Literary City Guide | Auckland, New Zealand

The authentic Auckland experience is a summer’s day on a beach watching the yachts heading past Rangitoto. It is paddling a canoe up Meola Creek and landing on the reef and cooking fish on the rocks. … [It is] landing on an uninhabited island and empty beach. It is Regatta Day – with more yachts than Sydney’s. That is what nostalgic Aucklanders think of in London’s damp and cold. The sun on their skin.
— Keith Sinclair, Historian

Tour Guide: Lauren Orlina

Lauren is an American expat who moved to Auckland seven years ago from Santa Barbara with her surfer boyfriend. When she’s not working for a leading NZ web design agency by day, she daydreams about travelling to exotic destinations, becoming a yoga teacher, and throwing her next party. Lauren has recently started blogging about what inspires her at A Little Grace.


Relationship to Auckland: I moved here seven years ago from California.

Writer you'd like to invite to dinner: Amy Tan

Chef you'd like to prepare the meal: Nadia Lim (NZ MasterChef winner)

Writing soundtrack: Nick Drake’s Pink Moon (even as I type this).

Pen or Pencil: Usually pen, but pencil when feeling doodly and playful.

Coffee or Tea: Soy chai latte please! Coffee makes me an insomniac.

Paperback or Hardback? Paperback is so much easier to cuddle with.

Good Reads


Unity Books. I love this independent bookstore on High Street so much and there’s always something that intrigues me. Once I picked up a small pink book of love poems by Pablo Neruda and got swept away. 

The Women’s Bookshop. A bookshop dedicated to promoting women’s writing and perspectives - how cool is that?!

The Book Lover. Lovely bookstore in Takapuna, a beach town on Auckland’s North Shore. Get a book and hit the sand.  

Children’s Bookshop. How fun would it be to bring kids to this creative space and set them loose with their imagination? 

Rare Books. One of the oldest bookstores in NZ where you can find an amazing collection of fine books, collectables, 18th century maps, and vintage photographs. 

Hard to Find Books. A treasure-trove of over 90,000 books to suit all kinds of tastes in a two story Victorian shop. Affordable prices too!  

Jason’s Books. Bookstore in the central city with specialist collections for NZ, Maori, art and literature.


Auckland City Libraries. The main library network for the Auckland region and the biggest one is downtown. I could spend hours here. With a café attached, there’s a great community vibe and lots of activities going on. One time I saw a live band playing – not your typical “quiet” library. It’s fun!

Alphabet City. This zine library is a community art space dedicated to printing and words. With the largest collection of zines in the city, you’ll want to nestle and spend some time here. Write a letter on a retro typewriter, learn letterpress printing - there’s so much magic in this space.


Poetry Live. The longest running poetry night in Auckland happens every Tuesday night at the Thirsty Dog. It’s been in the community for over thirty years and features a guest poet, musician, and open mic for budding poets out there.

Inside Out. An open mic spoken word event held at One2One Café where writers are given five minutes at a time to share their work be it a short story, sections of novel, poetry, rap, and more. 

Auckland City Library. You can count on the library to have lots of cool events from readings to workshops and exhibitions.


Auckland Writers Festival. This annual festival brings together international and New Zealand writers and thinkers “to explore ideas, share stories, and experience brilliant conversations.” With over 100 public events and 10,000 festival goers, this is the festival to go to if you are an avid writer and book lover. 

Auckland Literary Heritage Trail. A guide to the literary sites around Auckland.

Writing groups. Here’s a comprehensive list of writing groups in Auckland and other North Island regions. 

Basement Theatre. I love this artsy community theatre and it’s a great platform for up and coming playwrights and artists. You can see a show for the affordable price of $20 NZD. 

Academy Cinemas. This is the place to watch that new indie film everyone’s talking about as well as foreign films, and cult classics. They recently celebrated Pulp Fiction’s 20th anniversary and they even have $5 movie specials.  

Iko Iko. It’s a gift shop filled with stationery, amazing coffee table books people will want to read, home décor and crafty goodness. 

Good Eats


Verona. This is an iconic establishment on K Road, considered to be the center of Auckland’s bohemian and alternative scene. Verona always feels like an old friend to me - great drinks, beautiful food, art, jazz nights, and friendly staff.  Outdoor area is perfect for people watching.

Roasted Addiqtion. Café in Kingsland, one of my favourite neighbourhoods in town. I like to browse art on their walls from emerging talent and sit in the garden patio with my corn fritters. 

Dizengoff. Trendsetting Ponsonby cafe (aka hipster central) where people always seem to look too good in the mornings. Kiwis do big breakfasts like none other and the creamy balsamic mushrooms on toast are just heavenly!  

Federal and Wolfe. This place is always buzzin with Aucklanders before they have to hit work downtown. I love their fresh juices and smoothies which are easy to order and the colourful menu is conveniently on the wall. This place will energise you and once I spotted a DJ at 8am! 

Ruben. Close to my work in Parnell, this cafe is located in the uber modern, sustainably built Geyser building with a lot of natural light.  Really nice gluten free smoked salmon bagels and the tarts are always amazing. I also like their minimalist style and terrariums on tables.

Tea Culture (Te Karanga Gallery). No coffee here but I thought I’d mention something for the tea lovers. Imagine a tea house, tattoo parlour, art gallery and radio station in one space! Specialty teas from all over the world as far as Nepal. It’s also a nice place to write.

Miller’s Coffee. If I were to drink coffee, I would opt for Miller’s because of its bold taste. Have a flat white at this boutique roasting company near K Road.


Tanuki. Traditional Japanese restaurant and sake bar has been our mainstay for years. If you’re up for yakitori, head to the downstairs restaurant Tanuki’s Cave.  

Moo Chow Chow. Bangkok street food made sublime.  

Little Mexico. Intimate Mexican cantina complete with a tequila bar (ay caramba!). The chimichanga is always a no brainer. 

Ostro. My boyfriend took me on a date to this brasserie for our 15 year anniversary. The impeccable food, top notch service, and trendy Britomart location made it a night to remember. 

Belgian Bar Café. Every tourist needs to stop here to try the famous New Zealand green-lipped mussels and pair them with a fine Belgian beer. 

Betsia. Turkish kebabs are an Auckland, fast food staple and this is by far one of the best places to get them. 

Elliot Stables. Auckland’s take on a fancy international foodcourt with cobblestones, dark wooden furnishings, candlelight and live jazz. Pick from a variety of restaurants for tapas, sushi, crepes, bruschetta and more.

Easy Kiwi Dinner. Go to any fish and chip shop and grab the fresh catch with kumara (NZ sweet potato) chips. Pick a beach, have a picnic, and watch the sunset. It’s sweet as (Kiwi for awesome!)


Little and Friday. Homemade deliciousness  in the city for something special savoury or sweet. 

Giapo. The place for “haute ice cream” and creative twists on gelato. 

Moustache Milk and Cookie Bar. My favourite cookies in town. Flavours like Nutella, Snickers, Cinnamon, and always a new one to surprise you will keep you coming back.   

Vaniye. Patisserie showcasing the delicate art of French desserts.  

Takapuna Beach Café & Store. A must-do while in Takapuna. Grab a gelato, stroll on the beach, and take in the views.

Lauren's 5 Favorites

1. Favorite view: Definitely the Auckland city skyline as I ride the bus along Harbour Bridge in the mornings. I observe Auckland waking up as I pass Rangitoto (an inactive volcano), surrounding islands, and boats on the water. Known to the world as the City of Sails, Auckland is the largest city in New Zealand.  

2. Favorite place to write: I do enjoy writing with the comforts of home but I like to bring my journal to the beach and write. Beaches here are plentiful - adorned with caves, waterfalls, secret coves. It’s not uncommon to find a pristine coastline to yourself! 

3. Favorite museum: The Auckland Art Gallery has extensive collections of New Zealand artwork including Maori portraits, colonial landscapes, and modern art. There are special events like late nights at the museum and international exhibitions from rock ‘n’ roll photography to Impressionism and California design.  

4. Favorite coffee shop: Remedy Coffee is my regular pit stop before work in the mornings. They make a mean spicy chai latte, have an awesome book exchange, cool retro furniture, and get this - soul and 70s music to get you going! I wish I could live here. 

5. Favorite thing about Auckland: I like that Auckland is a melting pot of so many different cultures. I’ve made friends from Tibet, Argentina, Iraq, Philippines, Mauritius (try finding that on a map) - all over the world! I am always fascinated by each individual’s story about how they ended up all the way in NZ. This video depicts everything I love about my city and makes me proud to be an Aucklander.