Auckland, the City of Sails, is the largest city in New Zealand and home to 2 million people.
Our first day in Auckland was a chance to recover from our jam-packed week of great times in Northland. I stayed in central Auckland near Ponsonby, which is full of independent shops and numerous cafes, bars and restaurants. I took a stroll through the main street and discovered Ponsonby Central, a funky fresh food market with casual dining options. It was pumping! Then, I guess it was a Saturday morning after all. For lunch I dined at Prego, an Auckland institution, specialising in Italian cuisine.
Later in the day I headed downtown to Vulcan Lane to sample some of Auckland’s finest craft beer. As the sun went down it was time to take a stroll around the Viaduct Basin, admiring how the waterfront has transformed over the last decade. Later that evening it was time to check out Auckland’s nightlife scene… Let’s just say it was so good that I was full of regret the following morning.
That’s when we met up with Elle, owner of The Big Foody Food Tours. The Big Foody offers four tours; The Tastebud Tour, The Fish Market Tour, The Afternoon Tour and The Orientation Tour. Elle is renowned for showing people around Auckland, introducing them to the wide variety of food that is available as well as the different markets, secret spots that only locals know about and iconic landmarks. The unique thing about The Big Foody is that Elle tailors each tour to suit the client – no two tours are identical.
First stop on our tour was the Hobsonville Point Farmer’s Market. Situated on the waterfront, this a relatively high-end market featuring boutique products. Fresh produce, preserves, chutney’s, sauces, infused olive oils, cheeses, Danish crackerbread, Korean Pancakes, Indian spices, organic Ginger Beer – the list just goes on – and a Parrot called Basil who greets you at the entrance of the old warehouse building which contains the stalls. Seriously, this a market with a difference and one not to be missed!
The next stop was the Avondale Markets. What a contrast! I felt like the world had come to Auckland. It was crowded and there were so many different cultures all coming together in one place. I LOVED IT! It was your more traditional market, in that it featured bric-a-brac, household items, fresh produce, fresh (and dried) meat, fish and seafood and food stalls. Elle took us to her favourite food caravan who, in her words, make the best food in the city. That is a massive call but their signature Noodle Soup dish lived up to its reputation.
A couple of days later we experienced the Fish Market Auction Tour with Elle. She explained how the Seafood Industry in New Zealand is the 4th largest in the world. The Auckland Fish Market is a world class facility. We witnessed behind the scenes action, exploring the viewing room which contained the catch of the day – we are talking massive quantities here, the smallest quantity of fish you can bid for is 20kg. As well, we spoke to the Auctioneer and met some of the buyers who explained their markets.
Our time in Auckland was plagued with bad weather. It didn’t rain that much, just threatened to every day, but the wind was consistently strong. This meant that we were unable to experience the Dolphin safari and sailing of an America’s Cup boat with Explore NZ. Unfortunately, the weather also prevented us from visiting Piha, one of the most popular surf beaches in the country, and the Waitakere Ranges, a dense sub-tropical rainforest with soaring peaks and large waterfalls.
However, Sam and I were able to jump off the Sky Tower, which is the tallest building in New Zealand. (Please note, Lisa was too chicken.) The SkyJump, at 192m above the CBD, is the highest jump in the country. You are attached to a safety wire and fall for 11 seconds at a speed of 85kph. Clearly, as the video shows, I was not terrified at all.
A trip to Voyager, the Maritime Museum, is a must. It highlights stories of exploration from early Polynesian migrations through to the achievements of New Zealand’s modern day yachting success. While we didn’t actually enter the Auckland Museum, we did visit it at night to admire the beautiful historic building, which is emphasized by the lighting.
We couldn’t leave Auckland without visiting Kelly Tarlton’s Sea Life Aquarium. It showcases over 30 live animal exhibits, from over 80 different species in spectacular habitat displays, including the world’s largest Antarctic Penguin Colony exhibit and amazing underwater viewing tunnels – which were revolutionary when the aquarium opened in 1985. The penguin’s were really curious, coming right up to the display window to check us out. They were interactive, rising out of the water and pushing their chest against the glass wall while flapping their wings. Was this some sort of mating ritual that I witnessed?
This place also provides up close encounters with sharks, huge stingrays, seahorses, jellyfish, tropical fish and bizarre crustaceans. As well as marine life, Kelly Tarlton’s allows you to explore the history of Scott Base and its pioneering explorers. It even has an interactive feature which challenges you to keep your hand in freezing arctic water for 30 seconds. Yes, Sam and I accepted the challenge. Actually, there are numerous interactive zones, which are not just interesting for kids. I could have easily lost myself in this place for hours but it was time to hit the road again.