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Hidden gems: 20 of Auckland's best-kept secrets

Mexican Specialties restaurant in Ellerslie. Photo/David Straight.

Auckland has a heap of ‘Must-Do's’ and ‘Must-See’s’ – Sky Tower, anyone? But if you’re looking to walk a road less travelled, we’ve got you sorted with a list of our best-kept secrets.

Mexican Specialties
There used to be a time where this unassuming restaurant was open just 14 hours a week, but with extended hours of operation, it’s almost always a good time to head to Ellerslie for the city’s most authentic Mexican food. You’ll see names of dishes that you won’t know – give them a try. 92 Marua Rd, Ellerslie

Secret Cove
Yes, this Devonport haven is literally called Secret Cove, and has only been accessible to the public since 2017 when the council purchased a narrow strip of land connecting the road and beach. Locals call it “magical” – and you can now swim under a canopy of pohutukawa trees, watching the sun set behind the Harbour Bridge. No wonder they wanted to keep it secret. 60a Stanley Point Rd, Devonport

Junk and Disorderly
If your taste verges to the eclectic, Junk and Disorderly is the perfect place for you to pick up, well, who knows. A mix of new stuff and vintage finds, you’ll never know what you’ll discover – perfect if you’re furnishing a flat. 18 Kawana St, Northcote

Read more: Where to find cheap eats around the University of Auckland

Junk and Disorderly in Northcote.

Silo Park
Described as a community of good times, this waterfront location is always playing host to innovative events. Be it an outdoor movie, an edgy exhibition or some laidback live music on a Sunday afternoon. It’s also just a really great place to chill in the sun and watch the world go by. Beaumont St and Jellicoe St, Auckland CBD

Waiheke Island
Not exactly a secret as it’s home to more than 8000 Aucklanders, but well worth a visit. A 40-minute ferry ride from the city, you’ll be eligible for a ticket discount thanks to an Auckland University tertiary concession. Once you’re there start talking to the super-friendly locals who will share with you insider knowledge on the best places to go, from beautiful beaches to adrenaline-inducing zip lines. Catch a ferry from the Auckland Ferry Terminal, Quay St

Duder Regional Park
Make a day-trip to Auckland’s seriously underrated south-east and visit Duder Regional Park. You’ll be rewarded with snow-white sand and 360-degree views from Maraetai through to the Hunua Ranges and the Hauraki Gulf Islands. North Rd, Clevedon

Read more: 50 things to do in Auckland for under $20 

Satya Chai Lounge in Sandringham.

Satya Chai Lounge
Hidden down an inconspicuous alleyway next to the main restaurant, Satya Chai Lounge isn’t easy to spot, but you’ll be happy you found it. Think Indian tapas, accompanied by cocktails like a mango rum lassi, or one of the huge number of craft beers. 515 Sandringham Rd & 271 K’ Road

Academy Theatre
It’s a movie theatre but not as you know it, showcasing the best art-house and independent films from across the globe. The best part is, it’s located right next to the Central City Library so you can hit the books then reward yourself with a classic movie marathon or a special double feature. Tickets can start at as little as $5. 44 Lorne St, Auckland CBD

Rotoroa Island
In need of an island escape? Often overshadowed by its bigger siblings Rangitoto and Waiheke, Rotoroa Island might just be the most serene of them all. Get there by ferry and stay for the day, or bunk down for the night and try to spot a kiwi. Hauraki Gulf

Avondale Sunday Markets. Photo/Charles Buenconsejo.

Avondale Sunday Markets
If you’re keen to bulk buy some fruit and veges, head to Avondale for their Sunday markets, especially if you’re living out west – also good for bargains, and stuff you didn’t know you needed, from whole fish to chainsaws. Maybe don’t combine those two. Ash St, Avondale

Luxury Karaoke Bar
Sometimes, you just need a good old fashioned sing-a-long with your pals – but not in front of random old mates who’ve shored up at the bar. Go to a private room and sing your little hearts out. Bonus? Cheap beer. Queen St, Auckland CBD

La Cigale French Markets
OK, these Parnell markets aren’t too secretive, but they’re definitely worth a visit on a weekend morning. Grab a coffee, try some of the incredible locally-made produce, and pick up some fresh fruit and veges to take home. 69 St Georges Bay Rd

Waterview Shared Path
A great shout if you’re one to cycle, spend an afternoon biking on the north-western cycleway – it’s also a good option to connect West Auckland flatters to the CBD. Plus, there’s a rainbow. What more could you want? Start at Alan Wood Reserve in Mt Albert

The rainbow section of the Waterview Shared Path.

Whammy Bar
One of the city’s best venues for indie and folk tunes, Whammy is your best bet for live music. Handily, a tunnel connects Whammy to The Wine Cellar. Post-exam drinks, anyone? 183 Karangahape Rd

Oakley Creek Reserve
Yearning for some space and serenity but don’t have time to head out of the city? Then check out this urban oasis. Take one of the walkways from Great North Rd in Waterview, and within a couple of minutes the noise of traffic will have been replaced by native birdsong. Venture down the walkway a bit further and you’ll find a 6m natural waterfall. In the summer months you can join the locals for a dip in the stream. 1520 Great North Rd, Waterview

Fo Guang Shan Temple
Perfect for a bit of serenity, Aotearoa’s largest Buddhist temple welcomes visitors. Make sure to stop by the tea house for a cuppa, or a vegetarian lunch – we recommend the laksa and barbecue wonton noodles. 16 Stancombe Rd, Flat Bush

Elliott Stables
If you find it near impossible to please everyone when choosing a restaurant, go to Elliot Stables,
just a minute from Queen St. Think classy food court – the complex has Spanish, Latin American, Mexican, German and Japanese offerings, and more. 39 Elliot St, Auckland CBD

Camper Coffee. Photo/Dalong Ye-Lee.

Camper Coffee
Little more than a hole in the wall, you’ll have one of the best brews of your life here. Tucked down Kent St, main man Lee offers a simple menu – black, white or filter. Trust the simplicity. 2-8 Kent St, Newmarket

A perfect place for a day trip, the little northern village is truly a hidden gem you’ll want to take advantage of. Head to the famous pub for lunch, then venture to river for a kayak or swim. And of course, make sure to pick up some legendary Puhoi cheese to take home. Head north on SH1

Auckland Night Markets
Taking place in eight different locations across the city, there’s a night market close to wherever you are. Head there for cheap eats from dozens of different cultures, as well as fashion, toys and live entertainment. Go to aucklandnightmarkets.co.nz to find locations and times.