5 Unexpected Places to Visit in Auckland, New Zealand

Words and Photos by Amanda Robinson

Many people who travel to Auckland come for the Sky Tower or the rugby games at Eden Park. However, Auckland is a vast, sprawling city that has so much more to offer. Being the largest city in New Zealand, it is in a constant state of sibling rivalry with the rest of the country, always pushing itself to be better. Whether or not it has achieved this goal, nobody can be sure, but what we do know is that there are many hidden gems, if you know where to look. I’m sure there are far more treasures that I have yet to find, but from the time I’ve spent exploring the ins and outs of the city, here are five places I think should be at the top of your list:

Waterfront

More than just Queen’s Wharf, Auckland has an abundance of beautiful waterfront spots.  If you want a panoramic shot of the city, Bayswater Marina boasts views of both the skyline and the volcanic Rangitoto Island, perfect for an evening of watching the sun set over the harbour. Next, head to Birkenhead Wharf after dark for a picturesque look at Auckland Harbour Bridge and the city night lights. A small city compared to the rest of the world, sure, but a buzzing engine all the same.

Wintergardens

While the Auckland Museum is on every tourist’s list, just across the Domain you’ll find the Wintergardens. Opened in 1913, two Victorian-style glasshouses hold an extravagant display of ever-changing botanical exhibits. Visit first thing in the morning, or late afternoon, for the golden light to hit just right. While you’re there, take a walk through the fern collection at the back of the courtyard to see some of New Zealand’s native plant species.

Karangahape Road

The soul of a place, a street that holds it all together; every city has one. On the edge of gentrification, Karangahape Road is likely to see radical change over the next few years, transforming the now grungy street made up of thrift shops and strip clubs into a hot spot for upmarket apartment blocks and chain retailers. For now though, the most infamous street in Auckland holds within it a myriad of secrets. My favourite spot along this notorious street is St. Kevin’s Arcade, a collection of independent boutiques and the famed Alleluya Bar & Cafe. The old windows overlook the city skyline, and the street art lining the stairs in the centre of the Arcade is some of the best in the city.

The Basement Theatre

While Wellington is often praised as the cultural capital of New Zealand, Auckland’s arts scene is thriving. Whether you’re into cinema, theatre, music, or poetry, this city always has something happening. As far as world-class theatre goes, the Civic is the place to be. However, if you want to skip the plays you’ve seen before and check out incredible local talent, head to The Basement Theatre. Hidden around the back of Queen Street’s comedy bars, The Basement Theatre is the place to witness vulnerability and heartbreaking truth by some of New Zealand’s most talented emerging artists.

West Coast Beaches

One of the wonderful things about this city is how easy it is to get out of! One of my favourite day trips is to the black sand beaches on Auckland’s West Coast; Whatipu, Karekare, Piha, Bethells, and Muriwai. Not only will you get breathtaking views and perfect surf waves, but many of these beaches also have stunning hiking tracks and hidden coves. Stock up on snacks from a roadside stall, hit the road, and find secret spots to keep just for yourself!