Auckland – Fresh off the jet

February 3rd, 2010 in Cities and Attractions by Paul 2
Auckland Sky Tower - (C)

Auckland is New Zealand’s biggest city, and is known as “The City of Sails”.  Take a stroll down by the harbor and viaduct, and you can easily see why.  Another interesting fact is that the city of Auckland is built atop some 50 volcanoes, many of which are still considered active!  The vibe here is bustling in the city center, and a bit more relaxed in the outlying neighborhoods.

Getting into the city from the airport is simple using one of the buses outside, such as the Airbus.  They take you right into the city center.

Once downtown, it’s easy to get around here by utilizing the Link Bus, which runs a loop around various places in the center of the city.  A ride costs just $1.60 NZD, and it’s a good way to orient yourself when arriving in the city.  The stops include: Britomart Station (the main bus terminal located down by the waterfront), Queen St. (the main street in the city center), Skycity (Sky Tower and it’s surrounding complex), Victoria Park, Ponsonby Rd, K’ Road (aka Karangahape Rd.), Myers Park, Library, AUT, University, Hospital, Auckland Museum, New Market, Parnell, and Vector Arena.

A good place to stay for the first couple nights after arriving here in Auckland, is Base Auckland Central Backpackers – also known as ACB.  (They call hostels “backpackers” here in NZ).  Base is a hostel company that has many hostels throughout New Zealand and Australia.  ACB here in Auckland is a bit large for our tastes, but having a voucher for 2 nights’ stay from Bunac/IEP, we went with it.  It was particularly handy that the IEP office was right across the street.  This hostel is centrally located, clean, and also includes a job center and travel office.  We upgraded to a twin room to catch up on sleep after the long flight, so we can’t comment on the dorm rooms there. It seems to be a central base for backpackers coming into and leaving the country.  There were many campervans parked out front for sale as people were planning to leave on their return flights home.


While waiting to check in to our room, we stored our luggage and set out on foot to explore a bit.  We quickly noted the numerous cafes (Kiwi’s are serious about their coffee houses) and Asian noodle shops and kebab joints which lined the streets.  There’s one around every corner, and many open-air malls (arcades), which store lots of little shops and boutiques, as well as food courts serving mostly Asian cuisine as well.  Regrettably, we also saw McDonald’s Wendy’s, Burger King, loads of Starbuck’s, and even a Denny’s. I guess there’s no escaping them!

I wouldn’t have guessed Auckland to be such a fashionable city, but there are many trendy shops and everyone seems to be dressed well, but comfortably.  The current trend seems to be leggings with a long tunic top, or short, flowy summer dress over them.  In this tropical weather, it seems a practical, yet fashionable choice.

After a walk along the waterfront down by the Viaduct, we sought out lunch.  Expect to pay anywhere from $10 – $12.50 NZD on the low-end, $15-$18 for mid-range, and $20+ for high-end dining.   A beer will cost around $6 NZD.  Though bargains can be found if one looks hard enough.  Food courts are a good place to start, and keep an eye out for lunch specials, happy hours and 2-for-1 deals.  Happy hours seem to run from 3pm-9pm in most places, and a beer will cost only $4-5 NZD, which is a good deal.

For lunch our first day, we settled on Wagamama, which is an upscale chain of noodle houses.  Needless to say, it was super yummy. Their menu is based on ramen-style soups, noodles, and curries.  Everything is fresh and fast.

For dinner, we decided to try our luck up on the trendy Ponsonby Rd.  This neighborhood is known for it’s many restaurants, bars, cafes and shops.  We sat for a glass of wine at Long Room, a hip little spot with an open-air courtyard complete with fireplace and awnings to shield you from the on-and-off  rains that frequent New Zealand.  Their wine menu was 95% New Zealand, and we each had a nice Sauvignon Blanc.  For eats, we wandered down the road and had lamb kebabs at a Turkish cafe.