First Impressions: Auckland

“Ladies and gentlemen, we have started our descent. In preparation for landing, please make sure your seat backs and tray tables are in their full upright position. Make sure your seat belt is securely fastened and all carry-on luggage is stowed underneath the seat in front of you or in the overhead bins. Please turn off all electronic devices until we are safely parked at the gate. The flight attendants are currently passing around the cabin to pick up any remaining cups and glasses. We will be landing in 15 minutes.”

After 12 hours seated in row 42, seat A… those last seven words were music to my ears. Only a quarter of an hour left to go, and I would be on the ground in Auckland, New Zealand. The sun, peaking over the horizon, shed light on this island that would be my new home for the next 12 months.

And man, was it gorgeous.


New Zealand… stunning by every definition, living up to its reputation as a world-class destination from the very start.

These are my first impressions of Auckland:

Aucklandimage source

If you’re not on the water, you’re doing it wrong.

Words can hardly describe the hue of the water as we glided towards the runway, and the photos above don’t do it justice at all. It’s crystal clear in the shallows, and the brightest shade of turquoise I’ve ever seen outside of the Aegean Sea. Between sailing, boating, ferries and water sports, if you’re not on the water, you’re approaching Auckland from completely the wrong angle.

If you find yourself in need of a bite, seafood is the way to go.

We all gotta eat. And when in Auckland, we should all take advantage of the amazing seafood available pretty much everywhere. I have never seen a bowl of clam chowder for $16 (gasp!) before, but I did sample a taste of my friend’s – it was worth every cent. Seafood salads, shrimp (or prawns) and dishes to tempt every tastebud abound down by the harbor, where you can sit and enjoy your fresh fruits de mer, you guessed it, down on the water.

If you need a coffee or drink, the cafe scene is awesome.

For this, I would recommend heading up away from the CBD towards the hip neighborhoods of Ponsonby and Freeman’s Bay. Great quality menus, gorgeously designed settings. Obviously the kiwis do not skimp on their aesthetics, and the style is quite similar to their Australian neighbors. There’s some cool bars and outdoor terraces closer to the harbor as well. It would take me well over my allotted four weeks here to samples all of them.

If you need a break from the pavement, nature is readily available.

Travel from the CBD for 40 minutes in any direction, and you’ve hit paradise. Auckland is not a huge city by international standards. They have on hand, by car or ferry, as many beautiful, natural spaces as anywhere else on the North Island. Sip wine or go to the beach on Waiheke Island, go out hiking for a day in the Waitakere Ranges, or simply stroll up Mount Eden for a sunset view over the city skyline. It may have the adventure reputation of the South Island, but there’s certainly nothing lacking here.

Aucklandimage source

I’ve been on the ground four full days now. I still don’t have my bearings completely, and I have no idea how I’m going to manage driving a car outside the city, driving on the other side of the road (!). That’s on this week’s agenda though. And unlike when I moved to Paris all those years ago, here they speak english. If you can understand the accent that it. No guarantees on that front either quite yet.

Have you ever been to Auckland? Any of the surrounding areas? What would you suggest doing during a 4-week stay in the city?

  • I knew I would be jealous! Man. Even just going for a coffee sounds awesome. I have to go there one day. Enjoy your 4 weeks in Auckland! Looking forward to reading more…

    • Haha I can say the same for Paris!! Even a cold coffee on a winter’s day in Paris can tempt me lol. You definitely need to get down here one day – it’s so friendly, so clean, and with so many gorgeous places to go!! πŸ™‚

  • Omg…I am unbelievably jealous right now!! That looks SO beautiful. πŸ™‚

    • It’s gorgeous down here Mandie!! And I have hardly even left the city yet lol. You’d absolutely love it. πŸ™‚

  • I’m so excited for you!! It looks beautiful. I had heard that even though they speak English, it may as well be a whole new language, with all the weird phrases they use, lol! Good luck!

    • Thank you Anna!! It has been amazing so far. Some of the accents are softer, and I understand those no problem. Others… well let’s just say it’s a good thing I was in situations where there are only so many possible questions to be asked, like in the phone store lol. πŸ™‚

  • Adina Marguerite

    Take as many ferry rides as you can! πŸ™‚

    • I certainly plan to! That water is just too tempting to not! πŸ™‚

  • So pleased your liking Auckland, Amy! It’s looks absolutely beautiful and I look forward to plenty of future posts about the city! πŸ™‚

    • Thank you Robert!! It’s been pretty cool so far – looking forward to plenty of adventures ahead! πŸ™‚

  • Laura

    I’m so jealous that you’re there! I miss it so much! I really love the Ponsonby area for coffee during the day or drinks at night. All of the spots on the aquaduct are great for happy hour drinks. I didn’t really spend much time there, but it’s a really cool city I would definitely recommend getting to the different suburbs. Can’t wait to read more!

    • Thanks Laura! Ponsonby is a really cool area. I’m actually staying in a fantastic AirBnB garden studio right off Ponsonby Road – couldn’t have landed in a better place! I’ll be here for the next 3 weeks or so, and then we’ll see what happens! πŸ™‚

  • jayneytravels

    You’ve arrived!! Sounds like you are getting your bearings very quickly. Enjoy πŸ™‚

    • Yes I finally made it!! And it’s hard to believe I’ve been here more than a week already! Time sure does fly when you’re out exploring. πŸ˜‰

  • This was really interesting to read! I’m glad you liked it πŸ™‚ I only stayed in Auckland for a few days and my first impressions, I have to admit, were “Meh, the rest of New Zealand is amazing but Auckland doesn’t rock my world” BUT having stayed there this time around and having a little bit of time in the city, eating and drinking out, exploring the cafes and shops and then heading out to the beaches, I have to say I’ve been won over! I forgot you were there! I think out paths would have almost crossed!!

    • Our paths probably did almost cross!! Auckland does have a lot to offer, but 4 weeks is probably more than enough to experience most of it. I had originally decided to stay that long because I thought Auckland would be the best place to find work right away. I did find work right away, but then decided it wasn’t for me. I ended up coming back to the States – just didn’t have enough energy. I’ll go back one day, when I don’t have to do it as a backpacker. πŸ˜‰

  • Sarah

    Hello Amy, I enjoyed reading your post on Auckland, which amazed me by its international vibe. I was there last year on a solo road trip and drove around the North Island. Yes, driving on the left side takes getting used to, but it’s very doable! And there were many times I had to ask people to repeat what they had said. I read a more recent post on your decision to leave NZ. I’m hoping you get to see more of that beautiful country before you depart. Safe travels.

    • Thank you Sarah! I realized while there that having a car was an absolute necessary for New Zealand – taking buses everywhere to haul my stuff around was just not viable. I would have loved to see more of NZ before I left, but as a solo traveler, I just couldn’t justify the cost. I’ll definitely go back one day when I can see it, in the style I want to be able to! πŸ™‚

  • 4 weeks is a long time! I would head out west to the bush and beach. Up north to Matakana, Tawharanui, etc. Potter around neighbourhoods like Devonport, Kingsland, TItirangi, Mt Eden and many more.

    • It is a long time! I actually ended up leaving early… and came back to the States. I found I just didn’t have the energy to traipse around all by myself. I’ll go back one day when I have a travel buddy, and can split the costs to see the country the way I want to see it. πŸ™‚