The Big Picture
Onehunga: Loveable, Liveable, Laudable.
Its geographic endowment – just 8km from the CBD, 9km to the airport – ensures Onehunga is the centre of attention, “the beating heart of everything that’s good about Auckland” (so saith The Spinoff ). A little grand, a little gritty (and sprinkled with spirit and verve), Onehunga has it all.
Good news: Onehunga sits beside the Southwestern Motorway (SH 20) which means you’re eight minutes from the airport, perhaps 10 minutes into town (outside rush hour madness).
But better news: you don’t need a car to live here. Walk to the top end of Onehunga Mall, 400m from Manaaki, and you’re on one of the city’s busier bus routes. Walk to the southern end of Onehunga Mall – 18 minutes on Google Maps – and you’re at Onehunga Train Station. Or you might want to fire up the electric bike – or scooter – and blat all the way into town on Auckland’s cycleway network. A designated path runs almost continuously alongside the Southwestern, up through Waterview and then into the city.
Shops and Merchants
Dress-Smart, the first, best and biggest outlet shopping destination in Aotearoa exerts such a fierce gravitational pull on shoppers from all corners of the isthmus that even the tightest misers struggle to keep their wallets shut. No need to detail the 110 stores, or namedrop the big guns (Messrs Rodd & Gunn, Cal Klein, the heroic Hallensteins etc): just let it be known that this is retail therapy at its most excellent. But everyone knows that.
Less well known, and indisputably more interesting, is Onehunga’s long, eclectic and mildly eccentric main street. Onehunga Mall is one of Auckland’s best – more than a kilometre long – and it rewards a slow amble along one side, then back down the other. Here you’ll find manufacturing jewellers, picture framers, screen printers, curtain makers, sewing machine repairers, Pasifikan clothes merchants, tā moko tattooists, wedding dress purveyors, dog grooming specialists and the greatest concentration of fine barber shops in the Southern Hemisphere. Oh, and the Indian Consulate!
Food and refreshments
Start that stroll at Mr T’s, the legendary Euro/Vietnamese fusion bakery-cafe. Their phở is fab, the bánh mì baguette brilliant – and the scent of their freshly baked sourdough, derived from a 17-year-old starter dubbed ‘Sour Mother’, make keto diets physically impossible.
Now head up the hill, past award-winning pie-maker Penny Lane’s, past packed-out Sashimi bar Ajimi (which left Jesse Mulligan “in awe”) and stop at ONE – Onehunga Neighbourhood Eatery. By day, it’s a café and home to Think Space, the shared workspace. By night it morphs into ‘pay as you feel’ restaurant Everybody Eats and it’s awesome (especially their dukka-dotted Aubergine Smash). We’ll have to save No.117 Café, beloved of Insta food photographers, for another day.
Some other time. In fact, the two dozen fine feasting houses on this strip are sure to see your home cooking skills wither.
Quick mention for three each-in-their-own-way-great bars. The Good Home resides in the old Carnegie Free Library and is easily the stateliest gastropub in Auckland. Brothers Beer Onehunga is across the road in the old Post Office, another magnificent heritage building in a suburb with more than any other. And now, farewell the hipsters and beards and whizz back up the hill to The Bramble, the cocktail bar that has been “socially lubricating Onehunga since 2007”. Just 600m from Manaaki, this deserves to be your local.
Parks and recreation
Right on your doorstep, right over the fence is Jordan Park, almost unknown, but with community gardens, a decent playground and excellent picnic-worthy, shade-casting trees.
It’s one of at least 30 parks and reserves within a short walk. Of particular note is Jellicoe Park, repository of immense Norfolk pines and palms and pohutakawa, and one of Auckland’s great outdoor pools. Nearby Monte Cecilia Park offers 14 hectares of gloriousness, including the Downton Abbey-like Pah Homestead (entry by koha). Then there’s the Onehunga Peoples Garden on Arthur Street, a triumph of idealism and community spirit.
There’s more! Make time to explore Onehunga’s newest gems – nine new beaches, three of them sandy, which line the award-winning Taumanu Reserve. Forged out of fierce community campaigning (and fill dug from the Waterview Tunnel project), Taumanu (‘reclaim’), restored Onehunga’s coastline, lost when the Southwestern motorway carved through in 1977. Forty thousand plants went in, along with some splendid park benches that look down the Manukau, allowing you to contemplate life, love and mudflats.
But hold on – we’ve saved the best ’til last. The grandest of green spaces – Maungakiekie / One Tree Hill, its iconic Tūpuna Maunga visible from almost every part of the city adjoins Cornwall Park, the two together totalling 220 hectares of city serenity. It’s bigger than Hyde Park, marginally smaller than New York’s Central Park and it’s just 10 minutes’ walk from Manaaki.
Bike: Onehunga is connected to several of the city's cycleways and shared paths. You can head into the city via two looping rides east and west or take a more direct route.
Bus: Services head up Onehunga Mall to Auckland city centre every 5-10 minutes.
Train: Onehunga Train Station is within easy walking distance.
Car: Quick access to the Southwestern motorway (SH20), and the Northwestern motorway (SH16) via the Waterview Tunnel.
Primary: Onehunga Primary School
Intermediate: Royal Oak Intermediate
Secondary: Onehunga High School