Forget the Tourist Traps: How to Experience Auckland Like a Real Local

Published by Auckland Newsroom on

When visiting Auckland for a few short days, it makes sense to quickly jump from one tourist hotspot to another. These spots are popular for a reason, after all. There’s no shortage of online guides recommending destinations like the Sky Tower or activities like bungee jumping off of Auckland’s Harbour Bridge.

But, what about visitors planning longer stays? And, where should travellers go if they’re desperate to avoid the crowds? If this is what someone looking to experience the city is after, the usual tips and recommendations fall short. They fail to mention the lesser-known locations and activities locals from the area enjoy to relax and unwind. 

So, this guide aims to be a little different. Instead of simply listing off the usual locations like the iconic but crowded Auckland Zoo, let’s ditch the well-worn tourist path and delve into a handful of activities and places embraced by Aucklanders themselves, together.

Respecting Local Spaces

Before diving into some of the best things to do to get an authentic taste of life in Auckland, it’s important to first brush up on a bit of local etiquette. In the regular tourist-filled locations, a bit of extra noise and bustle is expected. The same rules do not apply in the little shops, cosy cafes and hidden hiking trails this guide is about to discuss.

The locals won’t take kindly to tourists invading their safe spaces. Unless of course, those tourists are calm, respectful and mindful of their behaviour. Here are some tips to stay on the local population’s good side:

  • Be mindful of noise levels: If the cafe you’ve stumbled into is calm and peaceful, don’t be the loudest person in the room. Respect that people are going about their days peacefully in residential areas, parks and public beaches.
  • Leave no trace: Auckland is a truly beautiful place with a delicate natural ecosystem. Don’t ruin the vibe by throwing trash everywhere. Can’t find a bin? Hold on to your waste until you get back to your accommodations.
  • Respect sacred sites: While this guide won’t be focusing on heritage sites, many tourists will probably want to visit at least one during their stay. If you do, be respectful and leave the cheesy photo ops for later.

When in Auckland, do as the Aucklanders do

Visiting a city is very different to living in one. The locals will enjoy a visit to Hobbiton or a popular restaurant now and then, but they will usually enjoy smaller, less ostentatious experiences. Here are a few activities locals from Auckland love:

1. Supporting Local Businesses

When in need of some retail therapy, you won’t find locals in the generic souvenir shops found near tourist hotspots. They’ll be meandering around smaller local farmer’s markets. On the weekends, they’ll visit the Grey Lynn Farmers Market or the Takapuna Market for locally-made crafts, fresh produce and delicious locally-made street food and sweet treats.

2. Indulging in Digital Entertainment

It’s no secret: folks from Auckland love to play video games. This is true for many other parts of New Zealand too. Don’t be surprised when you see locals enjoying a coffee at a cafe with a phone or gaming console in hand. It’s pretty simple to enjoy this activity from anywhere while staying in the city.

What are they playing? Many will stick with the international favourites the rest of the world enjoys. However, New Zealand has a bustling game development market nowadays with local offerings. Development studios such as Ninja Kiwi have created the massive ‘Bloons’ franchise, and Blind Squirrel worked on the AAA hit ‘Sunset Overdrive’. 

Along with this, we’ve also seen a lot of these companies move into online casino game development to expand their horizons. When it comes to games with higher stakes, there are a few great online options. New Zealand online casinos have taken off in recent years, with review sites also popping up to try and help regulate the space. Locals from Auckland often consider as a good place to start, as with any new market, making sure you’re informed should always be your first point of call.

3. Enjoying Local Live Music

Music, and especially live music from local bands, is very popular in Auckland, much like the rest of the world. The city boasts a thriving music scene, and many pubs and bars host up-and-coming local bands. Instead of heading over to the most popular clubs, like Cassette Nine or Attica Bar, locals will use platforms like Facebook to discover when and where their favourite musicians will be week to week.

Many of these bars are a mystery to tourists, and won’t appear in guides because locals want to keep it this way. Your best bet to find one? Ask around, join some social media groups and pray a local fancies you enough to invite you to a hidden gem. If all else fails, you can always fall back on the more iconic spots to experience the live melodies of local bands.

4. Exploring Nature’s Playground

When locals want to bask in the natural landscapes found just outside the city itself, they’ll opt for less iconic hiking trails and less crowded beaches to avoid the crowds of tourists and holiday makers. Instead of heading to Rangitoto’s summit track, they might be seen strolling down scenic walks and treks much closer to home. Popular local trails include Shakespear Regional Park Loop. When in doubt, pick longer trails, as most travellers will usually go for shorter ones.

5. Watching Sports

If crowds aren’t your thing, then you can disregard this point. But this guide wouldn’t be complete without at least mentioning that a significant number of locals will head over to their closest sports grounds on Saturday afternoons. To truly fit in while staying in the city, it might be fun to spend an afternoon soaking up the lively atmosphere of the many sports grounds dotted around.

6. Embracing Simple Pleasures

Sometimes, the best way to experience a city is to slow down and appreciate the simple things, especially in the summer months. Take a stroll along the waterfront at Mission Bay, a popular spot for locals to picnic, swim or cycle. Enjoy a coffee and people-watch at a cosy cafe in Parnell, a historic suburb known for its charming streets and Victorian-era buildings. This is how the locals do it. If you truly want to live like a local while visiting, slow down and enjoy life as it comes.

Categories: To Do