Sunday, April 02, 2023


We stayed at the Hilton Auckland on Princes Wharf. It is at the end of the wharf and has harbor views from every room. Our room had a large balcony with a pair of chaise lounges which we made good use of. They had valet parking which was right at the door. The bellmen were very attentive and got to know us during our visit.

Princes Wharf is wide enough to have a street down the center and "sheds" on each side. There are a number of restaurants in the sheds and several sets of apartments. One of the American families we bumped into were staying in one of these apartments.

The Hilton's swimming pool was on our floor. It was over the street that went down the wharf with a glass wall at one end overlooking the street. In the other direction was the Sky Tower.

To the west from Princes Wharf is Wynward Quarter. There's a neat pedestrian draw bridge on the way. Beyond the bridge is the Fish Market, a collection of restaurants. A little further is Silo Park which the girls really enjoyed.

To the east from Princes Wharf is the Auckland Ferry Terminal which is where we boarded a ferry to cross the harbor to Devenport. The ferry runs every 30 minutes and cost US$2.50 each way per adult. You have a magnificent view of the Auckland skyline from the ferry.

Devenport is a beautiful little seaside town with a main street full of shops and restaurants. As typical for New Zealand, there's a wonderful park right on the waterfront.

It sprinkled on us as we walked the main street of Devenport so we ducked into Manuka Restaurant. They had a table on the sidewalk but under cover so we stayed dry and had a view of Mt. Victoria.

At 216 ft., Mt. Victoria is the highest volcano on Auckland's North Shore. The views of Auckland's skyline are even better than from the ferry and you have panoramic views in all directions.

After the climb and descent of Mt. Victoria, we stopped at The Vic Devonport for gelato.

That afternoon we visited the Sky Tower, the second tallest freestanding structure in the Southern Hemisphere. Our daughter and oldest granddaughter took the Sky Walk on the outside of the 53rd floor.

We had dinner in Orbit on 52nd floor. Orbit dinner includes Sky Tower entry to the observation deck. You can check in at the Orbit desk in the downstairs lobby for a pass.

The Hilton is at the end of the wharf at the far right.

We spent a morning at the Auckland Zoo. Admission was US$15 per senior.  The zoo has heavy vegetation and it was 30 minutes before we saw an animal. The docents were all very helpful. One of our goals was to see kiwis which are unique to New Zealand. But kiwis are nocturnal and the kiwi exhibit had lots of glare.

We grabbed lunch at the zoo. A bit of advice, "Milk shakes" in New Zealand are not what you expect. They are just flavored milk.

We headed out across town to One Tree Hill, another volcano. One Tree Hill is 597 ft. high. We weren't up to the climb. There was an access road with a number to call for accessibility access. I called them and they gave us a code allowing us to drive to the peak.

That evening we met some of our New Zealand friends and intended to go to Commercial Bay. Commercial Bay is a multi-story facility just a short walk from the Hilton. It is 3 stories with the first 2 stories being retail shops and the 3rd housing fast food and sit down restaurants. As we approached, the fire alarms in Commercial Bay went off and the building was evacuated. We rushed to Taco Medic nearby before the rest of the crowd discovered it and had great Mexican food in New Zealand.

We went back to Commercial Bay another day for shopping and lunch.

The next morning we were off to SEA LIFE Kelly Tarlton's Aquarium. Admission was US$22.50 per senior. They had a number of great exhibits but two stood out. First, they had a tunnel walkway that was enclosed in a what looked like moving ice. It was very disorienting even for the girls but still fun. The biggest hit was the penguin exhibit. It was HUGE. Additionally, they have a Penguin Passport that allows you to go into penguin enclosure and have the opportunity to get up close. Unfortunately, that wasn't available the day we visited.

And as we visited the gift shop on the way out, the fire alarm went off and we were evacuated.

But our day of excitement wasn't over. As if walking around the Sky Tower on the 53rd floor wasn't enough, the girls took the Auckland Bridge Bungy & Climb. This is run by the same organization that runs Sky Walk. The first leg was walking under the bridge to the far end. Then they climbed up to the arch over the traffic and returned.

At least the fire alarm didn't go off.

One of our bucket list items had been to visit a black sand beach. Both of our granddaughters are horseback riders. We thought it would be memorable for them to get to rid on a black sand beach. Oh, how we underestimated that.

We found Muriwai Beach Horse Treks and booked rides with them.

Then came Cyclone Gabrielle. Everyone told us that the Muriwai Beach area had been devastated. The roads were blocked by police. We even saw news stories of houses sliding down cliffs.

Let's just say that my daughter comes by her tenacity naturally. She persisted in trying to contact Muriwai Beach Horse Treks. They finally responded that they would resume riding and gave us a Google Maps route to get us as close to their facility as possible given the road blocks.

We turned up and parked on the side of the road with the roadblock in view. The guide arrived in a "ute" with a high water intake system. All 3 girls loaded into the ute and disappeared through the roadblock.

The tracks that the guides normally use were impassable due to fallen trees so the guides had to be creative. Still, the girls got to travel through the forest to the black sand beach. Needless to say, they were the only people on the beach. In normal times, that beach would be crowded.

While they were riding, we hung out in the village of Waimauku. That wasn't as exciting as riding horses on the black sand beach.

We only had one item left on our punch list for Auckland. On the next wharf, Queens Wharf, was a interesting structure, The Lighthouse. The Lighthouse is a real nighttime eyecatcher that was visible from our balcony. It is a full-scale model of a 1950s family home. Inside The Lighthouse is a statue of Captain Cook amid a dramatic neon light exhibit by New Zealander Michael Parekowhai.

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