After our stressful booking cancellation saga we were pleased to arrive in Auckland with accommodation booked for the next 9 days. Our initial single booking at Snivelling Sheldons was now split between a stay with Glenn in Mount Eden and Jilly in Mission Bay. Much better. Both are quiet suburbs just outside the city.
Auckland Facts and Figures
Auckland is New Zealand’s biggest city with around 1.5 million people living there which is amazingly over 33% of the total population of the whole country. It sits on two harbours, has an incredible coastline of 2,300 miles, and is the only city in the world built on an active volcano field. Did you also know that Auckland gets twice as much rainfall every year as London?
We had visited the area on our previous trip so knew the location slightly and as we arrived at Glenns apartment in Mount Eden we were looking forward to renewing our acquaintance with it. We had a studio apartment for 4 days which would give us a chance to get into the city and explore a little.
Glenn lived next door so was on hand to welcome us in and explain what was what. A very comfortable little place with great views into the city and of the Auckland Skytower from the balcony. First on our list, well Jo’s list to be honest, was the Auckland Anniversary Festival on the day after arrival.
Auckland Anniversary Day
This is a public holiday in the north of the North Island that celebrates the arrival of William Hobson, the first Governor of New Zealand, in the Bay of Islands in 1840. Monday 29th January was the official day but the whole weekend is a celebration headed by the huge Auckland Anniversary Weekend. So we headed into the city to the Ports of Auckland where there was music, food and entertainment absolutely everywhere.
So much to see and do and it wasn’t too crowded. We spent a few hours wandering around and eventually found ourselves watching a couple of buskers who were part of the International Buskers Festival. They were called the Red Trousers Show and were right on the edge of the wharf near the cruise liner terminal. Typically within minutes I’d been picked out to be part of the show. How does this always happen? Jo loved it.
It was a great show too even though I was stuck in the middle of it. After this a drink was in order so after a beer at the Lulu Inn and a brisk walk around Auckland Harbour we headed back to Captain Cook Wharf to watch the SeePort Sunset Symphony orchestra.
Contemporary classical music was the order of the day with James Bond themes, a few big band tunes, Star Wars and Harry Potter, and some Kiwi classics. We would have loved to have stayed until the fireworks at 10pm but decided to make a move before it was dark. Saw the fireworks from the balcony later.
Epsom and Old Friends
One of the things that has made us both so happy on this trip has been meeting up again with people that we met on our first visit to New Zealand two years ago. We stayed in the suburb of Epsom then with the lovely Andy and Helen and we have kept in touch ever since. As soon as we arrived in NZ we arranged to meet up and spent a fabulous afternoon chatting and reminiscing over a BBQ lunch and of course a few drinks. The time absolutely flew by and we just wish that we had thought to take a few photos. Next time then. Now we have to come back!
Hiking up Mount Eden
With the weather still stiflingly hot we made the crazy decision to walk up to the top of Mount Eden. This is a dormant volcano right in the heart of the city but it’s not alone as Auckland is actually built on 53 volcanoes. The mount was named after George Eden the first Earl of Auckland and is known as Maungawhau in Maori which means Mountain of the Whau Tree.
Dripping with sweat we made the 196 metre summit before a slow walk down and some lunch in the Mount Eden Bakery. More pies! These Kiwis really know how to make a pie and we just can’t get enough of them. Perhaps we should have looked into some sort of Pie Sponsorship?
A couple of shortish bus rides down to the harbour ferry terminal and then east to Mission Bay and we were soon settled in to Jillys lovely quiet apartment. Mission Bay is sort of Auckland’s beach resort I guess, lots of cool coffee shops and bars dotted along the seafront and restaurants galore offering every type of food possible. The thing we liked best though was the path along the coast to Kohimarama and then onto St Helier. Great views of the harbour and various islands and lots of walkers, cyclists, joggers, etc sharing and enjoying the scenery alongside you.
After walking to St Helier and back and eating at the Mission Cafe we returned to Jillys as the weather seemed to be deteriorating quickly. Severe weather warnings all over the TV News informed us that Cyclone Fehi was on it’s way from Polynesia and would hit the country within a few hours.
After a night of driving wind and heavy rain we woke to the news that the country had been decimated by the Cyclone. Entire towns cut off on the south island, hundreds of people stuck in cars and campers overnight, roads closed by rock falls, massive loss of power. Auckland seemed to have escaped lightly as we headed out to the seafront to see what was what.
Lots of flooded roads and heavy waves but not as bad as they expected. Just a strange girl attempting to take off on the grey windy beach!
Bastion Point and the Auckland Harbour Bridge Lights
With the weather not so good we decided to climb the hill to Bastion Point and the Michael Joseph Savage Memorial Park where we took in some more views of the city. From the top we could see Rangitoto Island and even imagined we might be able to view Waiheke Island in the distance. Not too sure about that though. A long winding walk down to the pier at Okahu Bay before circling home via the Coffee Club and another pie.
That same evening we braved the elements yet again to hike back up Bastion Point as the sun went down. A new sound and light show has been launched recently featuring Auckland Harbour Bridge. Millions of lights have been added to the structure and at 9pm and 10pm on selected evenings an amazing lightshow can be seen. We snagged a prime position overlooking the harbour alongside many others and watched the show in the distance. Apparently you can stream the music live as you watch but of course we have no data on our phones so it was lights only. Really impressive though.
A Rainy Walk through the City
Jilly very kindly offered to give us a lift into the city the following day and drop us at the Parnell Market. Food stores all over the place were so tempting but we’d only just had breakfast so gave them a miss. Jo spotted this little dog sitting in the middle of a dog-chew stall. He looks like he’s been told to look but not touch doesn’t he?
Unfortunately as we left the heavens opened and we found ourselves in the middle of some seriously bad weather. In between the worst showers we managed to get up to the Parnell Rose Garden before heading across to the Auckland Museum. Dashing from tree to tree through the Domain we made it to the Art Gallery then pushed on to grab a coffee and a bun in the Lorne Cafe. We considered going in the museum and the gallery but they wanted $25 each to get in and we just thought ‘b***** that, we could spend that on pies!‘.
Boardwalks, Billboards, and Dinner
Our final full day in Mission Bay was sunnier and warmer so we set off again for a long walk along the waterfront through Kohimarama to St Helier. A beautiful walk in the sunshine deserved a fabulous lunch so we obviously hit the pie shop for a couple more Kiwi Pies. Classic lunch.
The afternoon took us back to Mission Bay where we saw a great film at their cool little cinema. Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri was one of the best films we’ve seen in ages. So funny albeit a bit dark in places. The evening was spent having a delicious meal with our host Jilly.
Thank You Auckland, it’s been a blast!
After all of the drama surrounding the Airbnb booking we actually ended up staying in two lovely apartments in two much nicer areas of the city. Auckland is such a fascinating place with so many diverse suburbs and fantastic scenery all around. Our nine days seemed to fly by and before we knew it we were saying goodbye to the lovely Jilly at the Harbour Ferry Terminal ready to head out to somewhere very special for our last week in New Zealand.
27/01 – 04/02/2018