While I should be studying…I have been doing a lot more exploring of our beautiful city!. So, here is my personal selection of secret…well actually not-so-secret spots in the heart of Auckland. In fact, you’d have to be living under a rock to not know about most of these spots…but because I’ve grown up far far away in the East Auckland suburbs most of my life, I’ve only discovered some during my last two years at University while living in the city. All of these spots are walkable or easily bussable/ferry-able – I’ve added the distances from the Auckland University city campus so you can see how truly close everything is!
1. Britomart Takutai Square (15 minute walk)
Tucked between the two busiest parts of the city – Britomart Train Station and Queen Street lies a cosy little spot. This grassy square is a popular spot to soak in the sun, read a book, grab a bite on Food Truck Friday’s, and even meditate at the free mindfulness sessions on Tuesday’s and Thursday’s.
2. Giapo (15 minute walk)
If there’s icecream, Sonna will be there. Giapo is hands down the best icecream shop in town – a really one-of-a-kind ice cream shop that will truly change the way you see icecream forever. Giapo only has one store ever and lucky for us it is located super close to Britomart. Perfect for groups of friends, as you can start off with a group tasting (icecream shots anyone?) of all their incredibly crafted flavours from classic NZ Hokey Pokey to the weirdly delicious Yellow Kumara (don’t knock it till ya try it!). You can get creative with your food by choosing from the range of quirky add-ons (wearable ice-cream cones?!) and uniquely New Zealand sculptural masterpieces that are (almost) too pretty to eat! I decided to take on the Te Papa Colossal Squid (mighty but demolished tentacle by tentacle!). I got a chocolate on chocolate combo – silky smooth Chocolate Evolution under a crisp dark chocolate exterior (my inner foodie is drooling as I write this).. Next on my list – is to try their Auckland Skytower icecream. Honestly, Giapo turns our humble friend icecream into the coolest experience ever!
3. Newmarket’s Lumsden Green (15 minute bus or 30 minute walk)
Surprise surprise it’s another green grassy square with a water fountain…The only patch of green along Newmarket Broadway, a trendy location with lots of popular eateries and the perfect retail therapy. The water fountain vaguely resembles a shower; so on a super hot day, you can do a quick dash through it…just don’t let anyone catch you in the act 😉
4. Newmarket Olympic Pool (15 minute bus or 30 minute walk)
Just minutes walk away from Lumsdeen Green, is the Olympic Pool. Like the name implies, it boasts an incredible 50 metre Olympic size pool, as well as my personal favourites: the spa and sauna. The perfect way to let off some steam (literally in the sauna…) and warm up on a cold Winter’s day. They have casual entry, so you can go whenever you feel like it without worrying about a subscription of sorts, and they also have a student discount (my favourite words ever).
5. City Works Depot (15 minute walk)
This little urban complex in the heart of the city has lots of different kinds of places within it (think beauty, fashion, food) but most notable is the eateries! This is basically a millennial hub with the bestest of the best and most insta-worthy foodie spots in one place – my personal favourites are Food Truck Garage, Odette’s Eatery and Best Ugly Bagels. String together your mates and have a weekend brunch at a different place each time!
6. Parnell Farmer’s Market (15 minute bus or 30 minute walk)
Every Saturday from 8am – 12pm (rain or shine!) in Parnell, there is a farmer’s market. There is a huge range of little stalls where you can buy fresh fruits and veg, bakery goods, flowers and meat direct from the producers and growers themselves – how good! As a true foodie at heart, there’s something about the vibe of strolling through an authentic farmer’s market with a coffee, tea or kombucha in hand, that is good for the soul (even if you’re mostly window shopping anyway!)
7. Devonport (20 minutes walk + 10 minute ferry)
Devonport is a shore-side village in the North Shore which you can easily get to via a 10 minute ferry ride from Auckland City for a just a few bucks using your Auckland Transport Hop Card (which I highly recommend getting once you get to Auckland to get around). My favourite things to do in Devonport are the quick 10-20 min walk up Mount Victoria to the summit where you can see epic views of the entire Auckland City skyline, visiting the very unique North Head Historic Reserve which is an underground military tunnel complex built in 1885, or just chilling at Windsor Reserve and Devonport Beach which are right next to the ferry terminal. There are also lots of hidden cafes, chocolate boutiques and art galleries tucked away just waiting to be discovered.
8. Waiheke Island (20 minutes walk + 40 minute ferry)
Waiheke Island is also just a ferry ride away from Auckland City, but a bit further away so visiting this little island might need some more planning. I’m kind of the mum of my friend group and I absolutely love planning out all the logistics of a weekend getaway. Me and my mates recently headed to Waiheke Island for a few nights and it was a surprisingly incredibly student budget-friendly vacay (see video above). We stayed at a lovely bach which we booked online on BookABach, bought ingredients from the local Countdown to cook all our meals, and spent our time doing free activities on the island like bush walks and beaches. Cooking meals in the kitchen and movie and games nights at the bach were also adventures in themselves!
9. Mission Bay (30 minute bus)
Mission Bay is a beautiful yellow sandy beach with gorgeous views of Rangitoto Island. It is lined with loads of delicious pizzerias and ice-cream shops, but my favourite part of mission bay is it’s bike track along the very long beach that blends into Kohimarama Beach and St Helier’s Bay. I love using a service called Onzo to ride bikes, where you use the app to find the nearest bicyle and once you reach it, you unlock it using your phone and you’re ready to go for just $1 per hour. When you’re done you just park your bikes anywhere responsibly on the path and lock it using the app. How cool is that?!
10. Domain & Wintergardens (15 minute walk)
The Auckland Domain a great place to take a break especially for all the students studying at Grafton Campus like myself, because it is literally seconds away just across the road! We love just walking over and eating our hot chips from the local store in a little circle on the grass, and if we have a little more time, exploring the Wintergardens. Built in the 1900s, it has some seriously beautiful architecture and heated glasshouses with the most lush, tropical and unique plants – the perfect spot for a candid photoshoot!