Leona Duff lived in Auckland and experienced the city like a local, and in this article she is keen to thwart such opinions. In order to do so, she has compiled a more eclectic list of places to visit in the city than those usually found online. 

With so many choices on offer in Auckland, it's great to enjoy New Zealand's finest wines, bars, cafes, restaurants and suchlike, but it's very important to be able to enjoy a variety of places.

After all, this aspect of Auckland - its diversity - is what made Leona love it so much.

View this locals guide to Auckland include top tips for the places to escape the tourist crowds and have an authentic experience. Recommendations are divided into two areas: the city centre, and not in the city centre.


City Centre


Karangahape Road

I think I first heard about K'Road when I Googled vintage shops in Auckland, however along with store names popped up various articles advising readers of the road's notoriety. It may well not be the most picturesque road in the city, but it more than makes up for the lack of waterfront views with its brilliant selection of eateries and places to pick up cheap second hand clothes, books and houseware. 

First of all, for shops, head to St Kevin's arcade. This is a quaint, chilled out indoor strip of vintage shops or 'op shops', all of which are fantastic and so well stocked. My favourite clothing store on the road, Metro Retro, is just at the Arcade entrance, and is always full of gorgeous dresses, tops and other clothing.

It is also BEAUTIFULLY cheap (nothing over $20) and there's a rail of clothes outside full of pretty finds at $5 and under. Elsewhere in the arcade, the second hand book shop is also a great find. Out of the arcade and along the road, shops like Cheap as Chips and The White Elephant are also filled with amazing clothes, if slightly more expensive!

The bar and club scene is infamous on K Road, but I think this adds to its charm and sounds very fun! I've not had a chance for a proper night out here yet, but have seen posters for reggae/dancehall clubs, and for electronic music, bars Ink and Coherent (club night = Incoherent) have a great reputation (from Resident Advisor). Just off K-Road is a place I would probably have missed had it not been for my local tour guide/housemate showing me a place he goes during his lunch breaks on Mercury Lane.

Having just come from Asia, I was thrilled when a friend and I were taken into an unassuming looking building with a collection of authentic Asian restaurants, ranging from Thai to Vietnamese, with even a little Greek food thrown in.

All nice and cheap, this is probably as close to the real thing as you'll get this side of Asia. Revel is another great eatery on the road, with a bohemian feel and lots of amazing (Western) vegetarian cakes and food.

I realise my K'Road section has probably taken up a lot more room than I intended, but I just love it.


Cassette No 9

I don't know if I've missed something, but finding a club that plays music beyond ubiquitous chart/house is a bit of a challenge in Auckland. Somebody from work told me that Cassette was a fun night out, or had been a few years ago, so some friends and I decided to give it a go and were very impressed!

Inside, the club has a sort of vintage feel, with tea jars of cocktails being served (along with cheaper options - don't worry!) and dark decor.  The bar is open throughout the day, serving cheap (and apparently amazing) burgers, but is open until around 3am, before which it plays a variety of live and loud music.

The venue also spills out on to an outdoor balcony, providing a pretty setting for a bit of socialising and fresh air. This was such a welcome change from wandering the streets trying to find a fun place that we went two nights in a row! Various international DJs have visited this venue in recent months, and I predict such nights to increase.

Keep an eye on Groove Guide magazine and Time Out for upcoming parties generally.


The Viaduct

The Viaduct is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Auckland, but a lot of locals will advise you against hitting the Viaduct for a night out, with its rowdy crowds, however I find it very fun. I like to think I have decent music taste, but sometimes (I'd like to stress very rarely) a collection of awful songs from Avicii and co can be a fun way to spend a night out... if numerous Steinlagers are involved.

Our first night out here saw us simply walking down the main strip of clubs and wandering into whichever ones took our fancy. Favourites included Degree and other clubs along Lower Hobson Street, but at the waterfront bar/club Snapdragon was really cool inside, with an outdoor balcony making it a perfect choice for summer nights.

The tap beer selection is also pretty decent here, and it is another place conveniently open most of the day and well into the night. Other recommendations from friends as far as cheap drinks go include Danny Doolan's and Bungalow 8. Try both.


Miss Pings

Though this bar is a little hard to find, it is SO worth it. I thought it sounded like some sort of strange cabaret show, but on arrival at 'shed 5'* I was pleasantly surprised. Ping pong tables, the bar's main attraction, are instantly noticeable both outside and in, with the interior of the bar being almost tiki-themed. A really cool place.

The drinks menu is small, in that it only contains about 7 drinks, but spending a few hours playing ping pong and drinking (very tasty, because it's New Zealand) rosé is a very fun way to spend the evening! It is situated in a circle of sheds, each containing other bars or restaurants which seem well worth a visit - especially The Food Truck - the City Works Depot.


Tyler St Garage 

I have to say, going to Tyler's for a club night was not the highlight of my trip. Though the venue is really impressive, very industrial and minimalist, this was almost ruined by the horrendous R'n'B music from around 2005 blasting from the speakers after midnight.

However, credit where credit's due, Tyler's is right in the city centre, Britomart, so is within walking distance of plenty of other bars and the Viaduct area for clubs, so is a perfect place to have some food and drinks earlier on before perhaps venturing elsewhere. There is also a gorgeous roof terrace - everyone loves a roof terrace.



When I was told we were going out to a southern themed place that served chicken and waffles for a friend's birthday, I was instantly excited. I love carbs. Obviously, there was no question as to what I was ordering, and though the portion size was a little on the small side, the food was great. The cocktail and drinks list is also very impressive.

Add this to the fact that there's a impersonator of a Louisiana shoe-shining man wandering around the place and live music (mainly jazz) most nights, you've got a very authentic and individual setting.


Country Club

After a long night the night before, my friend and I were feeling a little worse for wear and decided to take up a recommendation - the Britomart Country Club - for some recuperation time and chardonnay. The name may seem a little pretentious and offset some alarm bells, but the place itself is far from what it's name suggests.

Just off the street, large steel gates and greenery surround a beautiful indoor courtyard, and hearing its music from down the street makes navigation easier. With a very reasonably priced food and drinks menu, hangovers can be cured by the country club's beautiful pulled pork burgers and cocktail jars while the DJ plays late into the night to an eclectic crowd. A great find.




Cafe Abyssinia/The Tulja Centre

Being driven around the city one day, I didn't know where a friend was taking her car full of hungry diners for lunch, but the surprise inside the empty looking mall we arrived at was a pleasant one.

On the first floor of the Tulja Centre, one finds a mecca of foreign foods, and on this particular day we went for Ethiopian. Having never ventured out of South Africa on visits to the continent, I didn't understand the format of meals here, but basically you choose toppings that are loaded on top of massive, doughy crepes resembling sourdough. You also eat with your hands, which my mum found very amusing.

This was a lovely way to experience the eating opportunities on Dominion Road, and I'm already planning multiple trips back to the rest of the restaurants inside and around, with Chinese dumplings being another specialty of the area.


Kohimarama Beach

I may be slightly biased here, but having lived in Kohi for a month and a half, I can't do an article on Auckland without including it. This peaceful suburb lies just 20 minutes drive from the city centre, but the beach here is so much more pleasant than neighbouring Mission Bay or St Heliers.

With very well kept amenities in the form of showers and toilets on the road's edge, this is a perfect spot to spend the entire day, with high tide times providing excellent swimming conditions. The beach is immaculate and usually very quiet. Just at the end of the beach, The Bar and The Shop at Kohi (part of the same chain) offer delicious and well priced food and coffee.


Atomic Coffee

This coffee mecca/roastery in Kingsland is pretty famous around New Zealand, and for good reason. Firstly, the coffee is obviously amazing. The walls are also stocked up to the ceiling with coffee paraphernalia, including a V60 ice coffee maker, which is pretty genius.

The atmosphere is also really chilled, ideal for a long brunch, and the decor is nice and minimalist, which complements the industrial feel of the massive coffee roaster visible at the corner of the room. They also do haloumi fritters - enough said.


So there's my summary of a few of Auckland's best local spots - I really can't recommend each  enough. Be sure to go explore more attractions in New Zealand too, this country is stunning!


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