We don’t normally get to spend large chunks of time in big cities on the boat, so we tried to maximize every minute in Auckland, New Zealand’s biggest city. Our conclusion: we could live there! Auckland is a vibrant cosmopolitan city with a lot to offer, from museums to excursions to food. This post details our Auckland favorites.
I thought it was the capital, but that’s Wellington, at the southern end of the North Island. Instead, Auckland is New Zealand’s most populated city, with nearly 1.7 million people.
Located in the north of the North Island, Auckland is on a narrow isthmus between two large harbors and is known as The City of Sails. With it’s waterfront location, Auckland is home to beautiful beaches, waterfront trails, fish markets, and scores of sailboats. It’s also based around multiple volcanos, great for hiking.
We spent a couple of months in Whangarei, exploring the area by foot, bike, and campervan. While we were working on our van and enjoying nature, we needed to eat, and thankfully Whangarei has a wide range of restaurants and bars. Based on our attempts to sample everything, here’s where to eat in Whangarei by neighborhood.
Tips for Eating Out in New Zealand
Before you go out to eat in a new country like New Zealand, you want to know the local norms. So, here are some things to know before you eat out in Whangarei and New Zealand in general.
Restaurants close early in New Zealand. Even in the big city of Auckland, people go out to dinner early. If you leave it until 8PM, your choices for dinner are limited. They don’t wake up as early as French Polynesians, but Kiwis do eat dinner early.
I would say it’s about fifty-fifty whether you order at the counter before you sit, or order at your table. Either way, it will usually be obvious when you enter the restaurant, bar or cafe. Regardless of how you order, you will always have to pay at the counter. Sometimes you pay when you order, other times you pay at the end. Don’t expect anyone to bring you a check. Just get up when you’re finished and go to the register to pay. This is consistent with other countries in the South Pacific, but very different from North America and Europe.
Popular food and drink in new Zealand
Kiwis love their coffee, and coffee culture is evident everywhere. From sit down cafes to coffee trucks, you can get a good espresso-based coffee almost anywhere. We’ve been partial to the flat whites, which is a latte with less foam. It’s going to be difficult adjusting back to our black coffees at sea.
Kiwis also love their pies, but not the fruit pies we’re used to in The States. These pies are savory, like steak and mushroom or mince and cheese. Many cafes sell pies for breakfast and lunch, and most Kiwis have a favorite place for pies, with annual rankings and all. You can even buy pies in the frozen section of the supermarket to heat up at home, which is convenient.
Seafood is abundant here, especially snapper. Everywhere we go, snapper is the fish of the day. It’s either in season or it’s really easy to catch. Or both. We’ve also had amazing mussels and salmon, both of which are much bigger than we’ve seen anywhere else in the world.
Savusavu is a convenient entry port for sailors coming west to Fiji, and it’s where we made landfall after Tonga. While our check-in experience wasn’t the best, we had a great time in this part of Fiji. If you ever get to Fiji by air or boat, don’t miss my top things to do in Savusavu.
About Savusavu, Fiji
Located on the southeast coast of Vabua Levu, Fiji’s second biggest island, Savusavu is best known for its volcanic hot springs and coastal waters. The population is small, only a few thousand people, but the town is bustling! With good restaurants and shops for provisioning, it’s a great stop for sailors, especially after the lack of choice in Tonga.
Without a doubt, our favorite part of Tonga was Haapai. We only had a week to spend in this beautiful island group but we enjoyed every minute. Once we found our anchorage, we loved it so much we didn’t move. If you ever visit the Kingdom of Tonga, don’t miss Haapai.
About Haapai Tonga
Ha’apai is pronounced “Ha a pie.” Located south of Vavau, the Haapai island group includes 51 islands plus atolls and coral reefs. We spent our week there in one perfect anchorage, and also walked to the main island a couple of times.
After weeks waiting in Vavau for a starting engine, Haapai was just what we needed! Less populated and quieter, we found it beautiful and relaxing.
We anchored by Foa island, home to two resorts and several beautiful beaches. Just south of Foa and across a bridge is Haapai’s main island of Lifuka and the port town of Pangai.
Discovering a truly special place is one of my favorite aspects of this nomadic seafaring life. We recently sailed from French Polynesia to the compact island nation of Niue, spent five nights in Niue and loved every minute of our short visit there!
I hadn’t even heard of Niue a few months ago, and that’s not surprising. Most of its visitors and many of its residents hail from New Zealand. However small, Niue is an impressive country. It left its mark on us!
Niue, which means “Behold the Coconut,” is pronounced Nyoo-Ay.
Niue is a ruggedly beautiful country in the South Pacific Ocean. Itis defined by dramatic high cliffs, which we could see as we approached by boat. This explains why Niue is also known as the Rock of Polynesia.
For sailors, Niue has one safe bay on the western side of the island near the town of Alofi. The bay is very deep almost right next to shore (the cliffs), so Niue’s yacht club installed moorings for boats to tie to for their stay. We were one of the first boats there after several years of Covid lockdowns, so it was exciting for us and the people of Niue!