I’ve had quite a few folks ask me my take on Auckland neighborhoods. After copying and pasting from one email a bazillion times, I thought it might be useful to post my (very unofficial) opinion. We’ve lived her just over a year now, so I am far from an expert in Auckland, but we took two trips prior to our move and intentionally stayed in different AirBnbs to explore areas and search for the best pocket of Auckland for us. This “speed dating” exercise was really helpful to help us understand and pick apart quite a few neighborhoods. I’d highly recommend this strategy if you have the ability to do so.
Outside of your budget, the first thing I would consider when picking a neighborhood is your commute. Auckland’s traffic is notorious for a reason and can be terrible during rush hour. While I know people do it, I don’t think I would be very happy living on the North Shore in Albany if I worked at the airport. Many people take public transportation or bike/scooter to work, though cars still rule the road. You can learn more about the public transportation options from the RGC Development Tracker or from AT.
The second criteria I would consider is the lifestyle you are interested in. Neighborhoods have their own personalities. There are some parts of town that are urban centers with great walkability, and other parts of town that have large lots, but you'll be driving every time you want to go anywhere. It really depends on what you're looking for. For hip urban centers, I’d look first at Ponsonby, then Newmarket and Parnell. These areas tend to be pricier with smaller housing options, but the walkability and nearby amenities are great.
For cute, character homes with a vintage vibe, I’d check out Mt. Eden. In fact, almost any neighborhood from Mt. Eden north is going to be outstanding, though these neighborhoods tend to be pricier.
We ended up settling in the Eastern Bays. There are several neighborhoods here: Orakei, Mission Bay, Kohimarama, St. Heliers, and just beyond that is Glendowie. We love this area. The houses are a bit larger than in the city, the schools are top notch, and there are tons of family and kid activities nearby. Plus, while there is quite a bit of traffic driving to and from the CBD, the traffic is on Tamaki Drive, which is an incredibly beautiful road traveling along the waterfront. If you're going to get stuck in traffic, this is the place to do it.
On the North Shore, lots of families live in Albany and Birkenhead. I haven't spent much time over there, but my general impression is that Albany is very much like a traditional American suburb - big box stores, but a straight commute into the CBD, and Birkenhead is a little more connected to nature.
If you’re moving with kids, the third criteria I would consider is the school zone. Like in the United States, public schools have a catchment zone that feeds into them. I would double check the school deciles so you know what catchment area you're comfortable with. (Check out my schools post for information on deciles.) A school in a double grammar zone will be especially “hot.”
Unfortunately, Auckland’s housing market has a less than stellar reputation for a reason. Housing is expensive here, the quality can be dubious, and houses come on and off the market quickly. When you first arrive, you’ll probably be in an AirBnb for a bit while you search for more permanent housing. After that, you’ll most likely be renting. Definitely check out this post to give you some insight into that process. Like many things in New Zealand, it is just a little bit different.
Leave a comment or send a message with your favorite suburb of Auckland. It is wonderful to learn from other experiences!