Auckland is the second largest city in the world in terms of land area, Los Angeles being the largest. There is a distinct Polynesian flavor to New Zealand that distinguishes it from Australia. It is dubbed the "City of Sails", having more boat owners per capita than anywhere in the world. It is a very "green" country in that the environment plays a strong role. The US dollar seemed even stronger here than in Australia.
Saturday April 14th
We arrived in Auckland, New Zealand in late afternoon and took a taxi to the Hyatt Regency downtown. We confirmed with the Concierge that the Sky City Tower was open late and walked into town to get a night view of the city. Sky City is a complex that includes the Sky Tower and Orbit revolving restaurant, a hotel and a casino. The Sky Tower is the tallest tower in the southern hemisphere at 1037 ft. We took in three observation levels, the very top, the open air and main observation levels. The main observation level includes a section with clear floors that give you a unique view looking directly down toward the street. From the Sky City Tower we walked to the Ferry building for dinner at the Harbourside Seafood Bar and Grill.
Sunday April 15th - Easter
On Easter morning we walked back to the Ferry building to catch the United Explorer Bus, which does an on-off anywhere tour of the tourist spots around Auckland. Our first stop was at Kelly Tarlton's Underwater World and Antarctic Encounter. From the bus stop, there was a very good view of the center of Auckland. Kelly Tarlton's is a combination of two attractions that include a mediocre aquarium and a good, but short, tram-based tour of an Antarctic environment.
From Kelly Tarlton's we took the United Explorer to the Auckland War Memorial Museum. This museum has a combination of history, natural history and political exhibits. The Polynesian exhibits include original boats and a complete village. There was a great deal of space used for World War 2 exhibits. Our trip last November to the Polynesian Cultural Center in Hawaii was a good background for some of the history here.
From the museum we walked to the Parnell section of the city and ate a late lunch on the terrace at Iguacu restaurant. Iguacu was the best restaurant of the trip, with excellent food and atmosphere along with a good wine list (I had the John Dory and Fish Chowder, Ben had the Polynesian exotic chicken). The Australian Mad Fish Shiraz ($4 US by the glass here, about $20/bottle in the US) was the best wine of the trip. This is also the place for entertainment in the evening according to our hotel Concierge. We took the United Explorer back to the city and walked through the Aotea Centre, which is a theater and entertainment complex. We grabbed a late snack at Planet Hollywood and walked back to the hotel.
Monday April 16th
On our last day of the trip we caught the Fullers Ferry out to visit Devonport, which is a quaint suburb with historical significance. We did more walking on this last day than we did the rest of the trip. At Devonport, we climbed Mt. Victoria and saw the World War 2 bunkers and gun placements on the side facing the harbor. There were good views of Auckland and the islands beyond from the peak.
We climbed back down and walked along the beach toward North Shore before catching the Ferry to Auckland. The first picture below is from the climb down and the second shows North Shore in the background. Back in the city, we walked through the Americas Cup Village (middle picture below) and saw some racing yachts up close. The last two pictures below are the view from our hotel room. In the late afternoon we grabbed a taxi to the airport for the 11 hour flight home. Because we crossed the international date line from west to east, we arrived home in Los Angeles on Monday morning, about the same time we had headed out to Devonport on the same day.