What are the best things to do in Auckland?

Nicky Park

I've been living the life of a tourist here in Auckland for about two years now. Here's my pick of the five things you must-do while you're in this city.

1. Get to a rugby game: Kiwis are mad about rugby union. If you're in town during the NZ winter, get yourself a ticket and head out to Eden Park for a game of the code. The city's biggest stadium hosts international matches and the Super 15 tournament. It's a friendly, fun atmosphere where you can witness Kiwis at their most passionate.

2. Take a leap off something: Bungee jumping was invented by a couple of crazy Kiwi guys. The South Island is better known for the adrenalin charged activities, but Auckland has options if you've got the guts. The SkyJump from the Sky Tower is about 192m from the ground, with a drop, likened to base jumping, that will take about 11 seconds. Or take a leap of faith from the Auckland Harbour Bridge

3. Go wine tasting on Waiheke Island: Take a one-our ferry ride from downtown Auckland and head out for a day on Waiheke Island. There are heaps of different wine tasting tours, varying in price range, depending on what you want to do. Alternatively, hop on a bus from the ferry terminal and head out on your own. There are so many stunning wineries, with delicious food, you can't go wrong.

4. Have a meal at the Viaduct: Auckland is known as the City of Sails. One look at it's harbour and it makes total sence. Make the most of stunning scenes by enjoying a glass of New Zealand grown wine at one of the bars down at the Viaduct. And treat yourself to some delicious, locally caught seafood.

5. Get out of the city center: Some of the best things to eat, drink, see and do are outside the main hub of the city. Head to Ponsonby for dinner at one of the sexy extablishments down the main road, check out a sunset at Mission Bay or get active with a hike in the Waitakere Ranges or a kayak to Rangitoto.

  • On July 18, 2013
    Nicky Park answered the question: Nicky Park

    What are the best adventure outings in Auckland?

    New Zealand prides itself on catering to the thrill seeker so adventurous activities are a Kiwi specialty. While the South Island is better known for getting the blood pumping, there’s still action up north. Here are my picks of Auckland adventures:

    1. Canyoning in the Waitakere Ranges: About an hours drive out of Auckland lies the beautiful Waitakere Ranges. There’s plenty to do out there on your own, however, there are guided day trips that will have you abseiling down waterfalls, jumping off cliffs, crawling through holes and swimming to safety. It’s one of the most rewarding adventures that I’ve ever done and well worth checking out.

    2. Scaling the Sky Tower: There’s plenty to do on, in and around the soaring Sky Tower, but the best of the adventures I reckon is the SkyWalk. All rigged up, you are led around a 1.2m wide walkway that circles the SkyTower, 192m off the ground. There’s no handrails and it can get really windy up there. Your bravery is rewarded with panoramic views of Auckland city and I recommend purchasing the cool pictures of your time up there.

    3. Jumping off the Harbour Bridge: Bungy jumping is a must-do in Auckland (if you have the guts). Kiwis boast the fact that they are the brains behind this spine-tingling activity so it’s worth adding to your bucket list. In Auckland, the best place to give it a go is off the iconic Auckland Harbour Bridge. The first bungy off the bridge happened back in 1987 when the activity’s inventor, AJ Hackett, leapt off. He was detained by police. However, in 2003 he took over the Harbour Birdge Climb and added the bungy element.
  • On July 18, 2013
    Nicky Park answered the question: Nicky Park

    What are the best adventure outings in Auckland?

    New Zealand prides itself on catering to the thrill seeker so adventurous activities are a Kiwi specialty. While the South Island is better known for getting the blood pumping, there’s still action up north. Here are my picks of Auckland adventures:

    1. Canyoning in the Waitakere Ranges: About an hours drive out of Auckland lies the beautiful Waitakere Ranges. There’s plenty to do out there on your own, however, there are guided day trips that will have you abseiling down waterfalls, jumping off cliffs, crawling through holes and swimming to safety. It’s one of the most rewarding adventures that I’ve ever done and well worth checking out.

    2. Scaling the Sky Tower: There’s plenty to do on, in and around the soaring Sky Tower, but the best of the adventures I reckon is the SkyWalk. All rigged up, you are led around a 1.2m wide walkway that circles the SkyTower, 192m off the ground. There’s no handrails and it can get really windy up there. Your bravery is rewarded with panoramic views of Auckland city and I recommend purchasing the cool pictures of your time up there.

    3. Jumping off the Harbour Bridge: Bungy jumping is a must-do in Auckland (if you have the guts). Kiwis boast the fact that they are the brains behind this spine-tingling activity so it’s worth adding to your bucket list. In Auckland, the best place to give it a go is off the iconic Auckland Harbour Bridge. The first bungy off the bridge happened back in 1987 when the activity’s inventor, AJ Hackett, leapt off. He was detained by police. However, in 2003 he took over the Harbour Birdge Climb and added the bungy element.
  • On July 17, 2013
    Nicky Park answered the question: Nicky Park

    What are the best bakeries in Auckland?

    Little and Friday: The jelly doughnuts fly off the shelves at Little and Friday. I suggest getting your mits on one, taking it away it’s white paper bag to a quite spot where you can look like a glutton pushing the sugary goodness in to your mouth without fear of messy guilt or judgment. There are a couple of these sweet little eateries, but I have a soft spot for the original outlet in Belmont. It can get really busy on the weekends (especially mid-morning) but it's worth lining up at the counter for your goodies. The bacon and egg pie is my favourite savoury snack and make sure you load up on the complimenary home-made chutneys. If you wrangle a seat around the communal table, eating off the quaint mis-matched plates is quite a cute experience. 

    The Store: I’ve boasted about the brunching qualities of The Store before but the other side of this Britomart eatery is a cool artisan bakery. Their focus is on high quality, seasonal food. There’s a range of freshly baked breads, morning sweet pastries, savouries, breakfast cereals and specialty beverages. Take a look behind the glass and let your belly decide.

    Scratch Bakers: This is the newest baked goods outlet on the scene. Sitting in the hip City Works Depot, everything at Scratch bakery is made on site from scratch, hence the name. The pies here are something else - pork belly, apple and cider is the most popular - but others include the meats of goat, beef cheek and rabbit. They also have a collection of delectable looking sweet treats and the coffee is really good.   
  • On July 17, 2013
    Nicky Park answered the question: Nicky Park

    What are the best bakeries in Auckland?

    Little and Friday: The jelly doughnuts fly off the shelves at Little and Friday. I suggest getting your mits on one, taking it away it’s white paper bag to a quite spot where you can look like a glutton pushing the sugary goodness in to your mouth without fear of messy guilt or judgment. There are a couple of these sweet little eateries, but I have a soft spot for the original outlet in Belmont. It can get really busy on the weekends (especially mid-morning) but it's worth lining up at the counter for your goodies. The bacon and egg pie is my favourite savoury snack and make sure you load up on the complimenary home-made chutneys. If you wrangle a seat around the communal table, eating off the quaint mis-matched plates is quite a cute experience. 

    The Store: I’ve boasted about the brunching qualities of The Store before but the other side of this Britomart eatery is a cool artisan bakery. Their focus is on high quality, seasonal food. There’s a range of freshly baked breads, morning sweet pastries, savouries, breakfast cereals and specialty beverages. Take a look behind the glass and let your belly decide.

    Scratch Bakery: This is the newest baked goods outlet on the scene. Sitting in the hip City Works Depot, everything at Scratch bakery is made on site from scratch, hence the name. The pies here are something else - pork belly, apple and cider is the most popular - but others include the meats of goat, beef cheek and rabbit. They also have a collection of delectable looking sweet treats and the coffee is really good.   
  • On June 25, 2013
    Nicky Park answered the question: Nicky Park

    What are the best bakeries in Auckland?

    Little and Friday: The jelly doughnuts fly off the shelves at Little and Friday. I suggest getting your mits on one, taking it away it’s paper bag to a quite spot where you can look like a glutton pushing the sugary goodness in to your mouth without fear of messy guilt or judgment. There are a couple of these sweet little eateries , but I have a soft spot for the original outlet in Belmont.  The pastries here are so good Kim Evans has even compiled a book of top treats.

    The Store: I’ve boasted about the brunching qualities of The Store before but the other side of this Britomart eatery is a cool artisan bakery. Their focus is on high quality, seasonal food. There’s a range of freshly baked breads, morning sweet pastries, savouries, breakfast cereals and specialty beverages.

    Paneton Bakery: This is the closest you will get to a French bakery in little ol’ Auckland. The bakery has evolved from a sweet love story inspired by French cooking and New Zealand produce. The fresh bakery itself sits opposite Victoria Park downtown, but their goods are now sold in stores across the country. I recommend picking up a croissant and a coffee and finding a spot in the sun.
  • On June 25, 2013
    Nicky Park answered the question: Nicky Park

    What are the best places for brunch in Auckland?

    The Store: I recently reviewed this Britomart diner, giving them a well-earned five out of five for their brunch service. While you might have to wait a few minutes for a table, the service is polite and friendly. The menu is interesting (the rancher eggs and the prosciutto croquet madame are my favourites) and the coffee is really good. They've also got a cool artisan bakery if you want to pack something for the road.    

    Ortolana: Ortolana is a lush beauty in the center of the hip Britomart region known as The Pavillions. This casual bistro is nestled under a lofty glass canopy with foliage and giant planters that fit the pot-to-table style menu. The menu is a little cryptic but appealing. It’s an all day bistro so pick a spot and work your way through your favourites. Ortolana is the place that everyone's talking about at the moment.

    Federal and Wolfe: This cool café is a gem in the bustling working hub of Auckland's CBD. Set a few streets back from the main drag, Queen Street, the graffiti scrawled walls and industrial decor make for a hip and grungy feel. I love the juices served in jars. The meals are organic, warming and generous. It’s the kind of brunch where you won’t feel your tummy rumbling until dinner time.
  • On June 25, 2013
    Nicky Park answered the question: Nicky Park

    What are the most romantic restaurants in Auckland?

    When I think of romance I think of dimly lit, sexy seating and delicious food and wine. Here are my picks of the best restaurants to get you in the mood.

    Clooney: This central Auckland eatery oozes chic. The dim lighting is romantic (and flattering) and the tan, curved leather booth style seating just craves a cosy couple. The fine dining chef at Clooney is one of the best in the city, and the wine list is also worth boasting about. I suggest tackling a tasting menu for two.

    Tanuki’s Cave: This underground yakitori and kushiage bar is very cool. It’s a favourite first date destination – there’s nothing like sharing delicious Japanese food and a pottle of warming sake to break the ice! It’s also well located on Queen Street if you’re based downtown or heading out to see a show.

    Toto Restaurant: This is one of Auckland’s favourite Italian restaurants. It’s classic fine dining with white table clothes, polite, caring service and a roaring fireplace. The handmade pasta is divine, the ravioli is a stand-out. There's also live opera on Saturday night, if that's your thing.
  • On June 24, 2013
    Nicky Park answered the question: Nicky Park

    What are the best indoor activities in Auckland?

    Personally, I think the best indoor activities Auckland has to offer are wining and dining.

    Auckland’s café scene is one of the best (even according to the very best chef in the city). Check out Britomart for some yummy brunch spots (I like The Store and Ortolana), head to the Viaduct for undercover seaside dining (Soul Bar is a classic), or visit one of my new favourite restaurants, the Blue Breeze Inn up in Ponsonby. If you’re feeling like treating yourself, why not indulge in a degustation menu designed at the top fine dining eatery in the city, The French Café. 

    For less pant expanding indoor offerings – the Auckland Museum offers a brilliant insight in to the rich history of New Zealand. I also speak highly of the wellness center at The Langham Hotel. They pride themselves on using the nurturing qualities of traditional Chinese medicine for a feeling of total wellness. Just thinking about this makes me long for a lazy indoor day!
  • On June 24, 2013
    Nicky Park answered the question: Nicky Park

    What are the best outdoor activities in Auckland?

    Auckland is a great city for outdoor activities when the weather is right (ideally from about September until March). New Zealanders are active people and love to share their enthusiasm for the great outdoors. Check out some of my favourite day trips to get some inspiration.

    There’s something for everyone. If you want something chilled out - find a sunny spot by the Viaduct, sip a local vino and sample the local seafood. If you’re a water baby head out to Mission Bay (about a 20 minute bus ride from town) and hire a kayak or stand-up paddle board and splash about in the sea. For something more adventurous, I love the canyoning experiences offered out in the Waitakere Ranges (about an hour out of Auckland city – there are a few different organized tours to pick from).

    Because Auckland is so small it’s easy to walk around and check out the sites – this city is best explored by getting outdoors and getting amongst it.
  • On June 23, 2013
    Nicky Park answered the question: Nicky Park

    What are the best places to see a play in Auckland?

    Q Theatre: The Q Theatre website does a great job of explaining its brief history: “In 1996 Auckland’s Watershed Theatre closed to make way for the America’s Cup yacht race. Performers and practitioners immediately began scouring Auckland for a new venue. As a result of this group’s activities, in 1997 Auckland City Council commissioned a study of performing arts venues. The study determined that the city lacked a central, 350-450 seat, flexi-form venue.” Cut to 2011 and the Q Theatre on Queen Street came to life. The bar at the front of the venue is inviting and social, while the spaces are perfectly designed for live performance.

    The Basement: This grungy, underground venue hosts some of Auckland’s most adventurous emerging artists. The Basement is an intimate, friendly, independent space where you can check out dance, theatre, poetry, comedy, music  - and everything in between. A great spot for a casual and creative night with a glass of red wine and some salted nuts.

    The Civic:This beautiful building, constructed in 1929, stands on the corner of Queen Street and Wellesley Street. The space was revamped with a $45 million refurbishment, reopening at the end of 1999, the 70th anniversary of its first performance. Originally built as a movie theatre, The Civic holds just over 2,300 people is one of the city’s most popular live performance venues. It’s one of the most stunning sites in the young Auckland city.
  • On June 23, 2013
    Nicky Park answered the question: Nicky Park

    What restaurants have the best wines in Auckland?

    I’ve done some digging around and spoken to New Zealand master sommelier and wine judge Cameron Douglas for his picks of the best wine lists on Auckland’s restaurant scene:

    Meredith's Restaurant: This a degustation driven food program - the wine list embraces the complexities and nuances of the food first so that the wine and food pairings work. The wine list also features wines that ensure a specific insight into the major wine regions can be explored through hand selected examples.

    Antoines: This is a quintessential dining must. The food is outstanding - the wine list littered with gems that, for a price, will please many. It is also a wine list that can take diners on a New Zealand wine tour.

    Clooney: Very tasty food in a really cool dining room. This award winning find dining venue features a fabulous wine list with something for everyone and really well priced.

    Coco Restaurant and Bar: Classic European styled cuisine with Kiwi heart and Vietnamese flavours. The wine list is very short, but succinct and designed to work alongside the food and in harmony as well.
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