News and Views

Auckland's Winter Festivals

Posted by Website Admin on June 25, 2019

Top things to do in Auckland: Winter Festivals

Let’s be real, we work in tourism and dream of travel all year round. So when the chilly season hits, it’s the perfect excuse for a winter getaway. But with so much on offer in Auckland this July, we're planning a mini-break to enjoy events right in our backyard. Between Elemental AKL, Matariki - Maori New Year, the New Zealand International Film Festival and the Pop-Up Globe winter season — we're mega excited. So don't hibernate, wrap up, get out and celebrate this beautiful city. Here’s our pick of what’s coming up this winter for both visitors and locals to enjoy:

Matariki - Maori New Year 22 June to 14 July 

This time of renewal, when the Matariki star cluster rises in the midwinter skies, will be celebrated nationwide with a series of free and ticketed events. We like the look of these events.

> Hangi at Britomart   Lunchtime Tue 25 - Sun 30 June.
The Maori Kitchen crew are bringing their A game to Britomart, digging up the lawn downtown at Takutai Square and laying down a traditional hangi. Listen to music and sample some great food and drink with a guitair party singalong from 5pm till late. 
> Vector Lights for Matariki Festival - 8 minute shows, half hourly 27 June - 14 July  (FREE)
The Auckland harbour Bridge will be lit up with the sacred star of the Maori New Year, te wetuu tapu o te tau hou Maaori. Includes a soundtrack of songs composed specifically for Matariki Festival. 
> Matariki Market on K’Road  Thurs 4 July, 6pm - 9pm  (FREE)
The foyer of historic George Coutt’s on K’Road will be transformed into an arts and crafts market with the opportunity to learn more about Matariki
> Matariki on the Move: Understanding Maori Astronomy Wed 10 July 7pm - 10 pm  Sky City Theatre  (FREE)
Join Astronomer, Dr Rangi Matamua, expert Rereata Makiha and master navigator Hoturoa Kerr for one night only as they share their latest research and knowledge  on Maori astronomy. Learn how the stars guided traditional customs and navigation techniques.
> Matariki on the Move:  Sail a waka from 24th June - 14th July (various times) (FREE)
Board a traditional waka from Orakei Marina and sail out to a dark-sky under the guidance of navigation and way-finding expert, Hoturoa Kerr. Learn about the Matariki star clusters and their meanings.
Elemental AKL - July
This Auckland-wide winter festival curated by ATEED promises to illuminate the city with around 60 free and ticketed events covering art, culture and cuisine. Check out the full programme because here's where we’re heading:
> Turama Festival Albert Park 26 - 28 July
Albert Park will be transformed into an immersive art experience for Turama Festival - an enchanting world of light. The festival will showcase artworks ranging from performance to sculpture, imaginative illumination to interactive installation. Enjoy amazing food and drink, local Auckland musicians and a full service bar. A great reason to explore a magical slice of our inner city.

> Silent Disco Citywalk "Glow in the Dark" Edition
Throw on your dancing shoes and Silent Disco headphones. Then boogie and walk your way around Auckland by night guided by special dance instructors. This multi-sensory 60-min experience begins at Silo Park and ends at Queens Wharf. 

>  Pop Up Globe Winter Festival   From 19 July (Four week season)
The popular Shakespear theatre opens its doors for a limited winter season under a brand new all-weather heated Pop up Globe. New productions include A Midsummer Nights Dream and Twelfth Night with the return of popular shows Hamlet and Measure for Measure.
With so much on offer, the city will be abuzz this winter. Our Hello Auckland small-group walking tours feature Maori art and new installations in place especially for Matariki so walk this way for the highlights. 

Image and copy credit: ATEED Elemental AKL website

Insider Guide to Auckland

Posted by Website Admin on June 20, 2019

The Insider's Guide to Auckland

When the Maori discovered Auckland 800 years ago, they named it Tamaki Makaurau, a place desired by many.

This reflects the city’s beautiful harbour, white and black-sand beaches, idyllic gulf islands, stunning volcanic vistas bordered by a mountain range with cascading waterfulls and lush native bush. No wonder the English and Irish settlers arrived in droves from the 1840’s onward.

Auckland rates highly as one of world’s most liveable city’s. Its stunning natural environment is home to world-class universities, major arts, cultural and sporting events, museums, theatres, galleries, and history-rich urban villages.  Auckland is the world’s biggest Polynesian city with around 200 different ethnicities. Not only do Aucklanders celebrate Maori New Year in June but also Diwali, Chinese New Year and other culturally rich festivals all year round.

The country has three official languages; English, Maori and Signing (hearing impaired).

While some regard Auckland as a gateway city, it’s a gem of a destination and visitors often regret not spending longer. Use it as a base to visit  Waiheke Island, for its vineyards and beaches or the city’s wild west coast beaches and hiking tracks. One hour north is the Matakana region with it’s sculpture trails, regional parks and stunning coastline. The Auckland dining scene is superb blending ultra-fresh produce, seafood and game with Pacific rim flavours.  Check out Ponsonby and Parnell too, hip inner-fringe suburbs with cool bars and designer fashion.

Tourism information offices are called iSITES. Grab a copy of the free Auckland A-Z Guide when you land at Auckland airport.

Auckland’s climate is temperate all year round with a cold winter’s day (July) averaging 12 degrees C or 59 degrees F. It doesn’t snow here but it does rain. A lot!  So pack a jacket and umbrella. Sandwiched between two oceans, the Tasman and Pacific, it literally is 4 seasons in one day. The summer burn time is 15 minutes so slip on a hat, slop on the sunscreen and slap on a teeshirt to prevent sunburn. 

Auckland is a foodie paradise. Head for Sky City on Federal St with its 15 restaurants - check out the menus at local favourites Depot, Gusto or head up Sky Tower to the Sugar Club. The buzzing Viaduct Harbour is home to Soul Bar, Headquarters and rooftop bars St Alice and Dr Rudi. Britomart (downtown) has Ostro, Amano and Ebisu - all superb restaurants. Get uptown to vibrant K'Road for some brilliant emerging restaurants like Cotto and Cocoas Cantina. Ponsonby Central and Elliott Stables are great upmarket food courts.

Many restaurants are closed Sunday and Monday nights apart from the central city hotels or Sky City complex.

For a good flat white coffee check out Espresso Workshop, Chuffed or the Mojo chain (all in the city).

Check out Auckland’s:

Best beef and lamb restaurants 

Best hidden bars 

Top 5 Auckland Restaurants on Trip Advisor 

The best Saturday Farmers market is La Cigale in Parnell, a 10 minute Uber ride from the city. Downtown’s Britomart also hosts a  market (much smaller) too.

Fitness and Beauty your thing? Check out East Day Spa, Les Mills Gym for a workout or Forme Spa. Chuan Spa at the Cordis hotel is also very good.  Stretch your legs with a stroll down to the waterfront taking in North Wharf and views across to the Harbour Bridge. Auckland is a very walkable (but hilly) city so bring your trainers and get walking!

The emergency number in New Zealand is 111. Generally the city's pretty safe with a high penetration of CCTV cameras. Just avoid pub closing time. The drinking age in NZ is 18 years and marijuana is still illegal to deal and consume.  

Work life balance is important to New Zealanders. Business hours are generally 8.30am - 5.30pm. We preserve our weekends for leisure, sports, eating out and home renovating in line with the Kiwi ‘can-do’ attitude!

Locals love it when you say ‘Kia ora’ which is Hello in Maori (pronounced ‘Kee-ora’). Aucklanders are pretty relaxed, well-mannered and friendly.
They generally shake hands but don’t be surprised if someone leans in for a hug on farewell.  They also smile at people (strangers!) on the street and offer directions to those looking lost. Saying thanks to the bus driver is good manners.  Tipping is not expected and locals only tip for very good service.

Bin the banana!  NZ has very strict bio-security laws to protect its agriculture so anyone carrying fresh fruit/fish/honey/meat etc across its borders will be fined. Declare anything you’re unsure about. Else you’ll cop a NZ$400 fine at the airport, no exceptions.

Catch the Skybus in from the airport - book online (NZ$18 one way) or on board. Uber services Auckland airport too. It’s a good 30 minute off peak drive into the city.
The city buses take cash - just tell the bus driver where you’re heading and they’ll give you change. If here for a few days or longer, buy a HOP card, the public transport concession card. Cheaper bus, train and inner-harbour ferry fares.

The best way to see a new city is strolling the back streets with a knowlegable local. It’s the perfect way to find your feet, beat jetlag and tick the 'enviro travel' box. So book our Hello Auckland or Taste Auckland walking tours to get the real deal on where to eat, shop and go!


Auckland's Top 5 Restaurants: Visitors vote!

Posted by Website Admin on June 20, 2019

Auckland’s top 5 restaurants: Visitors vote!

In April, Auckland’s Metro Magazine announced the winners of the Metro Peugeot Restaurant of the Year Award 2019. Twelve judges fanned out across the city to discretely dine at restaurants on their raydar. 

Pasture, the Supreme Award winner is a six-seat fine diner where you are served by three chefs in an open kitchen. Runner-up Cazador is a family run restaurant serviing Persian and Spanish inspired food down the Mt Roskill end of Dominion Road.
Best newcomer is Waiheke’s 372 (named after the island’s area code) on Onetangi beach.
And restauranteur of the year are the Sarawats, owners of Sid Art, Cassia and Sid at the French Cafe.

So we decided to compare the views of the local expert judging panel against what visitors (and locals) think based on Trip Advisor reviews. The results are vastly different.

Here’s the top 5 restaurants according to diners (not judges) for 2019:

Paris Butter, 166 Jervois Road, Herne Bay
Chef Nick Honeyman and his team create innovative French cuisine using locally-sourced New Zealand ingredients. The restaurant’s NZD$110 tasting menu is popular with diners raving about the venison tartare, potato veloute and poached pear dessert. Definitely worth the uber fare from town. 

The Grove, St Patrick’s Square, Wyndham St
Named as one of the top 10 restaurant’s in the world, owner Michael Dearth is riding a wave of success with this fine dining option. Guests mention the knowledgeable wine sommelier, the chef’s exquisite degustation menu (with vegetarian options) and the New York-styled interior offerring pretty views of the city skyline. Popular dishes include the spinach and cashew ravioli and the mushroom brioche.

One Tree Grill, 9 Pah Road, Epsom
This suburban bistro continues to impress diners with its “great food, great staff and great wine.” It’s cozy booths are a perfect foil to a chilly winter’s night. As is the seared scallops, Hereford eye fillet and pork belly with crackling. 

Sid Art, Three Lamps Plaza, Ponsonby Road
A close contender for third spot, Sid Swarawat’s Sid Art serves up Indian-fusion fine dining. Guests describe “a unique experience with smooth attentive service.” Each dish is delicately infused with heavenly spices like coriander or cumin. The restaurant is highly regarded for it’s focus on vegetarian dining with a fabulous range of options.

Kazuya, 193 Symonds Street, Uptown
Top pick last year, Kazuya is a chic, contemporary restaurant offering Japanese-influenced European dishes. Chef Kazuya uses the unique process of slow-roasting meat and also traditional Japanese methods for preparing fish. Guests love the restaurant’s intimacy highlighting dishes like the taro and rosemary infused starter and to finish, the chocolate and salted caramel dessert.

It’s great to see a range of cuisines feature on Trip Advisor’s top 5 restaurants especially as Auckland is one of the most diverse cities in the world. 

We reveal great inner-city restaurants on our Taste Auckland walking tour. Or you can choose to include an optional lunch at the end of our Hello Auckland tour. The city offers an endless array of delicious eats and treats. 

Top marks for Taste Auckland Tour

Posted by Website Admin on May 24, 2019

Top marks for Taste Auckland Tour

When expert New Zealand-based travel agent Michael Nees visited Auckland recently, he and partner Pam hopped on board our Taste Auckland food walking tour. The only challenge we faced were their very tiny appetites as they winced about the portion sizes; "too much lamb," said Michael and "these ice creams are too big!" groaned Pam. Followed by 'this is too pretty to eat!'

Michael is the Founder and Director of Guest New Zealand, a travel agency specializing in boutique travel solutions for visitors to New Zealand and Australia. They're very selective about who they work with hand-picking local accommodation hosts and small tour activities. We love their commitment to promoting ‘slow travel’ meaning longer stays at fewer locations so visitors really get under the skin of a region or a city. Guest NZ can provide top-notch recommendations to clients because this team is often on the road experiencing new providers first-hand. 

So what did Micheal and Pam think of Taste Auckland? They loved it so much that within 24 hours, Guest NZ had published a 'guest' opinion on their blog reviewing their experience.

The team wrote:

Most international travellers to New Zealand, will arrive in the city of Auckland. And after a long flight, it is a good idea to get out and explore the city, before you get that well earned sleep.  If you love boutique tours – or a private tour for just the two of you, then Auckland walking tours with Aucky Walky is a must-do.

Liz doesn’t really see her guiding as just a job. She clearly enjoys showing off food made with love and beautiful art to people wanting to experience the real deal. The Taste Auckland Tour is a progressive lunch tour where good food and cool vibes are everything. 

To find out what Michael and Pam enjoyed most, read their full blog here.

Then join us to discover the yummy side of Auckland with a small-group guarantee. Book Taste Auckland Tour here

Please come hungry to keep your guide happy!

Disclosure: Guest NZ paid for their tour and this review is an independent and unsolicited opinion

Best Maori food in Auckland

Posted by Website Admin on April 05, 2019

Best Maori food in Auckland? Here’s where!

International visitors often ask us where they can try Maori food in Auckland. When visitors or manuhiri arrive in New Zealand, the biggest thing missing on restaurant menus is Maori-inspired kai. Up to now it’s been a tricky question, because outside of Matariki, where select restaurants adapt their menus to honor the Maori new year, the choices are limited.

Maori cuisine, according to one leading chef, isn’t renowned for its rich flavours. It was traditionally about sustenance and survival, high in protein and carbohydrates for energy. So a hunter-gatherer diet of native birds like wood-pigeon (keruru), wild pig, fish, kumara, taro and vitamin-rich puha. Not exactly the Pacific-rim flavours we enjoy today.

If visitors are Rotorua-bound, they’ll typically include a cultural experience en route which may or may not include hangi-style food, a process of slow-cooking food in shallow earth pits. In Auckland the food truck scene has delivered two specialty Maori food-kai options which we like very much!

Puha and Pakeha

This innovative food truck popular at Auckland festivals has now opened a permanent eatery in Grey Lynn and blends native Maori food with contemporary flavours from around the world. Think hangi-cooked pulled pork and cabbage with spice rub and mayo. Or tua tua fritters with kina chilli chive mayo on the side. This is modern Maori fusion street food where each dish on the menu follows co-owners Jarrod and Belinda’s focus of taking elements of old school Maori kai and adding a modern flavorsome twist.

Hangi Master Food Truck

Inspired to bring the traditional method of hangi cooking back to main stream New Zealand, owner Rewi Spraggon has been immersed in food service most of his life from childhood to the world’s greatest kitchens .

Hangi tuturu is a seven hour cooking process where heated rocks are placed in a shallow pit with manuka timber. The food is then buried in the earth to cook.  Pork, Chicken, Potato, Kumara, Pumpkin, Cabbage, Stuffing and Watercress salad are the key items on the menu. The manuka timber gives the food an earthy, smokey flavour. 

Some of the rocks Rewi uses to lay and cook hangi at his West Auckland home have been in his family for generations and fed thousands of people.

The Hangi Master food truck not only serves up individual portions of hangi tuturu at markets and festivals, but also hangi pies, burgers and savouries.  And now you can buy it downtown on Auckland's Queens Wharf everyday at the new Hangi Kitchen. 

Giapo’s Paroa Parai

New Zealand’s best ice cream flavours served in traditional Maori fried bread, known as paroa. Giapo has created a masterpeice with this alternative to the waffle cone. The trick is to eat it quickly before the dreamy, creamy ice cream melts in the warm, light dough.

We love sharing the best places to eat New Zealand food on our Hello Auckland city walking tour. With our small-group focus, it’s the best to start your visit.