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Auckland restaurants visitors' love

Posted by Website Admin on November 15, 2017

Auckland restaurants loved by visitors 

A trawl through Trip Advisor reveals the top ten Auckland restaurants according to both visitors and a fair number of locals. They range from Peruvian-inspired to Japanese-influenced menus so it begs the question. Is there such a thing as a truly ‘New Zealandesque’ restaurant in the top ten on Trip Advisor? Outside of Al Brown or Gourmet Hangi food trucks, are there restaurants serving up genuine Kiwi-style fare ?

We’re pleased to shout “yes!”

Over the last twenty years, New Zealand based chefs have developed a style of cooking often described as Pacific Rim. This combines the best New Zealand ingredients, its lamb, seafood and game with the flavours of Asia and European influenced cooking techniques.

The advent of TV shows like My Kitchen Rules and Master Chef have created ‘personality chefs” and lifted the bar on dining expectations. Menus have become more sophisticated which is certainly the case with the top ten on Trip Advisor for 2017.  Here’s how these Auckland restaurants rank based on diner reviews :

1. Kazuya in Symonds Street, Eden Terrace end. European cuisine with Japanese Influence.

2. Cassia in Fort Lane. Southern style Indian, awarded Metro Magazine’s Restaurant of the year.

3. Sid Art in Ponsonby Road, international style cuisine

4. One Tree Grill, Pah Road, Epsom for steak and New Zealand-inspired cuisine.

5. Azubu, Ponsonby Road for Peruvian, Japanese cuisine

6. The Grove on Saint Patrick's Square, Wyndham St for French, European

7. The French Cafe, on Symonds Street.  

8. Clooneys on Sale St - a culinary tour of New Zealand.

9. Ela Cuisine in Elliot Street Stables, Elliott for Indian

10. Blue Elephant on Parnell Rd for Thai, Vegetarian

We often get asked by visitors to Auckland, ‘where can we try New Zealand food?”

On trawling through the menus of the top ten, both One Tree Grill and Clooneys promote their New Zealand identity with the latter stating “ From the lush rainforests of the North to the expansive coastal wilderness of Fiordland, the striking geography of New Zealand’s regions is brought to life on the plate.” Quite like the sound of that.  

One Tree Grill’s menu includes whitebait sandwiches or Hawkes Bay lamb belly and the bistro takes a full circle approach by recycling composted food waste in their kitchen gardens. It’s also the only suburban restaurant to feature in the top ten so that’s pretty impressive too as it’s out of the way for visitors.

It’s great to see a range of cuisines however feature in the top ten on Trip Advisor, especially as Auckland is one of the most multicultural cities in the world. The most recent census recorded over 200 different nationalities residing in Auckland.

We actively promote great restaurants as we walk on our Hello Auckland walking tour.  You can also include lunch at a popular city bistro at tours end or indulge in New Zealand seafood on our Waterfront Sites and Bites tour. We even book you in!

 

Up, down, all around the Bridge

Posted by Website Admin on October 26, 2017

Up, down, all around the Harbour Bridge 

When I was little the best thing to do on a Sunday afternoon was to drive across the Auckland Harbour Bridge to Takapuna Beach for ice cream. The right to throw the 25 cent bridge toll into the payment bucket was highly coveted by us kids. Driving on the outside lane would freak our heights-fearing Mother out, “For Pete’s sake" she'd gasp, "those side bits are barely glued on." 

Sitting in the back, my brother Pete would wind down the Hillman Hunter window and stick his whole body out to suck in the briny sea air. Then Dad would yell at him, "Get back in the car son........NOW!"

For the past 16 years however, there’s been another way to cross the bridge. On foot with Auckland Bridge Climb, run by adventure specialists AJ Hackett. Best known for bringing Bungy to the World and their exemplary safety record, this company also runs the SkyWalk and SkyJump off the Auckland Sky Tower.

When AJ Hackett acquired the Bridge Climb rights, they invested around $3million to safely accommodate climbers. So this Auckland Guide felt it was high time, she took a high rise walk up, down and all over the Auckland Harbour Bridge. 

Checking into the Bridge Climb’s Westhaven base, our group of seven felt in safe hands. Dressed in beige boiler suits to blend in with the bridge and not distract the traffic, we clipped into a rope harness and started our gradual ascent sandwiched between guides Anneka and Jess.  

We soon appreciated why loose items like cameras and phones are stowed in the base lockers before the Climb. You need both hands to hold on in the wind and to guide your tethered carabina along the safety rail.  Plus any falling objects could create a calamity for the bridge traffic below because phones don’t bounce!
 
The actual walk, rising to 65 metres above sea level is around 1.8 km long and involves over 450 steps, both up and down. 

It took 950 men around four years to build the original four lane bridge which opened in 1959. More capacity was added ten years later with the Nippon Clippons, prefabricated lanes imported from Japan and attached to the outside of the existing bridge. Health and safety was very much in the hands of the individual worker and if you fell into the water below, it was considered your own dumb fault!  

The most surprising thing about the Bridge Climb however is the all-over access you get with this experience from climbing right down in the pylons to the very top of Auckland’s world!  Here are some other favourite points:

Most freaky point : When you pop up from under the bridge onto a staircase between the northern and southern lanes. For about 10 seconds as you climb, you feel mashed between traffic; heavy trucks, buses and speeding cars. For me, it was the most hair-raising and unexpected moment of the Climb. 

Puncture Point: The noise at the very top. Two New Zealand flags clacking and flapping. The traffic roaring below our feet punctured by the occasional horn-blast as drivers spotted our beige-brigade high above. Then our guide shouting to be heard over the relentless wind. 
 
High point:  Pausing at the Northern end to observe the motion of the bridge and placing your hand on the concrete.  It moves up and down as the Clippon extensions are designed to rise and fall up to a metre as they adjust to the load of the 200,000 vehicles which travel across it everyday. It felt like the bridge's heartbeat as it takes a breath or two. 

Low point:  In the bowls of Pier Two, we learnt that three men died during the construction phase. One of the men is believed to still be on the bridge, entombed where he fell during a weighty concrete pour. It rammed home to all of us, that with a dead man under our feet, bridge-building is risky work.

Best team player: Goes to staff-member Mason who did a bungy jump just for the bridge climbers’ benefit. Although he didn’t get his hair wet, Mason did display the more difficult feet-first technique (used by experienced jumpers) rather than the default-dive tethered at the ankles. (This Guide will never do either).

Best Special Effects: Arriving soon is Vector’s “Light up the Bridge” project. Contractors are currently attaching loads of light pixels all over the bridge which will be in place for ten years to create a night-time necklace of light across the harbour. 

Reality Point: This is a working bridge and the sight of maintenance crew suspended on ropes in hi-vis jackets painting its undercarriage reminded us of what it takes to keep Auckland moving.  The workers’ lunch room, a drab tiny prefab is bolted underneath. There is one toilet. It’s windy, noisy and invisible work keeping New Zealand’s busiest gateway functioning. 

The whole Auckland Bridge Climb experience took two hours from check-in to disrobing the beige suits and I didn’t want it to end. Would I recommend it?  Absolutely!  

For visitors it’s a great way to stretch the legs after a long flight, get your bearings from above and experience an ‘off-limits’ local treasure with friendly guides. (Bit like our city walking tours.) 

For Aucklanders, it’s an iconic part of our city’s history, a chance to get behind the scenes and another example of how we can deliver top-quality engineering and tourism projects with flair. Do it this summer!

 

Aucky Walky Tours Guide Liz paid to do the Auckland Bridge Climb. This is her independent opinion.
Visit the Auckland Bridge Climb website 

 

 

 

 

 

Insider's guide to Auckland Art Gallery

Posted by Website Admin on October 23, 2017

Insider's guide to Auckland Art Gallery

A recent rainy day was well spent on a guided tour of the Auckland Art Gallery or Toi O Tamaki which means ‘our treasure house’. 

The Auckland Art Gallery is regarded as the world home or wharenui of New Zealand art. This superbly designed gallery views itself as custodians or kaitiaki of the art in their care.  Works of famous New Zealand artists like Charles Goldie, Ralph Hotere and Colin McCahon are on public display instead of hidden away in private homes or personal vaults. The 100-strong staff at the Gallery also include highly-skilled conservators who care for precious collections and undertake pain-staking repairs to valuable artwork and papers.
   
The Gallery runs one hour tours daily (except Xmas Day) at 11.30am and 1.30pm at a very reasonable charge of $10. After checking in bags and brollies, we met our knowledgeable guide Catherine who showcased the Gallery from top to bottom to our small party of six.  After the tour we did some snooping of our own to expand on Catherine's fascinating facts. Here's seven gems which stole our interest:

  • The Gallery is home to around 20,000 pieces of art going back around 700 years but only 800 pieces are normally displayed. When we asked Catherine where the bulk of the art is stored, she couldn’t tell us. It’s housed offsite in secure storage, the location of which is a closely guarded secret. Even most of the staff don’t know.
  • One of only two Picassos in New Zealand resides on the walls of the Auckland Art Gallery. The other Picasso is in Dunedin. Painted during the Nazi occupation of Paris in 1944, ‘Verre et Pichet’, a still-life of a table setting (sans food) isn’t regarded as one of Picasso’s best works but it does symbolize the dark years of deprivation experienced during the Second World War.
  • Outreach workshops in the community like ‘Art in a Suitcase’ are just some of the services the Gallery provides. So it’s not only a display gallery but an activation of arts in the suburbs of Auckland. This makes art accessible to everyone. The Gallery conservators are also available to undertake restoration or consultations on private collections. 
  • The Gallery has a members-only lounge which looks flashier than the Koru Club!  For just $50 annually, you get access to this plus a whole range of benefits like unlimited entry to paid exhibitions, invitations to behind-the-scenes tours and Rialto movie ticket discounts.(For city meetings, the Art Gallery members’ lounge sure beats a noisy cafe.) 
  • The stunning addition of the new wing in 2011 with its Nikau-canopied roof doubled the size of the gallery and was recognized with a world-architecture design award.
  • The recent ‘Nudes’ exhibition on loan from the Tate London featured 100 revealing masterpieces from the likes of Rodin, Picasso and Bonnard’s ‘the bath’. ‘Nudes’ had to be renamed for New Zealand audiences because focus-group research prior to its Auckland launch revealed Kiwi’s still have a prudish streak. So the exhibition was rebranded as ‘The Body Laid Bare’ to hopefully appeal to a broader audience.
  • The Corsini Collection on display until January 2018 features renaissance paintings by Botticelli, Caravaggio and a painting of a Pope with a Nazi bullet hole through his head (you’ll have to visit the exhibition to find out why). This is the first time that the collection has been allowed out of Italy by the Florence-based family. Such is the high regard that the Corsinis hold for the New Zealand Maori Battalion who protected their family estate during World War Two. (Quite proud to hear that!)

The hour we spent with our friendly guide Catherine flew by and we parted ways in the gracious high-vaulted MacKenzie Gallery with a greater appreciation for the diversity and range of art on display.  

But the absolute best thing about the Auckland Art Gallery?  This small but world-class arthouse has FREE entry for both locals and visitors. Plus it's wheelchair-friendly too. There are not many cities around the world which can boast this.

Join us on a private Aucky Walky tour and we’ll include a short visit to the Auckland Art Gallery.  We know where the best art and culture can be found and enjoyed in the central city.  

Find out more about the Auckland Art Gallery here 

Conservation Week - what's on.

Posted by Website Admin on October 18, 2017

Conservation Week – Free Events

Love your backyard and make a difference this Conservation Week. That’s the message from the Department of Conservation (DOC) encouraging  locals to help protect and nurture our amazing and unique wildlife.

At Aucky Walky Tours, we share with visitors what the Department of Conservation (DOC) does to protect New Zealand’s natural beauty. Visitors are attracted to our country for this very reason. From restoring our endangered species, to protecting our special places and providing access to remote walks and places, the DOC has a massive mandate.  

Conservation Week runs until October 22nd and this year the Department of Conservation (DOC) is trying to get people to convert their love of nature into action.

There are more than 85 events happening all around Auckland and our pick of the free events include:

An insider’s guide to Auckland’s Dolphin Explorer Safari (Sat 21st and Sun 22nd October – mornings). Did you know you can see whales and dolphins right on Auckland's doorstep? Join the crew aboard the research vessel Dolphin Explorer at its berth over Labour Weekend. This is the perfect place to channel your inner marine biologist! Check out the marine research and conservation that is happening right here in the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park. Inspect the captain's tech gear including VR, hydrophones and more!

• A close encounter with our Hauraki Gulf DOC Rangers (Fri 20th at 3pm and Sat 21st October at 8am).  Meet the Rangers down at Westhaven Marina where they’ll share their plans about keeping the Hauraki Gulf islands pest free. The Tamaki Makaurau/ Auckland DOC Boat the Taikehu will also be at the Marina. 

Fort Takapuna Tours (Sun 22nd October at 11am and 1pm). The Russians are coming! Or so we thought in the late 1800s. New Zealanders were afraid that the Russian navy would attack, these were known as the ‘Russian war scares’. As a precaution, a chain of forts was built around the coast and amongst the most elaborate of these was Fort Takapuna,built in 1886 and armed with two big guns. There were underground storage bunkers and accommodation for the soldiers. The fort has been restored by the Department of Conservation and tour/s will explore the maze of underground tunnels and rooms and tell some of the stories of this fascinating place. Meet at Fort Takapuna in the car park in front of the fort.

Check out the details and other Conservation Week events here   #conservationweek #lovemybackyard
Content adapted in part from DOC site.


 

Auckland with kids in tow

Posted by Website Admin on September 21, 2017

Visting Auckland with kids? 

If you’re coming to Auckland with your family then we’re the best place to start. Our Hello Auckland tour reveals the legends of Auckland, the local laneways, the kid-friendly parks and we only walk in small-groups at a relaxed pace.  We’ve shown heaps of kids around town on our boredom-free, laugh-filled tours and always provide local advice on what to do next.

We’re parents too so here’s a handful of other suggestions, both free and paid, which we as Aucklanders enjoy doing with our children.   
Disclaimer:  The author is not responsible for any whinging of “I’m bored” or “can we go now?” at any of the following activities.   

Picnic in Myers Park.  Auckland’s CBD, access off 381 Queen Street.
If Charlie and the Chocolate Factory had a playground it would look like this. Nestled in the green valley of Myers Park, this recently upgraded funky-coloured kids’ space features fantail sculptures, climbing frames and a giant swing.  Hard to believe it’s in the heart of Auckland’s business district. Avoid park during lunch hour if you want the place to yourself as the nearby school uses it on sunny days and you’ll have to stand in line for a swing. Grab a pizza or kebabs from Queen Street and picnic in the park while the kids play. 

Velvet Burger 
With lunchtime queues out the door this Kiwi burger joint, with outlets in both Fort Street and Federal Lane, is really popular with the locals. Its Big Bird Burger is not made out of the long-extinct Moa bird, but delicious grilled chicken breast, salad, bacon, brie cheese with aioli and lashings of apricot or cranberry sauce. What’s more the adults can choose from a range of New Zealand beers, something refreshingly different and more wholesome than the Golden Arches. 

The Escape Masters
Wet day in Auckland?  No problemo. Unless you get into a heated argument over indeciperable clues with your teenager.  The Escape Masters in Queen Street offers a range of fun-themed cells like the Gangsters or Alien Abduction rooms to break out of.  In order to ‘escape’, you are required to problem solve and crack a series of puzzles as well as logical mind games while utilizing a wide array of technology to decipher codes and locks, all the while racing against the clock!  Whew, who knew family game time could be so challenging?

The Volcano House at the Auckland Museum
If your kids are interested in  volcanoes, shakes and quakes then head for the excellent volcano exhibit at the Auckland Museum. Sit in the living room of a purpose- built house as a TV newsreader reports the imminent build-up to a volcanic eruption. Watch the action unfold across the harbour as the ash and debris heads towards your home. Feel the impact of the earth shaking. This simulation will captivate budding geologists and anyone interested in New Zealand’s unique geology.    

Fishing under the Harbour Bridge
To view fish, penguins and sharks in spectacular underwater viewing tanks, you could visit Kelly Tarlton’s Aquarium along the waterfront, east of the city. Or you could head 10 minutes west, pick up a couple of cheap handlines and bait at a local marine store and try catching a fish or two for yourself.  Park up under the Harbour Bridge alongside the local recreational fisherman and cast a line while admiring the channel views and listening to the terrified yells of the Bridge bungy jumpers.  And yes, there’s a good chance you’ll catch a good-sized keeper, although it needs to be longer than 27cm under New Zealand fishing regulations.

Rainbow’s End
Auckland’s not known for its theme parks, but Rainbows End is popular with families and kids aged under 15.  Based down the Southern Motorway, you can race, swoop, crash and splash on rides like the Log Fume, Stratosphere and the Corkscrew Coaster. Afterwards If your stomach can handle it, pop across the road to the Manukau mall to eat at the local foodcourt.    

Still looking for ideas?  Then check out Auckland for Kids or send us an email with questions.