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Tāmaki Makaurau is the coolest place to be this summer if you’re an Aucklander. (Image: Tina Tiller)
Tāmaki Makaurau is the coolest place to be this summer if you’re an Aucklander. (Image: Tina Tiller)

SocietyDecember 20, 2021

An Aucklander’s guide to sticking around over summer

Tāmaki Makaurau is the coolest place to be this summer if you’re an Aucklander. (Image: Tina Tiller)
Tāmaki Makaurau is the coolest place to be this summer if you’re an Aucklander. (Image: Tina Tiller)

Despite Auckland’s borders opening up for summer, a good number of Aucklanders will be staying put. If that’s you, there’s no need to feel grumpy – in fact, you might even have a good time.

The prospect of being in the city over summer is often tinged with gloom, but there’s nothing to despair about if you’re staying in beautiful Tāmaki Makaurau over the festive season and beyond. An urban holiday in the place you live, particularly when it’s as alluring as Auckland, can be a real joy. Unlike a trip out of town, there are no expectations, none of the logistical palaver, and relatively little prospect of car sickness. The streets are quieter, beaches less busy, and everyone left here magically becomes more friendly. It’s the perfect non-committal holiday. 

Often I wonder how believable it is when I repeat “I actually really love staying in Auckland over the summer holidays” to my dubious friends for yet another year. Most years I leave briefly, but usually I can’t wait to return. Often you’re too busy to properly enjoy the city you live in, so staying around over summer is a chance to do just that.

With communities and iwi in some parts of the country asking people not to visit this summer, it might be a decision more of us than usual make this year. And while many of us are likely to be absolutely o-v-e-r the city of sails after months of lockdown, I reckon looking at the place we call home with a fresh set of eyes can do wonders for our relationship with it. Think of it as putting some much-needed spark back into your romance with Auckland.

Auckland's Wynyard Quarter on a summer evening
Auckland’s Wynyard Quarter on a summer evening. (Photo: Nazar Abbas / Getty Images)

One of the best ways to enjoy an urban staycation is to explore a suburb or nook of Auckland you’ve not spent a lot of time in before. If you really let yourself meander and spend the time actually looking at things, most suburbs in the city are fascinating. 

East Auckland suburb Panmure, for example, is home to myriad food spots. My favourite, Hesari Bakery, is stocked with a wonderful selection of Middle Eastern groceries and Persian rugs, but the real drawcard is their fresh barberi bread. If you’re lucky enough you’ll get one – crispy on the outside and airy inside – straight out of the wood-fired oven, wrapped in paper. Panmure’s eateries are a global affair, with cuisines running the gamut from  Sri Lankan to Malaysian, Yunnan to South African, Filipino to fried chicken. While you’re in this neck of the woods, you could also make your way to the summit of Maungarei.

Onehunga is a brilliant place to visit over summer. Definitely start with a coffee from Dear Deer Coffee Roasting Bar, a Japanese-style coffee bar where owner Yukichi roasts your choice of coffee beans to order. If you get peckish, grab a pie from Penny Lane’s bakery, a Filipino-style ensaymada from Bread N Butter Home Cookery or a bahn mi from Mr T’s before perusing the op shops that line the main street. 

Another excellent destination is Ōtāhuhu village. The suburb boasts some of the best Vietnamese, Cook Island and Māori food in Auckland, so it’s a great place to grab lunch after shopping up a storm for bargain kitchenware, glitzy costume jewellery and fake flowers along the palm tree-lined main street. 

Try It Out Vietnamese in Ōtāhuhu and Dear Deer Coffee Roasting Bar in Onehunga. (Images: Charlotte Muru-Lanning)

If you prefer a more organised and informed tour, grab a copy of the Auckland Architecture pocket guide (which would also, by the way, make a marvellous last-minute Christmas gift) and let that direct you around the city. Or, take a walk up your local maunga and follow it up with some online research on its history – I’d recommend starting with the Maunga website created by Tūpuna Maunga Authority.

There’s no better form of transport over summer than the train. Yes, they can be frustratingly slow when you’re rushing to work, but in summer the meandering pace gives you a whole new perspective on Auckland as you traverse the backstreets of the city, peek into stranger’s lush backyard vegetable patch or drift over Ōrākei Basin, catching a view that looks like it could be straight from a Ghibli film. (Update: sadly buses will replace trains between December 26 and January 23 for maintenance and upgrades to the rail lines, but the bus is fun too.)

Trick yourself into thinking you’ve travelled overseas by popping into a bar that feels like somewhere else. I’ve never actually been to Melbourne, but Bar Martin in Mt Albert makes me feel like I’ve teleported to one of the Australian city’s suburbs. It features a beautifully curated wine list and a very manageable list of snacks to eat alongside – the fact that it’s about a one-minute walk from the train station, only adds to the across-the-ditch illusion. Auckland institution Tanuki’s Cave in the city centre, all subterranean and moody, makes a perfect break from the more obvious outdoor drinking spots. Wash down the yakitori, kushiage and a plate of their famous $5 cabbage and kewpie mayo with a tall Japanese beer or dinky glasses of sake, and you’re pretty much in Tokyo.

Zip over to the other side of the world with a trip to “London” at Galbraith’s in Eden Terrace. Sit inside or in their renovated outdoor garden with a pint and bangers and mash for a certifiably-British experience. Or, jet to Mexico City at La Fuente on Commerce Street, make a trip to Madrid with a visit to Tasca on Dominion Road or Candela on Karangahape Road, step straight out of O’Connell Street and into Seoul at Sophia Bar or head to Mo’s bar, tucked away on Federal Street, which will have you convinced you’re in New York City – even if only till the end of your cocktail.

Korean fried chicken and Cass beer at Sophia bar (left) and Cheltenham Beach (right). (Images: Charlotte Muru-Lanning)

Galleries and museums are ideal at this time of year. They’re often quiet – and even better, air-conditioned – spaces to visit when it’s far too hot to be outside. Pop on a mini skirt and drift through the Mary Quant: Fashion Revolutionary exhibition at Auckland Art Gallery. Te Uru Gallery in Titirangi can make for a great destination trip, or you could even drop in on your way to or from the beach. The gallery’s current Stars start falling exhibition features paintings by Teuane Tibbo from the 1960s and 1970s, alongside contemporary works by Ani O’Neill and Salome Tanuvasa. On K’ Road, Artspace’s Cruel Optimism is a lush mixed-artist exhibition centred around Lauren Berlant’s influential book of the same name.

Want a break from fine art? Te Toi Uku Crown Lynn museum, located on the old Gardner Brothers & Parker brickworks site in New Lynn, tells the stories of the once-flourishing West Auckland clay industry – from clay pipe-making to bricks to (as the name suggests) Crown Lynn pottery. Auckland Museum’s new exhibition Love and Loss charts the way people have communicated love to each other through letters, diaries, emails and messages, which seems particularly fitting after months of lockdown in this city. Also at the museum, the Not One More Acre! photographic exhibition tells the story of the 506-day protest at Bastion Point against the proposed Crown sale of Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei land. And, obviously, you can’t can’t leave without a go in the volcano house.

Aucklanders are spoilt for choice when it comes to activities in the great outdoors too, whether that be swimming, walking, paddle-boarding, surfing, picnicking or sun-bathing. I don’t dare give away people’s supposed secret swimming spots or walking routes, so instead I’ll recommend two places that I believe to be thoroughly underrated by Aucklanders: Cheltenham Beach, which has never let me down (though make sure you check the tide times) and the Parnell Baths, which are surprisingly lovely – and the mid-century decor is such a vibe.

Keep going!