Just completed a mutli-million dollar refit and it looks stunning both inside and out. As good as you will get anywhere in the world.
New Zealand has the freshest sea food on the planet. Most Kiwis love nothing more than catching their own supper, but if they've not been "lucky" or want more variety they head to the Fish Market. Just a short walk from the Viaduct Harbour (soon to be on a tram line) the Fish Market stocks a wide variety of live, fresh and frozen sea food. For you tourists though there are several cafes and bistros that serve fresh seafood at reasonable prices. If you are visiting in the summer and are lucky you might be able to go to the annual Seafood Festival, which takes over the whole area for a weekend.
If you’re a couple backpacking in Auckland on a budget, the last thing you want to do is stay in a cramped dorm surrounded by strangers. However, you don’t want to pay over the odds to get private accommodation either.
At Freemans Lodge you don’t have to as for an additional €3 you can stay in a comfortable two-bed, self-contained apartment complete with lounge, kitchen, bath, shower, toilet and TV.
The popular hostel also features a comfortable lounge where you can relax and watch TV with a complimentary tea or coffee, and a spacious garden to laze away those sunny Auckland afternoons with fellow backpackers.
The lodge is located just outside Auckland's CBD, just a short stroll from the restaurant laden area of Ponsonby. The city centre is just five minutes away by bus.
65 Wellington Street, Freemans Bay, Auckland, New Zealand
Google map: tinyurl.com/2usp89e
There are about a dozen major vineyards on this charming island.
Just get the ferry from down town Auckland and you're there in about 30 minutes.
On a beautiful summer's day there's nothing better than ambling around the island drinking wine, eating food and having fun.
Take a right at the Viaduct, Auckland.
Devonport is Auckland's maritime village, just across the harbour from downtown via a 10 minute ferry ride. As one of the first settled areas of Auckland it is full of history, graceful homes and buildings, parks, cafes, art galleries and fantastic views of the city.
This audio guide provides a more in depth experience and covers the main sightseeing and boutique shopping areas.
On a sunny day, or at least one that is not raining, Devonport is a must see place.
When you're in NZ, you will come across pretty stamps that are often sold with postcards - they are marked "UNIVERSAL MAIL". Recommend that if you want your postcards to reach their destinations in a timely manner, you do NOT purchase these stamps (which are supposed to be posted in special mailboxes which are few and far between), but use the regular mail stamps.
Karekare is a black sand beach on the west coast of the North Island (about 40 minutes out of Auckland) - The Piano was filmed here.
The beach is wild and rugged, and you walk from the car park across sand dunes and an estuary to get to the seafront. If you're not a strong swimmer you're best to stay within your depth, but the water is lovely and it's a great place for beach cricket.
Mollies is an amazingly affordable (thanks to the fabulous current exchange rate) luxury hotel.
Our suite ($495 per night B&B [£165 approx], doubles same price), had a mezzanine lounge, and whether sitting on the expansive, comfy corner sofa or at the mosaic terrace table, the harbour across to Chelsea Bay and around the North Shore stretches across the vista. It's a sailor's dream.
Alongside period elegance and modern charm, there's unlimited internet access in the guest library, live opera/ musical performances before dinner, and extreme thought, care and attention put into everything.
It's like stepping into someone's comfortable family home, with extra touches. At night, staff come in and turn the bed down for you, put out your nightgown and slippers, leave lights on for you and light the fire if needed, and leave gifts - scented soaps and night moisturisers beautifully wrapped - for your evening comfort. Food is exquisite and the wine cellar world-class.
Mollies, in short, is faultless.
Mollies, 6 Tweed Street, St Mary's Bay, Auckland, 0064 (0)9 376 3489
Forget Atomic Cafe, just a few metres down the road is the uber cool, but totally unpretentious cafe Agnes Curran.
It serves great java and sells art, antiques and homewares making it really classy and very quirky.
There's something really special about Agnes Curran. It is full of character and a real find; not only that but it is renowned for the Kiwi delicacy Lamingtons: a wedge of sponge soaked in dark chocolate, coated in coconut and served with raspberry jam and cream. The staff are lovely too. What's not to love?
181 Ponsonby Road, Auckland. Tel: 464 9 3601551
There are many Maori stories about how the country, natural phenomena and fauna were created, and reading up on them before you visit the country can enrich your journey.
Ranging from creation myths to stories of love and loss, these often humorous tales will enhance your understanding of the spirituality invested in the landscape by the Maori.
Maori Myth and Legend" by A.W. Reed is a nice introduction.
The best eggs benedict on Ponsonby Rd, cheap and set in rather odd surroundings at the Freeman's Bay end of the street. A great place to laugh at the Sunday Star Times of an afternoon. Flat whites are excellent too.
Ponsonby Road, Auckland
For NZ$130ish you can help sail one of two former America's Cup yachts around Auckland Harbour for a couple of hours with SailNZ.
It is well worth the money, particularly if there is a decent breeze which will show you the kind of speeds the boats are capable of and give you a taste of the thrill of America's Cup racing. You can help work the grinders and even take the helm.
It's also a good way of seeing the harbour and getting a water-side view of the city. More than anything, I found this a rare highlight in an otherwise dull and disappointing city.
They are only a short drive to the west of Auckland, and are staggeringly beautiful forest-clad hills leading down to black sand beaches that stretch for miles.
There are walks from the short nature trail at the Arataki Visitor Centre, to longer tramps. If that's not enough, the market at Titirangi is recommended for arts and crafts and good coffee - as a bonus if you miss the market!
Discover multicultural Auckland, avoid the touristy Victoria Park market and head out to Otara (Saturday) or Avondale (Sunday) fleamarkets for a bit of Pasifikan flavour.
Everything from fresh produce, music and goodies from the Pacific Islands, cheap tat from China, unique clothes, secondhand items and pretty much anything else you can think of.
Both have excellent, cheap food stalls too.
Otara is south of downtown and Avondale is west. Can be reached by bus or taxi (or rail if you're game enough).
Tiny sushi bar Bian - not to be confused with the also brilliant Bien restaurant on Shortland St - supplies the local area with lunch every day, pumping out a fantastic selection of donburi, soups, nigiri and maki rolls. Lovely fresh tuna and salmon, along with more unusual fillings such as deep-fried oyster, rare beef, and sesame-fried green beans. The wasabi is fresh, home-made, and free of additives. And it's self-service, so you can pick a mixed selection of your favourites.
The busy, cheery kitchen will make up a roll for you if they run out of anything. Reliable, friendly and surprisingly cheap - and it's also BYO and open at night. You can't really go wrong.
183 Symonds St, Auckland
Phone: 09-309 5609
The 'hippest' bar on Ponsonby Road. Usually with a 30-something crowd but they are joined by a lot of the younger set on the weekends.
It is comprised of small rooms and is dark and comfortable.
Live music most nights - you must hear the Grand Central Band with their take on all types of music. The singer has a fabulous voice; the keyboardist used to bring his Hammond organ along (complete with Lesley) but sticks to his Yamaha these days.
Retire to one of the sofas in the back rooms to escape the crowds.
Ponsonby Road, near Richmond Road.
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