From a buzzing foodie scene to great shopping and exciting outdoor adventures and sights, New Zealand’s capital city has much to offer
HEAD FOR THE HILLS
An engineer by profession, Philip La Trobe is an outdoor enthusiast, avid surfer, and general adventure guru
Why do you love your city?
Auckland is one of the most diverse cities in the world. It really caters to every culture and interest you could possibly imagine. You can be perusing the halls of the Toi o Tāmaki (Auckland’s art gallery) in the morning and jumping off cliffs into pristine spring water in the afternoon.
What are must-do outdoor activities?
For those short of time, staying central is key and visiting one of the many dormant volcanoes must be at the top of the list. One Tree Hill or Mt Eden is only a short car ride or, for the more enthusiastic, a short boat ride will land you on the most famous of them all, Rangitoto, which is set in the middle of the Auckland Harbour. Should you not be sticking to a schedule, venture further out to the Waitakere Ranges where you will be spoilt for choice with many nature walks like the Hillary Trail or check out Karekare and Piha beaches.
Which top three day-trip destinations do you recommend?
If you’ve ever wanted to say you’ve walked across a country then the Coast to Coast Walkway is for you. It’s a 16km walk covering urban landscapes, across volcanoes and through parks and forests. Tiritiri Matangi Island is a perfect place for birdwatchers and it also has spectacular scenery, a secret fresh water tunnel and is a short ferry ride from Auckland. Matakana offers four white-sand beaches and is the ultimate destination for a day out of swimming, a picnic lunch and an afternoon walk. It’s also home to Auckland’s best snorkelling and if the weather is right, surfing.
Tell us something about the city that only a local would know?
Well, I don’t even know if most locals know this, but Auckland is home to over 1,300 parks and that doesn’t include beaches or reserves. The best are home to beautiful waterfalls and are all within 45mins of the CBD, I’ll leave you to find those as you get out into the fresh air and explore the wonders that Auckland has on offer.
THE SHOPPING SCENE
Deanna Didovich is design director of New Zealand-based label RUBY, Stop in at the brand’s flagship store in Auckland before heading off to any of Deanna’s suggested stores
What’s the shopping scene like in Auckland and what are some of your favourite stores?
It’s lively and exciting, especially leading up to the festive season. Zoe and Morgan, located down at the City Works Depot, is a great place to go for a special piece of jewellery. This New Zealand brand has a beautiful aesthetic and I always treasure my pieces from them. When in the area I love stopping at Odettes Eatery, particularly for an early morning breakfast. I’m also currently renovating my home and New Zealand brands Citta and Simon James are two of my favourite spots for furniture, linen and homewares. Their products are priced well, have a fresh and modern look and they are of great quality,
Where are the best areas for shopping?
We are lucky to have so many great destination shopping areas, like Ponsonby, Takapuna and Newmarket, each with its own personality. Ponsonby is great for fashion, beauty and homewares with great cafes and restaurants to enjoy post-shopping. With Takapuna being a beachside area, it is a great summer spot to enjoy the best parts of Auckland all in one place.
What’s a good souvenir to bring home?
A block of Whittaker’s Chocolate would never go amiss, or a jar of Pic’s chilli-infused peanut butter. Many of our garments at RUBY are proudly made in New Zealand, so one of these would never disappoint.
Al Brown is a chef, TV presenter, writer and owner of Depot Eatery & Oyster Bar & Federal Delicatessen (AKL) and Best Ugly Bagels in Auckland and Wellington. Who better than to advise us on where to eat?
How would you describe the food scene in Auckland at the moment?
It feels very progressive and vibrant. Gone are the days of ‘drag and drop’ concepts, similar set ups and ‘same same’ menus. There is a real air of confidence in the new operators, adding their individualism and unique angles to Auckland’s ‘hospo’ scene. There’s some extraordinarily good eating out there.
What’s trending food wise?
Secondary cuts, wonky vegetables, and embracing the less popular, and some may say ‘unloved’ species of fish. It’s about the chefs and their kitchen teams showing or educating the diners, that the value proposition of eating these products is on a par, or if not greater, than the usual prime and popular cuts and products.
Who is a new face on the scene in Auckland that you’re excited about?
In this fair city, it’s not about singling individuals out. If we all do a good job, we all get a piece of the pie. It’s all about the variety on offer, from high-end to super-fun casual dinning. No matter the mood or the occasion, there is a place for everyone, all offering up an experience that in most cases ‘over delivers’.
When you’re not in one of your three restaurants what are your go-to spots dinner?
Apero offers slick service and delicious food cooked with heart and soul. MASU by Nic Watt has knockout Japanese fare, much of which is cooked over charcoal as well as a buzzy dining room and friendly, professional service. The Engine Room is an institution in Auckland for good reason and the owners Karl and Natalia deliver fun and faultless dining. New Flavour Restaurant on Dominion Road is a favourite with my family. It’s down and dirty and the unruly (bordering on rude) staff serves delicious Chinese fare. Make sure you order the cucumber and tofu salad to start. I love the place.
What’s one must-try ‘local’ dish that travellers can’t leave without eating?
The Hapuka or Kingfish Belly at my beloved Depot Oyster Bar and Eatery, but I would say that!
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