Who better than a local to give you the lowdown on some sights, secrets and handy tips before you land in the thick of it? Born and bred in Auckland, Steph Lineen oozes only love for her home city. “It’s beautiful, clean and green, and while it may be small, it has a lot to offer,” boasts Steph. “Wherever you are you can guarantee there’ll be a beach less than 30 minutes away – even if you’re in the city – and there are incredible nature walks right at your fingertips. Auckland has a great vibe, it's very chilled and relaxed, and everyone is incredibly friendly. This is why I am so proud to be a New Zealander and why I travel home so often!”
While the proud Kiwi moved to Aussie shores two years ago, she says her heart it still in Auckland. “It took moving away for me to fully appreciate how lovely and green New Zealand actually is,” she says. “My favourite memory of Auckland is the smell of the sea and seeing Rangitoto Island aross the Hauraki Gulf. When I visit, my favourite thing to do is to walk around the bays on Tamaki Drive and just take in the scenery – it never gets old. I also always end up doing a little road trip somewhere because there are so many great spots nearby. It’s no wonder with such a beautiful country and so many endless opportunities we Kiwi’s are such nature dwellers, adventure lovers and beach bums!” Here’s Steph’s insider guide to Auckland:
Favourite Local Hotspots
La Cigale French Market – This is Auckland’s best food market on a Saturday and Sunday in Parnell - something you won’t want to miss. There’s fresh produce, homemade goods and delicious chocolates to browse!
Ponsonby Road – It’s amazing for retail shopping, but there are also plenty of great restaurants and bars, and the nightlife is great too. It quite hip, and there’s a great art walk and heritage sites around to explore.
One Tree Hill – This is the second-largest of the 46 volcanoes dotted around Auckland and so it's fabulous for walking up. It’s essentially an inner-city farm with beautiful hilly terrain and once you're at the top, you get a great view of the city. There are cows and sheep (of course!) too.
Wynyard Quarter – This area is quite new with many lovely restaurants and bars along the waterside. The views of the harbour are beautiful, there a plenty of boats, a great park and just generally heaps to see and do.
Touristy Sites Worth Ticking Off
Sky Tower – It’s one of the most iconic landmarks! The view is sensational and it offers you the opportunity to see all of Auckland and the beautiful Hauraki Gulf. You can even bungee and walk around the outer rim.
Mission Bay – Mission Bay is a little beachside promenade that I go to a lot but that is also a hit with tourists. It’s perfect for a walk along the waterfront (or hire rollerskates!), a picnic or lunch at one of the cafes. It’s safe to swim at and the views of the Hauraki Gulf and the famous volcano Rangitoto Island are worth the trip.
Auckland Museum – This is situated in a lovely inner city park called the Domain. It’s definitely a must do to experience our Maori culture and the local history. But be sure to walk through the beautiful park gardens while you’re there.
Kelly Tarltons Underworld – This is a sea aquarium underneath Auckland’s waterfront in Okahu Bay. You can swim with sharks, wander through the glass aquarium tunnel, and see the largest Antarctic Penguin colony display in the world.
Insider Tips & Hints
Watch the All Blacks – If an All Blacks game is on when you visit, you won’t experience anything more exciting than watching them play on our home ground at Eden Park Stadium. Games are guaranteed to sell out though so book tickets well in advance.
Hire a car – The best way to see Auckland is by car, so if you can hire one this will make it much easier for you to see and experience as many things as possible. You can take in all of the sights at your own pace and go on your own little ‘tiki tour’ in the true local laidback style.
Take a day trip – There are plenty of fabulous spots just outside of town that make for a fun getaway for the day. The best day trip would have to be to Piha Beach, just a 50 minute drive away. It's a very scenic black sand surf beach and near there you'll find the Waitakere Ranges which has lots of bushwalks. But Rangitoto Island and Waiheke Island are also great day trips you can do by boat.
Pack for the climate – The weather can be unpredictable in Auckland and you can often experience 4 seasons in one day. I find it is best to be prepared for anything with wet weather gear, something warm and a good pair of shoes as the city and terrain can be quite hilly.
Foodie Finds to Seek Out
Fish Pot Cafe, Mission Bay – Have fish’n’chips on the beach like a local, from one of the best in town. It’s a really iconic spot and the fish is amazingly fresh.
Orbit Restaurant, Sky Tower – For a unique and memorable dining experience Orbit is great. It’s a revolving restaurant in the Sky Tower. The restaurant rotates while you eat so you can only imagine how awesome it is!
Wildfire Restaurant, Quay St – One of my personal favourites. I go here on every special occasion. It’s a Brazillian BBQ with something for everyone and certainly enough for everyone, as it’s ‘all you can eat’.
Angel Thai, Saint Heliers – Another personal favourite. The food is incredibly tasty and you can’t beat the beautiful view overlooking Saint Heliers Bay.
Auckland Fish Markets, Viaduct Harbour – If you’re a big fan of seafood this is the place for you, home to an extensive variety of fresh seafood retailers and restaurants perched by the waterfront.
Steph Lineen is the wonderful designer behind our 2015 Escape Travel calendar, available in stores now. Full of travel inspiration and beautiful imagery, it's sure to keep you counting down the days until your next escape.