I love New Zealand, mind you, but ask any flight attendant if they enjoyed layover at Auckland, the answer will most likely be “No” and I am inclined to agree. Unlike Queenstown, Auckland does not have that X factor that appeals you to return to the city. But do not be mistaken; Auckland has enough attractions to entertain a first-time visitor, which makes it an ideal city for a 48-hour getaway!
Auckland gives the vibes of a working city. When I was walking around the city centre, all I saw were stern-faced workers shuffling along the streets. And unlike most major cities, Auckland has yet to have a metro system (construction was underway and I read that it would be ready in a few years’ time). Therefore, the best way to get around the city centre was on foot, and thankfully, most sights were within reach.
My first recommendation is Silo Park, which is not far off from the picturesque, insta-worthy marina with seemingly endless rows of yachts parked there.
And after passing through the scenic marina, you cross a landmark bridge, the Wynyard Crossing, where one is offered a window in between the rows of sails to the city skyline, complete with the iconic Sky Tower smack in the middle of the frame.
The Silo Park is just beyond the bridge, which was converted from an old port/yard and housed structures from its previous incarnation. It borrowed its name from the silos there, which, standing as tall as 35m, was used to store cement in its heyday. Be sure to stay till night; not only will the lights on the skin of the structures offers an alternate view of the park, the management of the park also organises outdoor entertainment events like outdoor cinema and live music. Therefore, be sure to check out its official website (https://www.silopark.co.nz/) for interesting events you can immerse yourself in!
Another reason why I felt the Silo Park is worth visiting, was that enroute, not only would you be able to capture insta-worthy shots, but you would also walk past a 100m row of restaurants along Jellicoe Street (the whole waterfront area is also known as Wynyard Quarter; https://www.wynyard-quarter.co.nz/) converted from old buildings that once housed marine and fishing industries of Auckland. These restaurants face the harbour, providing a unique dining experience and making a half-day itinerary to the Silo Park more memorable!
Queen Street to Auckland is like Orchard Road to Singapore. And because Auckland is built to an almost grid-like pattern, being familiar with Queen Street helps one orientate themselves to the stores and cafes around town. If you ask me, yes, you can also buy branded goods on Queen Street, but since everything in New Zealand is expensive (it is, after all, at the corner of the world), these goods aren’t very value-for-money. However, if you want to buy something uniquely from New Zealand (Manuka Honey, anyone?), this is the place to drop by for last-minute shopping for your folks back home!
And yes, you can find a number of grocery stores/supermarkets, if you are a grocery-geek like me 😛
Albert Park is the city park in Auckland, much like Central Park is for New York City.
When I visited the park, it was not as crowded as the streets of Auckland. And since the park is elevated away from the traffic and its resulting pollution, the park offers an ideal sanctuary for one to take a break from the daily bustle.
If you’d like, you can visit the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki which is at a corner of the park, or drop by the University of Auckland to soak in some scholarly vibes. Remember to take a selfie at the sculptural fountain in the middle of the park, with the Sky Tower in the background!
On the other side of Queen Street from Albert Park is the Sky Tower. If you’ve never been to the Sky Tower, you can’t really claim to have visited Auckland!
What can one do at such a touristy place, actually? Observation deck, for one, is a must. Since Auckland is made up of mostly low-density buildings, the observation deck provides a superb view into the horizon. On a clear day, you can even see the famed Lone Tree Hill or even the airplanes take off or land at Auckland Airport. Lastly, make sure to time your visit to catch the sunset from the vantage point!
There’s a Sky Cafe up there, though I found the prices a bit steep (it’s a tourist trap after all). But then… it would be a different experience altogether to sip a cuppa while watching the hustle and bustle below, like ants winding through the narrow streets…
If you are adventurous (and if weather is good) enough, you can also take a (tethered) walk on the outside of the tower.
Last but not least, the Tower is also built upon a mall (complete with a casino) for one to spend the remainder of day.
To be honest, Auckland is so urbanised that, while it’s easy to satisfy one’s hunger with the wide range of food options, there isn’t much specialty to hunt for (unless you have fat wallets). Luckily for us, we managed to seek out some special eating places (when we were not eating McDonald’s and Burger King lol)
You can start your day at Remedy Coffee off Queen Street. A small outfit that offers a cosy ambience, it serves up healthy doses of granola and Western breakfast for the inner health guru in you 😛
If possible, opt to seat yourself by the wooden window to people watch while you dig in!
The Crab Shack
Situated at one of the piers just beside New Zealand Maritime Museum, The Crab Shack offers more than crab: one can find a range of seafood served in various preparation methods one can find!
For example, we had the standard Fish n Chips together with a pot of mussels bathed in white wine.
The restaurant offers both indoor and alfresco dining. Although I was there during autumn, the cold did not stop me from dining outdoors, since the windows stopped the bone-chilling wind at bay. I can’t really say for the bird poops that may drop from above, though 😛
If you are in Auckland on weekdays, they also offer daytime specials, from 3pm – 6pm.
There are plenty of cafes around Auckland, but Esquires, just off Customs Street is a quiet spot from the busy streets. Just opposite Mercure Hotel, this is your standard cafe equipped with decent coffee for you to take a rest from all the sightseeing. From what I know, this is a franchise. So feel free to step into one whenever you feel like a break!
My stay was at The Sebel Auckland Viaduct Harbour (what a mouthful!), which is actually at the crossroads of the harbours and the shopping streets.
The pubs and bars are found conveniently downstairs (be sure to request for a room that face away from the bars, but you would not be able to enjoy harbour views from your room then). Beyond the bars, you either turn left for the yachts and the Silo Park, or right for the old harbour district and Queen Street.
The studio was spacious enough for 2 large suitcases to be opened simultaneously with space to spare. The room also contained washer and dryer, complete with cooking facilities, which makes it suitable for longer stays. Similarly, the bathroom was spacious and had plenty of room for toiletries. I had no complaints about the room in general.
In terms of security, they did not have dedicated security features, which would seem very out of place in such a peaceful city/country! Since Queen Street is just a few blocks away, buying grocery items will also be a breeze.
Strolling down the harbour was a joy, except that the wind was both strong and chilly. One needs to be properly insulated (with windbreaker) when visiting Silo Park and The Crab Shack.
The wind was so strong that it also got windy 3 streets in at Customs Street, so keep that in mind when planning for your accoutrement and itinerary for the day.
One More Thing
Somehow, New Zealand deserves the title of an aviation hub more than Singapore, even though the air traffic down under isn’t much to boast of. Why do I say that? Remember I said in my previous post that Queenstown Airport has a great cafe that is right beside the apron, offering a super, up-close view of the planes?
Well, for Auckland Airport, there were exhibits reminiscent of those found in the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. I mean, in how many airports do you find a model of a good old propeller plane? It is in the transit area, so there’s plenty of reason for you to clear the security checks early 🙂
How to Get There
The SIN-AKL route is served by daily flights by Singapore Airlines and Air New Zealand. For a full 48-hour stay at Auckland, the timings of Singapore Airlines is a better match (not to forget you need to apply a day off on Friday or Monday to make up for a long weekend).
The timing above showed the flights we took to and from Auckland. Do note that airlines adjust their flight schedules in different seasons. For SIA, it is just a matter of shifting forward/backward the take off time by 1 or 2 hours. Always plan well in advance, be it for flights or for accommodation.
From the airport, one just need to activate Uber (or just hail a cab off the curb) to get to the city centre. That easy. Do account for an hour or more for the journey to city centre.
The Crab Shack
137 Quay St, Auckland, 1010, New Zealand
+64 9-972 1599
1 Wellesley St W, Auckland, 1010, New Zealand
+64 9-377 1030
Esquires – Customs Street
Citibank Building Ground Floor, 23 Customs Street East, Auckland, 1010, New Zealand
+64 9-377 6857
The Sebel Auckland Viaduct Harbour
85/89 Customs St W, Auckland, 1010, New Zealand
+64 9-978 4000