Auckland skyline

Quirkland: Exploring Auckland’s Creative and Alternative Side

18 May 2017

Auckland presents a clean-cut and conformist image to the world. But peel away your preconceptions and dig a little deeper in the City of Sails and you’ll stumble into a colourful bohemian world populated by inked baristas, bearded bartenders and quirky types. Here’s a short guide to exploring Auckland’s creative and alternative side.

Head Straight to Ponsonby

Ponsonby is the epicentre of Auckland’s hipster and alternative crowd. Throughout the suburb’s history, this vibrant inner-city enclave has been home to writers, musicians, actors and artists, giving the postcode an undeniable creative spirit which is reflected in the quirky cafes, trendy bars and venues, and galleries that colonise its streets and lanes. A wander around is definitely recommended.

Hang With the Locals

Tattooed barista pours a coffee Sit back and soak up the creative vibe in Ponsonby. Image: Getty

Head to local favourite Golden Dawn in Ponsonby for a dose of the weird and wonderful, with a constantly changing music program, regular live acts and stand-up comedy. Whilst in the area, also stop by at cute Queenies for breakfast or lunch, and excellent coffee. You’ll find various vintage stores scattered throughout Ponsonby too – if you fancy a little souvenir. If you’re interested in taking home a more permanent reminder of your stay in Auckland, you’ll also be happy to know that Ponsonby is also home to many of the city’s best tattoo parlours.

Embrace Your Inner Rainbow

Dog on street wearing colouring floral wrap around neck. Get amongst it all on K-Road. Image: Getty

K-Road is also another bastion of Auckland’s bohemian spirit. Short for Karangahape Road, this central Auckland main street is famous for its cool cafes, eclectic boutique shopping and its vibrant gay scene. Indeed, this strip of the city lights up like a rainbow during the annual Auckland Pride Festival in February. K-Road is also one of Auckland’s premier entertainment and nightlife areas. Come after dark and discover a world of entertainment and drinking holes, from cocktail lounges, indie music venues, EDM clubs and adult cabaret – all LGBT friendly.

Get All Sophisticated At the Galleries

If you’d rather appreciate your art off the streets and possibly with a glass of wine in hand, spend some time at Auckland’s many and varies art galleries. Artspace is an Auckland artistic institution, a space where new ideas in art and culture are presented to the public through an innovative programme of exhibitions and events, such as artist talks and art writing workshops. Also worth checking out is Two Rooms, which is one of Auckland’s best contemporary galleries and regularly hosts exhibitions from both local and international artists. Whitespace is another awesome contemporary art gallery converted from an industrial warehouse and located in Ponsonby – definitely worthy of a gander.

Explore Auckland’s Burgeoning Street Art Scene

Two men create a graffiti wall mural Where you least expect it, Auckland offers up some world-class street art. Image: Getty

Auckland is no stranger to street art. Signing up for a 90-minute Auckland Street-Art Tour led by a local guide is perhaps the best way to peel back the city’s bland reputation and uncover Auckland’s vibrant creative side. During the tour you’ll explore the bohemian hotspots of K-Road and Ponsonby and stumble upon fantastic murals and graffiti works (of art). Along the way you’ll also pass working artist studios and walk through Myers Park, home to interesting outdoor sculptures.

Auckland Rocks!

Auckland’s penchant for creative expression also extends to the sonic arts, and the city’s dynamic music scene – although no Melbourne, New York or London – certainly delivers the goods, especially if you like your music on the alternative side. Around since the 80s, Powerstation is an Auckland institution and regularly hosts the best international acts, such as Radiohead, Soundgarden, Ramones and The Amity Affliction. The cavernous Whammy Bar is the dark throne of Auckland’s music scene. Flock here for your metal, rock and hardcore punk fix. If jazz, country, folk or bluegrass tickles your musical bones, stop by The Tuning Fork in Auckland’s CBD for good vibes and great tunes.


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Shaun Busuttil

If I was friends with a magician, I’d message them on FB and ask them out for a beer. Then once at the bar, I’d plead like crazy for them to turn me into a bird so I could spread my wings and fly all over the world – for free! In the meantime, I guess I’ll just have to settle for being a travel writer with an incurable case of wanderlust and a remarkable ability to get lost. Follow my Facebook here.