- Start the morning right with coffee and city beach swim
- Immerse ourselves in the Maori Cultural Experience
- See the City of Sails from up high – then base jump
- Surf the Black Sands of Piha Beach
- A ferry and a walk around Waiheke Island
- Farewell New Zealand on a flight to Honkers
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Kia ora, as we end our New Zealand dream holiday with three days in Auckland. Keeping us away from the tourist traps this weekend is Kiwi Kim, a proud local who arrives wearing an Auckland Blues rugby jersey.
She tells us that Auckland is a walkable harbour city, seen by too many tourists only from the inside of a bus. So our Friday morning begins with a coffee reviver and walk to the city beach at Okahu Bay. We walk along Tamaki Drive, a narrow strip of land that provides breathtaking views back at the city, the Harbour Bridge, and out to the volcanic island of Rangitoto.
Awake now, our wander back into the city takes a detour into the suburb of Parnell to explore the architectural heritage on display, from modern mansions to the colonial-style homes that seem a better fit with the natural surrounds.
Through here, we enter the Auckland Domain, a common of greenery carved out of the city and home to the Auckland Museum. There’s time to wander around the war memorial. And then at 1.30 we are assembled for an unforgettable connection with the Maori Culture, first a tour of the Maori Gallery and then as witness to a Maori Cultural Performance that’s engaging with its energy and confronting in its style.
Our time in the land of the long white cloud has been focused on more modern pleasures – whitewater rafting and wineries. So the immersion into the Maori culture is welcome, and within only a few minutes we begin to recognise how the indigenous heartbeat has been present through our New zealand holiday all along.
As we leave the Museum, Kim points out Mount Eden, Auckland’s highest natural point at the top of (yet another) volcanic mountain. With true Kiwi craziness, she tells us how she considered adding that walk to our 3 day Auckland itinerary, but opted instead for a place that’s just as high … and a lot more exciting.
So all of a sudden our hearts are racing again, as we ascend Auckland’s Sky Tower … and strap ourselves in for a Sky Jump. 192 metres (630 feet) above Auckland City, with a wire tied to our back, this is BASE Jumping without a parachute.
The moment on the edge lasts forever – and the drop down also feels like slow-motion so we’re amazed to discover we fell that distance in only 11 seconds. Kim (who does this every chance she can) reckons that in free fall we reached a speed of 85km/h (55mph), which means for those 11 seconds we were the fastest moving objects this side of Auckland Airport.
Our hearts will slow down enough for us to sleep tonight, and Kim’s promise of a more relaxing Saturday proves true as she leads us on a trip out to the black sands of Piha beach.
Having taken the time recently to learn to surf, we have a chance to practise some more. The surf here can get unbelievable rough – thankfully, we’ll be containing ourselves to the more protected Piha Bay.
After lunch, there’s an opportunity to walk across the black iron sand to the imposing Lion Rock, which separates North Piha and South Piha beaches. Why is Piha beach sand black? The iron content is so high, the sand can actually be collected by magnets!
Sunday is also more leisurely, as we leave the City of Sails by ferry to the nearby Waiheke Island. Auckland twice hosted the America’s Cup, and as we move through the water, the many sailors out and about confirm that the city owns more yachts per capita than any other in the world.
As we disembark the ferry at Matiatia Wharf, we notice plenty of other tourists jumping into tour buses to explore the wineries and local produce of this 7.5Km (12 mile) long island. Kim has told us to wear our walking shoes, however – it means we won’t see as much of the island, but what we will see will be experienced fully.
Of the range of available walks, we’re taking the Church Bay Circuit, a slightly strenuous 3-hour, path across Atawai Whenua Reserve and down to the beach at Church Bay. This is the perfect spot for a picnic, sitting on the beach facing up to the top end of this country.
The philosopher Lao-tzu told us that ‘the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step’. Auckland lies almost exactly 1,000 miles from Queenstown, where our Kiwi Odyssey began last week with a single step off the Kawarau Bridge. Tonight, after glacier hikes, winery tours, ferries, trains, and limousines, we have a late night flight to Hong Kong, via Shanghai.
Heading for the bustle of ‘Honkers’ gives us extra reason to appreciate the serenity of the walk back to the ferry, and the calm journey across the water into the city as we bid farewell to New Zealand.
Want to go? Need to know!
- The world champion NZ rugby union side are called the All Blacks. But did you know that the NZ soccer team are called the All Whites?
- The Auckland Museum makes some of its pieces available to view online, like this nice collection in tribute of New Zealander and Everest Conquerer Sir Edmund Hillary.
- The Maori Cultural Experience is a daily performance and gallery tour (though you can choose to see one, and not the other).
- Some people climb the Auckland Sky Tower for the views, the revolving restaurant, or the coffee, and return down via the elevator. Crazy, but true.
- A return ferry to Waiheke Island costs $35.50 – Waiheke Ferry fares and timetables are here.
What would you do with 3 days in Auckland? Or indeed, on a New Zealand journey of a 1,000 miles? Please share your experience in the comments below.