Headed to Auckland for business and need hotels, restaurants and bar recommendations? Andrew O’Brien, General Manager SEA, India and Korea at Treasury Wine Estates, shares his tips on the best places to eat and drink in the New Zealand city. Plus, he explains just why rugby is so important to the Kiwis…
1. How often do you travel to Auckland and who do you fly with?
I travel to Auckland at least twice a year for both business and leisure. Singapore Airlines and Jetstar are the only two airlines that fly have a direct 10-hour flight.
2. One thing everyone ought to know about Auckland:
Auckland is a sprawling city and offices are all spread out, so be prepared to travel a fair bit. Viaduct Harbour is beautiful with a thriving restaurant and bar scene on its waterfront.
3. How quickly can you get a visa?
Most nationalities don’t require a visa for a stay up to three months. Australian and British citizens are allowed to stay for six months.
4. Fastest way into the city?
Taxi is the fastest. It takes 30 minutes and costs around NZ$50 (S$52) to get from the airport into the city centre and but possibly more if you hit peak hour. Taxis are quite expensive in Auckland. There are buses but unfortunately, Auckland’s public transport is not very adequate so I would not recommend it. Most Aucklanders either own their own cars or take a taxi.
Car rentals is affordable and it’s easy to drive around in Auckland so that could be an alternative to taxis.
5. When are the good and bad times to visit Auckland?
Summer from December to April is beautiful with very low humidity. June to and July are the wettest months and when it can rain up to 25 days a month.
Waitangi Day, which is New Zealand’s National Day, on 6 February, has a great festive atmosphere. They do a lively celebration down at the Viaduct Harbour.
6. Hotels you recommend:
The Langham Auckland (+64 9379 5132), located at the top of the city, is my favourite business hotel. Right in the heart of the city is the Skycity Grand Hotel (+64 9363 7000), which has a casino, if you fancy a punt. At the bottom of the city near the waterfront is the Hilton Auckland Hotel (+64 9978 2000).
If you’re looking for a luxury romantic hotel, Mollies Luxury Boutique Hotel (+64 9376 3489), which is just slightly out of the city, is the place to stay.
7. What’s the dress code for meetings?
Usually a suit but not necessarily a tie. In the height of the summer, you can drop the jacket.
8. Any cultural or business etiquette to be aware of?
Kiwis are pretty straight up kind of people. The most valuable tip I can give to anyone who wants to do business with Kiwis is to study up on rugby before you go. Rugby is their national sport and the All Blacks is are their national pride. As long as you can hold a decent conversation about rugby, you’re in.
It’s no secret that New Zealanders are very competitive with Australians so they tend to love some a bit of Aussie-bashing. If you’re got a few derogatory Aussie jokes and you’re not an Australian, use them. They are very relaxed people and have a good sense of humour.
9. You are taking a client to lunch or dinner, where do you go?
For a casual but fantastic tapas-style lunch, go to Depot (+64 9363 7048) and order the incredibly delicious snapper sliders. The Lord Nelson Steakhouse (+64 9379 4564) is an old-fashioned steakhouse with an old-worldly charm. Their food is reasonably priced and it’s usually crowded during lunchtime.
An upscale restaurant to take clients to is The French Café (+64 9377 1991) on Symonds Street. It’s generally known as Auckland’s best fine-dining restaurant. They do six-course lunches, eight-course dinners and have top-notch service.
The Bluff oyster season runs for 10 weeks each year, beginning in March. These unique, round and plump oysters are real delicacies so if you see them on the menu, order them.
10. Casual bars to go for a drink with clients where you won’t get hassled?
Ponsonby Road is a long road street with plenty of restaurants and bars. My two favourites are the Long Room (+64 9360 8803) and Ponsonby Social Club (+64 9361 2320). Chapel Bar & Bistro (+64 9360 4528) is good for a laid-back Sunday afternoon drink.
One really grubby but well-known place where you will get hassled is the White House in Central Auckland. Karangahape Road, more commonly known as K Road, is where you’ll find the seedy nightclubs and pubs.g
11. Any unsafe areas to avoid?
Take extra caution in K Road at night, as there may be people who have had too much to drink. If you leave your wallet at a bar, chances are you will never see it again.
12. You’ve got some spare time, what’s the must-see?
Take a day trip to Waiheke Island. It’s a 40-minute ferry ride from Auckland Harbour. You can ride a horse on the beach, go out to sea to fish or just visit one of the many restaurants there. Two fantastic wineries withy and restaurants are Casita Miro (+64 9372 7854) and Stony Ridge Vineyard (+64 9 372 8822).
Auckland is perfect for adrenaline junkies. The biggest jump in the city is, of course, the Sky Jump (+64 9368 1835) where you free fall 192 metres off the Sky Tower. When the All Blacks comes to town to play, buy tickets and join in the rugby madness. For something milder, you can do a cultural tour of the museums and art galleries.
13. Gifts to take home for family and friends?
Possum fur hats and socks are great for keeping warm in the winter. A great New Zealand souvenir is the Māori’s tiki, a pendant usually carved out of greenstone. An All Blacks jersey is a good idea too.
Matua (+64 9411 5501) makes some fantastic wine. Another great winery is Villa Maria (+649 255 0660). It’s just five minutes away from the airport so you can drop by to get a few bottles before leaving the country.
14. How long before your flight do you really need to be at the Auckland International aAirport?
An hour is sufficient for business class and 90 minutes for economy class, as the airport is very efficient. I usually head straight to the lounge. It has separate international and domestic terminals that are connected by a shuttle bus.