Guide12 hours Auckland
Tāmaki Makaurau: an isthmus dwarfed by two almighty harbours, Manukau to the south and Waitematā to the north. It’s no surprise, however, that Auckland is nicknamed the “City of Sails”, with its abundance of boats (and ocean) that can be seen in every direction. But, boats aside, there are many reasons why 1.5 million people call this place home. With a diverse culture, a bustling food and drink scene, beaches and 48 dormant volcanoes to keep things interesting, Auckland is as cosmopolitan as they come. Here’s how to spend the day in the biggest city in Aotearoa.
The best things to see, eat and do in Auckland.
Start with a splash
Herne Bay, Auckland
Start with a splash at one of the many inner-city beaches. Have a look at the map around Herne Bay and take your pick - our favourites are Home Bay and Cremorne. The neighbourhood beaches in this area all have something a little different to offer; you may find a majestic pohutukawa, a homemade swing or a weather-beaten boatshed. Be sure to check the tide times before heading out for a dip (mid-to-high tide is best) - the swim will make your first flat white taste even sweeter.
Breakfast at Orphans
118 Ponsonby Road, Grey Lynn
Aucklanders revel in most meal times, and let’s face it who doesn’t, but breakfast is simply not to be skipped. Head to Orphans Kitchen for a hip interpretation on a kiwi brekkie. Delight in a Southland Cheese Roll like you’ve never tasted before, or venture off the culinary beaten track with dishes such as fried eggs, kumura tortilla with mole, sauerkraut and chilli. Supreme coffee is served with much aplomb.
Climb Mt. Eden
Mount Eden, Auckland
Ready to see some sweeping vistas of Auckland? Well, we hope you’re wearing kicks, because you’ve got to clamber to the top of one of the most iconic dormant volcanoes first. At the summit of Mt. Eden, you’ll be rewarded with spectacular views across the city, giving context and a fair amount of appreciation for the geographical phenomenon you find yourself in. Of course, there’ll be time for an obligatory photo or two.
Lunch at Federal Delicatessen
86 Federal Street, Auckland City
If you’re feeling peckish after all that walking, it’s probably time for lunch. Federal Delicatessen will provide ample sustenance for your midday meal with their take on an old-school NYC Jewish deli. With Al Brown at the helm, you can expect a bunch of Best Ugly Bagel options, spit-roast chicken, pastrami and plenty of poutine. You can also decide if you want to indulge in an Upper East Side cocktail or a bottomless cuppa joe.
Auckland Art Gallery Toi O Tamaki
Wellesley Street East, Auckland CBD
From Federal Street, you’re only a stone’s throw from Auckland Art Gallery. We suggest walking here so you get a chance to admire the architecture of both the Civic Theatre, the largest surviving atmospheric cinema in Australasia, and Smith & Caugheys, one of the most iconic department stores in NZ. If you happen to arrive at the gallery before 1.30 pm, you may want to take advantage of one of their daily tours that last 60 minutes and guide you through the art, artists and stories housed within the gallery walls. Otherwise, take it at your own chosen speed, and enjoy the ever-changing exhibitions on display at the country’s largest art institution.
Spot of shopping
19 High Street, Auckland
Once you’ve hit your art quota, you can meander down High Street en route to Britomart for a little retail. Along the way, we suggest popping your head round the door at Unity Books, a wonderfully eclectic Aladdin’s cave of biblio treasures. Don’t be surprised if you surface some time later from this exceptional independent bookstore. Next up, head to FABRIC at The Pavilions in Britomart. Here you’ll find the coolest collection of high-quality garments from an impressive lineup of local and international designers. Curated fashion at its very best. There’s also Maggie Marilyn and Karen Walker’s Playpark nearby if fashion is your thing.
Afternoon Tea at Amano
66 - 68 Tyler Street, Britomart Place, Auckland
All that shopping is thirsty work. Take a seat at Amano for a spot of afternoon tea at this flawless Britomart eatery. A firm favourite amongst Aucklanders, it is easy to understand the hype once you’ve sampled the goods. We repeat: do not miss this place. A beautiful aesthetic, attentive staff and incredible food await you.
Babelogue & happy hour at Coco's Cantina
Karangahape Road, Auckland
No 12 hours in Auckland would be complete without a trip to Karangahape Road, affectionately known as “K’ Road”. In this edgier corner of the city, you’ll experience a colourful mix of art spaces, vintage stores and quirky hospitality. Wind down your day with a last minute stop at the Babelogue shop, an exemplary collection of vintage furniture finds. And while you contemplate your growing wish list of vintage homewares, you can swing by nearby Coco's Cantina to sip on some happy hour prosecco. If the weather permits, ask for a table outside. The perfect place to observe the idiosyncrasies of everyone passing by, and to work up an appetite for dinner.
Gemmayze Street for dinner
Shop 16, St Kevin's Arcade, 183 Karangahape Road, Auckland
Gemmayze St is one of the most exciting dining experiences to be found in Auckland, and our pick for dinner. The menu is an exploration of the modern and traditional flavours from Lebanon, while simultaneously showcasing the best of the seasonal produce available. We recommend ordering “Jeeb” which means “bring” in Arabic. Expect a steady cascade of incredible middle eastern dishes, a dining experience reminiscent of what you’d find in a Lebanese kitchen. You can even pair the food with Lebanese wine for a truly authentic meal.
Nightcap in the neighbourhood
440 Richmond Road, Grey Lynn
If you’ve still got some energy reserves, you can cosy up at one of Auckland’s cute neighbourhood bars for a nightcap. We love Bar Martin, Frieda’s and Annabels for their thoughtful ambience and bespoke selection of beers, wines and spirits. These haunts are usually filled with locals, and for good reason.
Words by: Kelly Tapper
Photography by: Neat Places & Nick Walker