Auckland City Guide with Greta van der Star

Written by Jessica Comingore Photography by Greta van der Star

Launching The Elysian Edit last month felt a lot like moving in to a new home. For the first time in a long time, I felt like all of the ideas and creativity floating around in my head had a proper place to go — organized neatly in one place with its own identity. One of my favorite aspects of this venture (which I hope to do more of), is inviting other people into this space to share their thoughts and stories about approaching life simply and mindfully. Some of these friends are local, some of them live across the globe, and some of them I’ve never even met in person. But to me, that’s what makes an exploration like this so much fun; the ability to connect with like-minded individuals around the world who’s work resonates with you, and vice versa.

In mulling over ideas for our travel column, I thought what better way to learn about a city than through the lens of someone who you admire? With this in mind, we traveled 13 hours over the Pacific Ocean to Auckland, New Zealand, where today’s contributor resides. Greta van der Star is a one friend I did have the pleasure of meeting in person, and whose work never fails to inspire, regardless of it’s application. Whether it’s her photography, styling, or art direction for The Periodic Journal, Greta approaches her work with a refined eye and a timeless ease.

Today, we’re so happy to have Greta on board to share a snippet of her life in Auckland, along with three of her favorite NZ haunts and a bit about what makes them so special. In the event that you’re planning a trip down under this year, be sure to bookmark these destinations — they’re a few you won’t want to miss.

Lake Wainamu, Te Henga Regional Park, Waitakere, Auckland


“A 45 minute drive west of Auckland city will lead you to landscapes that feel like scenes from another planet. Nestled amongst dark green native bush and black sands that have swept up from southern coasts to form large dunes over the last 4,000 years sits Lake Wainamu. Becoming increasingly popular for weekend dips, the journey to the lake also involves a bit of a walk, so by the time you reach the cool lip of water, you feel like you have really earned that swim!

The lake is enclosed by enormous dunes, and offer two routes for access. The fastest is straight up and over. It’s a little bit of a climb, but you’re rewarded with space-like surrounds and the opportunity (if you’ve brought a board) to slide down the dunes. On a sunny day, the hot black sand will leave you no choice except to run as fast as you can over the last dune, drop your towel at the waters edge and jump straight into the cool, fresh water. The other route, equally scenic, offers reprieve for scorched feet, by leading you through a stream right to the waters edge. This way will take a little longer — 30 minutes compared to the 15 over the dunes — but offers an entirely different perspective.

The lake is deep enough that no one I know has ever touched the bottom, and for the more adventurous, a bush walk will lead you to a rope swing hanging from the branch of a generous tree.”

Coco’s Cantina, 376 Karangahape Road, Auckland


“The Coco’s ethos is about engaging with the community, offering your kindest self, and doing what you can for others. It’s about real food and real people. Considering this, it’s no wonder the restaurant has become a favourite dining spot for Auckland. The dining room is energetic, bustling with conversation, laughter and clinking glasses. Regular customers are recognised and greeted with a big grin and a hug. Owned and operated by sisters Damaris and Renee, their hands-on approach to the restaurant means you’ll see them on the floor with plates of food, giving wine recommendations, and stopping for a quick catch-up on how your week has been. Their energy is contagious!

Decorated with checkered table cloths, fresh flowers and charity store treasures picked up from travels around New Zealand; Damaris will regularly update you with her latest finds and exclaim her addiction to the hunt. You can’t help but imagine it’s like being in their very own living room.

On Friday afternoon, a crowd gathers early, spilling onto the street to drink happy hour bubbles and snack on polenta fries in the last of the sun. Highlights on the menu include: ravioli — currently filled with ricotta and served with roasted tomatoes, mint, garlic, a hint of chilli and lashings of olive oil and parmesan; the sustainable seafood, which changes weekly depending on what’s available; and the best tiramisu that will ever pass your lips! The restaurant is dedicated to engaging with local food producers and growing as much as they can in their mums vege garden. In times of abundance, you may even be sent home with a bag of fresh silverbeet.”

Tur Studio, 486 Karangahape Road, Auckland


“If you’re wandering home along Karangahape Road in the evening, you might be drawn to the glow of the Tur Studio storefront. You’ll often spy Chris Duncan and Joe Yen pottering around their space, hand weaving and cutting fabrics late into the night. Tur is an open studio and retail space for local brands, from potters, and jewelery-makers to handmade leather sandals. They often host artists and exhibitions, offering the chance to transform the space on a regular basis.

Chris works magic with fine merino and recycled silks, linens and cottons, weaving them into impressive wall hangings, some of which end up as scarves — the fabrics are so soft it’s hard not to wrap the delicate textures around your neck! And his latest endeavor involves working those fabrics into a range of kimonos that have the perfect cocoon shape.

Joe’s label Thyen is a collection of hand made oversized shirts, overcoats and loose-fit trousers made from crunchy linens and the softest cottons. The pieces feel like all you’d want to wear on the hottest summer days, and the palette of blues, charcoal and tan is right on point.”

A big thank you to Greta for joining us today! You can find more of Greta by visiting her website, or following her on Instagram or Pinterest.

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