I’m not a big fan of small towns, I prefer big cities. The larger the better. So, while I loved the country of New Zealand and the people there, I felt a bit uncomfortable. Until I arrived in Auckland. It was my favourite location in the entire country. Not because I had the most friends to visit, which is true. Or because it had the warmest temperature in all New Zealand during my stay there, which is also true. Auckland was my favourite location because it was the largest city in the country.
There are quite a variety of things to do in Auckland too. Watersports, hiking, touristy things, museums, art galleries, shopping, and of course food and drink. I didn’t do everything, but I was able to experience something in almost every category. And I really enjoyed myself. Auckland is also where I found the largest amount of USA tourists in one location in New Zealand. It might be quite a large city but I found the locals to be just as wonderful as they were throughout the rest of the country. I mean New Zealand really knows how to provide some of the best customer service I have ever experienced.
Getting To and From The Auckland Airport
Once again New Zealand showed how easy they make things for people wanting to get to and from the airport with the Super Shuttle (website) in Auckland. I booked online and was picked up directly at the end of my friend’s driveway. Very convenient and easy. In February 2017, it cost me $36.40.
Depending on where you are staying there is also the public transportation option, using the train and/or bus. I didn’t use this option so I don’t have experience but from what I understand, you can catch the Orange 380 Airporter bus at either the Papatoetoe Station or the Onehunga Station. This is the cheapest option to get to or from the airport. The fare is calculated by the number of zones you will travel through as well as whether you are using an AT HOP card or paying cash. You can see the prices here.
The option in between those prices is the SkyBus (again, I have no experience)(website). It has a fixed one-way adult fare of either $18 or $24 (as of July 2019), depending if you are taking the Auckland City Express or the North Harbour Express.
Taxi’s and Uber are both available to and from the Auckland airport.
The Auckland Airport (website) is kind of a mid-sized airport. There were quite a few shops to visit and places to eat when I entered, but once I went through security, there was like one little café/kiosk to buy food and drinks at. A bit unexpected but it really wasn’t a major issue for me. I’m just giving a head’s up.
Travelling Around Auckland, New Zealand
I stayed with a friend outside of the CBD but I found getting around Auckland to be quite easy. I travelled with trains and the ferry, but there were also buses I could have used. Of course, friends picked me up if we went to further locations so I have no experience there but the system seems quite good.
Like most other large cities, Auckland’s public transportation system uses a tap-on-tap-off prepaid travel card (AT HOP) that you can top up with more funds when needed. The ferry can even use the AT HOP card for some trips. I bought separate tickets for my ferry trips though because I didn’t know I could use the card.
The trains in Auckland do not sell tickets onboard so you will need to purchase a ticket before boarding if you are not using an AT HOP card.
Buses in Auckland accept the AT HOP card and cash. If you pay with cash (bills or coin), they prefer you have exact change but if you pay with small bills, you can usually receive change.
As stated above, the Auckland Transportation (website) fares are calculated by the number of zones you are travelling through, your age and accessibility, as well as whether you are paying cash or using the AT HOP card. It is cheaper to use the card.
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki
Open every day 10am – 5pm except for Christmas Day, the Auckland Art Gallery (website) offers quite a bit to see in various mediums from different exhibits. Personally, I enjoyed the more traditional paintings but there were rooms I didn’t even have a chance to visit so there could have been more.
The exhibits were traditional as well as modern but I also enjoyed the architecture of the building.
You don’t have to be like me and cut your time short, you can spend half a day or even a full day visiting. There is a shop for you to buy souvenirs and a café to provide sustenance. Gallery entry has changed as of January 2018. It continues to be free-for-all New Zealand residents with proof of residency. For everyone else though, there is a fee ($20 for adults as of July 2019).
The Coffee Club High Street
Walking from the Auckland Strand Train Station, I went along Queen Street first so I could check out shops before I went over to High Street. Along High Street I found The Coffee Club which is a restaurant, not just a coffee shop. They offer quite a variety of foods but I chose a snack of the creamy, chocolaty, hot chocolate with a slice of delicious chocolate cake.
It was a great way to break up the wee journey. It was also a nice place to sit down and treat myself to various forms of chocolate, with tables and comfy seats to relax on. The cake was just a small sliver with whipped cream on the side but that mixed with the hot chocolate made for a wonderful, chocolaty, sweet treat.
The Coffee Club (website) has several locations in Auckland as well as the rest of the North Island and even a few locations in the South Island.
Milse Britomart’s website (here) says it is ‘Auckland’s original dessert only restaurant and patisserie’. They call it a dessert bar. I found it because one of my friends recommended it to me and I’m so happy she did too. It’s a small building in a small laneway but the treats were abundant.
There were so many delicious treats but I went with several macaroons, some Valentine’s Day themed cookies, and a delicious strawberry cake type thing. Which is officially called a Breton Sable but, eh, cake type thingy also works. Everything was wonderful, flavourful, and each of the flavour mixes created blended well.
There are a lot of places to shop in Auckland. Little private owned shops all the way to big Australian names like Country Road. I didn’t do a lot of shopping; I limited it to Queen Street, but there were so many more places I could have visited. My luggage didn’t have space for me to purchase more and I just didn’t need anything.
Auckland’s City Centre and Queen Street have wonderful historic buildings that I also enjoyed walking and discovering.
New Zealand has quite a few different volcanoes in the country, whether they are active, dormant, or extinct. There are approximately 53 in the city of Auckland alone. I was very surprised to learn that, while I was at the top of one of the active volcanos.
Given that volcanoes usually take thousands of years to erupt and it’s not likely to happen soon, they still consider these volcanoes active. But they don’t look like something you would see on TV. They aren’t black, rocky, mountains filled with boiling orange, red lava. These are lumpy hills covered in grass with craters located at the top. Oh, and you can leisurely walk up them to get a wonderful view of the city. It’s one of the many cool things to see in Auckland.
I always feel a bit conflicted about paying money to take an elevator to the top of a super tall building so I can look out windows and get a panoramic view of a city. On one hand, the views are amazing plus you get a real understanding of how the city is laid out and what it looks like. On the other hand, the cost is always quite high to just ride an elevator and look out some windows.
None the less, I visited the Sky Tower (website) in Auckland and I really saw the city. It looked a lot different from what I was expecting too. Because of the way they build the Auckland City Centre along the water, you also get a wonderful view of that.
I felt one way the Sky Tower made things a bit better was for an additional fee, you could also bungy jump off the building. It looked like so much fun. As a person who was looking out the window at the beautiful scenery when a someone suddenly fell in front of it, it was also quite freaky. A great way to sell the experience though.
I visited Devonport twice, the first time was when my friend drove us to the beach located there. The beach was lovely and packed full of people but unfortunately it was also freezing cold water so I didn’t go in.
I went by ferry for brunch with another friend on my second trip. The ferry trip was about 10-15 minutes from Auckland CBD and there is one going over about every 30 minutes, depending on the day and time. As of July 2019, the adult return fare is $15.00 plus tax with Fullers360 (website).
Devonport is a charming, small, busy, touristy suburb of Auckland at the tip of a peninsula. There are places to shop and places to eat as well as the beach, historic buildings, and scenery. It makes for a lovely, relaxed afternoon.
Day Trip to Waiheke Island by Ferry
Visiting the island of Weiheke is easy and makes for a wonderful day trip. I caught the Fullers360 Ferry (website) over from Auckland City Centre and the view on the 40-minute trip was amazing. A bit windy when you sit outside on the top, but it was sunny and warm so where else was I going to sit.
During the week there is a ferry approx. every 60 minutes with more during busy times. On the weekends and holidays, the times vary. It’s always best to check out the website in advance. As of July 2019 the return adult fare is $40 plus tax. You can use your AT HOP card for the ferry and the fares will be different ($20 each way so it works out to be the same price as a return ticket).
Waiheke Island has a population of around 10,000 all year-round residents and around 4,000 part-time, vacation residents with homes. But heaps of others visit. When I first arrived I caught the bus at the ferry terminal to travel up the hill and around the inhabited areas. I say areas because the island has a lot of beaches with commercial and residential areas sporadically spread around. I rode the entire return bus trip to see as much as I could of the island.
The Waiheke Bus Company is run by Fullers (the ferry people) but there are also taxis and shuttles run by others to cater to the tourists. The Bus accepts AT HOP for payment which makes it quite convenient.
Wineries on Waiheke Island
Ok now the important information regarding Waiheke Island. There are heaps of vineyards and wineries. And yes, you can do winery tours of many of them. There are even tour companies that provide tours originating in Auckland and include the ferry trip over.
After I took my bus trip around the island that went to one beach and back, I stopped for lunch at Vino Vino Restaurant on Ocean View Rd. This restaurant had an amazing view if you sat outside on the deck. Which I did. I had a pasta dish, which was good, but I found the Passage Rock Sauvignon Blanc wine I had chosen, to have quite a yeasty aroma. But the view, that was the absolute best part of this restaurant. I’m pretty sure it was included in my dinner price.