Everybody complains about how depressig Auckland is, how it’s not as cool as Wellington/Queenstown, so since I’m the selfless type, I’ve put together a little SOS pack to prevent death by boredom.
1. AWOL canyoning adventures. They run
activities for all different levels of fitness/wussiness and they pick you up in central Auckland, which gives you a whole day of reprieve from the city in beautiful Piha (which is still technically Auckland, I think, so Auckland ain’t all that bad…). Your body will ache, but in a totally fun and rediscovering childhood way.
Prices: $195 for a full day, including lunch (a teensy bit cheaper than the one at Queenstown in case you were wondering. You’re taken through how to abseil and you go for a wee walk through the Piha bush before about 3 hours of abseiling and jumping into plunge pools, and then a wee trip to the beach on the way home.
I hear you. ‘Abseiling sounds cute, Beccy, but what can we do that’s actually exciting?’ Well my little adrenaline junkies, you can throw yourself of Auckland bridge for a similar price, whilst attached to harnesses and bungee cords etc. I would probably recommend going down to Queenstown, or Taupo if you’re only going to the North Island, for that kind of stuff but, it’s something you can do in Auckland 🙂
2. Giapo ice cream parlor. Giapo has ‘haute ice cream’ emblazoned over one door and ‘Aotearoa is beautiful’ over the other. It’s an art deco Italian gelato shop with a massive sprinkling of Kiwiness. Chirpy staff encourage you to try before you buy and scored extra brownie points with me because they could tell me which flavours contained gelatine. There’s a couple of vegan flavours and they look after gluten-free customers, too. After you’ve chosen your ice cream they scoop it into a pot or cone, both of which come in crazy ‘deluxe’ versions, and then they garnish it with even more diabetes-inducing loveliness. Don’t come here if you have a big dinner date in the next few hours. But do make time to come here while you’re in Auckland, seriously.
Price: From $7.5 for a single scoop in a cup, to $25 for a ‘degustation’. Nope, no idea what that is either! $13 should be enough for most people.
3. Auckland Art Gallery. This building is pretty much a work of art in itself. Renovated with glass and reclaimed Kauri wood, it has a beautifully open feeling while still showcasing the old Victorian architecture. Inside are pieces ranging from the early days of New Zealand’s occupation by the British up to right now this minute. There are exhibitions showing early depictions of Maori by Europeans as well as early maps and botanical sketches of New Zealand. Modern exhibitions showcase work by Maori and Pakeha (European descended New Zealander) artists. It’s not as big as say, the V&A, but it’s worth at least one visit in my book. One hour long guided tours depart from reception at 11.30 and 13.30 and they’re well worth it for an insight into New Zealand’s history and culture as much as its art.
Price: $0, including free wifi, which is common as unicorns in New Zealand.
4.The parks (Albert and Dominion) The nice gent at Nomads travel shop who booked the canyoning trip for me (and who told be about Giapo’s) also marked some little walks on a map of Auckland for me. One takes you through Albert Park, which is right next to the Art Gallery, through the university campus to Auckland Dominion, a larger park with a couple of walkways in it. It’s a pretty and peaceful escape from town, and Auckland Museum is also around here.
Price: Free, unless you grab a coffee at the kiosk at the duck pond. I didn’t, but coffees are usually $4.5-5.5 in New Zealand, a couple of dollars more for an iced version. This would also be a nice place for a picnic, or feeding ducks up at the duck pond 🙂
5. Getting the heck out of Auckland!
Despite me giving a fantastic example of missing the following things, I don’t think you should because of the recommendations of (many) others, and because it’s the things you don’t do which you regret!
You have two options here. If you’re short of cash, or if you’ve been indulging in too many trips to Giapo you can walk to Mission Bay in 45 minutes/1.5 hours from Central Auckland, depending on who you believe — basically allow a whole day, but apparently the sandy beach is more than worth it. You can also get the bus, if you haven’t sunk too many dollars into Giapo 😉
If your budget stretches upwards of $30, you can get a ferry to an Island: Rangitoto is meant to be good, with plenty of treks and beaches to enjoy, but there’s a few to choose from.
For any day trips, you’ll save money if you pack your own lunch and snacks etc, because eating out is mostly as pricey as it is in the UK.
A note about affording New Zealand; it’s generally a pricey country, relative to a a backpacker’s budget. It just is, but rather than avoiding it altogether, I would advise saving up more money than you think you will need before coming here, so that you can really enjoy it. There are tonnes of treks and museums you can enjoy for free and while I certainly wouldn’t recommend spending hundreds of dollars on an activity for the sake of it,if you have a yearning to hurl yourself out of a plane or go tubing through a cave, NZ is the country to do it, and you don’t want to have to live on instant noodles while you’re there to make it happen! I mean, you can, it just won’t be as fun.
Another thing to consider is a working holiday visa, I definitely would have got one if I’d known that a) some places offer work-for-accommodation for as little as one or two weeks and b) you need a working visa for these! If you’re going to spend two weeks or more in one place, you can potentially save a fortune in accommodation but if you’re just making a whirlwind tour of NZ, it’s probably not worth the visa cost. You also need a working holiday visa for WOOFing in NZ.
On the bright side, for us Brits, we basically double our money when we come to New Zealand, which is sweet as…(Yes, Kiwis do actually say that. All. The. Time.)
Ps. I’m actually in Hong Kong now, for those of you who don’t know. Will tell you more soon!