To re-attune myself with Auckland’s oceanic vibe, I stay outside the urban centre. Waking within sight, sound and smell of the sea on bohemian Waiheke Island is special, particularly at The Oyster Inn, which has simple, spare rooms by local designer Katie Lockhart.
Brunch and shop:
Catch the ferry to downtown Auckland (35 mins). Despite growing up there, I’m always amazed by the clarity of the water, even inside the busy harbour.
In the de facto creative district of Ponsonby, the youthful team behind Orphan’s Kitchen makes honey on their rooftop (and serve it with burnt butter on their legendary crumpets). My other breakfast go-to has for years been the simple, perfect Dizengoff, for its strong coffee and ridiculously good mushrooms on toast.
Nearby are Lockhart’s well-curated store, Everyday Needs and Douglas & Bec, the urban storefront for the family studio — designer Bec Dowie and her father Douglas, a furniture maker based in rural Clevedon.
Hunt out prime browsing spots Flotsam & Jetsam, a vintage homewares store run by the charming Cameron Woodcock, who recently opened a second, warehouse-style space in Grey Lynn, and The Vitrine, another warehouse with vintage industrial finds collected by Julien Thery, a former buyer and restorer at Paris’ Marché aux Puces.
Industrial-chic Ponsonby Central, is a new mixed-use building housing a food market and cluster of innovative, relaxed restaurants. After lunch, browse contemporary art and ceramics store The Poi Room, (where I recently discovered my new favourite thing, Kirsten Dryburgh’s “ice-cream” pots.).
On Karangahape (known as “K”) Road, Ponsonby’s less gentrified neighbour, you’ll find maker space TÜR and St Kevin’s Arcade, an art-deco gem full of small independent boutiques. The Auckland Art Gallery recently gained a stunning modern extension, winning the World Building of the Year in 2013.
Happy hour and later
Run by sisters Damaris and Renee Coulter, eatery Coco’s Cantina is like a friendly neighborhood party in full swing. Famed for its polenta fries and happy hour Prosecco, it’s been the best spot to rub shoulders with creative Aucklanders since it opened six years ago.
Take a day trip
A drive out to the West Coast’s rugged, black-sand, artist-and-surfer-populated beaches (Karekare, Piha, Te Henga and Muriwai) will leave you cleansed, and full of negative ions and visual inspiration.
Drinks in the sun
Drop into Golden Dawn, a tavern hidden behind an unassuming corner on Ponsonby Road, for post-beach drinks. The food leans modern and unprocessed, and I like that they only serve natural wine (good natural wine, not the funky stuff). Grab one of the outdoor picnic tables — later on you’ll probably also catch a local indie band playing.
Not to be missed: the raw bar at rustic Depot, innovative Northern Thai cooking at Saan, which has interiors by Auckland’s emerging design superstar, Nat Cheshire); and dumpling-and-cocktail bar XuXu.