Auckland, New Zealand
The City of Sails
Entry point for most international flights Auckland is a wonderful city and definitely worth a few days visit.
Auckland is called the "city of sails" and for good reason. The harbor is full of privately owned sail boats and on a pretty day it is a beautiful sight. The main docks where all the ferries leave are right at the bottom of Queen Street and the downtown area is in easy walking distance from any of the piers. A lot of the downtown area is walking up hill so it can be strenuous to walk the downtown area.
This is a busy city with lots of shops and quite a few tourist shops where you can buy high quality souvenirs. The Galleria shopping center has very nice quality merchandise. Anyone can tell you how to get there. The Stamford Hotel is a lovely hotel just a little further up the street from the Galleria. This is a classy hotel and a lovely place to have afternoon tea. Of course, the downtown skyline is dominated by the Sky Tower. This is also a hotel and a casino. The view from the revolving observation platform or the revolving restaurant is truly stunning. There is one spot on the observation level that is clear acrylic where you can see straight down to the ground. It is an odd feeling standing on the area. The restaurant is expensive as you would expect and the food is good. The tower lights up to all colors at night and is really beautiful. I would highly recommend a visit to the sky tower, particularly on a clear day.
The ferry boats leave from the pier for many outer islands. Devonport is just 10 minutes across the harbor. From Devonport, there is an incredible view of downtown Auckland. The small town of Devonport is delightful. The beach is nice and the town has a few small cafes and shops. A lot of bed and breakfast establishments are situated here. It is not really a "tourist" town as this is the township for the area of Devonport with the shops that the locals use. In the actual Devonport wharf terminal building there are a few restaurants. The one on the top floor has good food and the ladies restroom is worth a visit. There is a window here that has an incredible vantage point of downtown Auckland, it is absolutely a "bathroom with a view". In Devonport, you can drive up on Mount Victoria for an incredible view of the opening to the Waitemata Harbor.
Waiheke Island is also a popular place to take the ferry. This is about an 30 minute ferry ride and is a delightful island that is home to many people who live a simpler life on this lovely little island. It is a thriving arts and crafts center with many galleries on the island. The island has a bus that meets the ferry and also rent cars and taxis are available. At the top of the hill, close to where the ferry docks there is a vineyard. There is a wonderful restaurant here and a great spot for a leisurely lunch within the vineyards; great scenery and wonderful food and wine.
From the docks and facing downtown, you can go to the South or left to the Mission Bay area or to the right or North over the harbor bridge to the area called the North Shore.
Heading South - Mission Bay
This area is delightful. The road follows the harbor and winds around as you see some of the nicest homes and areas built up on the hillside. There is a wonderful view of Devonport from here. One of the key attractions on this road is "Kelly Tarleton's" aquarium. This was one of the first aquariums that was built where the people are on a moving walkway and the fish swim all around you. They expanded this to include an area featuring penguins and the Antarctica. These are typical tourist attractions. However stopping to have tea in the Kelly Tarleton's tea rooms is a nice idea. The restaurant is built right on the water, the view is great and they have a wonderful selection of sandwiches, salads and cakes. A perfect spot on a pretty day to sit and take in the sights of the harbor. There is a look out point at Mount Eden and a memorial that has an amazing view of the harbor. The flowers are also lovely here and this is well worth a visit.
The North Shore
This is a nice place to visit also. This is a series of small communities each built on a bay with its own beach with a small township with stores and restaurants. Although the big supermarkets now are every where you will still see the "grocer shop" and the "butcher shop" and the "fruit shop" where each food group is sold separately. Although New Zealand is very modern, some of the remnants of a simpler way of life are still evident. The most famous area is Takapuna that is now featuring some high-rise condominiums in the main town area. This town is quite large. The Takapuna beach is lovely. Other areas are Milford, Browns Bay, Murphy's Bay, and it is just one little town and bay after another. You can walk almost all the beach front that connects all these little bays together. A good place to start is Takapuna and go you North from there or start at Milford and walk South. The beaches here are clean and safe with little undertow. The local housewife can walk out of her home into town, go shopping and then sit on the beach and eat an ice cream before heading home. The homes are built in close proximity to the little townships as they are around every corner. As the area expands, there are houses built further away on the hillsides and these little towns can be very busy. Milford just developed a big shopping mall. Although these are nice things for the locals, it is kind of sad to see the small township feel being changed by all the new big superstores and malls. From all the North Shore bays, you get a great view of Rangitoto Island.
There is a ferry to the island and you can walk to the top if you like. It is 1¼ mile hike, about one hour each way. There is also a tractor pull available. At the top you get a 360 degree view of Auckland.
Further North and a beautiful drive from Auckland is Orewa. This is a retirement community and holiday town. Orewa has a really gorgeous large beach that has all types of attractions on the foreshore. Children's play areas, yacht clubs and restaurants. This is a favorite spot for many people from Auckland to go for the day. On the way up to Orewa, there are many fruit stalls where local farmers sell their produce directly to the public. On the drive, you see the lush green countryside and thousands and thousands of sheep.
There are numerous wineries around Auckland with many wine tours and tasting. Nobilo is one that has a is one that has a great wine tasting room with many displays and a beautiful garden area for a picnic. A wine country tour finishing with lunch at the "Hunting Lodge" a delightful restaurant in the countryside surrounded by vineyards is a lovely way to spend the day.
Auckland is a great city with many things to do. The America's Cup village where the America's Cup was held is a great spot and right next to the dock and wharfs. One Tree Hill is a great look out point with one lone tree at the top. Taking the sailboat trip on the harbor, is also a great experience. Day trips to surrounding to surrounding areas; the choices are numerous. The Coromandel Peninsula and the wonderful Puka Park Resort set in the trees is a nice choice. It is the jump off point for many other destinations and also a wonderful place to spend a few days.