Downtown Auckland is centered around Queen St, where you can find most of the usual stuff expected of a large city. There is a definite ‘surfer’ flavour to a lot of the clothes shops; more upmarket stuff can be found on Main st (which runs parallel to Queen St) and Vulcan Lane (which links the two).
It has to be said that cutting edge fashion (surfing aside) does not impinge greatly on the Kiwi mind, at best most of the clothing in shops is dated or merely functional, at worst people seem to dress in what they’ve just found… it’s just not important here.
This is a shame in some ways as they could open up a market in more ‘designed’ knitwear – they certainly have the raw material – however most of the knitware (and there is a lot) is of the style you may have been familiar with about 30 years ago
Other areas for shopping are Parnell Rd (about a mile to the east of the centre) and Ponsonby (about a mile to the west). Both are pleasant in their own way and both are well stocked with bars, restaurants and a shops. Ponsonby seems to have a bit more of an ‘edge’ and feels a bit trendier – Notting Hill of the 1990’s variety perhaps… Many of the houses off the main shopping area of Ponsonby Rd have great views of downtown – which accounts for the resurgence of the area, this is also leading to rent rises for the shops in the locality – which in turn will change the area again…
For mainstream bars and restaurants head to Viaduct Quay – loads of bars and restaurants all set around a harbour, nice setting but they feel a bit ‘chain’ or contrived.
All of Auckland has a very laid back, relaxed feel; at no time during my stay did I feel any of the hussle and bussle or general business that seems to be the norm for most UK cities these days.
The other factor that deserves a mention is the multicultural nature of the population. I have been to many places that are mixed; but never have I seen such a multicultural mix as exists here and in fairly equal proportion; Black, White, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Indian (including a taxi driver with a very heavy Indian accent, but had never been there… he was Fijian), a massive variety of Pacific Islanders and of course the Maori.
Good half day out; good setting for the animals – apparently this is a respected centre for breeding endangered species – including Siberian tiger.
Lots of cure stuff too; like the lemurs, meercats and red pandas (although these were in hiding when I went).