Stop at Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki
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The restoration and expansion of the 1887 building was completed in 2011 and included the addition of a modern vaulted kauri canopy at the entrance. Inside, there are more than 16,000 works, including paintings and sculptures by New Zealand, Māori and Pacific Island artists – Anna Lois White, Colin McCahon and “Toss” Woollaston among them.
Appraise the architecture at The Civic
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You’ll want to see a show at this glorious theatre built in 1929 (corner of Queen and Wellesley streets). This Auckland landmark is one of seven surviving atmospheric cinemas in the world, its interiors featuring intricately carved columns, spires, domed ceilings, Buddhas and Abyssinian panther statues. Most loved of all, perhaps, is the painted ceiling of stars and clouds in the main auditorium that mimics the Southern Hemisphere sky.
Wander through a sculpture park
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For an art-meets-nature experience, about an hour’s drive north of Auckland is Gibbs Farm, a sculpture park with an astonishing collection of building-size works by globally renowned artists such as Anish Kapoor. You’ll need to book well ahead, as the park is open only on monthly scheduled visitor days.
Hit High Street for coffee
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Aucklanders take their coffee seriously. For exceptional brews in the CBD, go to Eighthirty in High Street. It’s a super-minimalist space except for the pink marbling on the walls by artist Yolunda Hickman.
Tuck into local produce
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Just down the road in the revitalised Britomart precinct, Ortolana serves light, produce-driven dishes such as fazzoletti with buttercup, sage, ricotta, pumpkin seeds and chilli. If the weather is kind, sit in the sunlit courtyard draped with fairy lights and, if you can resist the excellent wine list, try one of the ambrosial housemade fruit syrups.
Book dinner at The Blue Breeze Inn
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After browsing the galleries in upmarket Herne Bay, go to The Blue Breeze Inn in nearby Ponsonby for dinner. Described as modern Chinese with a Polynesian island breeze, it’s a cultural mashup in a tiki-bar-like setting that works surprisingly well. Chef Che Barrington (ex-Longrain) makes pork buns that are the stuff of legend.
Stay at Hotel DeBrett
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Historic Hotel DeBrett, one of Auckland’s first hotels, is arguably the city’s best boutique stay. Its 25 individually designed rooms – two with a spiral staircase – have mismatched Mid-century Modern furniture and brightly coloured carpets. And it has a great bar at street level near Auckland’s Arts Precinct.