Back in the mid-1990s it wasn’t our favourite place to visit, but Auckland has come a long way over the past 15 years to be New Zealand’s most-happening city. From shopping to dining, drinking and relaxing, NZ’s largest city has something for all tastes and budgets. And with airfares dropping to record low levels, a gourmet, luxury weekend has never been more affordable.
From sailing former America’s Cup yachts on the harbour to wine tasting on Waiheke Island, bungee jumping and shopping downtown, Auckland offers a plethora of activities to make for an action-packed or relaxing weekend. To choose your adventure, Time Out recommends visiting Auckland Tourism’s website, which covers all bases.
Auckland’s food scene has taken a turn for the best in recent years and leading the way is Clooney on Sale Street. 33 Sale Street, Freemans Bay (+64 358 1702). Located in a New York warehouse-style building, the space features draping curtains from an exposed concrete ceiling that circle around tables, giving the feeling of a private dining experience. The mod-NZ menu is highlighted by fresh regional produce that’s a sample of the country’s best – duck, pork, venison, lamb, beef and snapper highlight the mains, while you can’t go past the crayfish consommé to start. Reservations are essential. For something more casual, the shared plates on offer at Didas Wine and Tapas Lounge hit the spot. 54 Jervois Rd, Ponsonby (+64 9 376 2813).
There’s something about small bars and great cocktails in New Zealand. Along Auckland’s hip Ponsonby Road (it’s the city’s version of Oxford Street), pubs, restaurant bars and drinking dens line the street alongside top boutiques and coffee houses. A must is Mea Culpa, which fits about 20 inside and out and has been owned by a number of leading bartenders since it was first conceived. Start with an Aviation and finish with a Mojito – or the other way around. 3/175 Ponsonby Road, Ponsonby (+64 9 376 4460). If it’s more wine you’re after, perhaps with a cheese plate, then head for a sticky wine after Mea Culpa up the road at SPQR. 150 Ponsonby Rd, Ponsonby (+64 9 360 1710).
Where to stay
Thanks to low room rates and the value of the Australian dollar, you can splurge on a room in Auckland without breaking the bank. A 10-minute cab ride from the heart of the city, The Langham, Auckland is our pick for a luxury weekend away. If the day spa treatments don’t hit the mark, then the room service will – it’s the best in the city. Tip: get the hotel to book airport transfers for you. They are only a few dollars more than a cab and the 45-minute ride is way more enjoyable in a Lexus. 83 Symonds St, Auckland (+64 9 379 5132).
Middle East airline Emirates operates daily flights to Auckland from Melbourne. With the affordable airfares on offer, why not make a luxury weekend out of it and fly in business class, complete with half-suite style seats, thousands of hours of entertainment and an onboard bar.