We were only three kilometres from home, yet it felt like we couldn’t be further from reality.
With our two-year-old son enjoying a holiday with his grandmother, my partner and I were revelling in a whole 24 hours to ourselves. It was the first night away for just the two of us since he was born, and likely to be the last for at least another two years as our family is about to expand.
And what better way to take a breather than in The Hotel Britomart? Nestled in Auckland’s vibrant Britomart precinct, the hotel is a bold and beautiful landmark. And it’s completion in 2020 left the lightest of footprints.
Going far beyond simply asking guests to reuse their towels, the hotel has been given a prestigious 5 Green Star Design rating, making it New Zealand’s most eco-friendly hotel and somewhere the conscientious traveller can genuinely sleep easy.
We certainly did. In fact, the first thing we did after checking in was take a nap. In no way was this an indication of our lacklustre surroundings; our temporary neighbourhood was quite the opposite. We were just tired parents needing to refill our empty tanks before venturing out into the world that evening.
Typical of Auckland’s ever-evolving weather, ominous grey clouds parted to reveal a perfectly-arched rainbow, followed by blue skies and a sunset. We were on board an Auckland Harbour dinner cruise with Explore New Zealand, drinking in the mesmerising views of the city as the yacht pulled away from the Viaduct basin.
The city’s iconic landmarks, from the Harbour Bridge to the Auckland Museum sitting stately in the distance, came to life under twinkling lights as night fell. We sailed past the port and the naval base in Devonport, swaying gently with the continuous motion of Waitematā Harbour, while sipping drinks from the bar and enjoying a meal prepared by one of the viaduct’s renowned chefs.
Back on land, we sought refuge from the sea breeze, heading to a best-kept secret at our hotel. Brick walls lined with layers of history make up The Libraries, a network of private rooms in the heritage Masonic and Buckland Buildings which once served as a cigarette factory and a tea, coffee and spice grocer. Today, the spaces hold treasures including artworks by Shane Cotton and Ralph Hotere, and historic stone artefacts once used by Māori to weigh down fishing nets. There’s also a tantalising selection of wine and a knowledgeable mixologist who constructs delightful mocktails.
For such a modern, state-of-the-art pocket of the city (with neighbourhood bars, intriguing eateries and high-end shopping at Tiffany & Co, Chanel, Karen Walker among others), the nine blocks of Britomart are steeped in history.
The next morning, after a very civilised breakfast at Kingi restaurant, we set off to explore. Pushbikes are available to hotel guests, but we opted to see the city by foot, amazed at how familiar territory can look so fresh through a child-free lens.
Most of where we wandered was under water until the 1870s, when land around the port was reclaimed to service the rapidly growing city. Now, centuries later, it’s busier than ever – with Auckland Central train station and the new shopping and eating complex, Commercial Bay, nearby.
This land was sold to Governor Hobson by a Ngāti Whātua chief after the Treaty of Waitangi was signed and it remains a treasure today with social sustainability being a key focus of the Britomart precinct. Supported by an art, culture and urban design programme with a strong focus on inclusion and diversity, the aim is to have the widest possible range of people feel welcome and stimulated here.
Environmental sustainability is another focus, with a collective commitment to rigorous measuring and managing the precinct’s buildings, continuously improving their green performance. The Hotel Britomart with its 99 rooms, handmade brick exterior and flush glazed windows echoes this ethos, with several key factors helping to maintain minimal energy use including lighting, low-flow water systems and low- or zero-emission materials and fabrics.
Britomart is an area that future generations will be sure to enjoy. Maybe even by our family of four in a couple of years’ time, when the next golden opportunity arises.
Explore more from AA Directions magazine while you're here:
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