Humbug CafeGlen EdenHumbug is a great local to hit up when you’re meeting a girlfriend + baby for lunch or when you’ve stopped in mid-afternoon to scan a few emails over a freshly brewed cuppa. The staff are great, the food is topper and there is plenty of space and toys around to keep the littler ones busy.
Deco EateryTitirangiDeco Eatery lies in the heart of Titirangi, well it’s closer to the roundabout, but it’s host Lopdell house is the true beating heart of this little village. Surrounded by the art gallery, function spaces, bakery, theatre hub, and other Titirangi pop-ins-and-ups, it’s the perfect spot to grab lunch come Sunday. Visit the local markets with your folks and then get your caffeine fix at the newest hot-spot in the village.
Vevo FoodstoreTitirangiI love Vevo for many a many reasons. The staff are lovely, the coffee is on point and the smashed avocado has become a personal weakness. I think it’s the chilli flakes that do it for me. I love coming here for a late brunch with my ma and just relaxing to the buzz of locals catching up. It’s a sweet little nook that’s easy to miss, but worth checking out.
Takahe Restaurant & BarTitirangiTakahe is kind of like the cool kid in the village. It’s a little fancier than most - see curly fries. But it’s got just as much as heart as the rest of the village. You’ll see locals popping in here after work for a beer or three. Tradies perched on the stools out front and couples getting cosy inside under the heaters. The food is great, and lives up to it’s fancy-ish reputation with it’s topper presentation. It’s an all rounder really, a nice spot for a romantic meal, a girly catch up over three or so winos, or a few pints in your stubbies.
The Piha CafePihaHaving lived out these ways for a little while - a little while ago, I’ve stopped in at the Piha Cafe a few times. And I really like it. You’ll always bump into someone you might know, the staff are the friendly locals from up the road and the food has a bit of umph to it. I love going here for pizza night with family - the toppings are so good. And for brunch with mates on the weekend. The peak of this little hub is it’s view - can’t beat a spot of coastal scenery whilst you’re sipping on your cuppa joe.
Piha BeachWaitakereBeaches are a go-to romantic spot, their beauty and openness tantalising lovers around the world. Piha, on the other hand, reveals itself as the beach-made-for-singles. It’s busy come weekends, to the point where you’d be lucky to find a private nook at South. The sun shines so bright that couples-selfies are a no go. You’ll always get sand in your packed sandwich, no matter what you try, so a cute picnic would be tragic. Finally, it’s packed with fit surfers and stunning sunbathers, a vision you wouldn’t want your beau to be distracted by whilst you’re lugging around your beach chairs. So get your togs ready, alert your fellow singletons and grab a few gold coins for a sand-free snack from Blair’s on the Beach and you’ll be sorted come Valentines day.
Ponsonby International FoodcourtPonsonbyYou cannot be cute at Ponsonby International Food Court. You just can’t. Whether you’re chowing down on ramen noodles or demolishing a pad thai, you’re guaranteed to get sauce on your face, coriander in your teeth, and yes, you will start heaving from an overzealous chilli courtesy of the friendly Malaysian. And let’s be honest, no one orders a curry and stays cute throughout a date night and gets away with it. This is why the food-court can be declared a Valentines Day free zone. Come Saturday afternoon and you’re starving from dodging the all-day couple brunches at local cafes, head to the food court for some seriously good kai and a breath of valentines-day-free-air.
Les Mills Auckland CityAuckland CentralWhether (most) people like to admit it or not, they often work out to impress other people. If they are willing, this ‘impressing’ usually lands them a Valentines date. This means that on Valentines Day the gym can be considered a lovers free zone. You can work on your abs, glutes, and other body bits and bobs with ease, no fear of stumbling across a loved up pair hovering by the treadmill. Les Mills will be a top pick for you come the 14th, with plenty of training sessions and dance classes on offer, which you can top of with a sauna or a deep tissue massage. Who says you need a spouse to pamper yourself, Less Mills will do it for you.
Pakuranga Night MarketPakurangaThere’s nothing like good food, good people and a great local vibe to distract you from Valentines Day. The Pakuranga Night Markets brings all of this and then some to you, making it the ideal escape on that particularly soppy Saturday. Couples will be lost amongst the crowd and there will be little time for romance as the vendors hustle and bustle between hungry customers. You can wander around without a care in the world, with not a single trace of Valentines Day paraphernalia catching your eye. Visit your favourite stalls, try a little something out of your comfort zone, perhaps the grilled octopus skewers, who’s stopping you?
Heart Foundation NZ - AucklandEllerslieIf we ignore the people who try to earn some chivalry points by taking their date volunteering on Valentines Day, we can declare the activity a Valentines Day free event. Volunteering in your community is a great way to support the locals, help out a charity and allow yourself to step outside of the me-me-me-bubble we’re so accustomed to. This Saturday February 14th you can volunteer your time to the NZ Heart Foundation by helping out as a collector in your local neighbourhood, raising money and awareness for a cause close to Kiwi hearts. Pun intended.
SapporoAlbanySapparo is one of the best little haunts I came across in 2014. It’s popular amongst the locals, who head there for lunch meetings, cute dates and solo-sushi-missions. I’ll happily admit that I often find myself there during a busy week day for a late lunch, a’ la solo-style. They staff are so sweet that they will even usher you towards a kind little corner table, reserved for me and my fellow lonesome lunch-goers. Insiders tip - the lunchboxes are insane, but my personal favourite is the sashimi, it’s just that good.
Bian Sushi & DonburiNewtonTime and again this hallowed spot is voted Best Sushi in Auckland by far posher palettes than mine and it was award-winning status that drew me there in the first place. And boy does Bian deliver - the rice is chewy and flavoursome, the wasabi gives a kick in all the right places and the freshness of the fish (and I’ve heard meats) are absolutely stand-out. What does it for me with sushi is the tuna - how good is their tuna sashimi and sushi counterpart? Well at Bian, it’s the best, the very best. Get here now!
Cima SushiFreemans BayThis cute sushi haven can be found at an awkward little spot in Freemans Bay and you will still find them completely sold out by mid-afternoon. After coming across an empty Cima at 2pm one day and having experienced a Cima-full-belly, I’m now a firm believer that this little treasure has some of the freshest sushi in town. It’s a grab and go kind of vibe inside, perfect for the busy pen-pushers of Auckland. Note, if you get there at the right time (right before they are “all-out!”), the lovely Cima crew will cut you a deal - picture a full, doubled-up sushi box for $5. If that’s a gamble you’re willing to take.
Sushi ZenLynfieldDon’t discount sushi joints that pass the city borders, as Sushi Zen in Lynfield is a stunner of a sushi spot happily filling the bellies of westies and ‘travellers’ alike. Offering up a selection of go-to sushi feasts at a reasonable pocket charge, I’m always more than happy to stop in at Sushi Zen for a grab-and-dash sushi box with extra wasabi, on the way to Piha.
Aunt Lee's SushiHowickThe sushi is so tasty, fresh and full of zingy flavours that no matter where you live in Auckland, I highly recommend taking a trip to Howick to experience the delightfulness that is Aunt Lee’s Sushi. A local who grew up in East Auckland was the first one to put me onto this fantastic Japanese restaurant and I only wish I had found it sooner. This is the definition of traditional sushi hand-crafted with love.
Karaka BayGlendowieKaraka Bay is known to locals as the little hidden gem of Auckland City. It’s so close to all the hustle and bustle, yet manages to stay serene and peaceful. It really is the perfect location for a family day out. Bring the sammies, the bubbles, whatever your fancy, this beach is made for all-day indulging. Make sure you’re wearing at least your jandals though as the only way to reach this sweet spot is through a windy track of Peacock St.
Whites BeachPiha NorthYou know when you stumble across one of New Zealand’s stunning nook and crannies and you have that ah-ha moment? Well this is one of them. Whites is a a beach you go to for peace and tranquillity, unless you’re a surfer chasing waves. It’s so secluded that you’re often alone on its sands, bar the scattering of birds and other local wildlife. You do have to go for a wee little hike in order to get there, but it’s a sweet little nook that you’d want to visit if you had the chance.
Karekare BeachKarekareKarekare Beach is like your sweet, little, yet oh-so fierce grandma. It’s a beautiful and serene spot, but one that can play host to enormous waves, strong currents and even stronger winds. It’s a crowd favourite during summers, when you’ll often see the little ones running up the sand dunes only to slide down them again on their boogie boards. I love it most during the short winter days though, when you can catch a quick brisk walk along the coastline just before sunset. On days when Karekare is really turning it on it’s easy to think that you’ve just stepped into another, yet to be discovered, world.
Piha BeachWaitakereOnce a local, always a lover of Piha. It’s true, I was once quite the lucky duck as I got to experience first-hand what living a-la Piha was like. And yes, it was utter paradise. The beach alone is a stunner frequented by equally stunning surfers from all around the world. With waves as big as your bach and beautiful sands stretched across both South and North Piha, it’s a top-of-your-bucket-list type of visit. Insiders tip - grab some choice food from local favourite ‘Blair’s on the beach’ before you head back into town, their Fish burgers are scrumptious.
Army BayWhangaparaoaArmy Bay is my go-to beach for a sunny session with my girls. It’s a gorgeous little stretch of coastline that’s got just enough curve to dodge the winds. Because of this it’s the perfect little spot for relaxation and rest. You wont find many surfers, but you may spot a few paddle boarders thanks to the calm waters. I’d suggest you pack a picnic, your favourite book and extra spf, for a nice lazy day of sun snoozing and gas-bagging with your mates.