KIA ORA Gohemians!!
Now that the days are getting foggy and cold here, it got me thinking about how its really strange that I’ve managed to already experience winter this year (and no not in England haha). Yup I was in New Zealand in June. It’s a pretty strange feeling to be honest to experience full-on winter twice in one year but that’s the beauty about being on the other side of the world – it’s all a bit topsy-turvy.
I also seem to have a fascination with heading to big exciting cities when its freezing cold don’t I? Remember when I went to Chicago? Well it may not be the time when everyone else heads there, but it doesn’t mean it’s not as fun. I like getting the full experience of a city – and to visit a place in the winter and in the summer is the ultimate discovery really. At least you get a real sense of what it’s like to really live there.
But our arrival in chilly Auckland was welcome break indeed. I was kinda desperate to get back into a colder climate for a while – after all, as a Brit, it’s what I’m used to. Especially after spending 48 hours in Singapore at its hottest time of year, I couldn’t wait to feel a refreshing breeze. I mean, think about it, for 3 months I’d been sweating my butt off, living in sticky hotel rooms, fending off mosquitos every night with a non-romantic four-poster style netting over the bed and then looking into my backpack to find a whole section of it taken up by winter clothes! Just looking at that woolly-hat and hoodie every day, made me sweat! As annoying as it was to have my valuable bag space taken up by that stuff, it was all very much needed once we got to NZ. I was even kinda excited about finally wearing it all again. Weird eh?
Really I think the feel of cold winter days are actually quite inviting. I admit we get fed up of them, but at the start of Autumn and this time of year I love it. I love the crisp, cold smell in the air, the colourful leaves on the ground tattooing the drab, grey pavement and that cool bite in the air. It makes me think about Halloween and Bonfire Night and they are favourite highlights of year! And as soon as we arrived in Auckland, I felt excited. I was amazed at how much that cold nip in the air made me so happy.
After arriving at the hostel, we decided to go off exploring and I was ecstatic to be in this new, vibrant city! I loved it, it felt so festive because of the sudden chill and because of that it reminded me so much of home. But anyways, regardless of the weather, Auckland is a pretty cool place to visit. There are some great spots to see and cool attractions, but it isn’t as big as I thought it was going to be (maybe akin to the size of Birmingham). But regardless of size, its the content that counts.
Our first stop was to the very cool Real Groovy record store, it’s heaven for music/fashion/popular-culture buffs. I loved it! It reminded me of the comic book shops I used to visit in Brum when I was a teen trying to be cool (ha! I’m still trying).
It had loads of fun books and jokey gifts, a good thift section towards the back (a little pricey, but hey now you’re in the Antipodes, that’s what you get!), loads of good music and a kind of Urban Outfitters type store towards the front. A must-see for all the cool-kids out there. Also this is THE spot to come if you want to check what’s going on in the city at night. As you walk in the door there are flyers and magazines all about the city’s nightlife, so grab some of them and see what you fancy doing.
There are great comedy clubs, burlesque nights, club nights, bars and there’s a really nice Art-Deco theatre…so there’s plenty to do kids, if your wallet’s full!
My next big recommendation is the Hard Luck Cafe at the top of town, it’s a very cool rockabilly cafe that does really great food, funky cocktails, themed nights (like burlesque/gigs/fancy-dress) and they even sell local art.
This cafe pretty much ticks every box for me, so I very much recommend heading there for your morning coffee, instead of Starbucks. 🙂 Near this little gem of an eatery, you will also find a collection of very nice vintage shops (some pricey and some bargainous) and some pretty awesome graffiti walls.
The CBD has everything you could possibly need in terms of food and shopping. We had a wander into some of the book stores and checked out a few high street shops to find some cheap extra winter woolies (it really was that cold), but it is pricy here. We’re spoilt in England really, with our Primark and H&M stores (you can get a jumper, scarf and gloves for under £15 in Blighty) but in NZ, those kind of shops are harder to find. So be prepared to fork out more than you’re used to (especially if you’ve just arrived from Asia – boy are you in for a shock!).
We decided to go to the cinema one night but unfortunately that was also rather expensive, you’re looking at London prices £12 and upwards, so after paying all of £5 in Thailand, that felt a little bit steep. Going for drinks isn’t too bad as long as you stick to beer really, but that’s the same anywhere you go really. Also hair dye was quite pricy (£7) so the same price as in the UK for the bigger brands, but even at home you can get deals for £4 dye. You will start to notice EVERYTHING is that little bit more expensive here, even more expensive than in London – so, you have been warned!
So as a result, you will be wanting to find some fun stuff to do here, that doesn’t cost the earth. Well as we know culture is often you’re best bet! Go get cultured in the museums and art galleries. Whenever I’m abroad I live and breathe for all the cultural stuff. On this trip, sometimes I felt like my brain was going to explode from all the historical info I’d taken on board, but it feels good to get educated. Not like when you were a kid and were forced to go to museums and galleries on school trips, now it’s like you want to understand the area around you and its history. I mean travelling is all about educating yourself, so why not be a geek for a week (or two, or three or 36…). 😉
I really enjoyed my visit to Auckland Art Gallery, it had lots of interesting modern art including a suit entirely embellished with silver spike studs (very this season!), pink neon plastic mouldings, some cool pop art and a replica of a guy’s house where he hoarded tonnes of rubbish and old pieces of junk. There were also these very awesome inflatable flowers in the foyer, which sporadically opened and closed when filled with air.
The gallery is free to get in, but you may have to pay for certain exhibitions.
And it is definitely worth visiting Auckland Museum – everyone raves about Te Papa in Wellington (which is awesome) but I was really impressed with this one. Its huge -so you really need to be in a super-cultural, educational mood to take it all in, but it really is worth it. There is an awesome Maori exhibition all about ancient Maori life, little huts to go in and explore…
You can also watch a Maori cultural show, see the awesome animal section which is full of rad pieces of taxidermy (like woolly mammoths and stuff)…
it also has an amazing fashion and lifestyle section which takes you through the ages. You will also find the War Memorial Museum inside too, which really is very interesting and very emotional to see. You can even get up close with a WWII fighter plane!
I really enjoyed it. It’s technically free to get in but they do ask for a donation (we gave $5NZ and that was fine).
Auckland may be a modern city full of skyscrapers and commercial buildings alright, but Auckland does have some very nice parks and green spaces to chill out in. I particularly liked Albert Park, which is next to Auckland Art Gallery.
It has a nice statue of Queen Victoria and great views of the skyline including the epic Auckland Skytower.
And the Auckland Museum sits within the city’s oldest garden, the Auckland Domain. As you’ll be heading to the museum anyway, you really should check it out. There is a beautiful Winter Garden, a Victorian conservatory and a sculpture walk. The park was built around the cone of an extinct volcano, so as you can imagine, it’s big and very beautiful, so definitely worth a look.
We stayed at the Auckland City YHA and I thoroughly recommend it. It’s very clean and well-connected to the city. We thought they were a little tight with the heating bill, as everytime we turned the heater on outside the room, they seemed to turn it off again and it was FREEZING at night. But we did stay there a second time and the temperature had increased so it didn’t quite seem so bad that time. The only other thing is the internet. The YHA’s seem to like ripping backpackers off for internet use, so only get it when you’re desperate, which unfortunately you will be…because hardly anywhere seems to have free wifi in NZ (so stick to McDonalds and go in the Skycity Metro Cinema/restaurant space on Queen Street to stock up on your Facebook time). 😉
YHA’s, however, as a whole are very well run, and really are super-duper clean – so all those stereotypes about gross hostels, can just be forgotten in these. The shared kitchens are well-managed, you can’t help who you may have to share the kitchen space with – but as a whole, they are very good. I stayed in YHA’s in pretty much every place I covered in NZ, I liked them so much – so that’s gotta be a recommendation if I ever heard one.
They are also a great hub to meet new awesome people. I met a very good friend there, called Sarah, who became my awesome girly travel buddy, just when I needed her, so that was very cool. New Zealand is a popular place for travellers all year round, whereas some of the points we hit in Asia earlier in the year, were pretty quiet. So you will definitely meet loads of like-minded people here, no matter what time of year you trek out there. 🙂
You won’t need weeks and weeks in Auckland, I’d say 3 days would be enough, it’s a great place to just stop and chill for a while.
Love and juicy kiwis Em xoxo