In a new series for Creative Boom, we’re calling upon our creative community to share some travel tips from their home cities. You know, to give some hints and tips on where to go if you’ve only got a limited amount of time to sample some creativity and culture.
Next up, is New Zealand artist Dane Mitchell who will this year represent his country at the Venice Art Biennale with his exhibition Post hoc. Dane generously showed us around his home city of Auckland, sharing his recommendations of places to sleep, eat, drink and explore. Dane, it’s over to you!
Where to stay
Hotel deBrett in central downtown is a great place to use as a base to explore the city. It’s walking distance to the waterfront and close to transport links, including the ferry that takes you to Waiheke Island – the perfect day-trip destination. The hotel also has a really nice, small bar finished with dark veneer and duck egg greens.
Brunch and cultural spots
Aucklanders are big on brunch, so I recommend starting your day by walking across to City Works Depot where there are a couple of different options. Favourites are The Botanist, which doubles as a florist, and Odettes Eatery, which serves seasonal local food. They both have outdoor seating, so provided it is a clear day (Auckland is semi-tropical so can be quite rainy!), you can enjoy the sun.
Once you’ve had your fill, it’s a short walk to a number of good galleries. A 15-minute walk from City Depot is the city’s principal public art museum, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki, where I’ve just had a solo exhibition on titled Iris, Iris, Iris. It is home to one of New Zealand’s most extensive collections of national art, featuring artists who deserve more international attention than they get. Seek out works by Jim Allen, who created pioneering experimental art, and Frances Hodgkins who is one our most prestigious painters.
From there you can check out Karangahape Road (or K Road as it is known by locals). Once Auckland’s red light district, it is now a creative centre with a strong artist community and is where you’ll find me in my studio above a ukulele factory. Artspace, Samoa House Library and RM are all interesting spaces that work with and exhibit contemporary artists.
Lunch recommendations and a post-meal wander
For lunch, my regulars are Fort Greene bakery, which makes delicious sandwiches on homemade bread (they are a work of art in their own right) and Japanese noodle bar, Ramen Do, on Symond Street.
Auckland has a large Asian community so you can find great authentic cuisine all over the city. If you have time to explore a bit further out, Dominion Road is packed full of tasty options. One of my favourites is Barilla Dumpling which is cheap and seriously good. Otherwise, Kiss Kiss just off Dominion Road is great for contemporary Asian food.
After lunch head up to Ponsonby – the neighbourhood I grew up in – which borders downtown and has great views back toward the city. The area has changed a lot since then and is now a vibrant hub of activity. The main street (Ponsonby Road) is lined with cafes and boutiques and it is easy to spend an afternoon walking around the area. It is worth stepping off the main street to check out the early colonial wooden villas that line the narrow streets. Having grown up here, I often forget how particular — and out of context — this style of architecture is.
You’ll find loads of beautiful clothing and accessory stores by some of New Zealand’s best fashion designers. Deadly Ponies handcraft accessories in supple leather and Paris Georgia (only open Saturdays) create well-made classic garments.
There are also some great vintage stores like Flotsam and Jetsam, which sells a curated selection of furniture and homewares and Mr. Bigglesworthy, a vintage design store on Williamson Avenue, known for sourcing beautiful mid-century pieces.
New Zealand has a very proud coffee culture (we are talking about the home of the flat white, after all) so it is worth checking out eighthirty and picking up a bag of freshly roasted beans.
For dinner and drinks, it’s a safe bet to stay in Ponsonby. Orphan’s Kitchen is a personal favourite of mine. The pared-back aesthetic is somehow warm and homely and the seasonal menu is always inventive. After dinner, check out the cocktail menu at Annabel’s, a cosy bar that does share platters you can enjoy with a perfectly made Campari Spritz.
Finally, if the timing is right, end your evening at The Powerstation, an iconic music venue with a 30-year history of staging intimate gigs with world-class artists. The very best New Zealand and international music royalty have played sold out gigs in this intimate setting, including the likes of The Breeders pretty recently, The Ramones, Kendrick Lamar and Lorde.
More suggestions if you have more time
Honorable mentions that I couldn’t fit into only 24 hours, go to Hamilton Road Beach, which is the perfect spot for a high-tide swim, and Mt Eden, to scale the mountain and peer into the tapu crater.
There is some great art to be found outside the central city, too. Te Tuhi in Pakuranga is one of New Zealand’s foremost contemporary art spaces known for commissioning ambitious new artwork and Te Uru Waitakere Contemporary Gallery in Titirangi, exhibits local artists and has been pretty recently renovated.
If you are more interested in being outside than in city-life, you can’t go wrong with a day trip to Rangitoto Island (climb the volcano for an awe-inspiring experience) or Piha (a rugged seaside spot with fine black sand).
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