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4 Reasons Why Auckland Totally Rules

4 Reasons Why Auckland Totally Rules

Ah Auckland. So much fun, yet so misunderstood. You see, Auckland has long been held with suspicion by New Zealanders who dwell south of the Bombay Hills. “It’s too big, too flashy, too much about yachts and BMWs.” Boo I say, booo! Auckland is one of the best cities to visit in the world. If Kanye or Katy Perry is in town they might Instagram a shot from Waiheke Island, or some 300-foot boat. Well that’s all good and well but the following destinations are slightly more achievable. As someone who visits numerous times a year, these are places I go to and the places to take those who are new to the city. Auckland’s suburbs have become great destinations in their own right and it’s these edges of the town that you should be exploring.

A small volcano with a huge view

(Photo: Raffik/Flickr)

You can do no better than to start your visit to Auckland with a jaunt up Mount Eden. One of the 53 volcanos scattered across an otherwise flattish city, Mount Eden is actually sort of an odd place. More pretty grassy hill than scenic volcano, Mount Eden has it all. There’s a perfectly formed crater at the top, cows, a romantic vibe, and unbelievable 360° views of the city, it’s twin harbours, Eden Park and dreamy miles of urban sprawl. Cheaper (free!) than going up the Skytower and hey ­– the Skytower doesn’t even have a mysterious flock of urban cattle. It’s an easy walk from the Mount Eden shops but if you want to drive there, visit soon as cars are about to be banned.

On the other hand, the Skytower observation deck takes you 220 metres straight above the city and it costs $29AUD per adult. I would recommend it only if you’re willing to fork out the cash. It does take you awfully close to the Federal Deli where you can some of the best deli food you’ll ever find outside of NYC.

The best and smallest music venue on the planet

(Photo: Golden Dawn Tavern of Power/Facebook)

Head down Ponsonby Road to find Golden Dawn Tavern Of Power. Like the esoteric cult from which it gets its name, people will do almost anything to get into this tiny bar. It usually hosts fairly underground acts, thought it’s been known to host some pretty huge names – a Lawrence Arabia show in 2015 saw guest appearances from Neil Finn (Crowded House), Dave Dobbyn, and Don McGlashan (The Mutton Birds) all on the one night. That’s the trifecta of great New Zealand songwriters, all performing together with a cover charge of just $4.50AUD to a crowd of probably 100 people or so.

Whether you’re there for a hip-hop gig or a gypsy fair, you shouldn’t pass up the Welsh rarebit to help soak up the ubiquitous lashings of craft beer. If you want to make friends with the staff then order Pernod on ice. If you want to really make friends with the staff then don’t complain about the queue to get in. Even Lorde had to line up when she showed up two days after her 18th birthday.

Lorde spotting might be the popular Auckland attraction these days but Auckland has always had a great live music scene and Golden Dawn is but one of the many venues in which to check it out. Legendary NZ record label Flying Nun host regular band showcase evenings (with free pizza!) at The Wine Cellar, a basement dive with impeccable service and great beer. The craft beer, super hip bands, walls of vintage guitar amps and basement obscurity make the Wine Cellar seem more Portland than Auckland. It’s always a good time. Find it by heading to Karangahape Road (K’road to the locals) and St Kevin’s arcade. It’s in the basement. Go on down, you’ll be fine.

Amazing little restaurants all in a row

(Photo: Ponsonby Central/Flickr)

Straight across from the aforementioned Golden Dawn is a dining district called Ponsonby Central. Someone had the great idea to develop a dining warehouse, not with one or two nice restaurants, cafes and bars, but 16. Why not? It also boasts a fresh produce market, a great butcher, a cheese shop, a crepe stand, cafes and more. It’s the sort of place that Auckland was in desperate need of. It’s in the vein of Melbourne’s Vic Market or London’s Borough Market, but despite Ponsonby Central lacking the history of those venerable establishments, it’s been manufactured with pitch perfect hipness to siphon all your money and fill your belly.

Burger Burger is a great spot there. In fact, it’s potentially the best burger joint in New Zealand. Ponsonby Central can be found on the corner of Ponsonby and Richmond Roads. If you make it to Burger Burger get yourself a beef burger with a side of the truffle aioli potato skins ($22AUD). It’s the business.

It pains me to leave Auckland without a visit to Little & Friday. In the corner of a fabric warehouse in Auckland’s main shopping district Newmarket, Little & Friday is one of those near perfect bakeries that makes gluten intolerance the saddest thing on earth. Go there, eat it all. If you can’t literally eat it all then maybe just get a banana and caramel doughnut. Doughnuts are always good but a perfect doughnut is a couple of hundred grams of life-changing ecstasy.

The perfect secret beach

(Photo: Sandy Austin/Flickr)

A friend took my band to Home Bay for a swim one warm evening after a daytime gig. He was giddy with excitement that the gig, the sun and the tides were all lining up for the ultimate city swim. You see Home Bay needs a little bit of star alignment. You can only swim there for a couple of hours either side of high tide, it’s tricky to find it and there is no parking. But on the right sunny evening Home Bay is the perfect local-known swim spot.

It has a little jetty to jump off, some pohutukawa trees to hide under (be warned – New Zealand sun is harsh and shade is golden) and views of the creepy yet pretty Chelsea sugar refinery. I love this beach, it’s been good to me, but the point is this – when visiting Auckland, ask a local where to go for a swim. There are hundreds of beaches and most of them are great, but the right one on the right day can make your visit that much better. The famous black sand beaches of Auckland’s rugged west coast are spectacular and iconic (think The Piano) and if you have time you should certainly go there. But Auckland is a city with two harbours, and the Pacific Ocean is a short drive in any direction meaning there’s plenty of stunning little beaches hidden everywhere. It’s a great way to end the day or cool off before an evening searching for that illusive little taco truck.

Another reason why Auckland totally rules? Its awesome food and drink scene:


(Lead image: Christian Mairoll/Wikipedia Creative Commons)

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