A night in the city – an Auckland family adventure

Since we have been living a little more rural, we don’t go into the city much.  We’re no longer ‘town folk’!  So we thought, why not plan a night in the city so we can explore.  Auckland of course is the city we’re talking about.  Actually even when we lived closer, we didn’t go in there that much – it seemed too far.  So now, we have to make a trip of it!  A bit of a ‘staycation’.

To be honest, now that we have Haeata it’s not as easy just to up and travel somewhere.  I’d forgotten what it was like travelling with a baby.  Not only do we have to pack things for him, he’s not a fan of the car at all, which makes trips a bit painful!  Ah I don’t know what it is, but Rakeiora never liked the car for his first year pretty much either.  So we do as much as we can (Mama sits in the back if possible) to keep him as happy.

What to do?

We knew we wanted to stay right in the city so we could walk around.  A squiz on Booking.com browsing through photos and reviews, and we decided on the Crowne Plaza.  Good location, decent price, the rooms looked nice and breakfast included – tick!

Rakeiora hadn’t been up the Sky Tower yet, so we knew that had to be part of the trip.  Aotea Square also had the ice skating rink and snow dome back so we thought this could be cool to have a look at.  We had also been meaning to go and look around Viaduct Harbour a bit more, so that was also on the agenda.  Otherwise, some shopping and of course tasting some good food.

Accommodation – Crowne Plaza Auckland

From our perspective, there are so many hotels in Auckland city so we weren’t totally sure which one we had booked, but once we pulled up to the Crowne Plaza, we were happy with our choice.  The hotel is attached to the Atrium on Elliot carpark and shopping centre, so really this is ideal.  You literally don’t have to go outside if you don’t want to, which is perfect for some of these cold and wet Winter days.  Of course, we were still going to brave the weather, but you know what I’m saying.

The front desk provided really good service – friendly and quick, which is just what you want, regardless if you have kids in tow.  Up to our room and Rakeiora was impressed with both the view and the room – win win.  He was flying from couch to bed and back, testing out the bounce factor of course!  But anyway, the room was nice.  Your typical hotel type room but there were some nice little touches.  One was a sleep spray (natural mist to help induce sleep – yes please).  Rakeiora was also impressed with the food left in there for us (referring to the mini bar of course!) so luckily for him, the free biscuits provided a good taste test.  We were also lucky enough to receive a fruit basket and welcome note – very nice way to make you feel that little bit special.

Breakfast the next day went down a treat, as expected.  We’re not the type to put on a spread for breakfast at home ever, so it’s pretty cool to have a huge selection to choose from.  Everything we tried, was delicious, and didn’t have that bulk cooking taste that you sometimes get at a buffet.  Nice touch on the juicing station and I was pretty impressed with the honey panel, so it felt like you were getting it straight from a hive.  Service was spot on again too and the waiter came back during the meal to see if Rakeiora wanted a hot chocolate, which he did of course, but only took one sip (oh the waste factor of a child is hard to avoid!)  However, the coffee was perfect and just what I needed after our 4am excited wake up call (again from Rakeiora!)  He doesn’t usually wake at that time, but he was a bit too eager to play with Optimus Prime and Bumblebee!

Overall, a big thumbs up to Crowne Plaza Auckland.  We definitely enjoyed our stay here and would come back for sure.

Sky Tower

Rakeiora had already created for himself this huge excitement around going up the Sky Tower.  He had been referring to it as a ‘Waka Tuarangi’ which is a space ship (because it looks like one to him) so as we approached the city he was increasing the gears of anticipation each time!  As we were heading to the Sky Tower, there were lots of ‘woahs’ and, “Titiro!”  (Look!) so our excitement peaked just because he was having so much fun.

We happened to be visiting during the last weekend of the school holidays so ‘Scotty’s Birthday Party’ was going on.  This included a few games and activities for the kids, ‘Scotty’ himself was walking around and free popcorn bags were on offer.  It wasn’t overly busy when we went up so it was good, you didn’t feel like you in too much of a crowd, which I really don’t like.  We probably spent a good half hour up there looking and exploring, then we had to try the Sky Cafe, which wasn’t there the last time Mama and Papa visited.  It was a really nice cafe – funky decor and the icecream looked good.  Rakeiora enjoyed his with some M&M sprinkles on top of course.

For the full tourist experience, the shop that you enter and exit through has lots to offer and a few of the body creams caught my eye, which doesn’t usually happen in shops like that.  There was the opportunity to buy the family photo and souvenir book, but unfortunately our faces in that photo didn’t warrant the money so we didn’t get it!  A nice momento though if you weren’t going to do this experience much.  We intend to go back some time though.  Thanks Sky Tower – you never disappoint.

Places to eat

Because we were so starving by the time we arrived in the city, we went to the closest place.  Best not let Mama get ‘hangry’!  So off to the Atrium on Elliot foodcourt, which is a mix of lots of different Asian type food.  We love this type of food, so we were happy.  Never keen to wait too long, Rakeiora and I went straight to a sushi place, which we had been to last time, but I was pregnant with Haeata so I was super keen to try it this time.  They actually have so many choices it’s a bit mind boggling but I chose a few tasty looking morsels for each of us, and couldn’t pass up their version of a donut twist?!  It looked ok, and Papa was so impressed that we had to go back and buy another one! They actually tasted like fried bread with a sprinkle of sugar on top – can’t go wrong there.  If you don’t know what fried bread is, it’s a fave for us Māori so have a google!

Another food place I was keen to try was somewhere that did nice desserts or cakes.  I had read about a place called Oko Dessert Kitchen online so when I spotted it, I had to try something.  I ended up choosing a hazelnut chocolate mousse (I rarely ever veer from chocolately goodness).  It seemed really delicate and different, but I liked it and I devoured it fairly quickly later that night at the hotel watching ‘Collateral Beauty’ with Will Smith.  We hadn’t sat down and watched a movie in a long time so took advantage of the paid service at the Crowne Plaza while the boys were asleep.  By the way, we would recommend this movie if you haven’t seen it.

There are so many nice looking food spots in the city to try, that we’d have to go back a lot to give them all a go, so next trip, we will definitely have to try a few more.  Everything from high end restaurants, your usual fast food outlets,  to some really funky shipping container food stalls right outside the hotel.  With kids though, food that is fast, generally seems to win us over.  I would love to go a restaurant and have a nice slow-paced sit down meal, but we might have to save that for another time.

Shopping

Shopping wise, we didn’t venture too far.  The weather played a big factor, but also the carry factor (one son carried all the time, one son carried part of the time).  There are so many quirky parts to the city – back street high fashion outlets, department stores, flagship stores, and some pretty awesome specialty stores.  We explored a few, but spent most of our time looking after a three year old with lightning quick hands.

The immediate stores within Atrium on Elliot were great.  Handy little places for things you might have forgotten (as you sometimes do when you have had to pack your kitchen sink).

Exploring

There are also a tonne of activities to do within the city.  Within a five minute walk from our accomodation you could be bowling, watching a movie, or playing an arcade game.  Late Saturday evening we headed to Aotea Square where the ice skating rink was set up, along with a snow dome, which seemed more up our alley for Rakeiora.  It was a cool vibe there at night, albeit a bit cold!  Going into the snow dome, Rakeiora was a little apprehensive at first as he wasn’t too keen to explore the ice.  To be fair, neither was I!  There was one other family in there too, and for son, that is usually a big enough deterrent.  We weren’t there that long so before we left, we spotted a family coming in and offered the tickets to them – pay fun forward we thought.  They were happy, so we were happy.  Rakeiora was happy enough just looking around in the end – love that about him.  After that, we were ready to head back to the hotel.  It was actually pretty strange being out ‘after bedtime’ and ‘in the city’ – haven’t done that in a long time!

Sunday morning we headed to Viaduct Harbour, initially to the Silo Park playground, which looked pretty cool online.  It was a lot smaller than I thought, but handy with a nearby carpark which in Auckland city is a luxury.  Again, Rakeiora wasn’t so keen to play with so many kids there, but he was pretty interested in climbing over the rocks.  Sure, why not!  It was nice to meet up with an old friend too and walk through Wynard Quarter, check out all the boats in the harbour and just enjoy the sun. There are some nice looking spots to eat here too, so we’d be keen to try that next time.

The round up

We are so glad we planned this night away in Auckland city.  It was good to just have a change of scene for a bit and a break from the norm.  We were happy with where we stayed and felt like we planned to do just enough.  We didn’t try to squeeze too much in, so we didn’t have this self-imposed pressure to be somewhere else.  Though, I didn’t get my massage from Bliss Reflexology that I had planned to do, so that will be a certain next time!  There’s a lot of value in exploring your own backyard.  Next time we’d probably stay two nights just to fit in a few other things we didn’t get time to do.  But thanks Auckland – we’ll be back!

To read about more of our travels head to our Adventures page.

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44 Comments

  1. Wow looked like an awesome time in the city. New Zealand is in our bucket list of places to go. And I loved the video at the end.

  2. That looks like a cool city to visit!
    I’ve never been to NZ but an ex college mate of mine lived there for a long time and she would post beautiful pics all the time!
    Would love to visit someday along with Australia, beautiful countries!!

    1. I think New Zealand has a lot of natural beauty. Auckland is one of the towns that reminds me of so many cities that we have travelled to, but it has its own special flavour.

      We travel with our boys everywhere so being close to everything is so important. I think that is what made this trip really great.

    1. I think the place that you are staying makes such a big difference to your trip.

      That is one of the reasons we started writing our adventures so that other families could see what we loved. It is such a great way to look for great places to stay.

  3. This looks like an excellent staycation!! I’ve never done one, but if I was to, Auckland would be on the list. So beautiful and looks fun! Thank you for this idea!

    1. Hi Sarah, you should definately see more. Auckland is such a great place to visit. There are so many parts of New Zealand that I love. Queenstown is one of them.

      We are hoping to travel the whole of New Zealand this year. Lets see how it all goes!

  4. It is so fun to play tourist in your own area. We often talk about what we would do in the “big city” if we were in from out of town and laugh that we’re fifteen minutes away and take it for granted.

  5. Looks like such a fun time! Love all the pictures you took. It’s easy to take the city for granted when you live right by it so it’s nice to really explore it like you did now.

  6. What a fun little outing for you and your family. I love exploring my local area & of course, enjoying it with your littles is the best part. Way to go Mama on getting out and about with them! Cute photos too 🙂

  7. Sounds as if you had a fabulous “staycation”! I have to admit, reading about your food adventures and seeing the lovely pics of that part is my fave part/is making me hungry right now 🙂 Funny how exploring familiar places with your kids changes everything, huh?

  8. I love the idea of a staycation! A fun time without all of the extra stress is great. I always say when you have a baby it’s like you have to pack everything but the kitchen sink I also love that you had a great breakfast – we don’t usually prepare big breakfasts for ourselves either! Glad y’all had fun!

  9. It looks like you all had an awesome time, I love staycations. I think it leads to great family bonding and just exploring areas you don’t get to see that often. The Corwne Plaza sounds like it was really nice!

  10. I love the Crowne Plaza too. My family stays at their properties all the time here in the States. Now I need to go stay at the one in Auckland. Looks lovely!

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