News and Views

Insider Guide to Auckland

Posted by Website Admin on January 08, 2020

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 waterfalls 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 T-shirt 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.

Do not forget to treat yourself to a nice brunch. Local Aucklanders are known for enjoying a good weekend brunch. Almost anywhere you go, you are likely to end up at one of the many popular cafes, ready to serve up a range of tasty options. Check out Odettes or Major Sprout in the city, Winona Forever in Parnell or take the trip across the bridge to the Takapuna Beach Cafe or the Vic Road Kitchen in Devonport (a perfect opportunity to use the downtown ferry crossing). 

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

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

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$17 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 Best Designer Shopping

Posted by Website Admin on January 08, 2020

Auckland’s Best Designer Shopping

Here’s eight spots where Aucklanders shop for fashion all-year-round, all within easy walking distance.  From vintage to avant-garde, and downtown to uptown the locals know where to go.  

1. Start downtown at Britomart for the strip of Kiwi designers.  From Karen Walker and Trelise Cooper, to Kathryn Wilson for shoes. World and Kate Sylvester are also located alongside in nearby Tyler Street. 

2. If money’s no problem, discover the recent addition of high-end luxury labels on Queen Street, including Gucci, Prada, Louis Vuitton, Dior and Hugo Boss. Both Chanel and Tiffiny add a touch of glamour to Takutai Square. 

3. Save the earth (and your wallet) at the Recycle Boutique on Darby Street. Once-owned designer threads makes this a popular shopping haunt amongst both city professionals and students. Delight in the discovery of high-end fashion for close to nix.

4. Get your bling at Fingers on Kitchener Street. Bespoke jewellery designed and made by Kiwi artisans, it’s a treasure trove of shimmery shine including pounamu or greenstone inspired Maori art. 

5. Cross the road to the beautiful heritage building of Auckland Art Gallery Toi o TÄmaki. Take a stroll past more than 800 traditional and contemporary artworks and marvel at the fashions of generations past.  Best of all the entry is free!

6. Jump on the CityLink Bus and head uptown to Saint Kevins, one of the last old grand arcades remaining in central Auckland. Take a lunch break at Lord of the Fries or Tart Bakery (Vegan Friendly!). Take in the latest tattoo design studios which line K’ Road. 

7. Ponsonby is home to most of New Zealand’s top fashion brands. Take a stroll down Ponsonby road, grab a cup of coffee and see all the full range of style on offer. From upcoming designers, handicrafts and vintage finds to top labels including Karen Walker and Zambesi - there really is a shop for everyone. 

8. Dubbed the shopping capital of New Zealand, Newmarket really is the spot to indulge in some retail therapy with the largest Westfield mall in the country. From high-end boutiques to all things hardware, both men and women can have a field day.
Shoe lovers rejoice! Newmarket also has New Zealand’s highest concentration of footwear stores in one place - ranging from stilettos to sportswear (get the wallet ready).

Whatever your tastes - champagne or not, Auckland is a haven for shoppers both young and youthful. So take a walk and hop around the city shops for a fun day out. 

Auckland's Top Attraction

Posted by Website Admin on January 07, 2020


If you asked an Aucklander what the city’s top visitor attraction is, the answers would likely range from SkyTower (for the views), Kelly Tarlton’s Aquarium (for the penguins) or possibly Waiheke Island (for its vineyard and beaches). And yes the top attraction is an island. But it’s not Waiheke or Rangitoto, the volcanic wonderland in Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf.

Auckland’s top tourist attraction, according to Trip Advisor, is actually the island of Tiri Tiri Matangi. This wildlife sanctuary ranks as number one of 270 things to do in Auckland and attracts thousands of visitors each year.

Thirty years ago it was a different story. The 220-hectare island had been stripped of 94% of its native bush, a result of over-intensive farming. Bird life had disappeared. In 1984, volunteers took action planting around 300,000 trees over a ten year period and introducing a pest trapping programme. Today Tiri Tiri Matangi is now 60% forested with the remaining 40% left as grassland for species preferring open habitat.

A number of threatened and endangered species have been successfully introduced, including the flightless takahe and the tuatara. There are few places in New Zealand where you can readily see and walk amongst so many rare species.

On a summer morning, the queue to catch the Tiri ferry snakes its way down Quay Street.  Situated in the Hauraki Gulf, the island is a 75 minute ferry ride away from downtown Auckland (via Gulf Harbour).

The island is a protected haven for native endangered species and is a nature lover’s paradise, particularly for avid birdwatchers. From the moment you step onto the island to the moment you leave, you’ll be serenaded by bird songs while exploring walking tracks through native bush and coastal forests.

But don’t take our word for it, here’s what Jeanne from San Diego wrote on Trip Advisor.

“This is an absolute must visit, a beautiful nature reserve. Once on the island, you are divided into a group of 8-10 people with a volunteer guide who tells about the history of the island, and takes you on a guided hike on several paths, while pointing out the species of birds & plants. Many species can only be found in New Zealand. Several are endangered. The island is a regrown rain forest, full of life and beauty. The excursion takes most of the day. But worth every minute!”

As well as wonderful wildlife, Tiritiri Matangi has a 150 year old lighthouse, a Visitor Centre, some great walks, views and beaches.  Most visitors start with a guided walk which finishes at the Tiritiri Visitor Centre where there are informative displays and a great gift shop with complimentary tea and coffee. All profits from the shop go back to supporting the conservation and education programmes on the island.

The Tiritiri Matangi Island sanctuary is a partnership between the Department of Conservation (DOC) and the community, through the Supporters of Tiritiri Matangi (Inc), a non-profit community conservation organisation.

So if you feel like a walk in the wild, head over to Tiri Tiri Matangi for birds, bush and beautiful bays. A jewel of an island in Auckland’s crown.


NZ's Best Restaurants 2019

Posted by Website Admin on November 26, 2019

New Zealand's Best Restaurants

The country's best restaurants for 2019 have been announced. Judged by 40 food and drink professionals, the Cuisine Good Food Awards are the equivalent of the New Zealand-dining Oscars. 

Here’s the Auckland winners for 2019 featuring some perennial favourites, others' relative newcomers.

Cuisine Restaurant of the Year:  Sidart - Auckland 

Three Hat awardees:
Pasture -  Parnell
Cocoro - Ponsonby
Sidart - Ponsonby

Two Hat awardees: 
Apero - Karangahape Rd
Baduzzi - North Wharf
Cassia - Fort Lane
Cazador - Dominion Rd, Mt Roskill
Kazuya - Newton
Lillius - Grafton
Sid at the French Cafe - Newton
The Engine Room - Birkenhead
The Grill by Sean Connolly - Federal St, SkyCity
The Grove - Wyndham Street, City

Traveling further afield? Here are the judge’s picks for the best restaurants across New Zealand:

Palate - Hamilton

The Bistro - Taupo

Pacifica - Napier 
Bistronomy - Napier
Craggy Range Restaurant - Hawkes Bay
Elephant Hill - Hawkes Bay
Logan Brown - Wellington 
Hiakai - Wellington 
Shepherd - Wellington 
Boulcott Street Bistro - Wellington 
Shepherd - Wellington
Capitol - Wellington
Pescatore - Christchurch
Rata - Queenstown
Sherwood - Queenstown
Amisfield Bistro - Otago

Fleurs Place – Moeraki
Gatherings – Canterbury
Hopgood’s & Co – Nelson

Inati – Canterbury
Moiety – Dunedin
No 7 Balmac – Dunedin
Pegasus Bay – Canterbury
Riverstone Kitchen – Oamaru
Scotch Wine Bar – Blenheim
The Bicycle Thief – Canterbury

These restaurants are at the top of the New Zealand food chain in an industry which prides itself on creativity, friendly service and top-notch cuisine. When visiting Auckland, walk with us for the latest food finds and popular places. We show where the locals go on our Taste Auckland Food Tour, a moving feast of fun, food and good times.


Image credit: Sidart

Don't miss Auckland's Heritage Festival

Posted by Website Admin on September 24, 2019

Don’t miss Auckland’s Heritage and Art Week Festival 

October brings together Auckland’s Heritage Festival and Art Week with events designed to celebrate the city’s history, culture, architecture, artists and legends. This annual festival keeps on getting better. 

This year’s Heritage festival theme is ‘Journeys’ exploring the stories of how New Zealanders traveled to Auckland Tamaki Makaurau by sea, by air or by land, to create a shared future together.

It’s one of our favorite festivals as the colourful characters, art and diverse cultures of Auckland are bought to life by the city’s historians, commentators, artists and social anthropologists over a magical three weeks of walks, talks, exhibitions and market days. 

Here’s a few events which have captured our imagination:

1842: The Arrivals
Sat 19 October 10.30am - 12,30pm Shed 10, Queens Wharf. Adults $10
America’s first European settlers of note arrived on the infamous Mayflower. Auckland’s first significant shipment of passengers was the Jane Gifford in 1842. Scroll through the passenger manifest and it reveals a bleak and long journey of hardship to an unknown new frontier. Put yourself in settler shoes and be guided around the city of old by old hand Eliza Post.

K-Road: The Winding ridge
Sun 6 & Friday 25 Octo 1pm - 3pm
Take a journey through time along Auckland city’s infamous ridge Karangahape. Known as the Karanga (Calling)  Hape (a mythical Maori spirit who traveled ahead of our first people), this colourful vibrant street mirrors the social, commercial and political history of our city. Until the middle of the 20th century Karangahape Road was the only street in central Auckland with a Maori name as it predated the European settlement.
The Symonds Street and Karangahape Road ridges are also part of the walking route used by Maori to reach the Manukau Harbour. This track was known as Te Ara o Karangahape or The Path of Karangahape.

Changing Lanes
Part of Artweek
12-20 October 2019

Auckland's much loved central city lanes will be transformed by local artists during Art Week. 
Prepare to feel lost as local artists use the laneway cobbles and walls as a creative canvas.
This year features work from the following artists. 

Ross Liew 'kè knài láo' | Durham St East
Shannon Novak 'Alight' | Upper Vulcan Lane
Yohan Ryoo, Yosop Ryoo, Raimana Jones 'I Spy with My Little Eye' | Lower Vulcan Lane
Angus Muir 'RIPPLE' | Exchange Lane
Tracey Tawhiao | Chancery Square
Unitec Creative Industries and Piki Toi Artists Collective 'The Little Theatre: Aotearoa Arcade' | Chancery Square

 Art in the heart of the city
Monday 14 October 11am, Friday 18 October 11am

Journey up the lower Queen St valley and discover sculpture in public places. In most cases, the artist and/or the subject is Maori. The modernist movement emerged in 1960s, with Maori artists forging a new national identity of indigenous art. The city centre has a significant collection of public art made by five Maori artists including Ralph Hotere, Fred Graham, Selwyn Muru, Paratene Matchitt and Arnold Manaaki Wilson. Their works are part of the city centre public art collection. 

The Auckland Heritage Festival kicks off from October 5, click here for the full programme. Or book onto any of our small-group Auckland walking tours to discover more about the city's history from a professional local guide. 

Image credit: Auckland art gallery courtesy of Heart of the City