News and Views

Hidden Auckland - six things we love to do

Posted by Website Admin on January 09, 2020

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. 

Auckland's Best Beef and Lamb

Posted by Website Admin on January 08, 2020

Auckland’s Best Beef and Lamb

New Zealand is renowned for its world-class meat and a question we often get asked is ‘which Auckland restaurants serve up the best beef and lamb?’ The New Zealand Beef and Lamb Excellence Awards have been announced for 2019. The Gold Plate award recognises the city chefs transforming tender meat cuts into lip-smacking fine cuisine.

As a taster, imagine waterfront bistro Giraffe’s eye-fillet steak served with beetroot, shiitake mushrooms, hollandaise and duck fat chips.  Or their rack of lamb accompanied by kumara toast, lamb croquette, mint sauce, and mountain yoghurt.

If you’re a meat lover, look for the restaurants displaying the Beef and Lamb Excellence Award gold plate on their wall.  It’s here you can expect tasty, skillfully composed and superbly presented beef and lamb dishes.

Auckland Beef and Lamb Excellence Winners for 2019

Cibo Parnell - Parnell

Soljans Estate Winery - Kumeu

Knights on Albert, Stamford Plaza Hotel  - Central Auckland

MASU - Central Auckland

21 Days Bar & Brasserie - Browns Bay

Annabelles - St Helliers

Giraffe - Central Auckland

Manly Bar & Grill - Whangaparaoa

The Square, Novotel Auckland - Airport Auckland

Mr Toms - Ponsonby

Queen's Head Bar & Eatery, Four Points by Sheraton - Central Auckland

Oyster and Chop - Central Auckland

Vineyard Cafe, Villa Maria Estate - South Auckland

Regatta Bar & Eatery - Takapuna 

Jervois Steakhouse - Herne Bay

Pilkingtons - Central Auckland

Ampersand Eatery - Central Auckland

Bracu - Bombay

Black Cottage Cafe - Coatesville 

Rothko - Matakana

Plume Restaurant - Matakana

Casita Miro - Waiheke Island

Cable Bay Vineyards - Waiheke Island 

The Archive Bar & Bistro - Waiheke Island

Tantalus Estate - Waiheke Island 

Our Taste Auckland walking tour includes recommendations on the top spots to eat, shop and go. So bon appetite and put your best foot forward as our small-group or private walking tours are the best place to start.

Source: Restaurant Hub Dec'19


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