New Zealand is such a beautiful country. Even in the heart of a city like Auckland you’re surrounded by mountains and clear blue water. I love how the natural beauty of NZ’s landscape hasn’t been overshadowed by skyscrapers and shopping centres.
This was a weekend of firsts for me. First time to Auckland and first time flying on Emirates.
Auckland was a pleasant surprise. I was worried it would be just another city but it had character, great restaurants and plenty to do and see. I was blessed with good weather too.
Here’s how I spent my weekend in Auckland.
Emirates Business Class – they put all other business classes to shame. I only wish the flight to Auckland was longer than three hours. I didn’t want to leave the comfort of my own pod with lie-flat seats, 1,500 channels and access to the Onboard Lounge with it’s own bar. This is the way to travel.
A cool new feature for the First Class flyers is the onboard Shower Spas. They’ve thought of everything – heated floors, hair dryer and exclusive Babor spa products. This is exactly what you need to revive yourself on a longhaul flight.
I stayed at the Sofitel Auckland Viaduct Harbour. It’s at the bottom of the city on the harbour and their beds are ridiculously comfy.
The rooms are spacious and luxurious (especially the bathrooms) and the hotel has a bar, restaurant, café, pool and gym and a stunning new spa. Everything you need is right there, including friendly and helpful staff. I love how each one greets you with a warm ‘bonjour!’ (to honour Sofitel’s French heritage) every time you walk through the lobby.
Sofitel Auckland Viaduct Harbour, 21 Viaduct Harbour Avenue, Auckland, sofitel.com
There was lots of eating over the weekend. New Zealand has incredibly fresh produce, especially the seafood. Here’s where I ate. I recommend you try everything.
Prego – this is a great Italian restaurant on Ponsonby Road. Good service, amazing food and a lovely outdoor section for sipping wine and enjoying your meal in the sunshine.
Menu recommendations: Pizza all Aglio, Pane della Casa (so fresh!), Mozarella Caprese, Linguini alla Marinara and Passionfruit Caipiroska (who am I kidding – it’s all good!).
Prego, 226 Ponsoby Road, Ponsoby, Auckland, prego.co.nz
Lava Dining – this place is cool. At night the walls light up and look like the inside of a volcano; a must-visit in winter when they have the fireplace roaring.
Menu recommendations: Sea scallops, freshly shucked oysters, cured king salmon and lightly battered blue cod. Oh and the peanut butter parfait – you have to order this.
Lava Dining, Sofitel Viaduct Auckland, 20 Viaduct Harbour Avenue, Auckland.
Ebisu – I loved this Japenese restaurant. Despite being in a historic building the restaurant has a cool contemporary vibe about it. The presentation of each dish, including the drinks was fantastic and the quality and flavours were impeccable.
Menu recommendations: Soft shell crab, teriyaki chicken, black cod, and tempura king prawn roll.
Ebisu, 116-118 Quay Street, Britomart, Auckland, ebisu.co.nz
Ponsoby Road – this road is lined with shops, from local New Zealand brands Andrea Monroe, Storm and Zambesi to small unknown boutiques. Enjoy the walk and shop up big.
High Street – a small street on the outer edge of the city, it feels a bit like Melbourne with its hidden laneways and mix of boutiques with quirky bars and coffee shops.
Tatty’s – this is where you’ll find second-hand Isabel Marant sneakers for a steal or a vintage bargain for just a dollar. Tatty’s is a consignment store with everything from retro buys to chain stores and high end designer brands. Be prepared to dig deep to find something special.
I only had 48 hours in Auckland so by no means are these the only things you can do (or the only things worth doing). There is so much to see!
These are my top picks.
Stroll Along The Harbour.
Wander out the front doors of the Sofitel and take a left. Just keep following the water.
You’ll pass a peaceful marina, waterside dining and pubs, the ferry terminal and The Cloud (an event venue built originally for the Rugby World Cup festivities in 2011 but now hosts various conventions and events throughout the year). There’s always something happening down here.
French Food Markets.
Skip breakfast and wear your stretchy pants – you can’t visit these food markets without indulging in the authentic French pastries, like warm almond croissants, strawberry tarts and dark chocolate éclairs.
There’s also fresh fruit and vegetables, free hugs on offer and gorgeous Parisian chic homewares. Le Monde Home, a homewares store off to the side of the markets is a must-see.
La Cigale French Farmers Markets, 69 St Georges Bay Road, Parnell, Auckland. Open Saturdays 8am-1pm; Sundays 9am-2pm.
Hike Up Mount Eden.
Just a 15 minute drive from the city centre, you won’t believe the view from Mount Eden. Take in the fresh air, panoramic 360 degree views of Auckland and the 50 metre deep crater below. Or if you’re in the mood for a hike you can always climb higher up the mountain.
The Sabrage Ritual.
This is one of those once-in-a-lifetime things you need to do. How many times do you get to pop a champagne bottle with a sword?!
It’s thought that Napoleon would celebrate each of his victories by ceremoniously opening a champagne bottle with a sabre. This ritual is known as sabrage and the Sofitel has adapted the concept to enjoy champagne in a way that celebrates the brand’s French heritage. Try it – this could be your new party trick!
Stop By The Spa.
What’s a weekend away without a trip to the spa. There’s more than meets the eye to the new So Spa at Sofitel. After filling out the usual forms you’re led away from the reception area downstairs to a hidden, tranquil setting before entering your private treatment room.
If you want something a little unique to New Zealand then try the Greenstone Ritual Massage ($269 for 120 minutes). After a body scrub and wrap in native New Zealand manuka honey and mud the treatment finishes with a hot stone massage using greenstone, which has healing and balancing properties.
If that’s not your style there are plenty of other massages, full body treatments and facials to choose from.
My Weekend In Pics (& Food!).
Buffet breakfast at the Sofitel’s Lava Dining
Caprese salad at Prego
Garlic focaccia with aioli sauce at Prego
Passionfruit Caipiroska (Prego)
One of my favourite dishes at Ebisu
Loving the presentation at Ebisu
The Japenese version of Pimms
Soft shell crab at Ebisu
Black sesame ice cream with macarons
Super fresh starters at Lava Dining
Seared ostrich carpaccio
The volcanic inspired interiors of Lava Dining
These scallops were incredible
You need to order the peanut butter parfait (Lava Dining)
The cafe at the French Food Markets
I dare you to resist!
Sweet treats at the French Food Markets
Spoilt for choice
Just wondering what it would be like to be an Emirates flight attendant
Afternoon tea on Emirates. Not too shabby!
I visited Auckland courtesy of Emirates and Sofitel but all opinions are my own. Thanks for the amazing experience!