Subtitle – and you didn’t even have to try.
Some places eventually get into your affections. Some never do. Others irritate and jar. And then occasionally you turn up somewhere, head out to see what’s about, think ‘hey, this is cool’ and you’re sold. Effortless. That was Auckland for me today.
We pulled into port around 6.30am as the sun struggled to break through a light layer of cloud. Initial glimpses of this city on the bay were favourable, with sleek marinas, a compact downtown area and the Sky tower dominating the skyline.
It was an early start – on the coach by 8.30am – and as the Sky tower didn’t open until 9 our cheerful driver offered the take us a quick tour around the upmarket areas of Parnell and Newmarket. These were impressive, quietly so, no need to appear flashy just classy looking bars, restaurants and galleries and some very nice homes. We turned at the Holy Trinity cathedral, where Sir Edmund Hillary rests and ascended to drive past the war museum and memorial, an impressive neoclassical style building in scenic restful parkland. Although it was nearing ‘rush hour’, everyone was taking their time and appeared at one with the world.
At the Sky tower we were welcomed warmly and made our way without fuss to the elevators which took us to the 51st floor, some 338m above the city, in 40 seconds. A glass plate in the floor gave an impression of how fast we were travelling.
The views were stunning, a 360 degree panorama revealing the nature of the city. Much of Auckland is built along the seafront in a series of bays. A bridge connects to the suburb of Devonport. In the distance can be seen Rangitoto island with its volcano and Waikaka island, home to several renown vineyards. Inland the city is very flat and low rise.
Having well and truly got the lie of the land it was time to head to the aquarium, lovingly created by Kelly Tarlton and the first to use the overhead curving tunnels so commonly seen in such establishments nowadays. Firstly we passed through a recreation of Scott’s Antarctic hut and then came face to face with some Gentoo and King Penguins. The Kings looked like they were falling asleep, about to topple over backwards, but the Gentoos were a bit more enthusiastic, taking to the water; one even struck up a conversation with Moira!
The section where you go through the moving walkways with the glass all around and overhead was awesome. The tiger sharks and rays were particularly menacing.
But not all the life on show was so threatening. The jellyfish were delicate and beautiful, the turtle startlingly elegant, there were some colourful tropical fish and the seahorses as quirky as always.
On leaving the aquarium we had time to walk along Okahu bay with views across to Ranghitoto island.
On returning to the ship we had a free afternoon so decided to head into town. It was so easily accessible; the main shopping street, Queen Street, was just across the road from where we docked. Having made a few purchases we headed to the lovely open spaces of Albert park, near the student sector.
Our final port of call (pun intended) was Viaduct harbour, one of several marinas in a string along the bay. A lovely spot for a drink and a some reflections on what had been a delightful day.