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David and I flew into Auckland to begin our 5-week road trip around the country.

Day 1 – The Waterfront and New Zealand Maritime Museum

Our AirBnB was just a block off Queens St, the main area of Auckland.  We took a right turn and walked all the way down to the waterfront.

The Waterfront

We strolled past the beautiful Hilton Hotel, which truly looks like a cruise ship.  None of the actual cruise ships were in port though.  We walked out to Queen’s Landing, where there are public spaces available with lounges and umbrellas to enjoy the view.  Even though it was gray, we sat and watched the ferries come and go.

The Hilton Hotel, with the Sky Tower behind it.
The view from above, where you can really tell the Hilton imitates a cruise ship.
Sitting on Queen’s Wharf.

New Zealand Maritime Museum

Just next door is the New Zealand Maritime Museum.  This museum hosts several rooms of exhibits, plus 3 sailing vessels that do excursions.  Our two favorite rooms were the Landfalls room and the Black Magic room.

The Landfalls room was particularly special to see after having cruised the South Pacific this year.  At lest 40 vessels, ranging from a full sized 76-foot baurua from Kirabati to a model kalia from Tonga.  It was amazing to see crafts from Fiji, Tonga, Niue and various French Polynesian islands right next to each other.

The Black Magic room contained the actual Black Magic boat –  NZL 32 – who won the 1995 America’s Cup.  The exhibit talked all about the America’s Cup and the Kiwi team that won – lots of national pride!

Day 2 – Mount Eden and the Domain

The next morning, Thursday the 12th, we met Rebecca.   Rebecca went to school with my best friend Bronwyn, and she now lives in New Zealand. Rebecca offered to show us around, which we gladly accepted.

Mount Eden

The first stop she opted to take us was up to Mount Eden.  Mount Eden is a volcanic cone in Auckland – one of several actually!  The walk up was steep but not terribly long.  The bowl (or basin) of the volcano is grassy and open.  There is a pathway around the rim, and the view from the top looking down on Auckland was fantastic!

Rebecca and I on Mount Eden.
David and Rebecca chatting on Mount Eden, looking over Auckland.
David and I on Mount Eden.
The bowl of Mount Eden.
Looking down on Auckland from Mount Eden.

The Domain

Next up we walked to the Domain, a large public green space that houses the Winter Gardens (in greenhouses), ponds, rugby pitches, and the Auckland Museum.  We walked through the lawns and into the Winter Gardens to admire the collection of flowers.

A crazy tree growing out of the stone wall.
Nature’s jungle gym.
Deep red asiatic lillies.
Water lily at the Winter Garden.
Rebecca and I in the Winter Gardens.

Day 3 – Auckland Museum

Friday ended up being a bit rainy in the morning, so we waited for the sky to clear in the afternoon before heading out again.  Thankfully we get so much daylight here in the summer!  We were able to get to the Auckland Museum by 3 pm to enjoy 2 hours of time there.  There were at least a thousand various artifacts from all over the South Pacific, providing small insights into the cultures and differences between the islands.

The natural history section had stuffed kiwis and a moa skeleton – avian megafauna that was hunted to extinction within 100 years of the Maori people’s arrival in New Zealand.  David’s favorite part was the top floor, which housed exhibits for New Zealand’s involvement in several wars – from tribal wars to WWII.  The museum houses a Spitfire and a Zero, two WWII era aircraft.

The Auckland Museum’s Zero.
The Auckland Museum’s Spitfire.

We almost missed this – an ice ax used by Edmund Hillary to summit Everest in 1953.

Day 4 – Waiheke Island

We stopped at the Britomart Farmer’s Market to pick up a few items to take to a picnic at Waiheke and then took the ferry over.  Check out our blog post about Waiheke!

Day 5 – Viaduct and Sky Tower

A big perk of the blog is meeting people who’ve been reading it, and it looks like we’ll get to meet several people in New Zealand who have contacted us.

Viaduct

On Sunday, Tim and Adriel picked us up and took us out to lunch in the Viaduct, the marina and marine services section of Auckland.  If you need to shop at a chandlery that’s where you’d go!  Tim and Adriel have ordered a Saba, the 50′ FP, which they will cruise throughout the Mediterranean for a few years.

They also took us on a drive out west.  The weather didn’t cooperate for a hike or beach visit, but the drive was scenic and we got to see our first sheep, as well as pigs and turkeys!

Sky Tower

That night we did our big date night at the Orbit Restaurant in the Sky Tower.  We had actually extended our Auckland stay one day so that we could get a reservation in. A ticket to go to the observation deck is $30 per person, or there is a $40 minimum for dinner.  For the budget-minded, it’s a no-brainer to dine up top, although our bill was not $80!  The food was pretty good – we shared a super tasty gnocchi dish, David had salmon, I had duck, and we shared a chocolate dessert.  The service was sub-par for the level of food, but it is a tourist venue, so, unfortunately, that’s to be expected.

I had been worried about the weather all day, but it did amazingly clear up so we got a gorgeous sunset!

Cloudy view from our Airbnb.
The clouds part slightly to show fantastic sunbeams.
Tasty treat!
The final view of the sunset.
Having fun on a public park on our walk home from our romantic date night!

Things We Loved About Auckland

Auckland public transportation is pretty minimal, but the city is very walkable and even looks good for cyclists.  We found a park that had a bicycle repair station with tools and a manual pump.

The ethnic diversity in Auckland is amazing.  There are a ton of tourists and backpackers in the city.

Cheap ethnic eats abound.  We ate Korean, Thai, and Kati rolls (from Kolkata India).  Those meals ranged from $4.38 USD – $9 USD per person – sometimes we shared, sometimes we took home leftovers.  We saw up to 7 cuisines jammed into one street block.  Everything we ate was delicious.  (The restaurants:  Aroy Thai, Dak Hanmari, and Kati Grill)

The waterfront was wonderful.  We didn’t even get to walk around that much.  If you want to really enjoy the waterfront you can walk from the Viaduct to Mission Bay.

We didn’t get a sunny free day to do this, but there is an Auckland Free Walking Tour with a guide.  If you don’t want to designate a whole day for Waiheke, maybe take an Auckland harbor cruise.

And away we go!

Monday we purchased our car, Fornax the Ford II, or as David likes to call her, Fornaxia (’cause she’s a lady).

Our new ride for the next 2 months!

We are going to drive up to Whangarei for two nights to check on our boat and then we are off for 30 days around the North and South Islands!

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