaches – Takapuna, Buckland’s Beach, St. Heliers and more
- Visit the wineries – Waiheke Island, Matakana and Kumeu
- Enjoy the local hokey pokey ice cream (vanilla ice cream with lumps of toffee, found only in New Zealand)
- Walk up Mt. Victoria in Devonport for more views of Auckland, and visit the shops in historic Devonport
Nature lovers and adventurers may enjoy hiking the many nature trails or kayaking to Rangitoto Island.
Photos and article by Claudia Looi