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Auckland Is Calling: Why You Should Pop Over to Explore a New Side of Auckland

New culinary horizons and wildly different scenery await in a city break just three hours from Australia’s eastern coast.
By Ava Wardecki
December 11, 2023
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By Ava Wardecki
December 11, 2023
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in partnership with

A city break in Aotearoa's biggest city, Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland, has never offered more. There's an itinerary to suit all timeframes and holiday personalities — from the city-slicker to beach-goer, the shopping-focused traveller to the foodie whose appetite leads the way.

It's a city constantly evolving its offerings, with hospitality joints popping up left, right, and centre. So, we've scoped the best experiences and places to note with Auckland Unlimited to help you make the most of your Auckland break.

Add an extra car ride out of the city or linger a little longer in the big smoke — it's over to you to indulge your whims. What we can promise is all roads lead to a memorable stay. One with world-class views, innovative foods or even dramatic black sand at your toes.

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The Hotel Britomart

STAY: THE HOTEL BRITOMART

The Hotel Britomart pulls out every stop for a distinctly Aotearoa stay in downtown Auckland. Exposed timbers and brick nod to the building's past life as a factory and Masonic house, while modern luxury oozes from local artisan-crafted furniture, recycled glass chandeliers and crockery. Inside the rooms, minibars are filled generously with local treats.

The 99 sustainable rooms are categorised by their views. Generous windows offer direct glimpses of the Waitematā Harbour, the CBD's skyline, or the vibrant laneways. The Wairoa Suite, the largest of the five Landing Suites, offers sprawling rooftop views framed by architecturally designed wooden details.

Downstairs, the all-day restaurant kingi focuses on elevated seafood, with a sommelier-curated wine library showcasing local terroirs. Tucked away in the on-site lane are a fleet of complimentary vintage bikes stand nearby, ready for adventures.

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STAY: MÖVENPICK HOTEL AUCKLAND

In line with Auckland being a food-lovers paradise, Mövenpick Hotel Auckland's daily Chocolate Hour indulges guests with a complimentary daily buffet of truffles, cakes and fondue between 3.30-4.30pm. When it's time to break the sugar rush, on-site restaurant BODA offers panoramic harbour views, Korean-Aotearoa cuisine and inventive cocktails. Or retreat to the sleek, monochromatic suites, knowing the 24-hour ice-cream sundae service means that your next sugar hit isn't far away.

A central location makes Mövenpick Hotel Auckland the perfect base for urban adventures. Step out from the lobby to Auckland's main Queen Street or explore the local boutiques and eateries in the adjacent Commercial Bay. For adventures further afield, Auckland's main Britomart Train Station is on the same block to connect you to most mainland suburbs, while the main ferry terminal — the gateway to wine-mecca Waiheke Island and bird sanctuary Tiritiri Matangi — is just a few metres beyond.

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SEE: EVER-CHANGING LANDSCAPES WITH GO RENTALS

As exhilarating as city life is, renting a car, even for a day, is your ticket to seeing Auckland in all its glory — and fast. After all, you're never more than 45 minutes away from a beach. Jump in a GO Rentals four-wheel-drive to venture through the bush, to wineries and eventually to the surf-ready black sand beaches of west Auckland. Closer to town, soak up the sun through the skyroof of a GO Tesla along seaside Tamaki Drive in a climate-friendly drive through the bustling beach strips of the eastern suburbs like Mission Bay and Kohimarama.

Drive up one of Auckland's many maunga (mountains) for quintessential Auckland views. Mt Eden and Mt Albert offer panoramic views, and the nearby townships are brimming with artisanal bakeries and cafes for picnic essentials. Round out your journey by offsetting emissions with CarbonClick, and you'll feel just as good as you did driving breezily behind the wheel.

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SEE: THE CITY'S SEASIDE WITH MOANA AUCKLAND

You can't come to Auckland without experiencing it from its most impressive vantage point: the glittering Viaduct and surrounding Hauraki Gulf. The inaugural Moana Auckland, New Zealand's Ocean Festival (Moana meaning sea in Māori), sees to this, with a month's worth of on- and off-water events through February and March 2024.

Staying in the city centre means you're a short walk away from the festival's hub, Te Wero Island — a nook in the Auckland Viaduct that houses many of Auckland's bustling harbourside bars and restaurants like St Alice, Dr Rudi's and the it-bistro, Soul Bar. Otherwise, the area's public transport and ample roads make it accessible from all directions. Regattas of all kinds of boats, mainly in March, is the festival's centrepiece, while the nearby New Zealand Maritime Museum Hui Te Ananui a Tangaroa runs harbour cruises on the beloved wooden boat, Breeze.

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ai_yoshi via iStock

SEE: NATURE, HERITAGE AND MUSIC YOUR WAY AT AUCKLAND DOMAIN

Auckland's sprawling park is home to 150-year-plus trees, a stunning winter garden, and the most happening music festival in the city, Synthony in the Domain. Come Saturday, February 10, 2024, two stages of dance anthems from local and international DJs paired with live orchestras will electrify the area as the festival returns for its biggest performance yet. A food and wine village and a VIP garden add to the allure.

You don't need a specific event to visit the Domain, it's worth a visit on any Auckland trip. It's New Zealand's oldest public park, 200 total acres in size and has four kilometres of walking tracks that can be used to explore the scenery and peaceful vibes above the city.

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TASTE: EXQUISITE PACIFIC FUSION AT METITA

At the newly opened Metita restaurant in SkyCity, explore the urban ritual that Aucklanders love most: indulging in new fusion cuisines. Offering contemporary Pasifika cuisine, Metita explores the intricate flavours of the many island cultures that call New Zealand home and chef Michael Meredith's Samoan roots. Dishes include inventively garnished meats, caviar and corned beef buns, and the signature oysters cooked in marrow.

There's no shortage of things to do, see, drink, and eat here. Being Auckland's largest entertainment precinct, SkyCity houses 15 bars and eateries as well as the iconic Sky Tower and its 350 metre-high city views. There's also the award-winning East Day Spa (home to the nation's only marble lounger tepidarium) and two hotels.

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TASTE: AUTHENTICALLY LOVED AUCKLAND EATS

Aucklanders have solidified their love of eating into a collaborative list of must-try dishes: Auckland Iconic Eats. This list is updated yearly by public vote, and the quality is consistent. Favourites include the chicken parfait from Britomart's Mr Morris, succulent fish sliders from SkyCity's Depot and Gochu's pork and kimchi-stuffed milk buns. Consider it a starting point for your next sit-in menu, or treat it as a bar-crawl-like mission to tick off as many as possible and test the limits of your belt buckle.

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Ada - the best restaurant in Auckland.

TASTE: NEW-WAVE MĀORI FLAVOURS AT ADA

Adding to the list of cuisines that are hard to find outside of New Zealand is Ada, where Chef Kia Kanuta prepares elegant Māori comfort kai (cuisine). Rewarewa fried sourdough is topped with a bespoke mushroom grown only for Ada, paua (abalone) gets a vongole and chilli-infused twist, while snapper is battered whole and served with his iconic Marmite béchamel. Everything is harvested sustainably and served with the finesse of Chef Kanuta's French training.

Ada is in The Convent Hotel, located in the trendy suburb of Grey Lynn, 15 minutes from downtown and easily accessible by bus or car. Lovers of interiors and architecture will appreciate the space's sleek transformation from a former 1922 Spanish-revival nunnery to a boutique hotel.

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This is just the start of what can be found in Auckland. Discover more at aucklandnz.com.

Published on December 11, 2023 by Ava Wardecki
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