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Despite Auckland’s twin harbors fronting the Pacific Ocean and Tasman Sea, and rolling plains studded with volcanic peaks, many international travelers treat the city as a transit stop en route to New Zealand’s renowned lodges or the ski resorts of Queenstown. But the so-called City of Sails is having a moment, and not just because the America’s Cup will be contested there next month. Major urban renewal projects have revived neglected sectors of the Auckland waterfront, with 19th-century industrial areas being recast into a striking mix of heritage and contemporary architecture, green spaces, and alleyways crowded with new addresses for travelers’ to-do lists.
The biggest news is Britomart, nine blocks of warehouses reborn as a 21st-century hub anchored by central Takutai Square, home to the brick-clad Hotel Britomart, which opened last fall. Its calling card is five spacious rooftop guest rooms dubbed Landing Suites—each luminous and textured, three with garden terraces. Elsewhere in the hotel’s ecosystem are retailers, big global names like Chanel and hometown favorites like designer Karen Walker, as well as dozens of bars and restaurants, such as the seafood-focused Kingi, a relaxed spot with a Pacific Rim bent.
The just-opened Park Hyatt Auckland is duking it out with the Hotel Britomart for the international jetset. It looms like a glass palace beside Waitematā Harbour in Wynyard Quarter, the docklands precinct recently converted into the America’s Cup home base. The 195 guest rooms are among the most generous in town, with slick interiors by Conran and Partners London punctuated by traditional Maori art. The new QT Auckland at nearby Viaduct Harbour is less conventional, with cheeky, multihued guest rooms and a vibrant art collection throughout. The biggest draw of this 150-room hotel, the latest from the eclectic Australian hospitality group QT Hotels & Resorts, is a sixth-floor rooftop bar with endless marina and harbor views.
Excellent restaurants—like Hello Beasty, a Pop art-decorated, Asian-inflected place serving things like KFC (Korean fried cauliflower) and wild king prawns sautéed in garlic and kombu butter—are within walking distance of all three hotels. So is La Cigale French Market, where farmers, bakers, and makers set up stalls every weekend selling the likes of organic gooseberries from the Bay of Plenty and ham-and-aioli sandwiches on fresh baguettes.
When New Zealand’s borders reopen, travelers will find more to do than ever outside the city: new and updated lodges like The Lindis and Kauri Cliffs, as well as fresh walking and cycling itineraries. But they’ll also find themselves with ample reasons to stick around Auckland for more than just a night.
This article appeared in the March 2021 issue of Condé Nast Traveler. Subscribe to the magazine here.
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