A beautiful, clear, warm day greeted us as we made our way out for a day on our own – just the two of us! We decided we would go on the Hop On, Hop Off bus (HOHO) to see the main attractions of Auckland – and there were two places we especially wanted to see.
Tickets for the bus were $40 NZ per person with a choice of 10 main stops, and then another 8 if you connected with the Satellite bus. We got on at the Ferry Building – just a two minute walk from the ship. This building serves as the centerpiece of harbor activity. It was built in 1912 and is an active ferry terminal for Auckland to some of the outlying islands. It is easy to spot and stands out because of its golden brown color.
The first stop was the Bastion Point Lookout with great views of the Hauraki Gulf and Waitemata Harbour. It has the remains of WWII-era lookout bunkers and gun emplacements. Today there was a huge festival here because it was a NZ holiday called Waitangi Day – celebrating the day when the Maori tribal people of NZ and the Europeans who settled here signed a treaty creating one nation peacefully serving the Queen of England as one people. We didn’t get off the bus here, but we saw lots of kites flying and lots of outdoor activities taking place in this large, park area.
The next stop was the Kelly Tarltons Sea Life Aquarium. We had been to another one of their locations in S. America which we enjoyed as we were getting ready to go to Antarctica and they had a great display showcasing animals, events, etc. related to Antarctica – thus, we didn’t get off the bus here, but it is a fun place.
The Parnell Rose Garden was pretty and small. Could see a lot of it from the bus. Also, took pictures of the next stop – the Holy Trinity Cathedral – from the bus. Later in the day, we actually walked over to see this church and went inside. More about that later.
We did get off at the Auckland War Memorial Museum – said to be one of the best museums in the world. We didn’t realize until later that we had been here on our last visit to Auckland. But it is so expansive, we didn’t see it all before . . and not this time either. We could have spent the entire day here – a truly great museum. In the front of the museum is a beautiful memorial/waterfall commemorating the lives that were lost. The fern is symbolic of the strength of these people.
When we were here last, we were mainly focused on the exhibits about the Maori people. This time we looked at a greater variety of things the museum offers. We took a “highlights tour” which was fantastic. We had a docent with only 6 of us so we were able to see a lot. We began on the top level which was mainly about New Zealand’s war stories – mainly WWI and WWII. The walls around the large open atrium were white marble with the names of those that died in this region. It was very impressive.
We then went to Level 1 where we saw exhibits about the land and times of the early settlers here – their tools, clothing, and the animals. The animals were fascinating. One was a native frog that looked like our frogs only these didn’t produce tadpoles that grew into the adult frog. Their adult frogs had baby froglets that looked just like an adult frog, only smaller. They also had a dinosaur like bird called the Moa which was flightless and huge – about 12-14 feet tall. It looked somewhat like an ostrich. This is what it would have looked like.
Finally, on the Ground Level we saw exhibits about the people of the Pacific which included the Polynesians and the Maori. They had life-size structures that showed a typical Maori meeting house – where the tribal people would gather as a whole – and a typical storage house where the people kept their food and other important supplies. The intricate carvings and attention to detail were beautiful. This latter type of house had to be elevated to keep the animals out, and the door was small to keep out enemies. The children would go in and out to get what was needed.
The museum offers a Maori cultural performance, but we had seen this the last time we were here, so we skipped it. We checked out the gift shop (museums always have high quality items) before proceeding back to our HOHO bus.
Our next stop was Parnell Village, New Zealand’s oldest suburb and famed for its galleries, cafes, restaurants and charming boutique stores. Since we were hungry, we ate at a little sidewalk café called Verve. Since it was a holiday, many of the little shops and restaurants were closed, but we found this charming little one quite satisfying. After lunch we walked around the little village enjoying the pretty buildings, flowers, and views of the city. And, we soon discovered that the Holy Trinity Cathedral was just a block away, so we went and took a peek inside that as well. The front is a huge stained glass window which is beautiful from the inside, along with stained glass windows all along the sides of the church.
As we walked along the street, we stopped in a small, local grocery and picked up what had been recommended by Barbara, the travel guide on the ship – Pineapple Lumps! They are like a cookie/candy with pineapple flavored marshmallow on the inside and then covered in chocolate. I thought they were great – Doug said I could have his!
Back on the bus, we drove past Auckland University, the Auckland Art Gallery, the Civic Center theater, and the Sky Tower which is the tallest man-made structure in NZ (328m high – don’t know what that translates to in feet.) At the top you have great views of the city as well a restaurant that revolves and you can watch the people who jump off from the top go right by your window. There were several people from our ship who jumped and loved it. The last stop before we got off was the America’s Cup Viaduct Harbour. It is a great place to walk around the water with lots and lots of restaurants.
After we got off the bus and were making our way back to the ship after a long day of sightseeing, Doug saw this street performer. I didn’t see it so I have no idea what this was all about, but it certainly looked interesting. And this is just one of the pictures!
Back at the ship, we dropped off our backpacks and went back out to find the Indian restaurant someone had told us about the night before. They said it was very authentic and very good. Since we don’t get good Indian food in Sarasota, we were excited about having a good dinner. It was called Raviz and was a block off the Viaduct area. I had Tandoori chicken that was served on a steaming plate (the steam kept rising for 2-3 minutes after it was served!) and Doug had what they called sweet chicken – which we had never heard of before, but was excellent with a great sauce.
A stroll along the harbor was a great way to end a long and fun day in Auckland. We were so tired we skipped the Maori Folklore Show the ship had on at 9:30. We had seen similar performances when we were here before – and they are very good and interesting, but not when you can’t keep your eyelids open!