Planning a getaway in Tāmaki Makaurau? Make it even more relaxing by doing away with some of the planning. I've created several itineraries in various parts of the city that put the emphasis on keeping things local (transport woes, begone!). Lift as much or as little from the hit list as you fancy to tailor your ideal schedule.
The Hotel Britomart is an oasis in the heart of downtown, the Cheshire Architects project championing detailed design and artisan creativity. There's serenity in the light-filled timber-lined rooms, with handmade ceramics, organic cotton sheets and complimentary hair and body products, and views over the Waitematā that dissuade from leaving the built-in sofa. But you'll want to, because you're in the heart of the city with some of Auckland's best dining at your doorstep.
Hotel restaurant kingi serves all day and will introduce you to fresh local seafood prepared in a novel way. Downstairs, Cafe Hanoi brings lively and fresh Vietnamese flavours, while its owner Comensa Group has also just opened basement beauty Ghost Street. Named for a famous thoroughfare in Beijing, it's all moody atmosphere matched by the bold, rustic flavours of China's Chengdu and Xi'an from chefs Nathan Houpapa and Khai Yee Kor.
Over in Commercial Bay you're best to start victuals in the late afternoon while the sun's rays pour into the northwest facing floor to ceiling windows of Saxon + Parole, where a seafood tower piled with whatever shellfish is freshest and best won't fill you up so much that you can't continue on for dinner proper at your pick of the bunch. The Lodge has lauded New York-returnee Matt Lambert turning out consistently great fare, while Ahi wins praise for Ben Bayly and team's detailed exploration of our land's top produce. I wouldn't miss Gochu – I just love the core flavours of Korean cuisine, and Jason Kim elevates them just so.
Or you might nip down Fort Lane and take the stairs down to Cassia – do the Journey menu and you're in for a modern Indian feast for all the senses.
Grab an arvo ice cream masterpiece from Giapo, where the favourites stick around and there's always a wondrous limited edition to check out, and take it for a wander through Takutai Square. Mark this in your diary: June 23 to 26 the square plays host to kapa haka performances as part of Matariki celebrations. If it's a Saturday, peruse the city market, from 8am rain or shine.
The lively happenings in the precinct are all the while watched over by large scale works by Shane Cotton and Lonnie Hutchinson, a satellite of Auckland Art Gallery's Toi Tū Toi Ora: Contemporary Māori Art.
You may cross the Waitematā to get to Waiheke, but you haven't left the city limits. You'll just feel like you have – staycationing on the island is the surest way to feel away from it all. Accommodation on Waiheke leans to the steeper end of the pricing spectrum, but recently completed development One o One saves the day. Four Scandi-styled cabins offer studio accommodation for up to three – a king bed plus a roll-out trundler, ensuite with walk-in shower, and a kitchenette with basic cooking equipment. A deck boasts chairs and hammocks for lounging bliss. Just a few minutes' walk up the road from the ferry and Oneroa Village, you can get away without wheels of your own – there's plenty enough to do around Oneroa, or you can make use of the island's buses to go further afield and save your dollars for the fun stuff.
In Oneroa, Akitō's breakfast will set you on good stead with its wholesome ingredients and slow-food methods, and coffee there is bang-on. Nobody will mind if you opt for gelato for brekkie instead (it's a bona fide tradition in Sicily, I can assure you) – Island Gelato opens doors early with coffee, bagels, and a dozen or more stunningly presented gelato flavours: my pick for winter is the rich and gooey caramel chocolate s'mores.
Pick up picnic supplies at The Island Grocer and check out the map for Te Ara Hura – you could go up around Church Bay for views back to the city, or the Oneroa to Enclosure Bay is a particularly beautiful rocky ramble.
Head early for dinner at The Oyster Inn, where the late afternoon sun embraces the verandah and creates the perfect setting for oyster-slurping. Check out local go-to Pinter Bar's Sunday Sessions, with DJ on the decks and Tacos Y Masa's seriously good Mexican fare. A brisk uphill walk to Mudbrick will reward you with an unbeatable view to go with your wine tasting – across the motu-dotted harbour, back to the city you've left behind for a moment.
If spreading your wings beyond Oneroa, buses take you to the door of many of the island's vineyards and their restaurants – check ahead on opening times as some run winter hours. Tantalus is consistently impressive, with friendly service and the option of the restaurant upstairs or the cosy brew lounge down below, surrounded by garden and vines.
The best of both worlds is yours at the Park Hyatt – a relaxing waterfront vacay in the middle of the city. Perched on the edge of Lighter Basin with a bounty of sails as neighbours, the view out over the many boats to Rangitoto is quintessentially Auckland. Inside, the clever architecture brings the water element into play; waterways make viewfinders through the ground level.
A true sanctuary, there's really no need to leave because there's plenty within the complex to keep you satisfied for a whole weekend. Start the day with laps in the 25m infinity pool on the sunny northern side of the building. Pick and choose from the dining options each day. The Pantry offers a nice casual brunch or light lunch, perfect before retreating to the spa. Grab a workout or yoga class and shower first if you're feeling energetic, then sink into one of the glorious treatments on offer. The spa also boasts a hydrotherapy room with plunge pools, Himalayan salt sauna, and steam room.
In your post spa zen, the mood will be just right for afternoon tea in the Living Room, which shakes up tradition in an elegant manner. Callum Liddicoat's savoury and sweet creations are presented across five courses, and his menu changes with the seasons. The space also offers all-day dining and snacking menus for groups. Make cocktail hour a matter of importance: dress to the nines and make an entrance at Captain's Bar, right on the quay and boasting the city's most sophisticated selection of rums, listed according to flavour profile. Dining two nights in a row at Onemata isn't at all dull. The way the menu is arranged – according to selected produce from all around Aotearoa – makes you want a taste from every section.
It's certainly not letting the ongoing roadworks get in the way of a good time: Karangahape Rd is consistently abuzz after dark, home to the city's most eclectic dining scene thanks to the proliferation of owner-operated restaurants and bars that line the strip and its offshoots. You need a couple of nights to really wrap your chops around it, so booking at Cordis offers you a calm post-party respite just at the end of the street. Cordis has a wellness package on offer at present, which adds to your stay in a room or suits a massage at Chuan spa, a discount of other treatments, and valet parking.
A progressive dinner could take in flavours too bountiful to list here, but I'll mention a few favourites. Yuzu-infused cocktails, grilled skewers, and the city's best prawn toast at Nook. Perfect pasta at Pici which is perfectly portioned, too, to allow a taste of several dishes, accompanied by natural wines. Falafel and other Israeli snacks at East St. Hall, which morphs into a club later in the evening. Hearty Italian nosh and the warmest welcome at Coco's Cantina. Always-interesting small plates and an excellent happy hour at Peach Pit. Peruvian-inspired dishes and the must-do pisco sour at Madame George.
Another night you might like to stay put and just say "jeeb" at Gemmayze Street, and let the feast of elevated Lebanese dishes begin. Call into Northern Line on Beresford St for an early tipple or a nightcap – the lineup of local beer on tap is impressive for a small bar and the via-Manchester vibe and welcome are warm.
Co-ordinate your staycation with a gig at Whammy or Anthology, and keep an eye out for pop-up market days and festivals. Saturday June 26 will be a biggie with a huge street party that celebrates both Matariki and the welcome end of construction works.
Loved Up in the Lynn
Grey Lynn's The Convent Hotel brings a unique offering: a charming renovation of an old nunnery complemented with a very accessible rates structure – making it a hugely popular staycation destination since it opened late last year. A comfortable and elegantly decorated room in this handsome Spanish Mission building on the city fringe is yours from $149 per night. All the better for lining your pockets to explore the locality.
Breakfast at Postal Service, where the menu is vegetarian although carnivores may not even notice, then pick up some delicious vegan baking from Tart (there's a theme starting here, keep reading) and wander along historic Old Mill Road and down the hill to Auckland Zoo. You may not have been since the high canopy primate habitat opened almost a year ago – the first phase of world-class development allows orangutans and siamangs to move as in the wild, along a network of aerial pathways.
Book for dinner at Ada, your hotel's restaurant that occupies an airy atrium space at the back of the building – but arrive early for a drink in the bar first as it's such a nice cosy space and the staff so welcoming.
Put yourself in the hands of chefs Hayden Phiskie and Johnny Price by opting for the "fate l'amore con il sapore" – the kitchen's selection, which turns out to be a host of very tasty dishes for a tidy $60pp. A majority of the dishes are vegetarian or feature meat only in considered flourishes, and this approach really lets each ingredient shine, and the tasting menu's translation ("make love with flavour") ring true indeed.