One of my secret joys in New Zealand is shopping on my own – or simply wandering, actually – exploring little side streets and finding my way into cool boutiques and galleries full of temptation.
Take Wellington, with its unique vibe that celebrates art, culture, and community. It’s not big; it’s really quite intimate. Around every corner there is something new to discover, something so unexpected – like the indie peanut butter shop behind a tiny window, a quirky piece of sculpture or street art that moves you, stylish jewelers or a tiny vintage clothing store tucked into a funky space.
Wellington definitely has its own eclectic style. You’ve got hipsters pushing the boundaries, the movie and television world, and equally, students and office workers who are all intent on making their own personal statement. Everyone has their own style, and that collectively gives the city a flair of its own.
My top shops in Wellington are Caughley, Good as Gold, Hunters and Collectors and the Te Papa Museum Gift Shop.
Auckland is a big city – it’s three times the size of Wellington but feels 50 times bigger with its sophisticated urban buzz. In trendy neighbourhoods like Ponsonby, you’ll find dozens of great little fashion stores, like Deadly Ponies with to die for leather handbags, cafés and galleries of New Zealand art where it’s not unusual to find the designer or artist behind the shop counter.
New Zealand designers are often influenced by their Pacific and Māori roots. If you want something beautiful to take home for someone special, look for pounamu – sacred local jade that is carved into stunning pieces of jewelry and must be given as a gift. I was honored to receive a pendant fashioned from pounamu when I toured the Waipoua forest with local Moari guide, Bill Matthews. To receive his blessing while standing under the Tane Mahuta is a truly treasured memory.
In Auckland, must-visit shopping stops include the Poi Room, High Street, St. James Arcade and Ponsonby Road.
Around Queenstown, there are vast sheep stations producing fine merino wool that is woven into beautiful pieces. The material is so beautiful and light, but keeps you warm-- it makes the most unbelievably gorgeous sweaters, scarves, and the finest men’s suits. Untouched World on the Mall has the finest merino fashion. When we lived in Rotorua, my kids and I spent many a weekend at the Agrodome Sheep Show --wow! Sheep dogs, baby animals, and the greatest variety of merino wool garments you could ever imagine.
If you’re looking for functional souvenirs, keep your eye out whenever you stop at a little shop or café along the roadside. They’ve often got lovely little jars or packages of artisan made sweets, jams and relishes. You’ll have to exercise some serious, if you intend to gift them to people--they're delicious!