Auckland City Guide

I’ve talked about my time in Auckland on this blog before, but have failed to recap my most recent trip to the South Pacific. After starting our big boy and girl jobs in Toronto, Nick and I didn’t have the chance to return to NZ until March this year. Our three-week trip (which included stops in San Francisco, Auckland, Wellington, Waihi Beach, Sydney, and Los Angeles) was a whirlwind, to say the least. With several friends and family to see, and work to complete, the trip seemed to fly by. In the end, we only spent one full week in Auckland. Our friends, Annie and Andrew put us up, and they were the absolute best hosts!

Auckland remains one of my favourite cities, which is why I’ve decided to put together a list of some of my must-visit spots. This list features places I frequented both as a student and new places I discovered this time around!

Please note that public transport in Auckland isn’t the most reliable way to get around. If you’re covering a lot of ground over a few days, it’s best to rent a car.

Cafés and Eateries
Unlike North America, New Zealand has managed to achieve the perfect balance of café and restaurant. All restaurants are fitted with espresso machines, and all employees seem to know how to pull a decent shot. Similarly, all cafés also serve delicious, healthy eats rather than just cookies or pastries. These are some of my favourites:

The Return of Rad – Mount Eden
Rad is really the best way to describe this coffee shop. The baristas are passionate about coffee, and the food on offer is equally delicious.

Dizengoff – Ponsonby Road
Straight off the plane, Annie took us to local favourite, Dizengoff. I had a bite of her creamy mushrooms, and they were out of this world. The flat whites are worth writing home about as well.

Moustache Milk and Cookie Bar – Wellesley Street West
Dangerously close to the University of Auckland campus, Moustache is the best place for an afternoon treat. With freshly baked cookies and homemade milkshakes in a variety of flavours, you’ll find it hard to stay away.

Best Ugly Bagels – City Centre
I wish Best Ugly had been around during my university days. The Montreal-style bagels reminded me of home, and were hand-rolled and baked by wood fire right before my eyes. There’s an assortment of toppings to choose from, and coffee is from Havana in Wellington.

Craven ‘A’ – Symonds Street (University of Auckland campus)
A staple for the hungry student, the coffee and breakfast at Craven ‘A’ are always on point.

Charlie and George – Mount Wellington
When meeting my uni friend, Ashley for lunch, we were both craving something healthy and wholesome. Fortunately, Charlie and George truly excels in this department. I was a big fan of their Green Goddess smoothie that’s filled with spinach, mint and kiwi fruit, apple, banana, honey, and spirulina. All the good stuff!

Shaky Isles – Britomart, Kingsland, and Auckland Airport
The food here is remarkable, especially their hearty breakfast options, but their space on Customs Street East is really what drew me in. I love the high ceilings and brick walls. Also, the branding is particularly on point. I could spend hours here writing an essay or catching up with friends.

Restaurants and Bars
We didn’t eat out for dinner too much on this trip as we were fortunate to spend our evenings with close friends. For an updated list of must-visit restaurants and bars, check out Gather and Hunt.

It feels like Auckland is completely surrounded by water. Wherever you are, you are never more than 20 minutes from the ocean. Having lived in land-locked cities for most of my life, this feature was all-the-more appealing to me. It’s also worth mentioning that Auckland’s beaches are beautiful, the water isn’t too cold (even in early autumn when we were there). You won’t regret packing your togs (which is Kiwi for swimsuit) and spending a few hours at any of the many beaches. That being said, here are some more ‘urban’ must-sees:

Auckland Art Gallery
This gallery was one of my favourite places to spend an afternoon after classes. The architecture is breathtaking and there are always a lot of exhibitions on offer. I personally enjoyed when they featured Dalí and Dégas.

Auckland Art Gallery

Auckland War Memorial Museum – Auckland Domain
One of New Zealand’s most important museums with collections that focus on Auckland’s history. Constructed in the neo-classicist style, the museum is one of Auckland’s most iconic buildings in the Domain, a public park close to the CBD.

The University of Auckland campus
I may be biased, but I think my alma mater is one of the most stunning university campuses. The combination of lush greenery and interesting architecture make it a must-see Auckland destination. During my visit, I spent a few hours working from the campus library and the rest of the day sitting in Albert Park, which overlooks the university clock tower. 

New Zealand fashion is always innovative and fresh. While I love the simple elegance of Parisians and the wacky, cutting-edge looks donned by Londoners, nothing compares to my love of Kiwi designers. Perhaps being so far removed from Europe and North America has positively influenced the way New Zealanders dress. The beach and surf culture certainly influence New Zealand fashion, but not to the extent they do in Australia. Aucklanders tend to wear a lot of black in the winter, but it’s never boring. The following are must-visit shops in Auckland.

Moochi – multiple locations
I always passed by High Street while walking from campus to the bus, and almost always popped my head into Moochi. The designs here are simple and no-nonsense, easy to wear from daytime to night. The transeasonal pieces can be worn by students and professionals alike, and are made from high quality materials and fabrics. 

Twenty-Seven Names – multiple locations
Twenty-Seven Names is out of my budget, but I love perusing the racks, and dreaming of adding a piece or two of the whimsical yet professional items to my wardrobe one day.

Ruby – multiple locations
I was most enamoured by Ruby when I first moved to Auckland. Quirky and whimsical, I obsessed over the bright prints and interesting colour palettes that appeared in their shop window, season after season. While my style has become a lot more practical and basic post-university, I still feel giddy when stepping into my pieces from Ruby.

Made – Customs Street East
Made is a treasure trove for those who love fashion and design. The store itself retains much of the original detailing of the old warehouse space. Raw brick walls and distressed woodwork are offset with lush cut-glass chandeliers and vintage furniture: the perfect backdrop for MADE’s eclectic, ever-changing line-up of beautiful, colourful and offbeat pieces.

Neuw Storeroom – Customs Street East
Located right beside Made, is Neuw Storeroom, the best place for all your denim needs!

The Department Store – Takapuna
Located on Auckland’s North Shore, the Department Store is a one-stop shop. Want to purchase racks filled with New Zealand’s top designers, and then settle in for a hair appointment or facial? This is the place to do it. Three storeys-high, you’ll encounter a coffee bar, Coffee General surrounded by lush botanicals by Annie O on the ground floor. This floor is also filled with classic Kiwi favourites. Climb the winding staircase to the second floor where you’ll want to stop in to Lucy and the Powder Room for a manicure, facial, or eyelash extensions. Finally, the third floor is chock-full with Stephen Marr, my favourite place to get a haircut, Topshop (it was the UK brand’s first foray into the New Zealand market before opening their Queen Street flagship) and covetable designers. For more details on specific retailers, click here. 

Auckland has so much to offer, and this guide only scratches the surface. Please let me know your favourite spots in the comments sections, and I’ll be sure to make additions in my next guide.

Stay tuned for my mini Wellington and Sydney guides next!

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