Auckland – New Zealand’s big smoke


At over 1 million, Auckland is New Zealand’s most populated city, and the country’s business hub. But it is not the capital, and as a Wellingtonian (and therefore undoubtedly biased) I think it lacks the exceptional vibe and culture that Wellington offers. But it is an obvious and almost inevitable stop when one visits New Zealand, and if you don’t know what to do when you visit, it is easy to leave feeling both underwhelmed and unsatisfied. I love visiting Auckland, and have thought up a list of 10 of my favourite things to do there. I have tried to include a variety so there is something for everyone.


  1. Ponsonby. Less than a 30 minute walk from the CBD and waterfront, it has shopping and delicious eateries in abundance. If you are feeling a bit indecisive, Ponsonby Central allows you to prolong that decision with its huge array of choices – ranging from Mexican and Italian to South American and Japanese. Mekong Baby specialised in modernised Vietnamese food, which was so incredibly fresh and tasty; although I would recommend making a booking. For those who need a health kick, the Little Bird Unbakery has an Insta-worthy cabinet and a shop with some of its delicious treats for sale. Ponsonby is also home to Orphan’s Kitchen and Little & Friday – two classic brunch eats.
  2. Eat. When in doubt, eat. Auckland’s culinary scene has evolved so dramatically in the past few years, it almost rivals Wellingtons. Depot by Al Brown sits firmly at the top of my list for fine dining, but if you want Al Brown on a casual basis head along to my absolute favourite spot at City Works Depot. Not only does Al’s Best Ugly Bagels feature, but so does The Food Truck, Odette’s and The Botanist – and not one will disappoint. Also nearby is Scratch Bakers and Major Sprout – both options are almost worth dying for. In Britomart my vote lies with Amano, although this is still relatively fine dining – great for brunch though.
  3. Shopping. If you want the chain stores then Queen Street and Britomart are where you should head. Otherwise, Ponsonby offers some exceptional boutique shopping, and with Newmarket thrown into the mix it’s hard to go wrong.
  4. Markets. There is an abundance of themed markets dotted around Auckland. One of the best is La Cigale; a French themed market on Saturday mornings in Parnell, as well as the Matakana market located about an hour north of the city.
  5. Rangitoto Island. A return trip will set you back $30, but it’s money well spent. It takes about half an hour to get there, and it is essential that you take food and water because there is nothing available on the island. The ferries head over a couple of times a day, and there is emphasis on making sure that you make it back to the wharf in time to catch the last ferry back; unless you want to spend the night on the island! It is a relatively easy walk to the summit (about an hour) and there is plenty of other tracks available, including past some historic baches, and lava caves (take a torch!).
  6. Auckland Zoo. I love animals, and I love the zoo. Auckland Zoo never fails to please either; it has basically everything – including a hippo! Located in Western Springs it is pretty easy to get to; buses run frequently and there is free parking if you want to drive. Definitely allow at least a few hours and there are plenty of picnic spots to break for lunch.
  7. Sky Tower. No trip to Auckland is complete without one to the Sky Tower. At 328 metres high it is the tallest structure in the Southern Hemisphere. Dine at Peter Gordon’s The Sugar Club, or if you are feeling slightly more daring, feel free to through yourself off the side by doing the SkyJump. Adrenaline rush, need I say more?
  8. Catch a ferry somewhere. Whether it is for a mere harbour cruise, or across to Devonport, it can be extremely liberating escaping the big city life for even just a day. Devonport is pretty amazing; I stayed in an Air BnB there recently and it is such a cute spot. The views looking back to the city are also unreal. A prime destination is Waiheke Island; which is one sweet getaway. About a 40 minute ferry from Auckland’s CBD it is a great place to unwind. Whether you want to swim at the beach, bike the vineyards sampling wine or just kick back in in the sun Waiheke has it all.
  9. Rainbow’s End. The pot of gold at the end of my list, Rainbow’s End is New Zealand’s only real theme park, and is sure to provide a great day for the whole family. If you can go there on a week day, there will like be next to no-one at the park (meaning you don’t have to queue up for anything, and you can ride things multiple times in a row!) Or visit Kelly Tarlton’s for some Antarctic fun.
  10. Beaches. The one thing that Auckland has which Wellington doesn’t is the beaches to go with its improved climate. Visit Mission Bay, Omaha, or if you feel like a drive make your way north. The further you go, the better it gets.


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