How To Make The Most Of A Long Weekend In Auckland

For a lot of travellers arriving in New Zealand, Auckland will be your first port of call after you get off that long flight! The misconception, I know we certainly had when we first visited NZ was that there wasn’t a lot to do in Auckland, the longer we lived (1.5 years in total!) in Auckland the more we discovered this wasn’t quite true.

Auckland certainly is a great place to base yourself for your first 2-3 nights in NZ as you adjust to a new country and time zone. Or if you’re like us and just want to visit the city for the weekend (something we did recently now that we live in Wellington) we do have a few suggestions of what you can do during a long weekend in Auckland:

Friday – You long weekend in Auckland starts here, Welcome to The City of Sails!

long weekend getaway to auckland

If you’re coming from the airport, its easier to just jump in a taxi upon arrival, the new motorway from the airport to the CBD (which opened last year) has sped up the time it takes getting to the city. Yes, you could wait around for a shuttle, but you would be roughly paying around the same price, and the shuttle doesn’t take you to the door!

On this occasion we decided to travel the slow way to Auckland from Wellington, we decided to take the North Explorer, the North Islands only rail service.

Why? Did I hear you ask! Well, we had time on our hands and thought it would be a good way to see some more stunning scenery of the North Island that we had not yet done before. I wouldn’t recommend it if you were a visitor to this country for a few weeks as you would be skipping out on a lot of the best bits of the North Island, but it is certainly a great way to travel for domestic tourists.

The journey in total was 10 hours and it was the most incredibly relaxing way to reach Auckland in our opinion, we were more tired on our return journey flying back to Wellington with Air New Zealand.  It must be something to do with airports, they can be just too stressful! Here is a little video of what we got up to on the North Explorer!

For us, the best place to stay in our opinion in Auckland is either in a centrally located Air B&B (close to the harbour) or one of the Waldorf Apartment Hotels. They are cheap, (but not too cheap), comfortable, clean and central.

Use your arrival day to get acquainted with the beautiful waterfront of Auckland. From the ferry terminal, you can walk all along the water’s edge, past the beautiful Wynyard Quarter (lots of great cafes and bars to choose from here) around to Silo Park (in the summer they put on free movies here, its great) and around towards Westhaven Drive and the Harbour Bridge. An even better idea would be to hire a bike and cycling the fully pedestrianized route in half the time.

Other great central parts of Auckland that are worth exploring on this day or another day would be Auckland War Memorial Museum, a must for any history lover and Auckland’s Sky Tower (you can’t miss this from the skyline of Auckland!). The telecommunications and observatory tower is home to SKYCITY entertainment complex with many bars and restaurants and even a casino. There’s a lift that will take you to the top to check out the incredible views of Auckland and if you want you can also jump off the building and walk around the top of the tower!

sky tower goingnz
A Must Do: Auckland’s Sky Jump

For dinner and drinks, we suggest anywhere in Britomart. It’s not just a train station anymore! This area has been revitalised with a small shopping mall and lots of bars and eateries overlooking the water. If you want somewhere romantic check out XuXu Bar, it’s quite hidden and down a side alley, their cocktails are incredible and the dumplings are just the perfect match!

Saturday – Explore the Hauraki Gulf:

Waiheke Island
Wine O’Clock of Waiheke Island

No trip to Auckland is complete without getting out on the water and exploring the harbour. We certainly think you have to visit Waiheke Island. We LOVE Waiheke Island, when we lived in Auckland we would always jump at any opportunity to visit the island. The island is just a short 35 minute ferry ride away but offers you a completely different pace of life! If you want a taster of what NZ is like outside of Auckland then visit Waiheke Island. To check out what to get up to on Waiheke click on our article here.

Another great island that we love is Rangitoto Island. It is basically an extinct volcano in the middle of the harbour. Fullers ferries will get you there is less than 20 minutes, take a packed lunch (as there is nowhere to buy lunch on the island) and go off and explore at your own pace. The most popular thing to do here is to climb to the top (takes about an hour) to the lookout spot, but we also love taking the detours to other sections of the island, don’t worry though, you can’t get lost!

Rangitoto Island
Rangitoto Island – A great day trip

Other ways to explore the harbour would be by the Americas Cup sailing experience (we are yet to try, but hear it’s great) or by getting out west to The Riverhead Tavern. An awesome pub/restaurant that offers some really great outdoor seating. Every Saturday they run a cruise that departs from the ferry terminal, it’,s a great way to see the harbour in all its glory!

 

Do what the locals do We personally love heading to where the locals go whilst we are on vacation and this boat cruise and an afternoon at their restaurant really does tick those boxes!

For evening activities, we would suggest staying late on Waiheke Island if possible to enjoy dinner at one of Waiheke’s best vineyards (we love Mudbrick and Cable Bay) or restaurants as the last ferry returns at 10 pm or if you chose one of the other harbour options above, then dinner and drinks at the Wynyard Quarter would be a good alternative!

Sunday: Discover More – Get Further.

Mission Bay – Simply Beautiful

The one thing we miss about Auckland now we live in Wellington really has to be the beaches! We never even knew that Auckland had some spectacular beaches until about 6 months into our 1.5 year stay in Auckland. We suggest using your last morning/afternoon in Auckland to get further out of Auckland and explore the surrounding areas of this beautiful region. Our favourite beaches are:

Devonport, North Shore: This is a lovely little settlement just opposite the ferry terminal, the other side of the harbour bridge. The best way to get there is by jumping on the Fullers commuter ferry to Devonport which takes around 20 minutes. The white sandy beaches right next to the ferry terminal is a great spot to watch the world go by for a few hours!

Mission Bay: Mission Bay is a very popular place with the locals of Auckland. You can get here by taking bus number 61 from the ferry terminal. Or better yet if you hire a bike you can cycle along the waterfront (there are cycle lanes) to Mission Bay in under 20 minutes. The white sandy beaches here are swimming friendly as well as family friendly. We also love this place as it has our favourite bar just across the road, a Belgian beer bar!

Out West, Piha, Bethalls Beach and Murawai: If you have a car then West really is Best! If you want to escape the hustle and bustle of the city this is a great option, it is just 40 minutes from the city centre. It has some of the best black sand beaches in the region and is very popular for surfing. Every time we head out this way we get reminded why we love Auckland’s beaches so much!

Do you have a tip to share from your long weekend trip to Auckland? Feel free to share them in the comments below! 

Labour Weekend getaway’s from Auckland for under $150

With October’s Labour Weekend just around the corner, a weekend getaway must be one your radar! The hectic city life can sometimes be too over whelming at times. Here are our top 5 weekend getaway spots to escape city life in New Zealand, make sure you click on each sub heading to find out more and get ready to fall in love again with the true beauty of New Zealand!

Waiheke Island
Waiheke Island

Waiheke Island

Where: – Just a 35 minute ferry ride from Auckland CBD is the nearest getaway spot for city lover’s you can see the city in the distance but feel a million miles away!

Cost:  A returns journey booked via book me and an Air BnB stay will set you back less than $100 for one night, grab some fish and chips on the beach and your in for a winner!

What we love: The laid back island life, the proximity to Auckland CBD and the friendliness of the locals.

Surf at Raglan
Surf at Raglan

Raglan

Where: A 2.5 drive South West of Auckland, follow highway one and turn off at Huntly, and head to the ocean you can’t go wrong.

Cost: Factoring in fuel for your trip, a stay in a camp site in town, and utilising a Grab One deal for a cheap eat, should only set you back $100 for one night.

What we love: Being by the sea, the surfing and the backpacking culture.

Beautiful Tauranga
Beautiful Tauranga

Tauranga

Where:  Another 2.5 hours drive but this time on the opposite coast (South East coast) follow highway one and turn off at signs to Thames.

Cost: Again a night in a campsite, a meal at Bobby’s Fresh Fish Market and fuel should set you back no more than $120 

What we love: Paddle boarding in the harbour, climbing Mount Maunganui for the views and the cool hip bars!

Kayaking at Snells Beach
Kayaking at Snells Beach

Snell’s Beach

Where: 1 hour north of Auckland is a lovely inlet with a some great camp sites drive to Warkworth and it is about 8km west. This is a really great quick escape from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Cost: I wouldn’t even factor fuel in it is so close, but a night in a camp site and food may just put you back $50. Stay at Bethshan Seaside Cottages and enjoy there free kayak’s!

What we love: The beaches, the small town vibes, the locals and how close it is to Auckland!

View from Cathedral Cove Carpark
View from Cathedral Cove Carpark

The Coromandel Peninsula

Where: This one is a little further away from the rest but still achievable, it is a 3 hour drive from Auckland we suggest staying at Hahei or Cook’s Beach.

Cost: Factoring in a stay at Purangi Winery for free, eating there delicious pizza’s and a tank of fuel at day in the peninsula will only set you back $80 bucks.

What we love: Hahei, Cathedral Cove, digging your own hot pool at hot water beach, cooks beach, kayaking, Purangi Winery pizzas, The Pinnacles, need I go on!

Where else would you escape for Labour Weekend?! Tips and comments below!

Sunsets in Auckland

We just love a good sunset! The majority of our weekends here in Auckland are pre planned, to ensure we are in a good location just as the sun is setting!

In our view is nothing is better than sitting some where together talking a load of nonsense as we watch the sun going down. We would like to share a few of our favourite sunset spots with you here in Auckland.

Go West:

When we really want to escape the city life we take a short day trip and head for the western beaches of either Piha or Bethall’s. Or we take the bikes and head to Woodhill Forest we stay all day just to witness moments like these!

piha
Piha
Bethalls beach sunset
Bethall’s Beach
sunrise woodhill
Woodhill Forest

Waiheke:

Waiheke Island is becoming a very special place to us. A short 35 minute ferry ride and we are back to nature, enjoying the great kiwi outdoors. This photo was taken at our Bach last October over the labour public holiday.

waiheke
Waiheke Island

At Evening Events:

This summer the weather has been at it’s best. February was the 2nd hottest summer on record for New Zealand! We definitely took advantage of the bright nights and the amazing sunset’s whilst out and about. Our favourite is watching the sunset at the numerous free outdoor cinema events Auckland council put on. Free movie, free chocolate surrounded by lots of people just out for a good time!

outdoor cinema auckland
Movies in the Park
silo park
Silo Park
Mt Smart Stadium, winter
Mt Smart Stadium at the Rugby!

In the Car!

Isaac is a bugger for stopping and snapping the skyline even if we are just in the car driving home! Auckland really does have the best sunsets!

Stuck in Traffic
Stuck in Traffic
auckland car
Just had to pull over!

And finally:

Mt Eden, is our favourite. It is just 2 minutes from our house and worth the climb every time. There is something about Mt Eden that is special, your are in the middle of the largest city in New Zealand yet you just don’t feel like you are. It’s become a peaceful spot for for us and one that get’s better each and every time.

mt eden sunset

Cycling in Waiheke

Waiheke has recently been voted by the Lonely Planet as the 5th best region to visit in the world! It is there top pick for 2016! One step off the ferry and onto this beautiful island and it isn’t hard to understand why. This is now our third time (and third article) to this stunning island, you could say we have fallen for this island hard! Each time we visit we discover something new it is quickly becoming our escape of choice from the busy Auckland lives we are currently living!

In Love with Waiheke
NZ has 3 more public holidays than the UK, that to us is 3 more weekend trips/getaways the first one of spring lands in Labour Weekend. A weekend where NZ commemorates the 8 hour working day (they were one of the first country’s to legalise it) we decided to utilise this time off in our busy schedules and explore Waiheke some more. This time around the agenda was to visit some areas of the island we have never been to before, some places you just can’t reach on the normal hop on and hop off bus service that the island offers to the many day trippers.

E Bikes at Palm Beach
E Bikes at Palm Beach

E Bikes to the Rescue:

To do this we needed transport. A quick Google search and we found we could hire Electric bikes for the day (or longer if you wanted) which was just perfect as we had already discovered the delights of a E bike back in June on our cycle trip around Auckland. We came across E Cycles and Darleen who runs the little shop in Oneroa. She is extremely passionate about everything bike related and has lots of knowledge about the island, she even gave us a handy map to ensure we couldn’t get lost (not hard!).
Darleen set us up with some fab bikes that are guaranteed to get you around the island in one day without breaking a sweat. A quick lap around her test track (the car park!) and we were off.

Our Cycle Route in a Day:

Ask anyone about Waiheke and they will tell you it is hilly! Do not under estimate! The first time we visited we were on foot, the second time we took our bikes (tiring) so this time we wanted to learn from our past mistakes! Riding Waiheke on E Bikes was a dream. The island has very good roads, courteous drivers and more cycle lanes than I expected.

The top of Seaview Road looking down to Onetangi
The top of Seaview Road looking down to Onetangi

At the bottom of the article is a map of the cycling route we took, we actually travelled a total of 30 km in the space of 2.5 hours but due to our stops in between we hired the bikes for a total of of 7 and half hours, we even had time for a cheeky 2 and half hour lunch break at Mudbrick Winery! I do believe this distance of travel will not over exert yourself and indeed the bikes (mine actually ran out of battery on the last hill -doh!).

Mudbrick Vineyard

Wine O'Clock
Wine O’Clock

In our last article we wrote about our plans to get as far east of the island that we could reach but unfortunately not even the E Bikes could make that happen for us – well there always is next time!

Visiting Waiheke Island – The Low Down

Waiheke Island is definitely a feast for the senses upon taking a 35 minute ferry from down town Auckland you arrive on to an idyllic island that is so far away from the hectic culture of Auckland. If you can only visit one place in Auckland this should be it, you can get a real sense of what the rest of New Zealand is really like! Here are our tips on how to explore Waiheke and where to visit, but trust me you will be spoilt for choice!

Getting There:

Waiheke is in the Hauraki Gulf and is the second largest island, it has a population of nearly 8,000 people its popularity is mainly due to its ease and proximity to Auckland city centre. Fullers offer a ferry service on a daily basis every hour as well as Explore Waiheke Ferry. However, to take the 35 minute ferry ride here is not necessarily cheap, but if you check out Book Me you will often find ferry return tickets on certain days for just $1! So definitely worth planning your trip around these deals!

Oneroa
Oneroa

Getting Around

Upon arrival you can be collected by one of the many bus tours or hire a car (near the car park) or an even better idea rent an electric Bike from our friends at eCycles NZ, they are also situated in the main car park. We have had the delight of visiting twice, once on foot and took the public bus around the island and most recently we decided to take our bikes over. However they are not E-Bikes and we were naïve in thinking we would be able to explore a lot of the island in the time that we had! E-bikes are almost a necessity, lots of locals have them and you soon realise why!

Waiheke Executive Travel is the coach company that took us around for the day on my recent Waiheke Wine Tour. We had a local driver guide who filled us in on what life is like on Waiheke with very quirky and fun facts. Their coaches were comfortable and spacious, they also offer private cars for 1-2 people and they can even cater for larger groups of up to 250 people!

Where to Visit:

Without a doubt your first stop which ever mode of transport you take will be the main town of Oneroa. It has the tourist information centre, all the banks, all the shops and most of the best restaurants. It is only really worth a pit stop, for the view and maybe if you fancy stopping for lunch!

Okahuiti Creek we discovered on our cycle ride as we were trying to find a flat route from the central hub of Ostend (where Countdown supermarket is) to Surfdale. It is an inlet that has a lovely community of house boat owners! We had lunch amongst the locals who went about chatting to each other about their day! A beautiful spot for a picnic lunch!

The Perfect Spot
The Perfect Spot

Onetangi is all about its long stunning white sandy beach. Dotted with privately owned Bach’s and sea front restaurants this place would probably be your last stop on any tours you partake in as it is a good 20 minutes from Oneroa town centre and the ferry terminal. It is also the last settlement before you reach the real remote eastern side of the island that is often left unexplored by day trippers – even weekend trippers like us! This eastern side of the island is meant to be very different to any of the areas that I have  mentioned above and is on the top of list to explore for next time!

Beautiful Beach at Waiheke
Beautiful Beach at Waiheke

But don’t forget to visit a Vineyard or two! Read my article here on my day with Explore Waiheke.

Where to Eat:

There are so many great restaurants in Waiheke it is hard to choose! And for a budget conscious visitor like our selves you may have to be prepared that wallet may take the hit! We can only really comment on the ones we visited! The Oyster Inn in central Oneroa would be my top suggestion to anyone that loves shellfish and seafood. They had the most incredible locally grown mussels that I just had to try! Dinners are on the pricey side but the quality and the service outweighs this downside.

Oyster Inn Mussels!
Oyster Inn Mussels!

Fenice is a great small Italian just a few doors up from the Oyster Inn, we had our evening meal here on our most recent visit and had the most beautiful wine and chocolate desert I have tasted in a long time! The staff were attentive and friendly all the combinations you need for an great evening out!

Where to Stay:

On our first visit 5 years ago we stayed at the islands only camp ground, but it is extremely far out of the main attractions of the island! On our second visit we decided to stay at an Air BnB, a concept we have grown to love whist living in New Zealand. You get to meet some locals, stay in some really unique accommodation and often it is cheaper to stay at an Air BnB than a local hotel, don’t diss it until you have tried it!

Don’t Under Estimate The Size of The Island:

I don’t like to finish on a negative tone but I feel like this is an appropriate and most important point to make! We were very mislead that Waiheke Island was an easy island to explore. We learnt how big and difficult it was to get around on our first visit 5 years ago on foot and when we decided to visit a few weeks ago for a weekend getaway as I have previously mentioned we opted to take our bikes. We thought we had learned from our past mistake! We were wrong! If you really want to get off the beaten track, push the boat out and hire a car or an electric bike and make your life that bit more easier! We will be doing this next time to reach further afield than Onetangi!

I would love to hear your views on Waiheke, where to visit and where to stay! Post below!

My Winery Tour of Waiheke with Explore Waiheke

Waiheke Island has many wineries in fact I was told on my visit to Waiheke a few weeks ago the island has over 30 wineries, it really does hold its name of “The island of Wine” very well!

I had the most beautiful day (even if it was a little chilly!) on Waiheke a few weeks back. Explore Waiheke took us over on their large and modern ferry’s and Waiheke Executive Travel transported us around whilst giving us useful but fun facts of island life!

Cable Bay Vineyard - Must be your first stop!
Cable Bay Vineyard – Must be your first stop!

We visited two vineyards on our visit and Cable Bay Vineyard was our first stop, I suggest you make this your first stop too! It is extremely close to the ferry terminal (around a 5 minute drive) so it is almost criminal if you don’t pop in for a visit! The winery is located on high on a hill where you can overlook the view of the green rolling hills, the sea and of course Auckland city. The place has a really lovely wine cellar underneath the restaurant. They also have an underground private dining room which is really fancy with a glass wall where you can see through to the cellar! It demands exclusivity and uniqueness.

We were able to stop and have a tour of their facilities (brilliant location for a wedding FYI!) as well as try a few of their wines!

Cable Bay Lawn
Cable Bay Lawn

After a brief pit stop to Oneroa, the main town of Waiheke we were on our way to Batch Winery. This winery is located at one of the highest points of the island which we were told is great for the grapes especially in the long humid summers NZ often has. It has the most amazing 360 degree views of the island it feels like you’re in the middle of the island as all you can see is the rolling hills of Waiheke. From here you get a real sense of how large this island actually is! We had the absolute pleasure of meeting the owners whose professionalism and enthusiasm about wine impressed me, as well as their humour! They talked about wine as if they were talking about a piece of art, and they dug deep into the philosophy of wine making and the relationship of wine making and nature, etc.

High Tea at Batch Winery
High Tea at Batch Winery

One highlight of the tour I did enjoy was definitely the “High Tea” lunch that Batch Winery offer at their restaurant called Thomas’s Bach.  There restaurant was designed with the concept of the kiwi “Bach” in mind and I was actually impressed the restaurant actually looked like a Bach! Scaffolding and all! The lunch was delicately made and was welled match with a glass of Champagne! This visit to this winery definitely replicated the slow-paced culture that New Zealand offers – I felt like I never wanted to leave!

Thomas's Bach
Thomas’s Bach

Unfortunately we only had time to visit two wineries on this visit but we definitely intend on returning and exploring more, let me know which vineyard I should visit next!