Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Travel Guide: Auckland

I'm writing up little guides for some of the places we visited, so that if people ever visit them, we could give our recommendations easily.  Auckland was our 'home town' in New Zealand, and was really a ton of fun.  I feel like we didn't see enough of the city in a way, as we spent most of our time there in "normal" mode.  But still, we have a few tips I think.

Best place to stay:
  • Hands down, The Quadrant Hotel.  This was our favourite hotel out of the whole trip (except Fiji). Modern, clean, very affordable, with a kitchenette.  Rooms were small but fabulous. We paid $90NZD for the night we spent there, and it was well worth it.  Free wi-fi and a good location to boot.  It was also near Emily Place, the cutest little park. 

    Places to eat:
    • The Playhouse, near the Metro theater:  Good food, decent prices (about $15-20).
    • Korean Pancakes across from the Library:  Cheap and a bit quirky - watch out for peanuts
    • A pub in Newmarket, quite well known but we can't remember the name (corner of Broadway and anther main road).  I had some kind of squash pasta that was so so so good and Andrew remembers that they had good chips.  We went here for my birthday and it was an excellent choice
    • Fritz's Weiners:  Good hot dogs.  Enough said

    Internet access:
    • Auckland has a plethora of internet cafes, but you can get free wifi at the Metro Theater and the Public library.  The library also has computers to use, newspapers, and a lot of comfy chairs.  As well, MacDonald's is always a good choice for wifi.
    Things to do:
    • Favourite: One Tree Hill.  Pack a picnic, go for a hike to the top and enjoy your eats surrounded by beautiful 360-degree views of the whole cities and both harbours.  A great way to spend a sunny afternoon.  Hike down the front to end up in Cornwall Park, a relaxed large grassed area.
    • Skytower:  Fun, nice views of the harbour, about $15-20 to go to the top.  Make sure you pick a clear day.   Part of Sky City, where there are many restaurants (the one on the main level is a nice lunch spot, if a bit pricey) (Andrew enjoyed the buffet upstairs, me not so much - you decide!), a huge casino, and a very impressive tourist information booth, with lots of brochures but not the most helpful staff. 
    • Sailing!  Just lovely.  Not exciting, but so relaxed and enjoyable.  Also, had the best sandwich ever.
    • Devonport:  Across the harbour from downtown, this cute suburb has beaches, shopping, and a lot of sweet old buildings, as well as a nice relaxed vibe.  The ferry ride is short, but it is so nice to be out on the water!
    • Auckland Museum: cheap entry and an interesting look at the different South Pacific cultures as well as a whole floor devoted to war and NZ's role in it.  Beautiful building and nice view from outside as well. Also located in the massive Auckland Domain, which is a great park to hang out for a few hours, with lots of cricket. There are some nice greenhouse type buildings too with pretty flowers. The ice cream is terribly overpriced though.  
    • Mission Beach: great place to sun tan, and enjoy the views of Rangitoto Island.  About $3-5 to get here by bus from downtown.
    • Go see U2 if they are in town.  You know, not to brag or anything.  
    Things we missed out on:
    • The White Lady food truck.  We saw this on our first day in Auckland, right after we had eaten dinner, and never remembered to go back.
    • The beaches to the west of the city.  They were supposed to be very beautiful and different, with black sand and crashing waves.
    • Exploring Rangitoto and the other islands.  Supposed to be just gorgeous.
    • Hanging out in Viaduct Harbour.  I wanted to spend an afternoon down there on one of the restaurant's patios, but it just seemed a little flash (expensive) there.  Nice area for a lazy, sunny afternoon of sitting in the sun, sipping something yummy.
    Take it or leave it:
    • Kelly Tarlton's Aquarium: okay, the penguins were great but geared for kids.  Not very big, not a whole lot there. 
    • Ice Bar: interesting but overpriced and underwhelming
    • Auckland Zoo: not as good as the Calgary Zoo, but nice.  A place to see the legendary kiwi bird!

    Other tips:
    • Two or three days in Auckland is good, but you can definitely do more
    • Queen Street is the main drag in town, lots of shopping and quite a range.
    • The bus system is pretty good, sometimes runs quite behind.  In the downtown area, there are many buses though, so it shouldn't be a problem.  This site will be your good friend!  Bus fare seemed relatively expensive, considering you could take the inter-city bus for hours for a few dollars more.  Auckland is fairly walkable, and some attractions do offer shuttles from Sky City or other main locations.  Most buses start or end at the Britomart, which is the transport hub of the city.
    • Grocery stores: We relied on Countdown (it's the final countdown!) as it was the most convenient.  There are not really any grocery stores that are overly close to the tourist areas, this one was probably a 10 minute walk from the main harbour area down Quay Street.  And Quay Street is pronounced Key Street, fyi.
    • The Airport shuttle seems to stop near most hotels and is the most affordable way to get in and out to the airport.
    • Newmarket was a good shopping area, with lots of the more mainstream (ie cheaper) stores on the main drag, and then more boutiques in the side streets.  Good area for window shopping.
    I feel like we barely scratched the surface, but will update if more comes to mind.  


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