So often, I spend my time focusing on my next overseas adventure, forgetting how much there is to explore in my own city. When Mastercard asked me to create an itinerary for spending four priceless days in Auckland, I really had to put my thinking cap on. Whilst I could whip up a destination guide for many European cities in a matter of minutes, the place I’ve basically lived for the past two years somehow proved much more of a challenge! Yet since piecing this itinerary together, I’ve started to see Auckland in a new light. From the hip coffee culture and ever-progressive gastronomic scene to its picturesque towns and dramatic variety of landscapes, Auckland is actually a pretty awesome city to explore!
Exploring Central Auckland
Wake up to glistening waterfront views from your room at the Sofitel Hotel on the Viaduct Harbour. Take a short stroll by the water into town and head to Imperial Lane, a true hole-in-the-wall cafe nestled away in Auckland’s Fort Lane. Enjoy a cup of New Zealand’s world-class coffee and a treat from the cafe’s European-inspired patisserie cabinet in this hip hangout spot. For the best panoramic views over Auckland, skip the lines and price of the Sky Tower and instead head up Mount Eden, the city’s highest natural point. Take a stroll around one of the region’s 48 volcanic cores as you soak in the city from this stunningly unique viewpoint! You may be able to make out the traces of the traditional fortified Māori pa that once commanded these heights.
Once you’ve worked up your appetite, it’s time for a dining experience you won’t forget! Make your way over to Freemans Bay and treat yourself to a true foodie adventure with a 6 or 8 course tasting menu at the award-winning restaurant Clooney. If, later on in the evening you miraculously have room left in your stomach, ice cream or gelato from Giapo on Queen Street is an experience not to be missed. Every treat is presented like a work of art and, yes, they taste as delicious as they look. It’s no wonder there are queues constantly streaming through the doors.
Exploring West Auckland:
Get ready for a drastic change of pace from the metropolitan buzz as you head out to West Auckland! Just a 30-minute drive from the city centre and you’ll be among the rolling green countryside and the boutique wineries of Kumeu. Here you can take part in a New Zealand Wine Pro Tour, which combines wine-tasting at some of the region’s best establishments with exploring the stunning surrounding scenery. Once you’ve had your fill of vino, head to Piha and get ready to experience the wild west coast! From its black volcanic sand, ferocious surf and towering cliffs, there is something beautiful about the ruggedness of this stretch of beach. The consistently massive waves make this spot a surfer’s haven, however it’s not quite the beach to choose if you want a gentle ocean swim!
Rather than brave the sea, head to the gorgeous Kitekite Falls instead. This stunning waterfall is nestled amid lush greenery and is just a 45-minute walk from the trailhead. Don’t forget to pack your swimmers and delight in the falls tumbling over your head…but be prepared, the water can be a little cold. As evening draws near, don’t miss the sun descending below a horizon of crashing waves. Nothing beats a sunset on the west coast!
Exploring North Auckland:
This morning, it’s time to cross over the Harbour Bridge and head to Auckland’s North Shore. With endless stretches of beaches and picturesque regional parks to explore, the North Shore is a favourite destination for holidaymakers and locals alike. Stop at Takapuna Beach Café for an exquisite brunch overlooking Rangitoto Island and the Waitemata Harbour and then explore the nearby boutique shops.
Once you’ve had your shopping fix, hop back on the motorway and drive up the Whangaparoa Peninsula and visit Shakespear Regional Park. Here, you can take a stunning walk through native bush and farmland and experience unmissable 360-degree views over Auckland City and the Hauraki Gulf.
Head further north and you’ll reach the picturesque town of Puhoi, where you can sample and take home award-winning dairy products from the Puhoi Cheese Factory! If you have a sweet tooth, make sure you sample their famous ice cream – the salted caramel flavour is to die for! A visit to the north of Auckland isn’t complete without a stop at Matakana. If you’ve reached this quaint country town before lunchtime on a Saturday, you can visit the famed Matakana Farmers’ Market and sample some of New Zealand’s finest and freshest produce.
Exploring South of Auckland-
Over the next few weeks, I challenge you to go out and play tourist in your own city. Skip your local hang outs and instead see what hidden gems you can find. Like me, you might be pleasantly surprised with what you discover!