Before we left Auckland, we needed to go up Sky Tower, which is the most obvious feature of the Auckland skyline. The best way to do that is go up and eat a lunch at the top floor. It was a surprisingly cool place to have lunch, effectively on a giant lazy susan, and the lunch was actually good and not too expensive. On a clear day I would highly recommend Sky Tower for lunch if you’re touring around Auckland.
Our favorite thing to do for the weekend when we lived in Auckland was to go and hang out on Waiheke Island. It is only a 30 minute ferry ride from down town Auckland, and there is plenty to do with in a reasonable walk of the ferry terminal. And even more to do within an unreasonable walk :). Plus, Jasmine found a cool website, BookaBach, so you can rent out peoples’ summer home for a reasonable price for a weekend stay. I highly recommend Waiheke to anyone going to Auckland for a while.
In our last trip, we did the usual Waiheke jaunt of hanging out at the beach, going for some wine tasting, and walking through the bush. It was as fun as always, and I think by the end we walked on about 80% of the tramping tracks on the island. So we enjoyed ourselves that weekend.
In our effort to visit as many islands as possible in the Hauraki Bay we took the ferry back to Rangitoto. But in this case the objective was not to hike up the volcano, but to go to Motutapu, the adjoining island. The island are actually connected when it is low tide, and amusingly we walked on the beach between the two in the morning, but on the way back we had to take the small bridge back onto Rangitoto.
Given their proximity, I can’t imagine two islands that seemed more different. Rangitoto is mostly still volcanic rock and scree fields with some lush forests pushing through the rock. But Motutapu is rolling hills covered in grass and is mostly used as a pasture for cows and sheep. It was a fun study in contrast, and also a study in walking too far, as we went from the ferry terminal on Rangitoto out the the furthest point on Motutapu, Billy Goat point. A total of 30 km in 5.45 hrs, as the winter ferry timetable only has you on the island for 6 hours. One day we will choose a reasonable hiking pace and speed, but that day is not today :).
Before we headed out of Auckland, we made sure to visit the War Memorial Museum in the Auckland Domain as we were told it was worth a tour. And that is correct. It was mostly about Maori and Polynesian culture, and then a war memorial for WWI, WWII, and other conflicts that NZ was involved in. We probably spent an equal time in both parts, but all the pictures are from the Maori/Polynesian wing as, quite frankly, there are World War museums everywhere.
I’d say that it is worth it to check it out if you are in Auckland on a rainy day.
We had been told that one of the cool kid things to do in Auckland on the Queen’s Birthday was to go to the horse races at the Ellerslie racetrack, so we decided that to check it out. We got some tickets to the Ascot Stand and dressed up all fancy for the races and decided to make a day of it.
As it turns out, and as you might be able to tell from the pictures above, it was not actually that crowded at the races on the Queen’s Birthday. With the stands only about 20% full, it was a different atmosphere than the other time we were at Ellerslie, but still quite fun. My main problem was that I am not good at gambling and we ended up down at the end of the day. I only won 1 of the 10 bets I placed which was sad. But we had fun and we will probably check out horse racing again in the future.
Another weekend went by where Jasmine and I had access to a rental car – at least for Saturday morning. We decided to take advantage of it by driving out east and checking out the parks in East Auckland. As it turns out, there are some quite nice parks on the eastern coast and I was glad to get to see them. We managed to have a couple of short hikes at Duder Regional Park and Omana Regional Park. It was a pleasant day and it was quite nice to finally see what the mainland looks like across the straight from Waiheke.
With a rental car for the weekend, Jasmine and I decided to go northwest and check out Helensville and the South Head. It is very surprising how quickly it turns into countryside outside of Auckland and it is nice to have a car so that we can get into the countryside occasionally. We made three stops: Helensville, Shelly Beach, and Te Rau Puriri. Helensvile is a small town with a couple of cafes and is worth a little walk around just to soak in the pastoralness.
Shelly Beach was a quite pleasant peninsula with a bit of a little walk by the beach and a small Bach community. On the plus side, we also got to go to a tasty cafe right on the beach for lunch, so there is always that.
And, finally, Te Rau Puriri was a delightful walk in the country side. It poured down on us while we walked around a very green (and slippery) hill side while surrounded by sheep and in view of the ocean. So about as NZed as I can get.
Just to the west of Auckland, across the Waitemata Harbor from our house, is the Te Atatu Peninsula. It seems to be the standard used to be rural area next to a big city and is now turning into luxury apartments because there is open space!!! In any case, we biked over and hung out on the periphery where there is a delightful narrow group of parks that wrap around most of the 10 km of the edge of the peninsula. So all in all a delightful gravel path to bike on with views of the harbor most of the way. And to top it off, it is only a 8 km ride on a cycleway from our house. So yeah, we’ll be going again.
For the ANZAC long weekend, Jasmine and I decided to rent out a bach on Waiheke and do a bit of hiking and a bit of wine tasting. Since we had been to the west, north, and east of the island, only one direction remained – South! And, as it turned out, we saved the best direction for last. Rocky Bay was quiet and peaceful, close to a number of wineries, and there was a bunch of great hiking in the area, especially in Whakanewha Park.
And we have now gone to about 12 of the 20 wineries on the island, with a favorite so far of Jurassic Ridge. Not quite as crazy as all of the Santa Clara parks, but something. Overall, we had a delightful weekend and we will certainly be going back to Waiheke again.
As it turns out, there are quite a number of people in Auckland just as crazy as I am and they have an open water swim series throughout the summer/fall. So I decided to get a bit better at my swimming and give it a try. The first swim was from Herne Bay to the Chelsea Sugar Factory 2.4 km across the bay, and I swam it this weekend.
The swim started at 6:45 am so, unfortunately, I had to wake up at 4:45 am to walk over to the swim, which was sad. On the other hand there were 400 or so other people to hang out with predawn waiting for the swim to start. The weather was pretty awesome: sunny and with only a 15 knot wind, thus perfect for swimming in the open water. Sadly, I am a slow swimmer and it took me an hour to make the 2.4 km distance, which put me in the back third of the swimmers. But I had fun and I will certainly do another swim; hopefully, I will get a little faster so I am less sad about my relative speed.