Hotel Grand Windsor is on Queen Street, smack-bang in the middle of downtown Auckland.
Auckland Airport is closest, around 40 minutes by car. Flying from the UK involves a stopover, often in Singapore, Hong Kong or Los Angeles. From London Heathrow, the trip usually takes around 27 hours.
You won’t need your own set of wheels in the city – the hotel’s in the heart of the central business district (CBD), putting you within walking distance of the best boutiques, bars and restaurants, including those on the waterfront. Auckland Transport buses, trains and ferries have you covered when you want to venture further afield. If you still want to hire a car, the Smith24 team can arrange it.
Worth getting out of bed for
Chef Jinu Abraham’s wholesome breakfasts are reason enough to throw off the covers. His preference for organic and free-range produce makes the hot dishes shine, paired with zesty tisanes or speciality coffee. If you’ve been out sightseeing all day, swing back to hotel for their high tea, a tradition that’s been going since the 1930s, when the building was home to Cooke’s Tearoom. Beyond the hotel, all the diversions of downtown await. Wellington may be the country’s official culture capital, but no city in the country has a bigger art scene than Auckland. Te Tuhi, Gow Langsford and the Auckland Art Gallery are brimming with the work of national artists, both established and emerging. Another creative industry that’s booming in Auckland is fashion – check out Zambesi, Maggie Marilyn and Deadly Ponies for a taste of the local talent. But while Auckland is the only city in the country approaching anything like a metropolis, its immediate surroundings include wide beaches, moss-green cliffs and snow-capped volcanoes, putting natural splendour within easy reach. A 40-minute ferry-ride will take you to Waiheke Island, home to almost 30 wineries producing some of the country’s best wine. At 600 years old, Rangitoto is the youngest volcano in New Zealand, and its 259-metre-high peak offers panoramic views of Auckland and the Hauraki Gulf. The island’s coastal crust of jagged rock soon gives way to a lush green interior, making it a favourite among hikers.
Skipped breakfast? Stylish café Major Sprout is fast becoming a local hero, with diners flocking in droves for their smoked-salmon omelettes, first-rate fry-ups and buttermilk pancakes, served with a decadent topping of almond mascarpone, butterscotch, torched marshmallows and toasted granola. Their lunch menu is just as covetable, featuring several Korean dishes – try the bibimbap or sticky fried chicken. For a waterfront lunch, try Buoy on the Westhaven Marina, the heart of Auckland’s yachting scene. Sliding glass doors lead to a terrace on the water’s edge, where you can sit and survey the bobbing boats. The beer-battered fish and seafood chowder are both winners, particularly on a breezy day. Owned by celebrity chef Al Brown, Depot is perfect for a relaxed dinner. This lively, industrial-style eatery is famed for its plates of plump oysters and succulent meat dishes – think racks of ribs, beef brisket and lamb neck – all cooked over a hardwood or charcoal grill. Pair with jugs of craft beer or a bottle of New Zealand wine – the list is full of Al’s favourites. For all-out fine-dining, book the Grove, a stylish but un-snooty restaurant next to St. Patrick’s Cathedral. The kitchen's produce is drawn from some of New Zealand’s best small suppliers, cooked with as much precision and flair as the best Parisian restaurants.
It might be in Auckland’s fashionable Britomart development, but Caretaker feels more like a slice of 1920s New York, complete with a ‘hidden’ entrance, brick walls and barmen filleting ice by hand. Its prohibition-era looks make it a louche counterpart to the hotel’s polished elegance. You won’t find any watered-down hooch, however: no corners are cut when it comes to their craft cocktails, many of which are based on drinks that were popular in the 19th and 20th centuries.