Hidden Auckland - six things we love to do
Many visitors rush through Auckland using it as a gateway to the Bay of Islands or south to the thermal wonderland of Rotorua. But that’s not doing justice to this fascinating city squeezed between two of the world’s most picturesque harbours. In fact delve deep into the city centre and there’s a number of hard-to find-treats and treasures the locals’ love. And being Aucklanders we like to spend a penny to save a pound - meaning we like to be entertained for very little! Here’s six ways to delight in Auckland’s hidden finds without denting the credit card.
A mocktail at De Bretts, corner Shortland and High Streets For just $10, you can enjoy a mocktail at one of Auckland’s most stylish hard-to-find bars. Imagine sipping a grapefruit and raspberry cooler, De Brett’s blend of grapefruit, raspberry juice, mint and fresh lime, in the art-deco inspired elegance of the hotel’s House Bar.
Built as The Commercial Hotel in 1841, it was one of Auckland’s first hotels. The Commercial survived two fires, and two rebuilds, before the current De Brett’s was erected in 1925 and extensively remodeled in 2007. If only those walls could talk, what stories they could tell!
Admire art at the Vero Centre and relax on their sea view terrace.
Stroll into the lobby of New Zealand’s tallest commercial tower and you’ll be confronted with a huge wheel-like sculpture, Andrew Drummond’s Assignation Device. The wonder continues up the escalator with a Gretchen Albrecht’s Pohutukawa painting in prime view. The building lobby and first floor is open to the public on weekdays and includes access to a lovely terraced garden with a snippet-like sea view and a wondrous grove of Nikau trees.
The vast scale of the major artworks commissioned from top New Zealand contemporary artists is outstanding. At the time of commissioning, each of these pieces were the largest that the artist had ever created.
A sneaky pastry at L’Assiette. Surely one of downtown’s best little bakery cafes and a perfect slice of Parisian decadence to boot. We sampled a hazelnut-filled choux pastry which melted in the mouth. Definitely worth a visit - grab a table outside and watch the world stroll by.
The rooftop garden at 56 Wakefield Street. Now home to the AUT School of Tourism, just enter the lobby and take the lift to the 17th floor (Monday to Friday) for some of the best free’ views of downtown Auckland. It’s a great place to snooze, sunbake, have a picnic and take selfies. When we visited, we had the place to ourselves. Surprise and delight your mates or family next time you’re in town as it’s just up the hill from the Aotea Centre.
Jason Books at 16 O'Connell Street. This hidden gem is one of Auckland’s best secrets. In need of a good book during your travels or a good rainy day adventure, retreat from the hustle and bustle of the city streets and explore this expansive second hand book store. Hunt through over 30,000 well read and well loved books that share a story of their own.
Dinner for less - Pay what you want at St Kevin’s Arcade
This social project feeds people on Monday nights. A team of voluntary Chefs working out of the Gemmayze St kitchen on K’Road transform rescued food into restaurant quality meals for Aucklanders from all walks of life. You turn up and pay what you feel like. Nice one!
One of the best ways to discover more hidden haunts is to do our small-group Hello Auckland walking tour. Or better still book a private walking tour for either yourself, your clients or visitors to enjoy the very best the city has to offer.