The Big Picture
Morningside: Impeccably Connected
You’ll need a nice pair of Nikes at Aalto — or All Stars or Allbirds or Birkenstocks or Blundstones — because you’ll want to walk everywhere. It’s just too quick, too easy — too central — to bother with checking bus or train timetables.
Consider this: you’re a four-minute stroll (300m) to Morningside, pound for pound the coolest ’burb in the city. The Kingsland Strip is a nine-minute walk (800m) away. St Lukes is 15 minutes (1.2km) one way, Western Springs Park the same distance the other. Even the CBD is eminently strollable, with the up-the-guts route along New North Road, and the cruising-along-the-shared-path way beside the Northwestern Motorway, a tick over 40 minutes (3.3km).
But if you want to take the train, Morningside Station is just five minutes (400m) away. New North Road is even closer, alive with buses, and then there’s that bike path just down the hill. Driving? The Western Springs link to the Auckland motorway system is 1.4km down the hill.
Shops and merchants
You’re so splendidly situated that we’ve made the call to leave out St Lukes and surrounds — hundreds of retailers large and small — and focus solely on eclectic Morningside itself (lest this booklet run to an unmanageable size).
Auckland Camera Centre bills itself as the city’s “original old school camera store” which is half-true: it’s also a modern-day marvel staffed by kindly camera nerds who’ll spend an hour showing you stuff even after you tell them you’ve left your wallet at home.
Equally evangelistic (and equally lovely) are the Toy Box crew who restore old toys and give them a second chance to bring joy. Evidently, ‘big kids’ are among their top customers, resurrected treasures reconnecting them to playtimes past.
An orchestra of oompa-loompas at Miann Chocolate Factory cook up chocolate from bean to bar (and thus infuse Morningside with the most delicious smells). Choc lovers, choc enthusiasts — ie. almost all humans — will accidentally on purpose visit here no more than three times a week.
Thankfully, there are two fine local gyms, Health & Sports and Anytime Fitness, to help undo your ill-discipline.
The Land of Kings
This 300m strip crackles with life, love and laughter. Herewith dozens of cafes, bars and feasting houses — the densest concentration of buzz in Auckland — and all on your doorstep. Of course, Kingsland’s chief (only?) drawback is its extreme lack of parking, hardly an issue for Aalto residents who are a nine-minute amble away along well-lit New North Road.
Food, glorious food!
Having successfully resisted Kingsland’s allure, we’re going to focus solely on those establishments we can walk to inside five minutes. So. Start at Morningside Shops with a tour and tasting at Urbanaut Brewery Co, the craft beer beloved by the city’s hipster elite. Recommendation? Miami Brut Lager, “an endless vacation packed into 250mls”.
Two doors down is Sake Bar icco. “This is a jewel of a restaurant,” enthused the Herald’s Kim Knight, who availed herself of agedashi shiki tofu, a sashimi platter, deep-fried halloumi, then grilled eggplant … then cream-splurged banana caramel pie (then, then…). Knight: “We should have stopped there. We didn’t. More wine … We left this house with our stomachs full and our hearts fuller.”
Three more worthy establishments in this block. For breakfast? A quick pitstop at Peel to Pip (tagline “Bring the kids. Bring your dog. Ask for that extra-long complicated coffee order”). Lunch. Tiffin Indian’s bang-for-buck $12 lunches warrant a weekly pilgrimage. Dinner/Drinks? Try 605 Morningside Drinkery, home to good kai, better beer, a cool courtyard and fine Thursday quiz night.
That’s assuming you don’t cross the tracks, past Papagaio Health Kitchen, and into the rather marvellous Morningside Precinct.
The anchor of awesomeness here is Crave café, always packed to the gunnels, yet somehow retaining a homely vibe. This might be because it’s literally the local’s local, owned by a collective, its profits returned to the community.
Crave’s success is such that its spawned two offshoots, the Morningcidery bar and the mostly vegan café KIND (signature dish, smoky chipotle jackfruit tostadas).
But if that’s not your bag, nearby Electric Chicken is like KFC for kings, or there’s Bo’s Dumplings, a perpetual Metro Cheap Eats Top 10 contender.
Satiated, pop by Morningside Tavern for a cocktail or stiff cordial. On the weekends, you may hear excess happiness emanating from next door: that’s the Glasshouse, an events venue lined with olives and oak trees, all fairy-light-lit beneath 12-metre-high glass ceilings. Parties for the ages unfurl here.
Parks and recreation
Fowlds Park, just a minute’s walk from Aalto, is a treasure, a taonga — your own personal park. Conceived in the 1920s, there were dreams for it to be a second Auckland Domain — witness its ornate entrance gates — but the planned grand pavilions and ornamental pond were ditched during the Depression. In a way, this was a blessing: this 12-hectare island of tranquillity, home of Mount Albert Lions rugby league club (and playground, fitness trail and mini-forest) remains half-forgotten, one of the city’s hidden gems.
It certainly lacks the name recognition of Western Springs just down the hill. The vastness of the People’s Lake ensures it’s never crowded and so ideal for clear-the-head morning wanders, evening constitutionals — or lazy weekend under-tree snoozes (your backing soundtrack: frazzled mama ducks, occasionally insistent swans and, every now and then, roaring lions from the zoo next door).
From chimp tea parties to a world-leading commitment to conservation, Auckland Zoo has become a place of wonder. It’s humbling to witness the array of species we share this planet with — and chastening to realise the precariousness of their existence.
MOTAT (Museum of Transport and Technology) has lots of old stuff, and more planes than the Royal New Zealand Air Force. On the north side of the great park you’ll find Western Springs Stadium, the city’s natural amphitheatre. The most legendary concerts in New Zealand history — think Bowie, Led Zep, The Stones, Bob Marley, The Boss and Six60 — were at the Springs and it’s also host to epic speedway action 12 Saturdays a year.
Bike: The shared path at the bottom of the street links up to the Northwestern Cycleway bike path.
Bus: Services shuttle along New North Road to Auckland city centre every few minutes.
Train: Morningside Station is 400m away. An easy five-minute walk.
Car: Quick access to the Northwestern motorway (SH16), and the Southwestern motorway (SH20) at Western Springs.
Primary: Mt Albert School
Intermediate: Kowhai Intermediate
Secondary: Mt Albert Grammar School