Auckland’s Hidden Gems


We knew when we moved to New Zealand that we wouldn’t be able to spend a full year here because of other commitments back home, but 10 months is pretty close! And the majority of that time was spent living and working in Auckland. We have grown really fond of the “City of Sails,” and even though our time living here is coming to an end, we are sure we will return again some day!

There are so many things we’ve come to love about New Zealand. Although Auckland may not be our favorite city in the country (hint- it’s on the South Island) we have been able to find so many great spots that we love and do so many cool, unique things! This post is dedicated to those quirky restaurants and activities around town, the ones you may not hear about from other blogs or research. Any other kiwis or kiwi-lovers out there – be sure to leave a comment with your favorite unique spot around town!

  1. BaristaCats Café

This was our first cat café experience, although I know they are all over the world now, including our hometown of Los Angeles. We had such a good time here playing with the kitties! A one hour session here including a coffee or tea is $15, and well worth the cuddles!


barista cats cafe


  1. Giapo Ice Cream

Ok, so this one might be on some other lists you find, but just in case – make sure you go here if you’re in town! The ice cream is so amazing and different. The head chef thinks that ice cream should have a new narrative being that it is the most popular dessert item in the world. It didn’t sound right to him that ice cream had always been looking pretty much the same on cones, cups and sticks. You really just have to go there and experience the crazy deliciousness for yourself!




  1. Kura Japanese Restaurant

After much discussion but not too much debate, we’ve decided that this is our favorite restaurant in the city. The whole place is basically in a cave down a narrow staircase, so it can definitely be considered a hidden gem. This is where we like to go before a show at the super cool Civic Theatre, or when we have friends in town and feel like having sake bombs. The sushi is great, and it’s always crowded. Plus, if you’re in a group you can sit in one of those big low tables where you need to take your shoes off first. It really enhances the whole experience!


kura sushi


  1. Sheep World

This may sound like a joke, but it is honestly one of the most fun things we did during our whole time in Auckland. We had such a great day here! It is $34.50 for an adult ticket that includes the sheep and dog show (a must) but you may even be able to find tickets on Grabone (the kiwi Groupon). Besides the show where you watch a live sheep shearing and see a sheep dog gather up all the sheep around the property, there are so many animals that you can walk around and see. For a small price you can even feed them and pet them! The mini horses were my favorites. You can even feed the baby lambs with a bottle after the show!!


sheep world

sheep world 2


  1. Puhoi Valley Shop & Café

We did this on the same day as Sheep World since it is north of Auckland, about 40 minutes outside of the city center. It worked out well for us because it happened to be such a beautiful day and the property here is really gorgeous! We sat outside and ordered way too much delicious food from the café inlcuding: soup and garlic bread, salad, fries and a roast beef sandwich. On top of that, we bought cheese to take home with us and even had some feijoa ice cream before we left, a kiwi specialty. Make sure you stop here if you’re heading up north of Auckland!


puhoi valley

puhoi valley


  1. Auckland Night Market

These night markets change location depending on which night of the week you want to go. We went on a Saturday night and went to Pakuranga, about a 20 minute drive outside of Auckland. This was by far the cheapest food we had during our time here. Eating out anywhere in Auckland can be crazy expensive, but it’s really fun to just walk around all the stalls here and grab a little bit of food from different ones. There are also a ton of vendors selling games, toys, clothes, anything you can think of. If you want to do what we did, grab 2 portions of Chinese food for $6, a classic L & P soda, and enjoy the people watching!


auckland night market


  1. Odyssey Sensory Maze

This is located right in the heart of the city, on Queen Street in the Lower Basement of the Metro Centre. The Metro Centre itself has a ton of fun activities to keep you occupied all day, and a huge food court (with a yummy Malaysian place). There is an IMAX movie theatre (the only one in New Zealand), a bowling alley, Teppanyaki restaurant and more. But the Sensory Maze was the one thing that really grabbed our attention and was unlike anything else. It’s $19.50 for an adult ticket and you can spend as much time inside as you like. Unfortunately you can’t take photos inside, but you take off your shoes and wear gloves before you enter, then basically just see what each unique, crazy room has to offer! One room is filled to your waist with balloons, one has a ton of squishy pool noodles, and the rest are too strange to explain. Check it out to experience crazy illusions, sound effects, scents, quirky obstacles and strange sensations!


  1. Cakes N Ladders – Board Game Café

This spot in Mount Eden is a really fun place to pass the time on a rainy day, which there are a lot of in Auckland! You can get yummy tea, coffee, smoothies, cakes and treats here. If you do want to play a game from their massive selection, you have to pay by the hour but the price is minimal at $2.50/hour per person and definitely worth it. It’s a great way to bring out your inner child!


board game cafe


  1. Brick Bay Winery and Sculpture Trail

This is a little further outside of Auckland, about an hour drive, but it is really gorgeous. New Zealand has great wine everywhere, so that is not really a hidden gem, but this winery has so much more to offer! We luckily had a sunny, but cold, day to venture out to this area. We sat outside and had the wine tasting flight- amazing, and some delicious nibbles. Then, unlike other wineries, after finishing our meal we ventured around the huge property to explore their Sculpture Trail. The walk is unfortunately not free, it is $12 for adults. Initially we thought this price was high, but after completing the trail we definitely agreed it was worth it. The track is 2km long and takes at least an hour to really take in all 45 sculptures and beautiful scenery. Do not miss this spot!


brick bay winery

bricky bay sculpture trail


  1. Miniature Golfing

New Zealand is serious about its mini-golf and there are a lot of fun courses around! Our favorites are the Treasure Island Adventure Mini Golf and the Lilliput courses. The Treasure Island Adventure Mini Golf course is right near the airport so maybe check it out before or right after a flight! It’s a huge space and has two different courses to choose from with a lot of fun props, like a giant pirate ship that shoots cannons, along the way.


auckland treasure island mini golf


The other option is to try any of the Lilliput courses around town. We really like the Safari and T Rex Alley courses near Mission Bay at Hobson Bay. This one also has two courses to choose from, we tried them both and enjoyed both! These are outdoor so could be weather dependent in rainy Auckland, but for a fun activity on a rainy day, they have an indoor course inside the Metro Centre building.


Happy exploring!!

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