When you're able to leave your bubble, live like a local on your next city break or delve further into your neighbourhood with these lesser-known city spots.
Every big city in New Zealand has its tourist favourites and well known go-to spots for visitors and locals alike, but there are always places that fly under the radar or don't get the same publicity as the bigger attractions. When the time is right to travel again, you just need to look outside the box and away from the obvious. From underground restaurants and hidden speakeasies to low-key attractions that are simple but brilliant, the following places are worth getting lost for.
Inspired by the hole-in-the-wall eateries of Beijing, Ghost Street is fast becoming a favourite Britomart restaurant - if you know how to find it. Tucked away down some stairs behind Cafe Hanoi, you'll discover a bustling and lively atmosphere with servings of outstanding Chinese food. Ordering from the paper menu is fun in itself - tick the boxes of what you want and hang up the menu on a line with a peg above the table to indicate to the server you're ready. The cocktails are just as delightful as the food, with Chinese twists on traditional Western cocktails, such as a lychee martini or Sichuan negroni.
For a sneaky few drinks in a hidden location, head down Karangahape Rd to find Sly. Enter into the waiting room where the walls are covered in photo frames and try your luck at finding the hidden door. Don't worry, the bartender on the inside will eventually come and get you if he sees you struggling, as there's a security camera watching and the screen is on the inside of the bar. The food menu is limited to hot dogs from Westmere Butchery, which might sound like an odd accompaniment to a stylish cocktail bar, but trust me, these hot dogs are outstanding and delicious, themed to different parts of the world.
Also down K' Rd is St Kevins Arcade, which has great restaurants such as authentic Italian eatery Pici, feast on Lebanese cuisine at Gemmayze Street and great late-night eats and drinks at Nook and Lowbrow. It's also home to Whammy Bar and Wine Cellar, which are practically Auckland institutions for gigs and live music.
If you like secret bars, then make your way to another hidden basement bar, Caretaker, a New York-style cocktail lounge down Roukai Lane off Customs St. It's an intimate setting with an ever-changing drinks menu and wonderful, personal hospitality, with an unassuming entrance most would simply walk by.
Hamilton & the Waikato
You don't have to be a petrolhead to appreciate the Classics Museum in Hamilton. There are more than 100 classic cars on display as well as various memorabilia like petrol pumps, tins and hundreds of signs all over the interiors. Inside is a 1950s-style Jukebox Diner, a great spot for families to enjoy a bite or something to drink.
But for a more behind-the-scenes museum tour, head to the Waikato Museum for its Collection Secrets Tour. You'll be guided into areas of the museum which are usually out of bounds for most visitors, including priceless, rarely seen collections and artefacts, while also learning about preservation techniques and methods. The tours run only once a month.
Once you get hungry head to the Hamilton East Food Precinct on Grey St, which has undergone a reasonable transformation in recent years to become a vibrant foodie hotspot. There are plenty of cafes and restaurants ideal for hanging out, as well as plenty to see in the surrounding lanes and streets.
Hastings & Hawke's Bay
While Napier is often the main city drawcard for visitors to Hawke's Bay, Hastings is also beginning to make its mark on the tourist itinerary, thanks to its artisan stores, eateries, taprooms and cellar doors.
There's quite the collection of boutique shops along Heretaunga St from bookstores to chocolate shops. For new brews, head to Brave Brewing's new taproom in the Tribute Precinct, or return to Heretaunga St to sample organic spirit producers Hastings Distillers' goods.
For authentic Italian, head to suburban Newtown and down a small alleyway to find Cicio Cacio. The restaurant had humble beginnings but the owners are dedicated to creating something that is as authentic as possible. The outside of Italy. Even the menu is written in Italian but staff are on hand to work through what you might like to order. The owners have a passion for Italian regional cuisine and change up the menu each month.
If Greek food is more your style, head to Strathmore to find Oikos Hellenic Cuisine, where chef Theo Papouis will do what he can to introduce new and different Greek food that you might not yet have tried. Best experienced with others so you can share different plates.
For fresh pastries and sourdough, wander down a brick lane in Thorndon to find Goods Manufactory & Cafe. Line up early if you want one of their almond croissants because they're usually the first to disappear. For a truly unique and authentic coffee experience head to Pour and Twist on Garrett St in Te Aro, a coffee brew bar with no machinery. It's New Zealand's first fully manual coffee brew bar, using hand brew methods only. There's no one coffee bean either; they like to cycle through various beans, including Flight, Rich and Supreme.
If you love vinyl, then head to Newtown to visit Creeps Record Parlour. It's a cosy store hidden away beside two eateries, which sells quirky and interesting records as well as a selection of tapes. Don't bother bringing cards - they only accept cash.
While the masses flock to the likes of New Brighton and Sumner Beach on a sunny day, drive a little further to find another beach hidden away over the hill. Taylors Mistake beach has long been known as a local's secret, particularly famous for its surfing.
For a more remote setting, head down the long windy hill road to Godley Head Reserve for some fresh air and ocean views. It's a top 10 coastal defence heritage site with many of the structures still standing.
Back in the city, go underground to Austin Club, a cocktail speakeasy with access granted via password. Getting there, you'll have to go down a seemingly shady laneway but inside you'll find a great cocktail list and, often, live music.
For an educational stop, wander into Rutherford's Den in the renovated Arts Centre. Named after the great Kiwi scientist Lord Ernest Rutherford, the area was once upon a time the rooms where Rutherford studied. Nowadays it has a whole lot of interactive, educational science displays and experiences.
Wander down an alley in Moray Place and you might just stumble into one of Dunedin's best cocktail bars. An intimate wine bar, Indigo Room is the place to go for natural and organic wines. Look for the bright neon sign to guide you inside. And, something which is quite rare in New Zealand, it's open for late-night dining.
Tucked down a laneway in Dunedin's old Bond Quarter is Steamer Basin brewery, a relatively new small brewery, but with a big passion - to make well-balanced beer for all to share. Steamer creates seasonal beers while using local, fresh ingredients wherever possible. It's grown from a small neighbourhood brewer to a 1500L brewery and taproom, housed in what was once an old derelict heritage Dunedin brick building.
For a daytime activity with a bit of difference, why not discover what's inside the Museum of Natural Mystery? This small, private museum in the city centre has a fascinating collection of artefacts including skulls and bones, ethnological art and interesting textural bone sculptures. The museum is part of a private house, and entry costs $5.
To discover more of Dunedin's buried history, head to the Northern Cemetery. It's a significant historic cemetery located in Lovelock Ave and is the final resting place for more than 17,000 people - including some famous early Dunedin figures including William Larnach and Sir Thomas Mackenzie. The site was chosen as a cemetery back in 1857 but it wasn't until 1872 when the cemetery opened for internments. The last plot was sold in 1937.
Dunedin, and Ōtāgo, is also home to some incredibly unique natural structures and landforms, such as the Organ Pipes, a remarkable looking site at the top of Mount Cargill. They consist of a series of hexagonal basalt pillars sticking up out from the ground. The track to see these volcanic formations requires a bit of fitness to walk uphill for about 60 minutes, but hikers will be rewarded by the panoramic views from the top.
Check alert level restrictions and Ministry of Health advice before travel. covid19.govt.nz