Greetings Internet Stranger and welcome to 24 hours in Auckland. Auckland, New Zealand doesn’t always get as much attention as its neighboring cities in Oceania, like Sydney and Melbourne. Also, it has to suffer the indignity of foreigners thinking it’s the capital city of New Zealand when it isn’t. (That’s Wellington.)
But Auckland remains New Zealand’s largest city. There’s more than enough to do here to fill a thrilling 24 hours in Auckland. As in any other global city, you can find delicious fine dining and exciting art. But Auckland also has those small touches that are uniquely Kiwi–and I’m not only talking about the Marmite.
24 Hours in Auckland
Where to Stay?
In my opinion, the Stamford Plaza Auckland is the perfect place to spend your 24 hours in Auckland. It has lovely and comfortable rooms, a great bar downstairs, and the perfect location in Downtown Auckland. Plus the staff couldn’t be nicer!
24 Hours in Auckland
What to Pack
You’ll need comfy shoes for all the walking we’re going to do today. If it’s summertime, I love my special pink Birkenstocks. These aren’t your grandpappy’s Birkenstocks anymore. They come in every shade, and I always get compliments on my electric magenta shoes.
New Zealand is hot in the summer, so don’t forget the sunscreen. My favorite is the Neutrogena spray bottle because it’s so easy to apply. And as a solo traveler, I can actually use it myself on my own back. I just put it in my purse and re-apply throughout the day.
Finally, if you’re not from Australia, New Zealand, or the UK, you need a universal adapter if you’re going to plug in electronics. NZ electrical outlets don’t work with American or non-UK European plugs. I suggest the NEWVANGA travel adapter. It’s usable with any electrical outlet in the world, so you won’t need to keep buying new adapters. I always carry two with me, just in case something happens to one.
24 Hours in Auckland
Morning: Auckland Art Gallery
Sometimes people ask me why I love museums so much. In my opinion, museums are the best place to get a chance to reflect on the nature of existence and man’s inhumanity to man in this crazy, fast-paced modern world. Also there are lots of pretty things in museums, and I like looking at pretty things.
Then people ask me why I go to museums when I travel when I live in New York City, home to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, aka the greatest museum in the world. The Met is amazing, but it is not the Everything in the Whole Wide World Museum. If I want to learn about New Zealand art, it’s best to head to the Auckland Art Gallery.
The Auckland Art Gallery is a wondermous place. First off, it’s open every day except Christmas. Second, it is free for New Zealanders. (International visitors need to pay. I could try to pretend I’m a Kiwi, but I think my accent would give me away. Also I’m pretty sure if I tried to fake an NZ accent to get free admission, they’d just throw me out.) Still need convincing? Then let’s dive into my…
three fun facts: auckland art gallery
1) Who are some famous kiwi artists?
One name you need to know in New Zealand art is Charles Goldie. (He’s sometimes known as CF Goldie.) Goldie was born in Auckland, New Zealand. He lived from 1870-1947. “Blah, blah, blah,” you are probably thinking. “No one cares about dates and places.” Fine. Then would you believe Goldie was one of the most celebrated tattoo artists in history? I don’t mean that he put tattoos on people. I mean that most of his subjects are Maori elders and chiefs who were covered with tattoos.
The Auckland Art Gallery has a rich collection of Goldies. He is one of the most popular and expensive artists in New Zealand history. There is, however, a lot of controversy surrounding his work. Some people criticize Goldie for romanticizing the idea that the Maori were a “dying” race. But many Maori are appreciate of Goldie for immortalizing their ancestors so their images will never be lost. The one thing you can’t do with Goldie is ignore him.
2) Are there special exhibits?
Hell yeah! But I’m sorry to say that you missed the very best special exhibit to ever hit the Auckland Art Gallery. I mean, it’s the only special exhibit I’ve ever seen at the Auckland Art Gallery, but I’m confident nothing could top this. The exhibit was “The Obliteration Room” by Yayoi Kusama. It starts with a replica of a typical New Zealand home. Only this one is entirely white. Then every visitor who enters the room is given some colorful polka dots. (Polka dots are a signature of Kusama’s.) You are then free to place the polka dots anywhere you wish.
I had a blast trying to find sneaky hidden places to put my polka dots where they wouldn’t fall off. I put some on the underside of the bar to the oven, some on the bottom of a lamp, etc. Seeing children go hog wild with the dots was also a joy. When was the last time I’d seen kids so amped about being in an art museum. The only downside was that after I left the exhibit, I tried to enter the homes of random New Zealanders and put polka dots on their walls, but they wouldn’t let me. BOO!!
3) what about really contemporary stuff?
How’s 2017 for you? This piece, “Rock Drop” by New Zealander Judy Millar, was commissioned by the museum. The Auckland Art Gallery was originally one stuffy old-fashioned building with a handlebar mustache and a monocle. Then in the early 20th century, it underwent an expansion. Now it has an additional wing that’s made of glass and space rays. So the museum commissioned “Rock Drop” to enhance the passageway between the two buildings.
This work makes me think of a special package that’s being delivered to the museum because it is suspended from the ceiling by a giant rope.) It also makes me think of an old Linda Richmond routine from SNL. (Rock Drop is neither a rock nor a drop. Discuss!) Some of the fun of looking at art is allowing yourself the pleasure of a wacky interpretation or connection. Leave the stuffed shirt at home!
24 Hours in Auckland
Afternoon: Big Foody Food Tour
When I say New Zealand cuisine, what’s the first thing that comes to mind. If you said, “Huh?”, you’re not alone. Before my 24 hours in Auckland, the only ideas I had about New Zealand food were that maybe they ate a lot of mutton because there are so many sheepies in the country. Also, shrimp on the barbie is Australian, not Kiwi.
So that’s why I was so delighted to take the Big Foody Food Tour’s Auckland in the Afternoon excursion. I was joined by an enthusiastic local guide and an older couple from north Florida who were in Auckland getting ready to take a cruise. (Also, I had not previously realized Auckland is a popular jumping off point for cruises.)
Sadly, I cannot feed you any of the tasty treats through my computer screen. But I can share with you…
approximately top 5: 24 hours in Auckland food
1) feijoa chocolate
Our first stop was at an artisanal chocolate counter. We sampled three different kinds, but my favorite (and most authentically New Zealand) was the feijoa chocolate. Feijoa is a fruit about which I had never heard before visiting New Zealand. But in New Zealand, you can’t miss it! No one (that I encountered) eats whole feijoas. But Kiwis put it in everything from jams to smoothies to apparently chocolate. It has a pleasantly sour taste, like a mild citrus fruit.
My favorite fact about the feijoa is that it doesn’t originate from New Zealand. I was told that the plant comes from Brazil, but Brazilians don’t like to eat it. However, it’s so popular in New Zealand that many families even have their own feijoa trees in their own backyard. Well, you know what they say! One Brazilian’s trash is a Kiwi’s treasure!
2) pub grub
Auckland was founded by the British who came to New Zealand in 1840. (In fact, Auckland was the first capital of New Zealand. It was later moved to Wellington because it is more centrally located.) So naturally many New Zealand dishes have a British influence. And nothing can be more British than a meat pie! There’s nothing I love more on a cold day than a warm and flaky pie brimming with steak and gravy. Thankfully meat pies are arguably just as popular in New Zealand as they are in the UK.
Our guide gave us a pint of local craft beer to accompany our freshly made pies. She said the beer came from an Auckland-based brewery, Behemoth Brewing Company. They like to get cheeky with their names. In fact, they even named one beer Dump the Trump. (This beer has apparently got them lots of hate mail, unfortunately.) Our guide seemed to be assuming that we were not Trump supporters and would find this funny. I’m not, but I could tell straight away that my older, white, north-Florida-living tour companions were. The husband made this obvious when he asked where the beer making fun of Hillary Clinton was. It seems Behemoth Brewing has no plans to make one.
3) tastes of new zealand
Our guide brought along a couple of local specialties we weren’t necessarily going to find on the menu of a restaurant. One was the magical manuka honey. This honey can only be made with the flowers of the manuka tree. And the manuka tree is only found in New Zealand and parts of Australia. Many homeopaths claim that manuka honey has medicinal powers, but this hasn’t been scientifically proven. What has been scientifically proven is that manuka honey is crazy expensive. So when you get a chance to taste some on a food tour, you go for it!
I did buy some manuka lip balm on the trip to New Zealand. Now my lips are so kissable that random movie stars are just running up to me on the street demanding that I smooch them. So I say it’s worth the price.
On the opposite end of the taste spectrum, we have some Marmite. This is a concentrated yeast extract paste, and it tastes…exactly like you’d expect a concentrated yeast extract to taste. But I can see why people like it because it does have a strong umami flavor. If you’re in the mood for something really savory, it would hit the spot.
Marmite is so popular in New Zealand that when a Marmite factory was damaged in the Christchurch earthquake and it led to a Marmite shortage, there was a Marmite panic. This incident is now referred to as Marmageddon, which is my new favorite word of all time.
Now from simple pub grub and Marmite, we move to something more elaborate. Our guide wanted to make it clear that Auckland isn’t just home to meat pies and funny beers. You can also find gourmet treats. And nothing is more gourmet than GIAPO!!! ice cream. This store was started by Giapo and Annarosa Grazioli. But don’t let that fool you. GIAPO!!!!??!? is more than just a typical Italian gelato store. They specialize in creative flavors and elaborate toppings. I’m not joking about the elaborate part. You can get chocolate in the shape of a giant squid or the Sky Tower on top of your ice cream.
However, you won’t be able to get anything quite so elaborate on this food tour. We were limited to one scoop and one topping. I selected the avocado because I have a fiendish desire to always be trying bizarre foods. This came topped with a sprinkling of sesame seeds. The concoction was quite light and refreshing. After all, what is an avocado but a gigantic mound of green fat? And everyone knows that ice cream is better the more fat you put in it. That’s just science.
Our final stop on the food tour was the trendy Amano. The cuisine is Italian, but the ingredients are all local. You can even see where they mill their own flour in the restaurant! It was exciting to be able to visit a chic and popular place like this on a food tour. And because we were a group, we were able to sample many more dishes than I’d be able to sample on my own.
Look how many different things that is! My apologies that I didn’t arrange the food in a more artistic fashion. I was too excited to begin nomming on it. Amano divides its menu into different sections based on the main dish component: dairy, pasta, meat, seafood, or vegetables. We snacked on the burrata with peach, the handmade handkerchief pasta with tomato and ricotta, the tomato salad with pine nuts, and the Angus beef carpaccio with Parm. Our guide told us that her boss had gone to Amano and sampled all the dishes until she selected the four best for us. Man, that’s a rough job. It’s basically like working in a salt mine.
24 Hours in Auckland
Late Afternoon: Explore Auckland!
Once the tour is over, you’ll want to walk off some of that food! I recommend wandering about Auckland and seeing what strikes your fancy. I don’t want to give you too much direction, Internet Stranger. Do what I say and think for yourself! But I can suggest some places I enjoyed walking. If the weather is decent, you can go for a stroll through Myers Park.
Don’t forget to say hello to Moses! Better yet, dress up like a burning bush and see if you can trick him into talking to you.
If you’re looking for a smaller statue, go visit Sir Dove Myer-Robinson. He was the longest serving Mayor in Auckland’s history. Also, apparently this statue is life-sized. He was diminutive in stature, but mighty in spirit.
My favorite piece of public art in Auckland is this mural dedicated to the suffragettes of New Zealand. The women of New Zealand were the first women to get the right to vote, all the way back in 1893. The suffragettes deserve incredible credit for that. They also deserve credit for being able to ride their bikes in those insane skirts.
24 Hours in Auckland
Evening: Dinner at Le Garde-Manger
After that massive food tour, you’ll probably be too hungry for a giant meal. Yet you’ll need a bit of a snack before bedtime. I suggest popping down to the French restaurant Le Garde-Manger for a crepe. Le Garde-Manger literally means The Keep-To Eat. But in actual usage, it means the pantry. Just the perfect name for a small creperie with red and white tablecloths and actual French waiters from actual France.
I supped on a buckwheat crepe stuffed with mushrooms and cheese. It was very French and traditional. But sometimes after a day of eating yeast extract and avocado ice cream, traditional is just what a girl needs.
That’s a Perfect 24 Hours in Auckland!
What would you do with 24 hours in Auckland? What are your feelings about Marmite? And do you keep typing Suckland when you mean to type Auckland and then feel guilty because Auckland doesn’t suck at all? Please leave your thoughts below!
Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while each article is about how to spend 24 hours in a place, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY spend 24 hours in Auckland. If you have time for another 24 hours in Auckland, try this itinerary. And if you want to add 24 hours in Paihia and the Bay of Islands, click here.