I want to start off by saying that I’m not telling you that this is the creme de la creme of Auckland itineraries, but it is exactly what I did while I was there and I had a really great time….
The first destination on my New Zealand road trip was the City of Sails. Most people who had previously visited NZ insisted that five nights was way too much time to spend in Auckland, but I found that it was the right amount of time for me to adjust and see just enough of the city and surrounding areas. I have a very long trip ahead of me and due to some rental car drama I’m especially glad that I stayed here as long as I did.
Day 1: Check-in, explore Point Chevalier, eat at Depot & live comedy
I landed in Auckland around 5:00am and breezed through customs with my backpack in tote. I retrieved my car from Snap Rentals and made my way towards my Airbnb in Point Chevalier – known as “Point Chev” (prounounced ‘Shev’) by the locals. I’m not going to lie, driving on the opposite side of the car AND the road was pretty nerve-wracking. There was a little sticker on the speedometer that said “keep left” but I found that it also helped to remember that the driver’s side should remain on the center line to ensure you’re in the correct lane. I had quite a lot of time to kill before my 4:00pm Airbnb check-in, so I was able to explore a majority of Pt. Chev that day. First, I went to Pt. Chevalier Beach:
The beach entrance is basically a mini forest with birds and butterflies everywhere. The weather was really nice and then out of nowhere it started raining, so I ran to my car. The rain stopped within two minutes, but I was already in my car so I drove to The Pt. Chev Beach Cafe. I enjoyed a fresh squeezed juice, utilized their wifi and chatted with Normand The Bird Whisperer for a bit before heading back out…
I loaded up on road tripping necessities at a NZ supermarket chain called Countdown then went to chill at Grey Lynn Park. It was one of the most pristine parks I have ever seen. From there I walked to Malt Public House for my first glass of wine in New Zealand. It was about 3:00pm and people were just starting to trickle in, but I had the charming little patio all to myself:
Finally, it was time to check-in to what quickly became the best Airbnb stay I have ever had. My hosts were incredible friendly, helpful and even made me fresh squeezed juice and gave me a towel to keep for my future hostel stays! It was super close to the bus station that got me downtown in just 10-15 minutes for a few NZ dollars and it was easy to get in/out of for day trips. If you’re traveling solo, you should definitely stay here.
After I checked-in I got ready and then went to eat at Depot Eatery where I experienced New Zealand’s famous hospitality and seafood. I had the best seat at the bar right next to the oyster bar. I met the sociable restaurant’s owner, Al Brown, who was running food to tables and helping out his staff the entire time I was there. He even gave me his business card in case I got into any trouble while I was in Auckland – I guess I give off that vibe. I enjoyed the Central Otago Pinot Noir that was on tap with some complimentary pita that was served with a spicy carrot mash. I decided on the Hapuka fish sliders and a few oysters (I tried one of each oyster then ordered a few more of just the Te Kouma). The oysters were expensive, but they might have been the best I’ve ever had (and I lived in Nawlins for 5 years). I was so hungry that I forgot to take a picture of the sliders before scarfing them down, but they were picture-perfect.
While I as sitting at the bar eating at Depot, a seemingly normal and friendly gentleman sat down next to me. He said he was in Auckland on a business trip for a fairly prestigious airline and when he asked what my plans were for the night I let him know that I was planning on going to a live comedy show down the street. I then said goodbye, went to the restroom and when I while I was walking out he stopped me to let me know that he was going to join me….. so we then continued on with my original plan (which was to go by myself) to a bar called Tabac for amateur comedy night. I really enjoyed conversing with the bartenders and comedians – my favorite comedian was the host, Jack Ansett. The funniest moment of the night was probably when one of the amateur comedians made a joke about the Depot guy putting his arm around me (because it was so obvious I looked uncomfortable – because I was). The comedian commented about how guys can’t be doing that to women anymore and made other jokes about how he didn’t have a chance (true). It was super awkward and I was bright red, but I was grateful for that comedian because right after that joke the man ever so casually recoiled his hand from resting on the bar behind my back. I then called an Uber so that he would leave, only to cancel it once Mike, a local Kiwi, offered to buy me a drink in order to justify the $10NZD cancellation charge I was about to incur. I’m so happy that I went there because Mike was wonderful and showed me around the city the entire following day.
Day 2: Mount Victoria Lookout, Museum, Ponsonby & Comedy
I woke up slightly jet-lagged to a dreary day, but it was okay because my own personal tour guide scooped me up from a coffeeshop called Split Milk. We drove over the bridge to Devonport and walked up to the Mount Victoria Lookout which is famous for its panoramic views of Auckland. Here’s a photo I took, but it was drizzling rain and the views were not that great while we were there…
We then drove around a fairly new part of Auckland called the Wynard Quarter. It was a neat area that had a very wharf-y feel to it. The weather still hadn’t let up, so we decided to go to the Auckland War Memorial Museum. The museum showcases the Maori culture and even has war planes and a mummified elephant on display.
My favorite part was the volcanic eruption room where they simulate what would happen if one of the volcanoes surrounding the city erupted. Spoiler Alert: They’re totally F#@%ed… So why build a city around them? Besides being beautiful they provide a lot of benefits, like fertile soil, and you can learn all about this at the museum. Once we left the museum the weather had cleared up, so we took a short walk over to the Auckland Domain Wintergardens which is public and totally free.
After filling our heads with knowledge we decided to go fry some braincells at a bar. We went to a cute strip of restaurants/bars called Ponsonby Central where we landed on Bedford Soda & Liquor. They’re known for their delicious balls but their food was good too…
After filling up on balls we went to Mike’s house for some pre-comedy show drinks with his roomies. I really loved meeting other Kiwis and getting such a local experience by hanging out with them at their home. I had just met these people, but I felt like I had known them for months! We went to a Wednesday night comedy show at the most popular comedy venue in town, Classic Comedy. There was a mix of amateurs and professionals and the comedy was pretty good, but there were definitely a few Kiwi inside jokes that went over my head. The venue was awesome and the room was filled with laughs and lager!
Day 3: Day Trip to Piha Beach
Day three was one to remember for many reasons. I did not really research much and just jumped in the car with “Piha Beach” typed in Google Maps. This was only the second time I had driven a car completely opposite than what I’m used to in the U.S. and it turned out that the roads to Piha (pronounced “Pee-Ha”) were narrow, twisty, windy, steep, busy and straight up stressful. Somehow I made it to Piha Beach with no issues and was genuinely grateful for that. I lucked out with the most perfect weather and spent hours walking around the beach and hiking the stunning Lions Rock. If you look at it from a different angle it actually looks like a lion laying down. I also had a latte and avocado toast with a view at Piha Cafe.
On my way back I made it through the treacherous roads and right when I was thinking “wow, I’ve got this opposite side of the road driving thing down” I hit a curb and got a flat tire. I knew right away it was a flat and pulled into a supermarket parking lot to change the flat. I’m ashamed I never learned how to change a flat (shame on you Dad!) so I guess I looked stressed-out while I was Youtube-ing “how to change a flat” when a man approached me and asked if he could change my tire for me. I wish I could remember his unique name, but I’ll just remember him as my tatted and calloused Kiwi angel…
After this long day I was utterly exhausted and just spent the night watching Amy Schumer on Netflix and went to bed early…
Day 4: Waiheke Island
My fourth day started with getting my NZ Sim Card set-up and then taking the ferry to Waiheke Island. This was my very 1st vineyard experience and I wish I could have spent an entire day here instead of just a few hours. I took a scenic and fun 40 minute ferry ride to the island. Again, I seriously lucked out with perfect weather and didn’t want to leave. Per my Airbnb host’s recommendations, I took a taxi to Mudbrick Vineyard which has been awarded for their Slow Cooked Silver Fern Farms Lamb Shoulder.
If I could do it all over again I would go to more vineyards, but I didn’t have enough time. However, I think I picked a good one to spend the little time that I had over there. The food was pricey, but fantastic. I decided on the Mudbrick Reserve Pinot Noir and the Hapuka Fish (only because the lamb could only be made for two and the price reflected that).
Here are some more pics from the day:
After Waieheke I was pretty exhausted, but I ended up meeting up with Mike, his roommates and their other friends for wine and pizza at their house. Conveniently enough, Mike’s family owns a few wine shops around Auckland and the surrounding areas, so the wine at their house was delish.
Day 5: Rugby & Kingsland
On day 5 I decided to take just pack-up and plan the rest of my trip. By this day, I still had not booked anything besides my next two nights, so I needed to set some time aside to do this. I also had to go get my rental car exchanged out for one with four good tires. It was a rainy day, so I didn’t feel too guilty. While I was waiting to get my rental car switched out I stumbled across a little gem in the suburb of Ponsonby: New Leaf – New Zealand’s 1st Kombucha Tap Room. It’s brewed about 20 feet from the bar that you drink it at and you can enjoy it by the glass, or try a flight for just $7 NZD. Kombucha is already very popular in the U.S. but it’s still very new to NZ. I think this taproom and the New Leaf brand is going to kill it.
That evening my Airbnb hosts, Rushlee and Andrew, took me to an awesome bar and restaurant called Citizen Park for drinks and dinner before The Blues Rugby match. It was a convenient 5-minute walk to the Eden Park stadium – the largest stadium in NZ.
I still can’t believe it, but a mutual friend of mine, Dani, happened to land this day and met up with us for drinks and the match. The match was surprisingly quiet, but The Blues won and it was a really good time. Dani and I ended up going back to Citizen’s Park after the game and the place was totally going off – they even had a DJ! We posted up with some drinks and two guys sat down next to us to chat. They were super friendly, but I think it’s worth sharing that while one of the guys was talking to me something shot out of his mouth. I was pretty sure that it was gum, but then he picked it up and put it back in his mouth. I was like “um, what was that?” and he quickly replied “uuuhh… my tooth”…. 😦
Dani and I continued to wonder around the suburb of Kingsland, which had a really good nightlife scene – at least it did that night after a Blues win. We also went to The Portland Public House which was just across the street, had live music and reminded me of New Orleans.
The next day I went to Hobbiton, which is a day trip that a lot of tourists make from Auckland, but I will write about that in my next post.
Auckland was awesome and I can’t wait to see what’s next!