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.

Known to New Zealand's indigenous Māori as Tāmaki Makaurau – translating to 'Tāmaki, desired by many' – Auckland, the country's biggest and most diverse city is a cosmopolitan destination blending gracious heritage neighbourhoods, excellent cafes and restaurants, and a spectacular maritime location.

Stretching north and south across a narrow stretch of land, the city's western edges are flanked by rugged surf beaches, West Auckland's wine country and the forested Waitakere Ranges, while the islands of the Hauraki Gulf are scattered to the east. Easily reached by passenger or car ferry, Waiheke Island's rolling hills and arcing beaches combine with more excellent wine and a stylish menu of vineyard restaurants.

Auckland's Māori history and its more recent profile as an important South Pacific hub for Polynesian art and culture is showcased in storied institutions and modern studios and galleries, while a food scene influenced by migration from around the world enlivens historic Ponsonby, up and coming Kingsland, and bohemian Karangahape Road.

New Zealand's best shopping – including flagship stores for local designers making a splash internationally – feature at Commercial Bay and the Britomart precinct – while an easy drive from Auckland's high-rise heart, beaches include the cafe-lined stretch of Mission Bay or the rolling surf and dense rainforests of Piha, Muriwai and Karekare.

With interesting attractions and a relaxed lifestyle, Auckland is regularly rated one of the top cities in the world for quality of life and liveability.

Please note that due to current restrictions some operators may be temporarily closed. Check their websites for the most up-to-date information.

Featured escape

Discover Auckland

Things to see and do

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.

Auckland Museum
Museum Circuit, Auckland Domain, Parnell
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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.

Britomart Precinct
3, Maritime Building 130 Quay Street
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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.

Commercial Bay
21 Queen Street
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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.

Auckland Beer Mile
Galbraith's Alehouse, 2 Mount Eden Road, Eden Terrace
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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.

Good from Scratch Cookery School
376 Taiapa Rd, Muriwai
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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.

Tautai Pacific Arts Trust
300 Karanagahope Rd
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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.

TIME Unlimited
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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.

The Big Foody
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Top places to eat and drink

Ponsonby Central

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.

Ponsoby Central
cnr Ponsonby & Richmond Rds
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Giapo

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.

Giapo
12 Gore St
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The Grove

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.

The Grove restaurant
Saint Patricks Sq, Wyndham St
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Freida Margolis

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.

Freida Margolis
440 Richmond Rd
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Pasture

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.

Pasture
235 Parnell Rd
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Gochu

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.

Gochu
Queen St, Commercial Bay
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Azabu

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.

Azabu
26 Ponsonby Rd
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Bar Céleste

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.

Bar Céleste
146b Karangahape Rd
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Gemmayze Street

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.

Gemmayze Street
St Kevin's Arcade, 183 Karangahape Rd
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Lux moments