Going Out

Auckland packs in more opportunities for good times and relaxation than any other city in New Zealand, and while you won’t make the mistake of thinking you’re in London or New York, you can always discover a few like-minded souls out and about most nights of the week. From Monday to Thursday the bars along Ponsonby Road and at The Viaduct can be quiet, and you’re more likely to find Aucklanders enjoying a meal at their favourite Thai or Indian restaurant. By Friday night, the hard-working people of Auckland reckon they’ve earned the right to breathe out, and the city’s cosy pubs and sleek bars are filled with revellers knocking back local and imported beers and good Kiwi wines. It's a relaxed, ‘play it by ear’ scene, where after-work drinks from 18:00 might segue into a casual meal around 20:00, followed by cocktails, and maybe a stint on the dancefloor. Saturday night starts later and definitely finishes (much) later and is more structured than Friday.

Favourite DJs begin around 22:00 at bars and clubs in the CBD and along Karangahape Rd. The night might start with cruisy Pacific-style dub beats, and then build up after midnight to more energetic sounds through to 05:00. New Zealand has liberal drinking laws and in many inner city places you can truly kick on until dawn. Prepare yourself also for the surprising versatility of Auckland’s eating, drinking and clubbing scene. Your favourite bar for casual, after-work drinks might morph into a dance-on-the-bar place once the cheesy and ironic 1980s hits start to flow. Your preferred underground haunt for chilled lounge beats and skillfully prepared cocktails may surprise you with an excellent Pacific Rim-influenced tapas platter. And, increasingly, going out in Auckland is not just about heading into the centre of the city. Across recent years excellent neighbourhood bars (especially in inner suburbs such as Kingsland and Mt Eden) have popped in old shops, libraries and banks, usually offering a sophisticated and versatile mix of drinking and eating. Drop by in the afternoon for a pint as you watch the ‘footie’ (usually rugby union), and come back for DJ-led shenanigans after dark. And if you find yourself living across Auckland’s Harbour Bridge on ‘the Shore’, there’s a compact array of excellent pubs, bars and restaurants along Hurstmere Roadd in Takapuna.

According to local folklore, Wellington has more bars, restaurants and cafes per head of population than New York. It may be urban legend, but it’s undeniable that this compact city still has an eating and drinking scene truly worthy of a nation’s capital. The two main areas are bohemian Cuba Street and livelier Courtenay Place. Cuba has traditionally been characterised by cheaper ethnic eateries, but now the focus is shifting to drop-dead-cool places such as Matterhorn and Floriditas , serving excellent food and superb cocktails. A short cab ride away, Courtenay Place kicks off a little later (around 9pm) and continues until well after midnight with a combination of intimate cocktail bars, boisterous pubs and clubs. Explore the quieter side lanes Blair Street and Allen Street for the best of the area’s restaurants.

Further south, Christchurch’s prime eating and drinking opportunities are also focused around two hubs. On Oxford Terrace near the Avon River, the area known as ‘The Strip’ morphs from laid-back restaurants in the afternoon to raucous bars later at night. It’s a good place to wander and see what appeals. Just to the east the area around Colombo Street and Cashel Street is also heavy with opportunities for carousing; ranging from tiny hole-in-the-wall bars to noisy brewpubs. No-one has ever claimed a night out in central Christchurch is a quiet affair, so expect a fair bit of blokey Southern humour. If you’re after something a little quieter, the port town of Lyttleton (12km away) has a fast developing restaurant and after-dark scene. It's preferred by many locals seeking a more sophisticated night out. On weekend afternoons, consider a long lunch at the restaurants in the French-influenced town of Akaroa on nearby Banks Peninsula.

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