Website of the Year
Travel

Independent spirit: Where to shop off the beaten path

NZ Herald
Not for sale

In the mood to shop off the beaten path? Here are some of the most quirky and eclectic independent shops in Aotearoa's cities and urban centres.

AUCKLAND

If you're a cool, conscious consumer (or at least, trying to be), you'll surely have heard of Crushes. Set up on Karangahape Rd by Sarah Firmston Rose Hope, the funky concept store sells a lush selection of locally made and vintage products from over 60 ethical brands around Aotearoa.

Inspired by mātauranga Māori (Māori knowledge) and the latest scientific research, Aotea is the latest brand shaking up the skincare game. Using ingredients grown entirely on Great Barrier Island and providing scholarships each year to rangatahi Māori to attend high school, its skincare that's good for you, the environment and Aotearoa. You'll find the brand's concept store at Commercial Bay, and products are available to buy online at aoteamade.co.nz

Aotea skincare has a concept store at Auckland's Commercial Bay. Photo / Supplied
Aotea skincare has a concept store at Auckland's Commercial Bay. Photo / Supplied

"Bookstore of the year" is a pretty hefty title, but it's well deserved by the infamous

Unity Books

. More than 42 years old and still going strong, this oasis of literature is tucked away on High St in Auckland central, and stacked with titles from Britain, America and New Zealand, which you can't get anywhere else.

ROTORUA

If you find yourself in Rotorua, pay a visit to Ahu boutique. Run by local designer Adrienne Whitewood, the curated store is a celebration of Māori culture and art, with thoughtful stories behind every item. Primarily a space to sell Whitewood's bold fashion pieces, Ahu also has prints, postcards and funky statement jewellery, for sale.

Rotorua is also home to Curiosity Blooms, where you'll find a huge range of gifts, and bits and bobs for home and garden, including a plethora of house plants.

Curiosity Blooms is one of Rotorua's best independent stores. Photo / Supplied
Curiosity Blooms is one of Rotorua's best independent stores. Photo / Supplied

BAY OF PLENTY

Imagine a millennial Pinterest board come to life, and you're pretty close to Tauranga's

Paper Plane Store

. Located in the heart of the Mount, this design studio and store has just about every homeware, lifestyle product and accessory one needs to live their best eco-warrior/trendy designer life.

WAIKATO

Decked out with floor-to-ceiling books, retro typewriters and cosy leather chairs, Browsers Bookstore has Hamilton book lovers and visiting bibliophiles covered. With an impressive collection of top-notch second-hand novels, it's the perfect place to dive into another world for a while.

Love the outdoors? Trek 'n' Travel has been a mecca for adventurers since opening on Victoria St in 1997. Kitted out with more than 50 beloved brands such as Black Diamond, Merrel, One Planet and Earth Sea Sky, the independent shop is passionate about providing the gear, service and advice that will help you go the distance.

GISBORNE

For those who love elegant, locally made products and supporting female-run companies, The Aviary is well worth a visit. Decked out in classic Scandinavian style, Lauren Callender's beautiful concept store is full of earthy tones, natural materials and a curated collection of crafted ceramics, jewellery, clothing and eco beauty products.

HAWKE'S BAY

Email is great but let's be real, nothing beats a handwritten letter. Especially if it's on locally made, sustainable stationery. A retail space and workshop, Panoply Studio specialises in beautiful, eco-friendly letterpress, stationery and calligraphy using traditional techniques. Purchase in-store or make your own at one of their workshops.

MANAWATŪ-WHANGANUI

Step into Whanganui's cutest antique store and back in time at Quayside Antiques. Chaotic and charming, every inch of shelf, floor (and even some ceiling space) is chock-a-block with items from sepia-toned times, such as vintage bikes, classic records, retro homewares and more. Whether you browse or buy, it's worth visiting simply for the hit of nostalgia.

They say it takes 10,000 hours to master something, so the fact Peter Cameron spent that long training as a jeweller says a lot. After a stint in London, Cameron returned to Palmerston North to set up Cameron Jewellery, where his team creates stunning one-off pieces. Browse the showroom or see the magic happen at the in-store workshop.

TARANAKI

If you've got a magpie eye and a love of hand-made jewellery, Ringcraft Moana is a must. Located 15km south of New Plymouth, the studio's owner Rob Wright, can sketch up a one-off design in just 15 minutes, or redesign an old piece into something you'll love. Test Rob's 52 years of experience with any jewellery questions, explore the range of pieces and see how they're made behind the workbench.

Bustling cafe and gallery by day, booked-out gin-tasting venue by night, there's a lot to love about Stratford's newest gallery, Fenton Street Art Collective. Run out of the 99-year-old Egmont Chambers building by writer Stuart Greenhill and his partner, painter Jo Stallard, the couple's cafe and gallery has quickly become a favourite with locals and visitors.

WELLINGTON

Video killed the radio star, but the internet hasn't killed video if Wellington's Aro Video is anything to go by. A 31-year-old institution, Aro Video stocks an eclectic range of more than 250,000 movies to rent or buy online. Pop in for a film, a chat with the movie experts or a refreshing change from nights of Netflix.

If it ain't broke, don't fix it, but if it is? Pay a visit to the charming Good Housekeeping in Wellington. The perfect antidote to our buy-and-throwaway culture, the eco/DIY store has all the bits and pieces needed to mend and repair, as well as eco-friendly homeware and refill stations.

NELSON TASMAN

If you love retro, then nab yourself a deal at South Street Vintage Nelson, a vintage store specialising in mid-century and industrial homewares. Located, fittingly, on New Zealand's oldest fully preserved Victorian heritage street, the friendly owners live on-site and can open by appointment.

The best stores are born from passion, and at Family Jewels Records this is undoubtedly the case. Set up by veteran music journalist Grant Smithies, the eclectic little record store is nestled in the beer garden at The Free House, quickly becoming a hotspot for a music-loving community.

Nelson's South Street Vintage is located, fittingly, on New Zealand's oldest fully preserved Victorian heritage street. Photo / Oliver Weber, nelsontasman.nz
Nelson's South Street Vintage is located, fittingly, on New Zealand's oldest fully preserved Victorian heritage street. Photo / Oliver Weber, nelsontasman.nz

CANTERBURY

Wistful for the days when things were made to last? Nestled in the beautifully restored Christchurch Arts Centre, Frances Nation (named after the owners' grandmother) is home to a curated collection of Kiwi-made goods, from sturdy toolboxes, harakeke baskets and hand-thrown ceramics, that will go the distance.

OTAGO

It may be called Dead Souls Bookshop, but Dunedin's charming emporium is alive and thriving, with more than 20,000 second-hand books and an in-house printery and bindery. With novels stacked and tucked into every spare corner, and a ceiling papered by pulp fiction book covers, it's a quirky little spot you can easily while away hours.

Dead Souls Bookshop in Dunedin has more than 20,000 second-hand books on its shelves, and an in-house printery and bindery. Photo / Hayden Parsons, DunedinNZ
Dead Souls Bookshop in Dunedin has more than 20,000 second-hand books on its shelves, and an in-house printery and bindery. Photo / Hayden Parsons, DunedinNZ

Calling all peanut butter lovers! If you find yourself around Dunedin,

Bay Rd Peanut Butter Factory

can't be missed. From humble beginnings at the Otago Farmers Market, the Hastie brothers soon turned in their tradie jobs for a full-time gig churning out some of the best peanut butter around. Visiting locals, return your jar for a discount!

No trip to Queenstown is complete without a visit to the iconic

Remarkables Sweet Shop

. Family-owned and boasting the country's largest selection of confectionery, the shelves hold every treat imaginable, as well as an ever-changing menu of fudges to taste.

Starting out at Otago Farmers Market, the Hastie brothers soon went full-time and opened Dunedin's Bay Rd Peanut Butter Factory. Photo / Supplied
Starting out at Otago Farmers Market, the Hastie brothers soon went full-time and opened Dunedin's Bay Rd Peanut Butter Factory. Photo / Supplied

SOUTHLAND

For a family-run gallery full of locally-made art objects, ceramics, photography and gifts, The Good Studio is a must-visit for anyone in Invercargill. Run by the Thoroughgood family in one of Riverton's historical buildings, you're sure to find works from Melissa and Scott hanging from the walls, as well as abstract prints made by their creative 7-year-old Nina.

Four generations old and built on a firm foundation of friendly service, passion and ingenuity, E. Hayes and Sons is the place to go when you need to get things done. While you'll come for the extensive range of tools and hardware, you'll likely stay for the impressive collection of vintage and classic cars, motorbikes, and memorabilia.

For more New Zealand travel ideas and inspiration, go to newfinder.co.nz and newzealand.com