You’re in Auckland for a good time, but not a long time. With that said, you don’t want to waste a single moment not exploring all that this North Island city has to offer. When you hop off the plane at Auckland Airport, jump straight into a cab and head toward The Langham Hotel Auckland (which is where you’ll want to stay if you’re here for a short time). It will cost you about NZ$80 (approximately $66 US dollars) and take about 30 minutes to reach downtown (depending on traffic), but this is the fastest way to get in to the thick of things. The luxurious hotel is walking distance to the picturesque waterfront and downtown shopping, making it a perfect home base.
Once you’ve dropped your bags off, grab your breakfast from Auckland’s newest eatery, Best Ugly Bagels. The old converted workshop is the brainchild of one of the country’s most acclaimed chefs and TV personalities, Al Brown. Grab a freshly baked brekkie (try the homemade hazelnut spread on your bagel) and a Havana black coffee. You’ll need that energy for the busy day ahead of you.
Make tracks back toward the iconic Sky Tower (just look up and you can’t miss it — at 328 meters [1,076 feet], it’s New Zealand’s tallest man-made structure). If you’re feeling brave, suit up for a SkyJump off the tower or a SkyWalk around the building at 192 meters [630 feet] up. If you’d rather not partake in these adventures, watch someone else take the plunge.
Continue on to the Auckland War Memorial Museum, which sits less than 3 miles away. Though it’s technically closed for the winter, the gorgeous building can still be opened for groups. A morning spent wandering around it will give you good insight into the interesting Kiwi culture. After your history lesson, hop on an Auckland Transport bus out to Mission Bay. The journey will take you along the scenic waterfront stretch of Tamaki Drive and in to the seaside hub. If you’re a water baby, rent a kayak or a stand-up paddle board and make the most of the great outdoors — just keep in mind that New Zealand’s summers take place from December through February, so off-season rentals are hard to come by unless you’re with a large group. If you’d prefer to stay dry, amble along the promenade and find a spot on the top floor of De Fontein, a Belgian beer cafe. Order a cold Belgian beer (favorites include Gouden Carolus Classic and Maredsous Brune), soak up the sun and spy on the passersby.
As the sun is setting, make your way back into town. Since this is the City of Sails, you should treat yourself to a meal at Viaduct Harbour. Soul Bar has one of the city’s best seasonal menus. Grab a seat outside, order the salt and pepper squid and a glass of Marlborough sauvignon blanc, and savor the scapes. If you’ve still got steam, check out the nighttime activity at nearby Britomart, where you’ll find 102 craft beers at Brew on Quay or rum cocktails and cigars at Racket.
After a good night’s sleep, enjoy Auckland’s corn fritters for breakfast. Most menus feature this Kiwi classic, but a surefire way to enjoy a perfect batch is to catch a cab to Ponsonby (about 10 minutes from the city) and slip onto a stool at the big share table at Bambina. Have a read of the local news and eavesdrop on Kiwis talking around you. Pop in to a corner store (or a “dairy” as they say in New Zealand) and pick up a couple of classic Kiwi snacks — Pineapple Lumps and a can of L&P soda. Make your way back downtown to the ferry terminal under the clock tower on Quay Street — this is about a 30-minute walk or a little bit less on the green inner-link bus. Board the next boat over to Waiheke Island. This small island, about an hour and a half from Auckland, is home to some of the best vineyards in New Zealand. Pre-book for one of the island’s popular tours — with more than 30 vineyards on the island to visit, you can spend the rest of the afternoon wining and dining.
You’ll be tuckered out by the time you return on an afternoon ferry, so take a quick nap and head up to Depot Eatery and Oyster Bar (chef Brown’s place) for a casual dinner. This is the best restaurant in Auckland, according to Metro magazine. It pays to arrive early at this eatery; the busy oyster bar doesn’t take bookings, and it can get pretty packed. But the famous oysters, snapper sliders and squid ink linguine are well worth the wait.
Photos Courtesy of Kieran Scott Photography, Soul Bar And Bistro, and Auckland Museum