Set on 16 acres of waterfront property, the newly developed Britomart neighborhood offers a fun mix of restaurants, bars and boutiques. Labels like Karen Walker, Zambesi, Sass & Bide and Kiwi shoe guru Kathryn Wilson are all represented here.
This terrific wine store has a massive selection of New Zealand vintages from the major regions of both islands. They can help ship it home for you or supply a sturdy carton if you want to take a case of wine along as checked luggage. There are several branches throughout Auckland, but this one is a ten-minute walk from the Sofitel.
Karen Walker’s funky yet feminine attire has captured the attention of stylish girls around the globe. Worn by fashion-forward celebrities like Chloë Sevigney, Claire Danes and Madonna, the designs seem perfectly at home in Walker’s two sleek and sexy ateliers – one in the shopping district of Newmarket and the other downtown on O’Connell Street. Although the chic separates and accessories from New Zealand’s most famous designer can be purchased around the world, shoppers shouldn’t miss a chance to browse the well-stocked racks in Walker’s hometown.
New Zealand's most famous fashion designer has outposts all over the country, including several in Auckland. Since her first successes in the mid-1990s, Walker has been represented in big-name department stores all over the world, including Barney's in New York, but it's still fun to browse for her boho-chic, understated lines in her hometown.
Old Bank Arcade
Your one-stop shop in Wellington should be The Vault, since they carry a wonderful array of locally made gifts. But for a more varied shopping experience, don't miss the restored Old Bank Arcade, which feels like a mix between a steamship, Hong Kong's Pedder Building and a high-end mall. The interiors are gorgeous – complete with colorfully tiled floors and an old bank clock that rivals that of Grand Central in historic grandeur. It also happens to be animated: every hour on the hour, it opens to reveal animated scenes, a fun detail for children especially.
The floors are lined with a good mix of boutiques, from fashion and accessories to beauty and concept stores. There's a good lunch spot (Smith the Grocer) and a bustling vibe, as many locals use the arcade for short-cuts across town, since the building occupies an entire city block.
This tiny, centrally located boutique is a one-stop trove for locally made gifts, ranging from stuffed animal Kiwi birds to beautiful home wares. Best of all, many of their gifts pack well, including colorfully printed tea towels, vibrant stationery and jewelry designed and made by New Zealand artisans.
Long gone are the days where the area of Ponsonby was a gritty neighborhood to be avoided – now the thoroughfare and surrounding streets bustle with boutiques, as well as cute restaurants, cafés and bars. The shops here for the most part are the types of cool independent places you'd find in New York's Lower East Side. There are also some nice homewares, design and art shops. After a morning or afternoon shopping tour, seek out Ponsonby Central (136 Ponsonby Road; ponsonbycentral.co.nz), a center with a lovely organic market and some stamp-sized cafés, bakeries and restaurants (Toro is a favorite for lunch).
The Department Store
The brainchild of Kiwi designers Karen Walker and Dan Gosling (who teamed up with stylist Stephen Marr), this centrally located concept store bills itself as the "Colette of Auckland." This is a bit of an exaggeration, since shopping in New Zealand is a far cry from that in Paris. But the selection offers an interesting – and quite personal – edit of favorites, ranging from haute independent labels to lots of cool Australasian designers. Beauty and home accessories round out the offerings. It's located across the Auckland Harbour Bridge, about a 20-minute drive from the Sofitel, in the coastal northern suburb of Takapuna, so this is really just a destination for committed concept store fans.
Hidden up a staircase down a small pedestrian-only alleyway, the Vault is your one-stop shop for locally made gifts. (There's a second branch in Auckland, but the Wellington store is much larger and holds more product.) Affordable smaller finds, like vintage cards printed with New Zealand birds, children books about New Zelaand lore and cool fashion, are mixed in with beautifully designed and pricier jewelry. Don't miss Nelson designer Ashley Hilton's understated silver jewelry, accented by abstract renderings of local flora.
In a country that is decidedly non-high-fashion, Zambesi stands out. Founded in the late 1970s, the fashion label is another New Zealand icon but unlike its Karen Walker counterpart, it's only available in New Zealand, Australia and Japan. The stores feature asymmetrical, cool-cut fashion for women and men (some of it more wearable than other statement pieces). There's also an eyewear and jewelry collection.