The Retirees Escape to Auckland – Part 5

It is our last day to travel around the Auckland environs so after some nifty work on the internet we hired a car from “Go” for a days tripping. Stupidly I did not arrange a pickup from our apartment thinking the early morning walk would be nice. Auckland has many volcanic cones and they are all steep sided so the walk through Albert Park was more a climb and then we went the wrong way to make the walk “more enjoyable” and finally the decent to the hire company office. We agreed immediately that we would not return home that way. After picking up the car we planned a trip to the western beach of Piha and ended up in the northern village of Helensville. No GPS and the turn off was hidden by road works.

No worry we got directions and headed for Henderson the Great Scenic Drive and then Piha (where 800 Words was filmed). I guess it had to rain one of our days there and it chose today, so the dramatic views entering Piha we somewhat muted by the overcast skies. As we twisted down the narrowing road the village of Piha appeared spread like a blanket below us.

After descending to the sea level, I was reminded of Sunshine Coast probably in the 70’s. Beach shacks abound and the occasional shop. Here it is middle of the week and clearly no one in NZ has a job to go to – there are no car parks at the first beach, but as we make it to the Piha Surf Life Savers Club it is clear that some school has decided that the students all need to learn how to lounge about in the surf club. It is lunch time and the kitchen is closed so it is to Rough Eddies Fish and Chip Bar we stroll to buy the biggest load of chips and smallest piece of fish to eat on the black sand beach. Even the gulls were on holidays as they crowded us for lunch.

After a relaxing lunch, we drove through the area but it was all much the same.

So we headed for Karekare beach to the south. Karekare is a popular destination for Aucklanders in summer, but receives fewer visitors than nearby Piha, partly because the road is narrow and only recently sealed. Also the beach is a long walk from the car park with the beach sandwiched between hilly escarpments either side. This is not a road for the fainthearted. The location will also be familiar to viewers of the film The Piano, which included beach scenes shot at Karekare and Piha.

We started the trip home reaching Titirangi around 3.00pm. Titirangi is a suburb in the Waitakere Ward of Auckland 13 kilometres to the southwest of the Auckland city centre. at the southern end of the Waitakere Ranges. Just before getting to Titirangi we encountered Arataki Learning Centre a part of  the Arataki Visitor Centre the gateway to the Waitakere Ranges Regional Park. With more than 16,000 hectares of native rainforest and coastline, 250km of walking and tramping tracks providing access to beaches, breathtaking views, and spectacular rocky outcrops, including the Hillary Trail, black sand beaches, waterfalls and giant kauri trees, this is a must stop. The Learning Centre gave us an overview of the Park and it views.

.Returning home to our apartment we relaxed until catching the plane home to Brisbane the next day.

The Retirees Escape to Auckland – Part 4

Tomorrow we meet Cilla and Bob who were our inspiration to travel to Auckland New Zealand. Cilla and Bob live in Attenborough outside Nottingham (Yes the UK). For those who followed our travels in the UK you will already know them and for those who don’t then let me put it this way – Cilla organises the local church working bee for the Church of St Mary the Virgin in Attenborough and we toiled with her amongst the gravestones and Bob well he works at the Nottingham University (not Trent Uni). Cilla and Bob were visiting Auckland for their daughter’s wedding and we thought it was a good opportunity to catch up as our visiting flight was only 3 hours not 26 hours if we went to the UK.

Arrangements had been made – we would meet outside our apartment building and go to One Tree Hill and have lunch at a cafe close by. We knew when Bob had arrived – typical English driving you park your car in the direction you want to go not the direction of the traffic.

One Tree Hill located in Cornwall Park is a 182-metre (597 ft) an important memorial place for both Maori and other New Zealanders. Cilla was certain that visitors could no longer drive to the summit so we walked (and walked and walked and then climbed to the summit past the parked cars of the other visitors). It is surrounded by the suburbs but located within Cornwall Park which is owned by a private trust established to hold the land for the use of the public.  The summit provides views across the Auckland area, and allows visitors to see both of Auckland’s harbours.

On the summit of the hill is an obelisk (not a tree surprisingly), a memorial to Maori. Before the obelisk stands a bronze statue of a Māori warrior. Beneath it is the grave of Sir John Logan Campbell who bequeathed £5,000 for the obelisk and established the trust for the creation of Cornwall Park.

Of course we then had to walk down the hill to the car for a short journey to the Cornwall Park Cafe. Whilst not as splendid as Tantalus, the ambience and the company made up for it and we reminisced about church yards gravestones and that bloody holly tree that I had to trim. It was lovely to meet them again and made us both miss the Midlands of England even more. After lunch (about 3.00pm) Bob dropped us at the Auckland City Hospital to try and recover the records of Kerry’s visit and pay any outstanding expenses. The clinical notes had not been written up and we are still waiting for the records. Australia and NZ have an agreement about emergency trips to the hospital so there was not charge for the overnight stay.

The Retirees Escape to Auckland – Part 3

Kerry has been released from hospital and insists that we embark on our plans for Waiheke Island and the Eco Zip Lines. It is a beautiful day and we catch the ferry to Waiheke. This is an island just off Auckland and a popular tourist site with many small wineries and breweries as well as walks and beaches. We pass Devonport, North Head the other islands and other travellers and within 30 mins we are docking.

We transferred from the ferry to the bus with one other couple who turned out to be American tourists from Orange County. The bus wound its way along the smaller roads to give us scenic views of the island before arriving at Eco Zip Line HQ.

Eco Zip is a series of 3 zip lines (flying foxes) running over the top of some old original forest and modern regrowth. It appears expensive until you see the gear you have to wear and realise that there are two guides working with you all the way. The first line was very gentle to get us started then the second line faster and finally the last line rocketed us down hill about 60 kph thumping into the brake at the bottom. We were warned not to hold onto the bar to closely otherwise you can break your nose as you slam into the break.

Of course what comes down must walk back up only you get to see the forest you sailed over. After getting back to HQ we decided to join our American companions in a trip to a winery and brewery and we would have done that but I left my wallet in my zip line harness and after $35 cab fare we recovered the wallet and ended up at Tantalus Vineyard. A mistake the result of which we found the perfect place for lunch. Both a winery with surrounding vines and a brewery in a stylish building with the dining room styled like a 1950’s American house with bespoke light fittings.

By the way this place was great for its food and ambience. We ordered the wines and beers we wanted taste at our table with lunch. After lunch we strolled through the vines and down the road to our bus stop and rode the bus to the quay to catch our ferry ending a fabulous visit to Waiheke Island.

The Retirees Escape to Auckland – Part 2

At the end of Part 1 Kerry had been told by her GP to go to the Emergency Dept at the Auckland Hospital. This is not a place that tourists frequent so we did what everyone does – we called a cab. The hospital is on the edge of the CBD near the Domain and this was 5.30 pm peak hour Friday evening traffic. So it was close to 6.00 pm when we arrived. The GP had rung the Registrar so we got through the immediate steps quickly but thereafter things dragged until the ward nurse told me that visiting hours were almost up.

So after tucking Kerry into bed I headed to catch a bus back to the CBD and our Apartment which I did successfully first go. In addition I discovered another Auckland icon in the White Lady; a very large cafe de curbside/pie van that has been an institution in Auckland for 60 + years. After passing this cafe I could see the Apartment building and trekked home.

Next day I reversed the journey and caught the bus back to the hospital. The x-rays, ct scans, blood tests had all been completed and a very weary Kerry greeted me with the news that she was unlikely to be discharged until after 2.30 pm that day. The investigation had identified her problem and they had commenced a course of treatment that she would have to continue after discharge. Kerry urged me to find something to do for the day so I ventured out into the street without any real idea of what I might do. So I walked outside and as I did so I asked at the information desk about a museum nearby. To my surprise the Auckland War Museum is in the domain next door to the hospital. So off I went.

Very quickly I found the Domain; literally 100 metres from the hospital steps. This is a large park area with a cricket oval water features the War Museum and open space. Unfortunately, the Museum is on the opposite side of the cricket oval. A brisk walk and I arrived at the back door (not that I knew that at the time). Entry for Auckland residents is free but for “International Tourists” (and that is what I am despite feeling as though I have gone to another suburb in Brisbane)it was $25. The entry was quite amazing. The exterior is a conservative museum look from the 40’s but the interior entry is modern raw and warm dressed timber a great contrast with the cold stone of the building exterior. The ground floor is made over to Maori traditions and culture and Maori/Pakea interaction following the Treaty of Waitangi and a tree house. The second floor is natural history and the third floor the war memorial. Inside is a desk made for General Baden Powell purchased by the museum from the family, a clock which has no particular history but gives the story of the creation of Greenwich Mean Time and how the introduction of railways necessitated the establishment of a unitary measure of time.

Leaving the Domain I contacted Kerry about her discharge and there was still no word so I went to subway to get lunch and as Murphy’s Law applies Kerry was discharged and waiting for me. Show I showed her what I had learned of the Auckland bus system and we went home.

The Retirees Escape to Auckland – Part 1

Thanks to our travel in 2014 and 2015, we had earned loyalty points with EVA Air which we utilised to visit Auckland through the Star Alliance partnership with Air New Zealand. Auckland is presently 3 hours ahead of Brisbane so leaving Brisbane at 6.00 pm meant that we arrived at Auckland International Airport at midnight. We could have planned that better. Taxi fare to our apartment at Metro Apartments Courthouse Lane NZ$69.00. At 1.00 am in the morning we did not much care about anything but finding our bed.

Booking in was a bit different. Whilst I stood guard over the luggage Kerry walked around to Kitchener St and the entrance to the Metro Building where our pass key had been left for collection. We learned later that the two building are joined internally. To my surprise our apartment was on the 29th floor. Again to my surprise it was modern with great views and a big bed. After catching up on sleep we awoke to a sunny but cool day and we were greeted by this view.

Breakfast called and we had a little trouble finding a suitable cafe. Lesson 1 – cafes are in High St not Queen St. Anyway we find a place and after breakfast we walked to the Sky Tower passing some interest improvisation with containers. Everywhere we look there is some thing different done with shipping containers of all sizes. On this occasion it was street vendors.


Principally we headed to the Tower as we were told this was the closest tourist information centre. Auckland has a number of volcanic plugs within it and they are steep. The tower is atop one so after a steady climb we arrived gained the info we wanted and decided that we had better have a look at this icon of Auckland. We rode the elevator to level 51 viewing platform. the elevator has a glass panel in the floor so that you can watch the ground drop away at some speed and then as you rise there are gaps in the building where you feel as though you are going to be flung out into the air. Interesting! At the top magnificent views with glass floor panels so that you can have the feeling of insecurity looking 51 floors to the ground, but wait there is more – up in a second elevator to the 60th floor for breathtaking views and the opportunity to watch the brave souls who have chosen to take the walk on the exterior of the Tower (obviously chained to the building).

After our “walk on the high side” we returned to our Apartment loaded with the groceries for a week. In the afternoon we decided to orientate our selves for later adventures so we walked down to the harbour and followed the harbour edge to Wynyard Quarter where we experienced another opening bridge. At first we wondered who’s car alarm was going off until we realised that the bridge was closing to allow a vessel to pass under into the docks. As we waited I noticed two locals sharing a yarn after swimming. The Wynyard quarter is a redeveloped area of the old waterfront and includes modern restaurants and modern designed buildings as well as more exotic uses of shipping containers (eg) this bus shelter.

We slowly wound our way back to the Apartment where there is a Pizza Restaurant called Amore. It is reminiscent of our Pizza Restaurant in Rome – we dined there just about every night. And we were not disappointed – our waiter and one of the owners clearly was Italian born and told us he came from Milan area and spent some time in Rome sold Moretti beer and made a great pizza. Perfect.

Friday morning and we caught the ferry to Devonport, a harbour side village accessible by ferry or by road the difference being 7 mins by ferry or one and a half hour drive by road. We purchased the Devonport tour which included the return ferry ride and whilst there is not a lot to see at Devonport what is there is a laid back residential life with a maritime background and Maori heritage. We left the dock at 10.00 am and were surprised that people travelling from Devonport we just as numerous as those travelling to it. We got a great view of the harbour from the ferry. As we departed we saw the Ferry House as the early sailors would have seen it, the cruise liner at its terminal, the container terminal with the War Museum on the hill in the background and part of the NZ Navy.

As we got nearer our destination we saw a lovely home on a headland and saw the iconic view of Auckland.



Our tour started on our arrival and we were joined by two other travellers both from Wollongong. We journeyed through the street of the village with our driver a retired sailor from the Naval base telling us the Maori heritage of North Head and maritime history of Flagstaff renamed Devonport when the semaphore purposes of Flagstaff Hill (now called Mt Victoria) changed. The Maori were removed from North Head and other headlands so the British could develop fortifications to protect the colony from other nations particularly the Russians.  The forts they developed never fired a shot in anger and the land is to be returned to the Maori but presently is public open space.

Note the unique disappearing 8″ gun mounted on a pneumatic arm using the recoil to push it out of view.

We then moved on to the next Fort Takapuna. Much the same as North Head. Then onto Mount Victoria (Flagstaff Hill) which the Maori are talking about closing to the public. But not yet so we might be one of the last non Maori to go up the hill. Anyway we looked back to North Head and across to the docks at Auckland. We also looked at Rangitoto a volcanic island formed around 600 years ago and the latest addition to the NZ Navy built for them in Melbourne an urgent response ship.

After a relaxing morning we went home and Kerry visited a doctor regarding extreme stomach pain which she had been coping with for a few days. The GP was uncertain and with the weekend upon us she rang the Registrar at the Auckland Hospital and off we went to No 14 on the top ten favourite tourist spots in Auckland – Auckland Hospital