We picked up a straggler in Auckland! Just kidding. Our friend Grace joined our southern hemispheric adventure in New Zealand. While we traveled from Port Douglas to Sydney to Auckland, Grace enjoyed some of the finer things Auckland has to offer—helping to scope out our plans for the next few days.
This city is the perfect size for a short trip, and is far from a flyover destination. Be sure to account for time in Auckland to really take in New Zealand’s best vineyards, great shopping and native art. We had a blast roaming around the streets, and were especially taken with Waiheke Island. You can quote me: When I retire, I want to move to Waiheke. Signed, sealed, delivered, En Zed, I’m yours.
Ponsonby Shopping: Ponsonby is a hip, central neighborhood for awesome shopping and yummy eats. More boutique-y than chain-oriented, Ponsonby is ideal for high fashion window shoppers and brunch-lovers. Carrying Kiwi and international brands, Ponsonby was a great place for Grace, Haley and me to get our feet wet.
K Street: Nearby Ponsonby, you’ll encounter another lovely shopping area, K Street (for Karangahape). Vintage and thrift stores offering respectable prices abound.
Auckland Art Gallery: Take a break from shopping and stop by the Auckland Art Gallery. Housing Kiwi and international artists, the Gallery is currently showcasing an exhibit from the Tate Modern. The building itself is a masterful piece of art, and I loved the way the works were arranged—a big emphasis on political movements and the intersection between social inequalities and art.
Waiheke: Like Mr. G’s drama classroom is his haven, this Island is my haven. Accessible by 30-minute ferry ($50 NZD), nature lovers and wine connoisseurs will love Waiheke. (Some refer to it as ‘Wine Island’ because of its amazing Bordeaux, Chardonnay and Sauvignon blanc selection.) A natural wonder, Waiheke is home to just under 10,000 Kiwis, and presumably, a bunch of sheep. While Haley and I watched, Grace took a dip in the water at Oneroa Beach, and reported back, “It’s really warm!” So, even in winter you can experience Waiheke’s gorgeous beaches.
The Sky Tower: This is on every tourist’s list, and for good reason. For $29 NZD, rocket to the top of Auckland’s Sky Tower. With a 360° view of the city and its surrounding countryside, the Sky Tower is a spectacular way to get one’s always necessary, often difficult to obtain, ‘lay of the land.’ Those with a fear of heights need not apply.
Mt. Eden: The highest natural point in Auckland, and one of the greenest, Mt. Eden is a dreamy, former volcanic cone. An easy, 5-to-10-minute hike to the top, Mt. Eden is so how I pictured New Zealand to be: natural, verdant, bucolic, etc. It can get pretty touristy, says the perpetual tourist, so try to go early in the morning.
Cable Bay Vineyards: Located on Waiheke Island, Grace, Haley and I have too many great things to say about Cable Bay Vineyards. Reminiscent of Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies, Cable Bay Vineyards is totally where Madeline Martha Mackenzie would put her feet up. With a tasting room, an informal dining room for light bites and a more formal dining room, Cable Bay will suit all your needs. We recommend the Mezze Platter, as an appetizer, and the Reserve Sauvignon Blanc.
Al’s Deli: Who wouldn’t want homemade bagels? Al’s Deli is perfect for carbo-loading, as well as for that ever trendy, omnipresent dish, avocado toast.
The Caker: I have a sweet tooth, yes I do. The Caker, a female run bakery on K Street, is where I’d most likely return to for pastries in Auckland. Gluten-free, organic, you name it, they’ve got it! The flourless chocolate cupcake was out of control. I’m definitely picking another one up on my way back through Auckland. The Caker also sells simple cake mixes and an exclusive cookbook.
Tea at the Langham Hotel: If you enjoy tea, stop by the Langham Hotel for their Palm Court Blend. Floral in taste and in color—it’s pink!—you’ll love mixing your fresh-from-the-oven scone with a nice cuppa.
Pauanesia: Looking for authentic Kiwi gifts? Pauanesia is a 22-year-old shop that sells wool products handcrafted in New Zealand, among other items. It’s where Haley and I purchased a gift for our mother, if that helps set the scene.
Flo & Frankie: The Intermix of Auckland, Flo & Frankie is where my youngest sister would shop. Corduroy bombers, a cool sales staff and The Caker Cookbook, all in one go! Unsurprisingly, Grace, Haley and I went nuts for Flo & Frankie’s varied, contemporary collection of Kiwi and international brands.