Neat in the Neighbourhood: Parnell
Parnell is one of Auckland’s oldest and most picturesque suburbs. It effortlessly blends history with contemporary charm, and it exudes a vibe that compels visitors to return. Nestled on the eastern fringes of Auckland's central business district, Parnell beckons with its quaint streets, heritage buildings, boutique shops, and an array of enticing culinary and beverage delights.
Whether you're a local looking to rediscover your neighbourhood or a visitor eager to explore the heart of Auckland's art and culture scene, Parnell is one of our favourite places to eat, drink, shop, and wander. Treat this guide as your local passport and embark on a journey through this quaint central Auckland suburb.
Words by: Nicole Mudgway
Parnell lies on the fringe of Auckland CBD and is often cited as Auckland’s first suburb. Quite the claim in a city that now exceeds sixty ‘burbs. The history is evident in the historical architecture found within the neighbourhood; a visit to the Kinder House or Hulme Court offers a small window into the past.
In recent years, Parnell has emerged as a home for bespoke dining experiences, excellent coffee, enviable boutique shopping and a precinct reminiscent of downtown New York, shaking off its once prim and proper image. The concentration of dealer galleries in the area makes it a go-to destination for Aucklanders on a mission to find coveted artwork.
Parnell is surprisingly green for its proximity to the city. Naturally blessed with a plethora of gardens and reserves, The Domain, with its curiously charming Winter Gardens and inimitable Auckland Museum, give the suburb a distinctive perimeter unlike any other.
Eat & Drink
Parnell is not just a feast for the eyes, it’s a feast for the tastebuds too. Parnell’s historical village, combined with its stylish industrial quarter, is home to an eclectic mix of eateries and watering holes, catering to all palates and occasions.
Just up from the rose gardens is the suitably named Rosie, a welcoming cafe serving everything from breakfast food through to dinner - with the afternoon and evening menu offering delectable dishes that are designed to share. And if Rosie has no seats, head next door to Little Rosie and grab one of their flakey pastries, lavishly filled donuts or freshly cut salads and sandwiches for a picnic in the rose gardens.
For anyone after a photo-worthy brunch, Winona Forever is the ultimate destination. The colourful cabinet is nothing short of impressive - if you aren’t already a cake convert, you might soon rethink that decision! Everything on their all-day menu is sustainably sourced, incredibly satisfying and looks just as good as it tastes. You can’t really go wrong… although the Magic Mushrooms and the Eton Rifle are two of their classics.
Pastry pick-me-ups can also be sought out at Vaniyé Pâtisserie, the flourishing passion project of husband-and-wife team Sonia and Laurent Haumonté. From flakey croissants to stuffed baguettes and intricately layered tarts, once you try their glorious, made-to-order cakes it’ll be hard to celebrate birthdays anywhere else.
For something more savoury, Bandung Cafe boasts an Indonesian-influenced menu inspired by the team’s roots in Bali and Java. Amidst all the Indonesian classics (such as nasi goreng), there are plenty of innovative touches and surprises, such as the extremely more-ish Dutch fries. Lesser known is the charming courtyard out back - perfect for whiling away the afternoon. Speaking of courtyards, recently refurbished Non Solo Pizza has a lush garden bar - perfect for enjoying an Aperol spritz and some of the best pizza and pasta this side of Milan.
Up the romance at Barulho, one of Parnell’s prime date night destinations. A Mediterranean-inspired sharing menu, intimate lighting (and seating!), and gold-standard cocktails are just a few of the reasons Barulho continues to be a local favourite, for couples especially. And for a late-night drop, Pineapple Bar will have you covered. This extremely discrete hideaway nook reveals itself only through the golden pineapple on the door. Expect cocktails of the highest calibre, hors d’oeuvres delivered through a double-sided cupboard in the wall and plenty of vintage sophistication - it’s recommended that you dress up for the occasion.
Shops and galleries
Offering a striking contrast between historic architecture and New York-inspired warehouses, Parnell really does have it all. And these buildings aren’t just something pretty to look at - they also house some of the city’s favourite shops and galleries.
Being New Zealand's inaugural suburb, Parnell carries a deep and colourful creative heritage, beautifully reflected in the numerous art galleries adorning its streets today. Since 1976, Parnell Gallery has exhibited the creative works of both emerging and established New Zealand artists, everything from paintings and sculptures to limited edition prints. Black Door Gallery is home to an exciting array of ceramics, jewellery, and contemporary art, as well as some delicate glass works, including glass-blown lighting and colourful sculptures.
On the subject of art, don't miss the opportunity to visit the stunning coworking space Textile Lofts while you're in the area. We suggest reserving a session with the London St Art Club, where you can appreciate the building's splendour while enjoying a glass of wine and participating in a painting class.
Bookworms will happily lose themselves at Lamplight Books, an elegant bookstore expertly curated for all your book wants. Opening mid-pandemic, Lamplight Books offers light-filled interiors and sky-high shelving, along with a range sure to satisfy even the fussiest of readers. From modern fiction to fantasy and crime, Te Ao Māori, biographies and more, there really is no better place to spend a few hours. There’s even a children’s section for the youngest bookworms.
For the fashionistas, Bara is a must-visit. This boutique exudes an ambience reminiscent of an art gallery rather than your usual clothing store and offers curated collections from local designers. Further down Faraday Street, Doran & Doran Bespoke Tailors showcase an exquisite selection of long-lasting menswear. If you seek a more traditional shopping experience, venture into Parnell Village, where charming stores like The Fantail House and Passion for Paper await your exploration. Brides-to-be can pop into Fritz & Sarah for some inspiration, whether that be through admiring the beautiful dresses on the rack or for a chat with Fritz and/or Sarah, the incredibly warm and talented pair creating magic all day long.
See and Do
Parnell doesn't just offer an abundance of options when it comes to cafés, restaurants, and art galleries; it also boasts numerous scenic spots where you can leisurely stroll on foot and appreciate the charm of this inner-city suburb.
Consider a visit to the Rose Gardens, home to over 5000 rose bushes and offering stunning views out across Judges Bay. In summer, a visit to the Parnell Baths is a welcome escape from Auckland’s humidity - whether you’re there for a dip with your kids, some laps in the 60-metre pool or even just to retreat to the spa, they’ve got you covered. If you venture off the main path, you'll encounter secluded pockets of lush greenery at Heard Park, Scarborough Reserve, and Alberon Reserve. And if you're looking for a sneak peek of the Sky Tower, be sure not to skip a visit to Fraser Park.
The Auckland Domain is a green space with views, picnic spots and leafy trees in abundance. Don't miss a visit to the Wintergardens within the Domain, where the gorgeous array of flora and fauna makes capturing that perfect Instagram photo just that little bit easier. Onsite, the Auckland Museum provides countless sources of inspiration for all ages. Dive into the museum's various galleries, such as the natural history section and the Māori collections, where over 1,000 taonga (treasures) are housed, offering an enriching and immersive experience for everyone.
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