Sunday, April 8, 2018
So far New Zealand is living up to my expectations! We landed fairly early in the morning, got our rental car, and made it to downtown by 8:30. Driving on the left was an adventure, but Jeremy made it look fairly easy. I am so glad that I am not listed as a driver on the rental car. The rest of the day was a reminder of why I like to travel.
We started the morning by taking a 12 minute ferry to Devonport. Beautiful! Once we figured out that the back of the boat was less windy, had no glare, and had an amazing view of the city, the ferry ride was quite enjoyable.
It was still an hour before the Torpedo Bay Museum opened, so we decided to hike to Victoria Point, about a 10-20 minute walk from the Ferry Terminal. We started on the road, but then found a nicely mowed, grassy path that we decided would likely go to the top. The boys were excited about it, so we took that route. They particularly liked the last stretch that was fairly steep that we scrambled up, pretending we were mountain goats. We had some nice viewpoints from the top, then took the road back down.
Downtown looked interesting, but we decided to head over to the museum. The walk along the water was beautiful, and we even managed to see a beautiful parrot. A full day in Devonport could have been a lot of fun, but we still wanted to spend some time in Auckland. The museum was interesting, particularly for John. He really enjoyed the displays of guns and missiles. James liked the old scuba gear that looked more like astronaut gear.
The boys were quite exhausted by this point, and we were running low on water, but I really wanted to go see North Head. It was supposed to be an old military area with bunkers, secret tunnels, and a nice “disappearing cannon.” In retrospect, we probably should have done this in place of Victoria Point, but the boys perked up when they found the tunnels. We used my cell phone flashlight to explore them, found our way to the underside of the disappearing cannon, saw a “natural” room that I was too nervous to let the boys explore. It had a cave like feel and the rocks didn’t look all that secure.
I wanted to see more of North Head, but since the boys were exhausted, so we gave them the choice of walking to Cheltenham Beach, about 10 minutes way, or going back downtown to find lunch. The boys chose lunch. On the walk back to town, the boys spent some time walking on a different beach, admiring the numerous seashells, and making lots of noise. I have never seen so many seashells that were fully intact in one place.
After arriving in town, I liked the sign for oyster pies, but everyone else wrinkled their noses. We looked at a few restaurants, but when we stopped at a grocery store to stock up on water, we checked out the deli and picked up some picnic stuff to take back to the beach. Lunch ended up being quite good, and we had an amazing view of Auckland. Some people near us were feeding the birds, so by the end of our lunch, the birds started to become a bit more bold, which drove the boys crazy.
After lunch, we took the ferry back to Auckland. Everyone was a bit foot store, but hotel checkin wasn’t until 3. We did the walking tour from the guide book. Auckland has a really nice feel to it. It is definitely a city, with plenty of skyscrapers. The Auckland Tower added a nice feel. That said, it also feels small and intimate, and from all appearances, a wonderful city to live in. I wouldn’t mind coming back for a few months to a year. 🙂
Around 3:00, the boys were really done, so we moved the car to the hotel garage. We stayed at the Grand Millennium Auckland, which is a business hotel located close to downtown with a nice lobby, comfortable rooms, and reasonable views. The boys were excited to hear about the pool, so we headed down there for a bit. I was hoping to sit in a hot tub while the boys swam, but alas, no hot tub. The pool was quite large, nicely tiled, salt water, and had a few other kids playing in it. The kids were quite happy. Jeremy decided a walk was more interesting, so he decided to scout the area around the hotel for us.
After swimming, we came back up to the room, wrote in journals, taped interesting artifacts from the day into them, and relaxed until John looked like he was going to fall asleep. We decided to head out to find some dinner. The area around us is mildly lively, with lots of restaurants and shops. Jeremy always likes to try McDonald’s in every country we visit, so we decided this was a good place to do it. The smaller towns may or may not have one, so I didn’t want to have to spend time later in the trip trying to find one. I had the “Steak Mince N’ Cheese McPie.” It was basically a meat gravy mixed with cheese inside a pastry crust. A bit oozy, but otherwise quite good for McDonald’s food. Jeremy got one of the special hamburgers and noted that the beef tasted much better than in the U.S., the side of the box indicated that the beef was 100% New Zealand beef, which bodes well for the rest of our meals.
We came back to the hotel, thought about doing some planning for the rest of our trip, but decided just to go to bed instead.
Monday, April 9, 2018
In the morning, we checked out of the hotel and started with Tamaki Drive. Beautiful! The bridge had amazing views and we made our first stop at Bastion Point, which is a memorial to one of New Zealand’s Prime Ministers. There was a nice garden, a nice view, but since we had a lot to see, we didn’t stay long. Next, we stopped at a random beach where the boys enjoyed seashell hunting again. John discovered that the wide, flat, fan-like shells would flutter in the wind like a butterfly if he threw them back into the water.
Our drive continued to Achilles Point, which had another amazing clifftop view. We then drove to One Tree Hill and really wanted to get out of the car to wander Cornwall Park, but decided that with a long drive to Rotorua ahead of us, we would just view it from the car.