Toby Morris's Auckland
I’m Toby Morris - a cartoonist, illustrator, writer and Creative Director at The Spinoff. I’m from Wellington originally, but have been in Auckland for about seven years now, and I’m still finding new favourites all the time. We live right between Sandringham Rd and Dominion Rd and we love the mix of cultures in that area.
Art in Potter’s Park
173 Balmoral Road, Mount Eden, Auckland
In the middle section of Dominion Road there’s a stretch of chinese restaurants, and close to that, on the corner of Balmoral and Dominion Roads, is one of my favourite busy parks to sit and eat and people watch. Get some takeaway dumplings at New Flavour or Belly Worship and eat in the park. Along the way you’ll see a sculpture called OnDo - a giant bowl of noodles emerging from a ring of road cones. Across the road are two more sculptures. You can’t miss Boy Walking, but see if you can find the tiny tiny bronze house too. It’s fun to make up stories about how these three pieces are related.
Musician-spotting at Flying Out
80 Pitt Street, Auckland Central
Just off K Rd is the best little record shop in Auckland. It’s run by - and kind of overlapping with - the modern version of Flying Nun. If you’re into old Flying Nun, it’s the best place to find their old records, but mainly it’s the place to keep up with the best new stuff happening in Auckland and New Zealand music. It’s really welcoming and non-wanky, and you’ll come across all sorts of interesting stuff. If you spend a bit of time browsing, you’ll probably see a string of musicians come in and out to catch up with staff.
Live music at St Kevin’s Arcade
183 Karangahape Road, St Kevin's Arcade, Auckland Central
The place to see live music in Auckland. If it’s happening, it’s at Whammy or Wine Cellar. Both are in St Kevin’s Arcade, an old half-mall, half-passageway between Myers Park and K Rd and a traditional hangout of Auckland creative kids. The arcade has been gentrified in recent years, but Whammy and Wine Cellar are still just at the perfect level of original grunginess. It’s where the best live music will be playing if you’re up for a dance or a foot tap or a head nod. Or if you’re just after a drink in the low light, the Wine Cellar front bar is comfy and unpretentious.
Sunset with fish n chips at Pt Chev Beach
Harbour View Road, Point Chevalier
My favourite spot for an outdoor dinner is the south end of Pt Chev beach at sunset. Park near the corner of Edith Street and Harbour View Road and take one of the paths near there down to the beach. At that end it's a bit quieter and you can sit on the grass among the pohutukawas and watch the sunset over the hills in the west. Bring some fish and chips or whatever easy takeaways you like. And if you time it right with the tide, you can even get a quick sunset swim in, which is about as good as it gets.
Custard tart from La Voie Française
Shop 4/875 Dominion Road, Mount Roskill, Auckland
Usually referred to by locals as ‘the French bakery’ or just ‘Frenchie’. As in ‘mmm damn is this bread from Frenchie?’ This bakery, on the south end of Dominion Road, makes the best bread in Auckland. There’s often a queue on weekends, but it’s worth the wait. The baguettes are incredible and all the sweet stuff is amazing. My personal favourite is the Far Breton - a kind of baked custard tart with prunes.
Te Henga/Bethell’s Beach
Feeling better at Bethells Beach
Honestly, one of the best things about Auckland is that in almost every direction you can drive 30-45mins out of town and you get to somewhere incredible. I love the West Coast beaches - wild and dark and windy. Definitely good for a walk and a brain refresh, or a swim and a picnic. Piha is amazing and I love it, but lately we’ve been enjoying Bethells a lot, too. It’s so dramatic and beautiful, and you always leave feeling better about the world.
854 Dominion Road, Mount Eden, Auckland
One good thing to come out of Covid (for customers at least) has been some of the really high-end places evolving slightly to include more affordable, side businesses or takeaways. I’ve never eaten dinner at the proper Cazador. It sounds incredible, but is a bit fancy for me. Now they’ve opened a little hole-in-the-wall type deli. It’s open to the street during the day. They have sandwiches and coffee and it’s all amazing. The first time I had one of their sandwiches, I thought about it for a week.
Eating up in the Morningside precinct
20 McDonald Street, Sandringham, Auckland
I have to shout out my other local - the base for The Spinoff where I work. The building used to be a curtain factory and now has a vegetarian café, Kind (which does a mean huevos rancheros), a good fried chicken place called Electric Chicken and a little hole in the wall dumpling place called Bo’s. My tip is the pancake roll at Bo’s. I like the lamb, wrapped up in roti. Morningside is changing - used to be a light industrial area- still mostly lots of little factories and workshops, but it’s morphing into something new. Bonus points - see if you can spot the Prime Minister in Kind, she hangs out there sometimes.
Meet the arts community at Toi Tū
1 Ponsonby Road, Ponsonby, Auckland
You'll spot Toi Tū at the K Road end of Ponsonby Road when you see the huge stylised graphic drips of paint coming out of the windows of a beautiful old brick building. It's one of my favourite facades in Auckland, a crazy mash of old and new and it makes me laugh every time I go there. Toi Tū is a community art space, a set of artist studios and a gallery rolled into one. There's always something interesting on there, whether it's a talk or community art lessons or exhibitions that range from up and comers to established artists. The art world can be snobby and closed off, but I like Toi Tu for it's welcoming inclusive community energy.
Wrestle with comic artists at Arkham City Comics
2/885 Manukau Road, Royal Oak, Auckland
If you're into comics, the friendliest shop in Auckland is Arkham in Royal Oak. I like Arkham because it acts as a community space as much as a shop. They run clubs and game nights and you'll often overhear the community of customers coming in and out and catching up. Their service is always super friendly and if you're lucky you'll find resident wrestler and comic artist, Michel Mulipola, working on his own comics behind the counter.