With the Easter long weekend break coming up at the end of March I decided I would catch a plane over the ditch to our neighbours in the east and check out Auckland at the northern end of New Zealand, while here it was also a good opportunity to hire a car and drive down south to the rich volcanic town of Rotorua.
This was my first time to New Zealand so I was looking forward to landing in another country and not only that I was able to have my first experience on an A380 flying Emirates.
29 March, 2013 – Melbourne to Auckland
On arrival from Melbourne to Auckland the first task was to pick up the hire car reserved from the airport. For the next four days I would be zipping around in a small Toyota Corolla, and luckily for me my GPS app on my phone supported New Zealand maps or I wouldn’t have had a clue how to drive myself to the city centre.
For the duration of my stay in Auckland I would be staying at the Waldorf Stadium Apartments Hotel which is conveniently located within the city, a short walk to the harbour and other main attractions such as the Sky Tower. The hotel is also located next to Auckland’s Vector Arena, a multi-purpose venue for all sorts of events ranging from concerts to basketball matches.
After checking into the hotel it was mid afternoon and so there was ample time to understand the bearings of the city. Two blocks away and you hit the harbour and this is one of the main gathering points of the city, with daily tours and public transport leaving the harbour by ferry. The area is bustling with new development as you walk closer to the Auckland Harbour Bridge, here if you are keen you can scale the top or for those who are looking for more of a thrill can bungee-jump off the side.
With a quick bite to eat and a quick stop to get some food for the next few days, although with it being Easter most of the shops were closed including the local supermarket despite saying open 7 days a week and 24 hours. Once it was dark it was the perfect time to check out a view of the city at night with a trip up to the top of Sky Tower. From here you can gain impressive views of this small city and if you are lucky enough to go to the top on the night of a full moon they may even turn the lights off inside the tower so you can take photos of the moon over the city.
At the top of the tower there are two levels to check out, from here thrill seekers can also do the Sky Walk around the perimeter of the tower on an outside ledge, or for that additional adrenaline rush you can leap off the side of the tower and zip line to the ground. Certainly faster than taking the lift.
That was it for tonight, it was back to rest up from todays flight and get up nice and early in the morning for the drive down to Rotorua to check out the hot springs and the scenery.
30 March, 2013 – Auckland to Rotorua
This morning it was time to hit the motorway and head towards Rotorua, from Auckland the route isn’t signed very well until you start to get closer to the destination so my handy iPhone GPS navigator app once again came in handy to get me half of the way before the battery died.
On arrival into the town you start to notice the strange surroundings straight away with steam coming out of the drain pipes and with roadworks going on in the main street, steam randomly coming out of the ground.
The main park in Rotorua was hosting a market which is surrounded by walking tracks taking you around the many hot springs in the area. These ones you are free to walk around on your own and it is quite an eery feeling doing it all on your own with no other people in sight as if you have walked onto another planet.
From here it is a short drive to Lake Tarawera which is at the base of Mount Tarawera the site of New Zealand’s most famous and powerful volcanic eruption in 1886 which devastated the region at the time. The eruption destroyed the famous Pink and White Terraces of which tourists flocked to see from all around the world. The area is full of many things to do from getting up close to the hot mud pits where you can bathe your skin to walking the many tracks within the national parks surrounding the Rotorua area.
After a while the sulphuric smell in the air gets to be just a bit too potent and it was time for the long drive back to Auckland for the night, the drive each way takes about 2 hours 40 minutes, but with my driving probably took a bit less than that.
Tonight after dinner the weather was quite nice for a stroll along the harbour to get a nice view of the city all lit up at night, this time I could could get the Sky Tower in my photos rather than being inside the tower. At night there is only so much you can do on your own so it was then back off to the hotel and off to sleep as it had been a long day, tomorrow it will be a day off exploring one of the volcanic islands of Auckland.
31 March, 2013 – Auckland
This morning there was ample time for a sleep in, then a short stroll down the harbour to the ferry terminal where I will hitch a ride to the volcanic island known as Rangitoto Island.
The short 45 minute ferry trip to the island takes in the sights of the city from afar while stopping off at the harbour side town of Devonport to pick up and drop off more passengers. On arrival passengers have the option to walk to the summit via their own means, or for an additional cost there is a transporter vehicle if you wish to be a bit lazy.
Along the way to the summit you are provided information of how the volcanos in the Auckland region formed over many million years and what shape and form the area may look like in the future as although the area is dormant at the present time, there is the possibility that new volcanos might form in the future which could bring on eruptions.
Upon reaching the summit you are provided with impressive views of the entire Auckland Harbour and a stunning view of the city and surrounding areas. Once reaching the top it is time to head back down the mountain to meet the ferry, I was booked to be on the last ferry leaving the island for the day so it would have been quite disastrous to have missed the trip back.
Along the ferry trip back to the city you will notice a few parks along the way which house old war time fortifications to defend the harbour. Since I will have plenty of time before the flight home tomorrow I will see if I can make my way over and check them out, one such park is called the Hauraki Gulf Maritime Park located near the town of Devonport.
Once back in the city the rest of the night was spent relaxing back in the apartment and seeing how many Aussie TV shows I could find on New Zealand TV, it was quite funny finding that they screen our version of Deal or No Deal.
01 April, 2013 – Auckland to Melbourne
Today it was time to head back home in time for going back to work the next day after the Easter long weekend, but the flight wasn’t until later in the afternoon so this provided plenty of time to drive over the Auckland Harbour Bridge and try and find the way to the small harbour side town of Devonport. Devonport is quite a nice small little town with a number of heritage looking buildings with a clear view of the cityscape across the harbour.
From Devonport it was a short drive down the road to the Hauraki Gulf Maritime Park or the North Head of the Auckland Harbour which has a criss crossing connection of tunnels and fortifications set up for the defence of the harbour. The area became a hive of military activity during the 1880s when it was feared that the Russians would invade the area, a similar scare took place in Australia at the time also.
In this day and age it is a public reserve allowing anyone to access the grounds to explore the gun barrels, tunnels and various fortifications as well as appreciating the stunning views of the Auckland city skyline.
After this it was what should have been a short drive back over the Auckland Harbour Bridge and up to the highest point in Auckland, Mount Wellington an extinct volcano and a popular tourist attraction. At this point even with the aid of a GPS navigator I was lost while knowing where I was at the same time, driving around doing laps of the mountain until I could find the entrance to drive to the summit.
There isn’t much parking at the top of the mountain and it was quite busy, so it was only a quick stop, but the view was pretty impressive and you can walk around the entire crater rim.
From Mount Wellington it was then time for a quick stop for lunch on the way to the airport, however running out of ideas on what to do I was a couple of hours early but the airport in Auckland has a parking bay which was quite full for people to sit and watch the planes come in and land. I opted to kill some time by doing this and while waiting around I managed to capture the plane I would be catching for my trip back home to Melbourne.
Auckland is a pretty nice city overall and a great destination for a quick getaway if you live in Sydney or Melbourne. It’s hard to imagine that New Zealand is closer to us than many other Australian cities with just a three hour flight between Melbourne and Auckland. New Zealand is an easy country to navigate despite my troubles with the GPS given that we drive on the same side of the road and have similar road layouts, it doesn’t feel too much different from being back at home. A great city for a quick escape.