1. Where to stay
When the Ginger and I celebrated our 24th wedding anniversary (I’m a saint for putting up with him – everyone says so), we pushed the boat out and booked a room at the Stamford Plaza in the CBD. For a start, 60 minutes at Auckland Thai Massage around the corner is a must on an anniversary, and we wanted to go for dinner in Ponsonby, have a sleep in and head to Britomart for lunch the next day, so the Stamford Plaza put us in the perfect spot. I love this hotel – the rooms are big and airy, the beds super-comfy and I’m pretty sure this place has the friendliest staff in town.
2. Where to eat
Normally, I head to The Engine Room in Northcote because you can have an early dinner (cheese soufflé every time for me) and catch a movie at the Bridgeway Cinema directly across the road afterwards. But on our anniversary weekend, we hit Ponsonby Bistro for dinner – another trusted faithful – then had lunch with pals the following day at Amano in Tyler Street, Britomart. This new hot spot came highly recommended and oh, wow, I now understand why. With its rustic industrial fit-out, and lovely light and airy space, I felt like I was in another city. And the food? Sensational, every mouthful.
3. Where to shop
I’m not much of a shopper, but on our way to Amano, I was moved to divert only very slightly off course to visit the new Tiffany just across the road. How they got the famous jewellery shop to look quite so New York-y from the outside I don’t know and inside the diamonds sparkle like you’ve never seen. I dragged my nervous husband from one sumptuous display to the next, but in the end, I was happy just to have been in there, looking. He didn’t get off quite so lightly at the new Le Creuset French cookware shop on Customs Street on the way back to the hotel, however. Mind you, six coloured ramekins did not make much of a hole in his pocket.
4. What to do
I love a good stroll and my new fave is the Te Atatu Walkway just off Highway 16. I often stop off for a leg stretch and to admire the views across the harbour to the Chelsea Sugar Refinery, the bridge and the CBD. Further west, if you come to see the gannets at Muriwai Beach, there’s a beautiful sign-posted walk through the nikau up behind them. Or if you’re keen, you can hike through farmland and along the cliffs to Bethell’s Beach. I’ve only done that once because the return trip’s a bridge too far if you’re me, so ideally you want a car at the other end – and a cold beer.
5. What to drink
If you’re making the trek out west, there’s no shortage of yummy wineries. Kumeu River is famous for its chardonnay, but I’m more likely to pull in to Cooper’s Creek at Waimauku because since my Sound of Music trip to Austria, I’m a big fan of grüner veltliner and they make it. There’s also jazz on a Sunday afternoon if you’re in the neighbourhood. A few kilometres away at West Brook in Ararimu Valley Road, you can taste their wine and have a picnic in the lovely grounds. There are barbecues for cooking, and boules and a giant chess set for fun.