New Zealand 101
Most international flights arrive in Auckland. Wise travelers lay over here a night or two to recover from jet lag and experience the country’s largest city.
Founded by the British in 1840 on what was once native Maori land, Auckland today is a remarkably cosmopolitan South Pacific city where the unusual combination of Maori and British influences is underpinned by a yachting lifestyle—thanks to its superlative waterfront setting. The best introduction to the city is via Fullers Ferry, which traverses the Hauraki Gulf to colonial Devonport (devonport.co.nz), a charming Victorian neighborhood with skyline views that comprise Auckland’s iconic Sky Tower, the Southern Hemisphere’s answer to Seattle’s Space Needle.
The view from Devonport also takes in the 48 softly undulating (but long dead) volcanoes on which the city sprawls. Many of these were once important Maori pãs—fortified tribal villages—though mere vestiges remain at historic sites like One Tree Hill, where another commanding city view awaits. Today, concrete examples of New Zealand’s Maori culture are mostly relegated to museums—an unmissable collection at the Auckland War Memorial Museum (The Auckland Domain; 64/9-309-0443, aucklandmuseum.com) counts an intact Maori meetinghouse and menacing war canoe among its highlights. To learn more about Auckland’s contemporary Maori culture, book a Potiki Adventures (64/9-845-5932, potiki adventures.com) tour that includes a visit to the workshop of master carver Blaine Te Rito—it may be the highlight of your visit.
While quays jut out from much of downtown, Auckland’s waterfront really coalesces around glitzy Viaduct Harbour (viaduct.co.nz) north of the Fullers Ferry landing, built in the late-1990s to host the city’s first America’s Cup race. Gawking at expensive boats from harborside restaurants is the main attraction here, and you’ll gain a deep appreciation for Auckland’s nickname, City of Sails, by doing just that over lamb cutlets at chic Euro Restaurant and Bar (Shed 22, Princes Wharf; entrées from $23; 64/9-309-9866, eurobar.co.nz) or a plate of South Island salmon at an outdoor table at lively Soul (Viaduct Harbour; entrées from $22; 64/9-356-7249, soulbar.co.nz).
Farther inland, Ponsonby Road is a popular local hangout lined with some of the city’s most happening restaurants and bars. The contemporary Italian SPQR (150 Ponsonby Rd.; entrées from $20; 64/9-360-1710, spqrnz.co.nz) has a great terrace from which to watch the scene, while nearby Rocco (23 Ponsonby Rd.; entrées from $17; rocco.co.nz) serves up Spanish-influenced dishes in a sophisticated corner house. With the exception of Food Alley (9–11 Albert St.; entrées from $5; 64/09-373-4917)—a collection of no-frills pan-Asian food stalls much-beloved by locals—you’ll have no reason to go downtown after dark, but the warren of streets around High Street comes to life by day with some of the city’s best shopping.
Most of Auckland’s hotels with downtown locations and modern conveniences cater to business travelers. The best of these is the great-value Heritage Auckland Hotel (35 Hobson St.; deluxe suite from $180/night; 64/9-302-1277, heritagehotels.co.nz), which has spacious suites that lie within easy reach of waterfront restaurants (request a room in the newer Tower section). A more stylish stay awaits at the three-suite Boatshed (Waiheke Island; from $235/night; 64/9-372-3242, boatshed.co.nz), offshore on Waiheke Island, where rooms occupy individual boathouses and a three-story lighthouse (ferry transfer included). Decadent Mollies (6 Tweed St.; junior suite from $331/night; 64/9-376-3489, mollies.co.nz), a 13-suite boutique hotel near Ponsonby Road, is the finest in-town choice, with bold Philippe Starck designs, Christie’s-worthy artwork, and in-room fireplaces.
Shopping In Auckland
It is expensive to send production overseas from New Zealand. The result? An abundance of first-rate local fashions created with homegrown materials.
Karen Walker A designer who produces wonderfully structured, Victorian-influenced prêt-à-porter with a touch of whimsy and grunge, Walker also has a great line of accessories and eyewear. 15 O’Connell St.; 64/9-309-6299, karenwalker.com
Kate Sylvester A rising Kiwi star, Sylvester favors minimalist, sensual clothes with an edge for women and men. 47 High St.; 64/9-307-3282, katesylvester.com
Native Agent This Maori-run shop stocks handmade blankets, pillows, and clothing with designs that incorporate native trading symbols, such as muskets and feathers. 507 New North Rd.; 64/9-845-3289, nativeagent.co.nz
Royal Jewellery Studio You’ll find jewelry made entirely by local New Zealand artists; the jade pieces by Te Kaha are particularly exceptional. 486 New North Rd.; 64/9-846-0200, royaljewellerystudio.com
World A fashion-forward duo runs this chain of high-concept lifestyle stores for men and women, plus wonderfully atmospheric World Beauty shops that evoke old-world apothecaries. 57 High St.; 64/9-373-3034, worldbrand.co.nz
Zambesi Elizabeth Findlay designs moody and richly textured clothing for both men and women—all sold under the Zambesi label. Vulcan La. and O’Connell St.; 64/9-303-1701, zambesi.co.nz