Neighbourhood Hangs: Your Guide to Ponsonby

A view of old shops next to the road at dusk.

If you know anything about Auckland, you’ll have heard of Ponsonby Road, which features a vibrant and bustling atmosphere. With eateries along the strip serving up everything from pizza to prawns, Ponsonby Road caters to all sorts of visitors who come to revel in its eating and drinking scene as much as the people watching.

Words by: Nicole Mudgway

Perched up on the hill behind the CBD, Ponsonby is one of Auckland’s liveliest suburbs and, these days, affluent too. It wasn’t always that way though: back in the 1980s, Ponsonby was infamous for its derelict buildings and colourful reputation, but in recent years the suburb has undergone one of Auckland’s most dramatic overhauls with posh shops, galleries, bars and restaurants now lining Ponsonby Road.

Flanked on either side by small quiet streets decorated with white villas and leafy trees, the main strip is the perfect place to shop, eat, drink and people watch. A hip place to hang out at night, keep your eyes peeled for famous faces as you drink an expertly mixed cocktail or sip wine in the courtyard at one of the many hot spots.

Mid century modern furniture in a vast retail space.

Boutique Shopping

Ponsonby Road is lined with unique and interesting shops and is a highly sought after retail space by local designers and creatives. From clothing to homewares, galleries to antiques,  artisan shopping along Ponsonby Road has never been more varied. 

The Shelter is a shared space incorporating many of the above wares. It brings together the likes of forward-thinking international designer Maison Margiela, alongside some of our very own Kiwi creators, such as Jimmy D, a homewares section of a similar ethos. Mr Bigglesworthy is the go-to for timeless mid-century modern furniture, as well as contemporary art and design. But if you’re after something especially bright, bold and fun to liven up your walls, it is hard to go past Endemic World, a gallery specialising in prints from independent Kiwi artists. Speaking of local talent, New Zealand fashion designer Kate Sylvester has her very own clothing store on Ponsonby Road, and her sophisticated and stylish shop is certainly worth a browse.

Homewares and skincare products on blue shelves.

Sustainable Shopping

Ponsonby may be known for its boutiques, but it’s simultaneously one of the city’s best rows for thrift shopping. Although the second hand stores aren’t always the cheapest, you can definitely expect to pick up designer items for less. Tatty’s is a mainstay on any thrift-shop list, and conveniently, there are two on Ponsonby Road. In a similar fashion, Encore Designer Recycle sells designer items at seriously discounted prices. 

One of Ponsonby’s most loved stores, Flotsam and Jetsam, plays host to a huge variety of knickknacks. From items that are token ‘Auckland’ and others that are distinctly Americana, it’s easy to spend hours browsing vintage housewares you didn’t know you needed. Everyday Needs is aptly named, with shelves lined with beautiful homeware products that are practical, functional and also incredibly stylish. Refill your pantry with goodies from the GoodFor Store, a sustainable refillery seeking to minimise waste; essentially a modernised, boujee take on the Bin Inn stores we all remember from 15 years ago.

Last but not least, every book lover should pay a visit to Open Book, a second-hand bookshop operating out of a converted villa. Whether you just want to browse, room by room, through the different genres, or cosy up with a book on the sunny lawn with a coffee in hand, Open Book is the place for you. 

A chef making an open taco in a kitchen.

Eat

There is no shortage of cafés, restaurants and eateries along Ponsonby Road. One spot almost as old as Ponsonby itself is Orphan’s Kitchen. Something of an institution, the reliably delicious café has kept up with the times, with their ever changing menu perpetually tantalising our taste buds.

Ponsonby Central may not look like much, but it’s deceptively big. A modernised take on a food court (that also offers deli-style shopping), Ponsonby Central is an absolute hive of activity throughout the day and into the evening. For something a little more upmarket, Prego is the perfect combination of sophisticated but still vibrant, elevated yet still good value. The Italian restaurant cooks a cracker pizza, and the pastas are well worth trying too. 

If you’re not too full on tiramisu, the perfect afterthought to any meal (or just a meal on its own) is a scoop or three from Duck Island. With a solid lineup of beloved ice cream flavours, as well as a rotating range of limited editions, there is sure to be something that catches your eye. 

Photo by: Nick Walker

A man holding a bag of Allpress beans talking to two customers.

Drink

For the coffee fiends out there, there is no better place to start a day than at Allpress. Selling more than just freshly made coffee, Allpress doubles as a retail space selling a selection of distinctive blends and single origin coffees to continue the coffee-making enjoyment from home.

In recent times wine bars have become a trend, so naturally, Ponsonby has multiple. Two of our favourites have popped up in the same vicinity, which we certainly see as good! Start by catching up over wine with friends at cosy Annabel’s, before skedaddling down the road to Beau for some more wine and modern European share plates.

For an afternoon beer or evening cocktail, Conch serves both, along with South American inspired food. Conch is a throwback to OG Ponsonby, with its rustic vibes. For a more sophisticated experience, head along to Hotel Ponsonby, where the drinks are carefully crafted, and the food is fancy pub grub. 

See and Do

There are so many goings on along Ponsonby Road that sometimes it’s nice to take a minute to just lie in the grass and look up at the sky. Visit Western Park at lunch time, and you won’t be the only one. The steep grassy hill is dotted with young professionals and city workers taking a minute out from their daily grind. If it’s movement that your body craves, Sala might just be the place for you. A modern and innovative wellbeing studio offering a range of classes from barre and yoga to reformer pilates alongside a retail space, coffee and tea station and a work space, with wifi. It’s the perfect home away from home. 

Neat Auckland Places

Bird on a Wire

Wooden table against wooden wall.
Place Auckland
Restaurants key icon.

The guys at Bird on a Wire crisp up some of the best beer battered chips around. An easy companion to one of their Dirty Bird burgers.

Crushes

Racks of clothing at Crushes, Auckland.
Place Auckland
Fashion key icon.

An eclectic mix of all things homemade, handcrafted, New Zealand made and vintage.

Odettes

A seating area.
Place Auckland
Cafes key icon.

Odettes has delivered another level of sophistication to the Auckland dining scene.

Sumer Art Gallery

The purple and white exterior of Sumer gallery in Auckland.
Place Auckland
Galleries and museum key icon.

It’s hard to miss. The building façade is painted in semaphore-like triangles of bright purple and white, located centrally on Beach Road near Britomart.