Luxury Escapes Guide to Auckland
Framed by two harbours, Auckland combines brilliant eating, drinking and shopping with rainforest-fringed surf beaches and relaxed island vineyards.
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Things to see and do
Discover New Zealand's cultural giants at the Auckland Art Gallery
Located on the gentle slopes of leafy Albert Park, the Auckland Art Gallery showcases important New Zealand artists alongside a surprising collection of works by Picasso, Cézanne, Gauguin and Matisse. Highlights for visitors seeking to explore New Zealand art include text-scrawled canvases by Colin McCahon, and the stark and dramatic works of Ralph Hotere. Don't miss the gallery's unique architectural aesthetic blending 19th Century French style with a spectacular contemporary atrium. Free 60-minute tours depart from the foyer daily at 11.30am and 1.30pm, and there's excellent shopping at the gallery's art and design store.
Explore the Māori and Pasifika galleries at the Auckland Museum
Crowning the Auckland Domain, the city's pre-eminent museum combines striking neoclassical architecture with New Zealand's best collection of Māori and Pacific Island artefacts and culture. A highlight is a 25m Māori waka taua (war canoe). Combined entrance tickets incorporating a Māori cultural performance are available, and the institution supports Auckland's arts scene with a regular schedule of after-hours music and cultural events. Completing the museum experience is a fascinating display about the 50 plus volcanoes making up the city's volcanic field. Don't worry, they're largely extinct, and an eruption is only expected every thousand years or so.
Browse the best of New Zealand fashion at Britomart
Framed by restored heritage warehouses, a short stroll from Auckland harbour, the Britomart precinct focuses the best of New Zealand fashion in a single, easily navigated area. Kiwi designers Kate Sylvester, Karen Walker and Kathryn Wilson all have an international profile, while newer labels include Juliette Hogan and bags and accessories from Deadly Ponies. Britomart's considerable culinary credentials encompass Mediterranean flavours at Amano and Ortolana, Japanese izakaya style and small-batch artisan sake at Ebisu, and modern interpretations of Vietnamese street food at Cafe Hanoi.
Laneway shopping and dining at Commercial Bay
Opened in July 2020, central Auckland's newest retail and dining hub is focused around a series of colourful laneways. Shopping opportunities include fashion influenced by New Zealand's rugged outdoors at Rodd & Gunn and Edmund Hillary, while Aotea Made stocks natural skincare products crafted from native New Zealand flora grown sustainably on Great Barrier Island in Auckland's Hauraki Gulf. Dining options include Malaysian flavours at Hawker & Roll, and fine dining incorporating indigenous New Zealand ingredients at Ahi. Both restaurants have excellent views of Auckland's harbourfront and the heritage facade of the city's much-loved Ferry Building.
Self-guided brewery tour with Auckland Beer Mile
Actually closer to 3.2km, this concise route links some of Auckland's best beer bars and craft breweries. It is walkable, but Uber is quicker and more convenient. Along the hoppy route, highlights include Galbraith's Alehouse, one of the pioneers of craft beer in the city, and the Auckland taproom of Garage Project, Wellington's world-renowned craft brewery. Galbraith's is renowned for serving Auckland's best Sunday lunch, and other dining opportunities include weekly food trucks at the Beer Spot, and nose-to-tail charcuterie at Churly's Brew Pub & Eatery.
Cook farm-to-fork style at Good from Scratch
With a diverse CV including running a fine-dining restaurant and one of New Zealand's first food trucks, Michael Van de Elzen's latest culinary adventure is opening a cooking school with his wife Belinda near the west coast surf beach of Muriwai. Seasonal ingredients are sourced from their own compact farm as well as from neighbouring farms. Book for the full-day Farm Experience, including gathering fresh ingredients onsite, and culminating with a shared meal partnered with local wine and craft beer from nearby West Auckland.
Experience Pacific art along Karangahape Road
More than 200,000 Pacific Islanders live in Auckland and communities with their family roots in Samoa, Tonga, Niue and the Cook Islands, reinforcing Auckland's diversity as the world's biggest Polynesian city. Pasifika style is increasingly represented in music and the visual arts, especially at the Tautai Pacific Arts Trust on multi-cultural Karangahape Road. Opened in mid-2020, the trust's 500 sqm gallery space is a brilliant showcase for Pacific art, music, film and performances. Check the website to see what's scheduled. To visit other nearby galleries focused on contemporary New Zealand art, download the Karangahape Road Art Map.
Learn about Māori culture with TIME Unlimited
Award-winning TIME Unlimited Tours are leaders in exploring Auckland/Tāmaki Makaurau from an indigenous perspective. Private tours allow for the greatest opportunity for visitors to interact with and learn from TIME's guides, some with ancestral links to the Ngāpuhi and Ngāti Porou iwi (tribes) of New Zealand's North Island. Highlights include exploring Auckland Museum's Māori galleries with the added benefit of a dedicated guide, and learning about traditional Māori foods and medicines amid the native forest of Auckland's Waitakere Ranges.
Explore the food scene of New Zealand's most diverse city
As New Zealand's most cosmopolitan city, Auckland is an essential destination for travelling foodies. Book the Flavours of Our City tour with the Big Foody to take in local coffee roasters, New Zealand beer and wine, and plenty of great tastes along the way. The Best of North West combines visiting West Auckland vineyards, local artisan bakers, and buying seasonal produce from a rustic farm shop. The rest of the morning is spent cooking up at a storm at the Big Foody's vineyard cottage, before a relaxed shared lunch with local wine, sourdough bread and cheese.
Top places to eat and drink
Arrayed amid laneways in a renovated warehouse space, Ponsonby Central is one of Auckland's most versatile eating and drinking destinations. Eighteen different outlets include regional Chinese cuisine with a tiki-bar ambience, rotisserie chicken paired with excellent salads, and global street food with Turkish, Venezuelan or southeast Asian influences. Factor in organic gelato, authentic Neapolitan pizza and a craft-beer bar with 24 specialist taps, and Ponsonby Central is a one-stop hub for Auckland foodies from breakfast until late at night.
Equal parts culinary genius and creative mad-scientist, desserts artisan Giapo Grazioli is on a single-minded mission to redefine exactly what ice-cream can be. Forget any preconceptions of mere gelato or sorbet. Giapo and his wife Annarosa create surprising flavour combinations using New Zealand fruit and ingredients, often served in innovative shapes and designs like an apple pie- or Yorkshire pudding-flavoured cone. Trust us, it works. For the full Giapo experience, book ahead for a personalised behind-the-scenes class and the opportunity to create your own flavour sensation.
Sophistication tinged with a relaxed Kiwi vibe underpins the excellent service at the Grove, one of Auckland's most consistent fine-dining experiences since 2004. Four- to seven-course degustation menus harness French culinary nous, and most ingredients are sourced from New Zealand growers and farmers. Seasonal dishes could include Cloudy Bay tua tuas (New Zealand clams) with sorrel, beetroot and smoked butter, or North Island venison with coffee and buttercup pumpkin. Look forward to one of Auckland's best wine lists, and a stylish central location near bijou St Patrick's Square.
Ignore the sign on the wall that says 'West Lynn Organic Meats'. That's old news, and now this corner location in the central suburb of West Lynn is Auckland's best neighbourhood bar. Owner Mike Howie is a big music buff, and entertainment in the compact space includes vintage vinyl and occasional live gigs from some of NZ's best musicians. Relax into the easygoing Latin American ambience, ideally equipped with a glass of sangria, pint of craft beer, or damn fine cocktail.
With room for just six diners, booking ahead – ideally a few months earlier – is absolutely essential for Auckland's most distinctive dining experience. There are just two sittings per night and diners have the opportunity to be up close and personal with chef Ed Verner as he creates seasonal multi-course menus utilising foraging, fermentation and wood-fired cooking. Adjoined to the restaurant, Boxer is an innovative bar combining tasting flights of seasonal cocktails, shared plates and a minimalist Japanese design aesthetic. And yes, booking ahead for Boxer is also recommended.
Gochu builds on Auckland's recent enthusiasm for modern Korean flavours. Expansive picture windows provide excellent views of ferries to-ing and fro-ing to the islands of Auckland's Hauraki Gulf, while a youthful and energetic ambience is the background to dishes like grilled prawns with fennel, cucumber and Korean mustard, or lamb ribs with witloof kimchi and mushroom ketchup. Fans of authentic Korean heat should definitely order the fried chicken, especially the one listed as ‘...spicier, like, a lot spicier’ on the menu. An interesting drinks list includes soju cocktails and a good selection of natural wines.
Specialising in Nikkei cuisine, a Japanese-Peruvian hybrid pioneered in Lima, Azabu is an essential dining option along the Ponsonby Road restaurant strip. Big-format photographs of Tokyo street scenes enliven a moody and monochromatic interior, while standout plates include Azabu's signature dish of crunchy tostadas topped with tuna sashimi, and delicate and smokey lamb cutlets served with an eggplant and coriander puree. The restaurant's Rogi bar is a fine spot for sake or cocktails crafted with Latin American spirits including mezcal, pisco and cachaça.
Inspired by Paris' neo-bistro movement, Bar Céleste is just one of the innovative restaurant-bar hybrids making Karangahape Road Auckland's most exciting dining precinct. This translates into a relaxed ambience, innovative shared plates and a strong focus on an interesting drinks list. A concise beer selection includes food-friendly sour beers from Auckland's Hallertau Brewery and one of the city's best selections of on-trend natural and orange wines. Seasonal dishes could include seared octopus with a parsnip velouté sauce, and local Mahurangi oysters are served with delicious sourdough bread from 'K Rd' neighbours, Fort Greene.
Named after Beirut's bustling nightlife district, Gemmayze Street is a dining standout amid the restored Art Deco ambience of Karangahape Road's St Kevin's Arcade. Tables are framed by the arcade's high-ceilinged atrium and a stellar menu of shared plates focuses on modern interpretations of traditional Lebanese food. Silky dips of hummus and baba ghanoush segue to smokey chicken shish kebabs served with saffron rice, dates and walnuts, while unique cocktails feature Levantine ingredients including za’atar spice mixes, pomegranate and orange blossoms. Recommended for dessert are the deep-fried pistachio rolls with lemon curd and lemon sorbet.
Fly by seaplane to Waiheke Island
Auckland's island of wineries, vineyard restaurants and art galleries is only 45 minutes by passenger ferry from downtown's Ferry Building, but arriving by seaplane is far more spectacular. Planes depart from Auckland's Wynyard Quarter – itself a hub for good restaurants and bars – and options to enjoy Waiheke include landing at a remote bay for lunch and wine-tasting at Man O'War Vineyards. The Valhalla chardonnay is one of Waiheke's finest wines and is best enjoyed with a cheese and charcuterie platter in the shade of the winery's beachfront garden.
Degustation dining at Sidart
With three restaurants in the city – including the French Cafe and Cassia, Sid Sahrawat is one of Auckland's best chefs, and the ultimate expression of his restless creativity can be found at Sidart in the central suburb of Ponsonby. Look forward to high-end culinary adventures blending Indian and global flavours, especially with the Discovery experience of seven courses combining ingredients like macadamia, finger limes, crab and green papaya. For groups of four, the exclusive Chef's Table experience offers the chance to watch the dishes being prepared in the kitchen and be guided through the seven-course menu by the chefs.