Boasting harbors galore and multiple boat-packed marinas, Auckland, the largest and most sophisticated urban area in New Zealand (though it’s not the capital), is nicknamed the “City of Sails.”
In addition to its scenic seaside views and ample water activities, Auckland has an incredible food scene, insightful museums, verdant parks, third-wave coffee spots, and very welcoming locals.
Home to almost two million people (almost 35% of the entire population of New Zealand), Auckland has a plethora of vibrant, colorful neighborhoods. And as the main airport hub in the country, this is where most travelers start their trip.
To ensure you make the most of your visit (and that don’t spend all your time in transit between neighborhoods), it’s important to do some research to figure out the best place to stay while in this metropolis.
To help you decide where to stay in Auckland, here are the best neighborhoods (according to me) so you can choose the area that suits your travel style and budget.
But, first, here are some common questions I get asked about Auckland neighborhoods:
What’s the best neighborhood for first-time visitors?
Central (or Downtown) is home to the iconic Sky Tower, the Auckland Art Gallery, and several great restaurants. As the name implies, it’s a convenient, centrally located area.
What’s the best neighborhood for shopping?
Britomart is a bright, cheery part of town filled with indie boutiques and shopping malls — perfect for those who want to splurge on shopping.
What’s the best neighborhood for foodies?
Known locally as “K-Road,” Karangahape Road is a fun, up-and-coming neighborhood that is home to a number of great eateries.
What’s the best neighborhood for beaches?
Located on Auckland’s north shore, Takapuna is a world away from the bustle of the city. The long stretches of beach here are wonderful.
What’s the best neighborhood for history buffs?
With a long history and lots of Maori heritage, Devonport is a nice place to base yourself.
What’s the best neighborhood overall?
Central is a good spot for basing yourself right in the middle of Auckland. It might not have the charm of K-Road or Devonport, but you can get anywhere from here.
So, with those questions answered, here’s a breakdown of each neighborhood, with suggested accommodations, so you know exactly where to stay in Auckland:
Where to Stay in Auckland for First-Time Visitors: Central
As the name explicitly suggests, Central is right in the heart of everything in Auckland. The iconic Sky Tower, built in 1997 and standing over 328 meters (1,076 feet) tall, dominates everything here and also provides a remarkable view if you go up to the top. The Auckland Art Gallery is here too, as are the Maritime Museum and a handful of great restaurants and bars. In short, there’s plenty to see and do in this area. It’s also a convenient hub to visit other corners of town.
Best Places to Stay in Central:
- BUDGET: Choice Backpackers — The dorm rooms at Choice are large and comfortable, with decent mattresses so you can get a good night’s sleep. Auckland’s second-largest hostel, spread out over nine floors, is a fun place to hang out and meet other travelers. It’s right in the center of it all, making it both affordable and convenient.
- MIDRANGE: The Albion — Built in 1873, the Albion is a lovely, warm spot in the center of town. The hotel began as a “pub hotel,” meaning you could booze away downstairs before retiring in adjoining rooms. Today there’s still a nice old tavern in the hotel, and it’s worth spending some time there to take in the historic ambiance.
- LUXURY: Grand Millennium — The Grand Millennium is a behemoth, but in the best possible way. This 452-room hotel has a soaring lobby, and the inviting guest rooms are large and bedecked with earth tones. The in-house Japanese restaurant serves up tasty eats as well.
Where to Stay in Auckland for Shopping: Britomart
Britomart is named for first the British ship that once navigated around the harbor here in Auckland. Centrally located and always buzzing with locals, the attractive district features streets flanked by boutique fashion shops, where you can snag items made by local designers and then get a caffeine boost at a third-wave coffee spot. It’s also home to nearby Commercial Bay, a huge, new-ish shopping mall. If you plan on shopping (or just want to browse), this is the best neighborhood for you.
Best Places to Stay in Britomart
- BUDGET: The Attic Backpackers — Voted the city’s most popular hostel four years in a row, The Attic is a fun and budget-friendly place to stay right in the heart of Auckland. The hostel offers a variety of sleeping options, including single- and double-bed private rooms and dorms. There’s also a nicely equipped kitchen and an active common room for when you just want to chill out and meet other travelers.
- MIDRANGE: The Grand by SkyCity — The rooms at this sleek hotel are spacious and comfy, but the best perk might be the view out of the floor-to-ceiling windows. The hotel has a swimming pool, a state-of-the-art gym, and a whopping 14 restaurants and bars, so you won’t have to go very far if you’re hungry or thirsty.
- LUXURY: Park Hyatt Auckland — The poshest property in the neighborhood, the Park Hyatt boast spacious guest rooms that have floor-to-ceiling windows offering views of the harbor. The rooms are also equipped with a plus-sized flat-screen TV, plush robes, and Le Labo bath products.
Where to in Auckland for Foodies: Karangahape Road
The traditional go-to neighborhood for food lovers has long been Ponsonby, but adjacent Karangahape Road — known as “K-Road” — is the up-and-coming area in which to stick your fork into Auckland. A legion of chefs have gravitated here to open excellent eateries, so if you travel via your stomach, K-Road is the place to be. In between meals, there are plenty of other things to do: the streets are flanked with indie boutiques and art galleries perfect for browsing and people-watching.
Best Places to Stay in Karangahape Road:
- BUDGET: Newton Lodge — A comfortable and safe hostel in the center of K-Road, Newton Lodge offers cozy six-bed dorm rooms as well as female-only dorms. The mattresses are thick and soft, and each bed has an electrical outlet nearby. Newton also has a large kitchen for guests who want to save money by cooking their own meals.
- MIDRANGE: Ascotia Off Queen — This lovely property offers spacious rooms with pleasant earth tones and a lot of natural light. The hotel also has two-bedroom apartments for families or those traveling in groups.
- LUXURY: Cordis — Comfortable and stately, Cordis is one of the most luxurious spots to lay your head on K-Road. The standard rooms are bigger than average, and some have lovely views of the Auckland skyline, including the iconic Sky Tower; the marble bathrooms have luxury products. The in-house eatery, Our Land Is Alive, celebrates the culinary bounty of New Zealand.
Where to in Auckland for Beaches: Takapuna
Takapuna feels like a million miles from the relative bustle of Auckland. But it’s easily accessible by public transportation — a bus can get you there in about 20 minutes from the center of town. Once there, linger on the beach for a while and enjoy the cool breezes and the sound of lapping waves.
But Takapuna is not all just surf and sand. The area has Eat Street, a road flanked by a wide diversity of restaurants and bars, and there are also boutique shops, cafés, and art galleries to explore. Takapuna is essentially a vacation from your vacation.
Best Places to Stay in Takapuna:
- BUDGET: Takapuna Motor Lodge — Sunny and cheery, with an ample amount of tropical flora, the Takapuna Motor Lodge is budget and basic but comfortable enough that most travelers will be at ease here. Plus, there’s a heated swimming pool, a hot tub, a barbecue area, and free parking.
- MIDRANGE: Carnmore Takapuna — Right in the heart of it all, Carnmore is an elegant property that is comfortable enough to please even a hardened traveler. There are various room types here, including some with Jacuzzi baths. The hotel also features a sauna, pool, and gym.
- LUXURY: The Spencer — This high-rise hotel has large, spacious rooms, most with great views and some with balconies. All rooms have plus-sized TVs with international channels, blackout curtains, and luxury bath products. The hotel has a fully equipped gym, a large swimming pool, and even a tennis court.
Where to in Auckland for History Lovers: Devonport
Located in north Auckland and across the water from the Ports of Auckland, Devonport is a fascinating part of town that is rich in history and Maori heritage. Lovers of Victorian architecture will be dazzled by its charming 19th-century structures (this was one of the first areas of town that was settled; Maori were here as early as 1350). The charming neighborhood is also loaded with culinary pleasures. You can get between Devonport and the Ports of Auckland via ferry; it’s only a 10-to-15-minute ride.
Best Places to Stay in Devonport:
- BUDGET: Devonport Motel — Quirky and retro-cool, the Devonport Motel is a boutique property whose rooms will make you feel like a local, with small kitchens, sofas, and private courtyards. The location is right in the center of it all.
- MIDRANGE: Andelin Guest House — This beautiful, high-ceilinged inn is laden with palm trees and other tropical flora. The tasteful rooms have views of either the harbor, the garden, or the city skyline. The property has a sunny terrace for relaxing, and there’s also complimentary fresh fruit, coffee, and tea.
- LUXURY: The Esplanade Hotel — The iconic Esplanade is like the face of the neighborhood. Since 1903, travelers have been waking up here. Rooms have coffee makers and upscale bath products. Some rooms have views of the harbor. Carve out some time to linger in the atmospheric hotel bar.
Auckland may not be the most exciting city in New Zealand, but it’s worth spending a few days exploring the cool museums, fun nightlife, great architecture, beautiful beaches, and top-notch restaurants. There’s easily enough to keep you busy here for a few days before you move on.