So you’ve covered all of the Auckland tourism essentials – and now you want to experience the city like a local. Want to enjoy a public art trail? Try your hand at sailing a heritage yacht? Or browse the Avondale market? Here are some great non-touristy activities to inspire you.
There’s always something happening in Auckland. And in August, it’s the capital’s annual Restaurant Month festival. Take your pick of city centre eateries and relish a first-class dining experience you won’t soon forget. Each participating restaurant offers customers four price points – ranging from NZ$15-55 (£7.50-27.70) – giving you maximum flexibility when it comes to your budget.
Every summer, Auckland Council organises a number of free open-air film screenings in various local parks. Movies in Parks sessions usually start after the sun goes down, but there’s plenty of entertainment beforehand to warm up the crowds. If it’s live tunes you’re after, Music in Parks is another summer regular. For a year-round movie showcase on the cheap, head to the Academy Cinemas for its $5 Wednesday film nights.
Auckland is home to a wide range of walking and hiking routes. The Point to Point is a great way to see some of the city’s most beautiful beaches, with plenty of panoramic stopovers to give you a sense of your surroundings. The 7.5km-long (4.7mi) walk typically takes 3-4 hours to complete; it starts at St Heliers Bay and meanders across various coastal gems, nature reserves and parks before reaching the Point England Reserve.
A fun activity to try during the summer months is surfing. The Muriwai Surf School, a 35-minute drive from the city centre, offers two-hour lessons (equipment and wetsuit hire included) to anyone who wishes to catch some of the epic west-coast waves. Group lessons take place twice daily, at 10.30am and 3pm, catering to first-time surfers as well as seasoned pros wanting to brush up on their technique.
As far as weekend markets go, the Avondale Sunday Market is among Auckland’s most comprehensive. Here, you’ll find a well-established community affair, with stalls reflecting the strong Polynesian and Asian influences that mark the Avondale suburb. Items for sale range from an array of fresh produce to arts, crafts, clothing and food stalls of all flavours. The market runs year-round, rain or shine, from 5am to noon.
Western Springs is a residential park situated right next to Motat and the Auckland Zoo. Swans, ducks, native pūkeko birds and eels are some of the resident creatures you’ll find roaming about. If you have a soft spot for plant life, make sure to visit the Japanese Fukuoka Garden, too. Walking tracks around the park will get you up close to its animals.
Thrifty locals and uni students alike swear by Auckland’s budget-friendly eateries. They come in all flavours and sizes. Whether you’re in the mood for dumplings, juicy burgers, dessert or a hearty vegetarian meal, it doesn’t take much to find a great place to eat that won’t burn a hole in your pocket. For one of the dreamiest pancakes you’ll ever eat, head down to No1 Pancake on Wellesley Street East.
Test your trivia knowledge, have a few laughs and if you’re lucky, maybe even win a prize or two. Many of Auckland’s bars and pubs host quiz nights every week. You just have to organise a team and find a quiz that appeals to your interests and availability – a scan through Eventfinda should point you in the right direction. The Cav, the Zookeeper’s Son and the Empire are some of the venues to get your trivia fix.
There are loads of interesting public artworks to discover in Auckland. Contemporary sculptures are scattered around the Auckland Domain, while the waterfront is dotted with modern creations. And within the hustle and bustle of the city centre is a trove of compelling installations.
Auckland is known as the City of Sails because of its strong affinity with the sea. Not everyone can afford to join a yacht club or get sailing lessons, but the New Zealand Maritime Museum’s sailings offer the perfect alternative for the city’s residents and visitors wanting to immerse themselves in the coastal sights that surround them. Whether you choose to board a small steamboat or embark on a one-hour trip on a heritage ketch-rigged deck scow, the museum has regular sessions running on weekdays and weekends to check out. As a bonus, museum admission is also included in the ticket price.