Summer day trips are a rite-of-passage for most Aucklanders, however they don't always have to involve hours of driving (and inevitably getting stuck in traffic as you realise the rest of the city had the same destination in mind).
Catalina Bay, located at the northern-most part of Hobsonville Point and just 30 minutes by ferry from the CBD, is a prime example.
Situated on land that was once used by the Royal New Zealand Air Force—including for its Catalina seaplanes, hence the name—it offers top-notch food, drink and more in a relaxed seaside setting—without the commute.
So pack your walking shoes (and your appetite!) and check out our fave ways to spend a day at this stunning local spot.
Brunch At Fabric
We all know that any good day trip starts with food, or at the very least, coffee.
At Fabric, you'll find both—and don't get us started on that view. As with the area's other eateries, this one's housed inside a building that was once used by the air force, now a light and breezy space that's really rather fancy. The pièce de résistance however has to be the deck, which stretches across the water toward the bushy hills beyond and is especially magical in the morning.
The food is exactly what you'd expect from an establishment of this calibre—fresh, elegant and full of flavour—with plenty of welcome surprises including the Welsh rarebit, braised beef cheek and miso mushrooms.
Alternatively, grab yourself a cup of something hot from the dedicated coffee window—or as this is an all-day eatery, return when the sun goes down for a romantic harbourside dinner (we've got our eye on the asparagus tortellini).
Pay A Visit To Catalina Bay Farmer's Market
Any farmer's market that operates five days a week definitely has our attention.
Located in a permanent home at the heart of Catalina Bay, this popular offering is open Friday through Sunday from 10am to 2pm and is your one-stop shop for all things artisan—think freshly baked bread, award-winning cheese, and more fresh produce than even the most die-hard vegetarian would know what to do with.
Don't leave without trying some of the locally-made bagels, gelato and dumplings—or if you're still full from brunch, check out the candles, oils and other handcrafted gifts that are also on offer.
Take A Walk On The Coastal Walkway
If all that food has you feeling a little sluggish, worry not—a stroll along the Coastal Walkway will soon sort you out.
As its name suggests, this track stays close to the coastline; taking you on a mostly flat, 5km-long loop of the area that's rich with history and quintessential Kiwi scenery (think bush, native birds and of course, plenty of harbourside views).
You'll pass an old rifle range and bomb point, numerous parks—including an off-leash one that those with fur babies are sure to appreciate—and busier areas like the waterfront.
Cyclists are also welcome—though just quietly, we reckon this is a journey best enjoyed on foot.
Drinks (And More) At Little Creatures
Late lunch, afternoon drinks or even dinner—whatever you're after, we're confident you'll find it at the home-away-from-home for successful Aussie brewery, Little Creatures.
Taking up residence on the water's edge inside an old air force hangar, it certainly makes for an impressive dining spot (have you seen the height of that ceiling)?
The hero here is definitely the beer, available in all the Little Creatures offerings you know and love, as well as a number of seasonal brews, but make no mistake—the food is also very good.
Take your pick from several eateries located within the building (just in case you needed further clarification as to its size)—perhaps delicious, deep-fried goodness from the brewery's very own fish and chip shop, Salty's (we recommend the beer-battered fish, made with Little Creatures beer, of course); or traditional, Italian-style fare from Kittyhawk.
Dinner At Siamese Doll
If you like your food exotic, dinner at Siamese Doll won't disappoint.
From the group behind popular eateries like Mai Thai, Red Crab and Thai Street, this restaurant has nailed the art of South East Asian eats with everything from dumplings, noodles and steamed buns through to bars for sushi and raw seafood (both welcome options at the end of a hot summer's day).
One thing we've come to learn about Asian eateries is that they take their cocktails very seriously, and that's certainly the case here. There's a solid list of oriental-inspired classics (lemongrass mojito, anyone?), as well as the perfect tipple for toasting your day at Catalina Bay: the Coffee From Nam. A winning combination of vodka, coffee liqueur, espresso and condensed milk; this one's guaranteed to keep you awake for the journey home.
After more artisanal offerings? Why not check out Auckland's best markets.
Image credit: Willis Bond, Babydoll Wines for Siamese Doll