The following things have been on my bucket list for years: go to New Zealand, go to Australia, go to Bali, hold a wombat and a koala, go bungee jumping and go on a spa vacation. Well what better time than the present right? After deciding to take a month off of work (and getting approval from my manager) and waiting a looooong 7 months, I packed up and headed out for an adventure! On the itinerary was New Zealand for 3 weeks, Bali for 5 days and Australia for 5 days. To say I was excited was an understatement....focusing at work the last month was near impossible. Luckily my trip exceeded my expectations. In an effort to help my poor memory (worst. memory. ever.) I'm going to try and write down everything that I remember meaning these will be long and most likely rambling...although the longer it takes me to actually get through all of these the less I will remember so you never know. Either way you have been warned.
First off - my flight!! I flew down to LAX and then hopped on an Air New Zealand flight for the 10-ish hours it takes to get to Auckland. I LOVE AIR NEW ZEALAND!!! After welcoming us to the flight with 'Kia ora' (I love when this is said in greeting), they fed us lots of food, the individual TVs had good movies, shows and music, each seat had a little leg rest so it was easier to recline to sleep AND they served so much free wine. I loved it. At one point I tried to hand back a half full glass of wine and was given a disapproving look from the flight attendant who told me he didn't like waste. After finishing my drink he gave me a huge smile and said 'atta girl'- gotta love flight attendants like that. Even better than the wine was the fact that I actually slept on the plane meaning when I arrived in Auckland I had energy and was ready to go.
Auckland | Day 1
The flight arrived a little late and I quickly realized that my luggage was going to be even later. Turns out my backpack decided not to get on the plane in LA- oh well. Luckily I have almost no faith in airports being able to handle transferring luggage correctly so I had some essentials with me to get me through the first couple days. Plus its hard to complain when it's a beautiful day and I'm finally in Auckland after waiting months for this trip!
I took the bus downtown and was dropped off at the ferry terminal. I quickly found a good little sandwich shop called The Glass Box and tried a pint of Brother's Beer and chicken avocado sandwich It was only 10:30 Auckland time so they looked at me a little funny for ordering beer but as I was on vay-cay I did not care. I immensely enjoyed my sandwich and beer outside in the sun. Fun fact: the ozone hole above New Zealand means you burn REALLY easily...not that I have experience with that or anything (ouch to my poor burned shoulders/chest).
Afterwards, I wandered around Queen street getting a quick lay of the land before heading to my hotel. I stayed at the Jucy Hotel - it's a hostel/hotel so the rooms are very basic but clean and, most importantly after being on a plane for 12 hours, they have a bed. Feeling refreshed after a much needed shower and nap, I headed back out. The Santa parade was going on (similar to the Macy's thanksgiving day parade) but since I hate crowds, I avoided that whole situation. Instead I wandered along the Viaduct which is amazing. Tons of awesome looking restaurants and bars. It was redone for the last Americas cup held in Auckland.
Then I headed towards the Sky Tower but didn't make it up there since that seemed to be the idea that everyone else leaving the parade had. Instead I wandered over to Albert park before heading back out for dinner on the Viaduct. I ended up eating pretty early so I didn't have trouble finding a spot but it got pretty crowded later. I ended up eating at Pescado where I had the special: roast lamb shoulder over risotto and veggies with demi-glaze...amazing! Enjoyed with two glasses of rose while reading my book and watching the sun set.
After that I attempted to go up the Sky Tower yet again but they had stopped selling tickets- it officially wasn't happening on day 1. Instead I wandered around a grocery store and bought some Tim Tams. I like going to grocery stores in other countries and seeing what's different. It was a city store so probably more limited than normal but the selection was much smaller than the US (not a bad thing) however they had an entire section devoted to chocolate biscuits (definitely not a bad thing). Finished up the day in bed by 10 (without the Tim Tams- please note self control).
Auckland | Day 2
After a good nights sleep I was picked up the next morning by family friends Alida and Alyssa. Alida is from New Zealand and Alyssa went to school there so they know the area really well. First we headed to Orewa to pick up a picnic lunch to eat by the beach. We ate meat pies (steak, bacon and cheese for me- it was awesome), cheese/crackers, fruit, chips and NZ wine.
It was a little windy at our picnic spot so we headed up to Wenderholm Regional Park. We peaked in a window of the historic Couldrey House, an old Edwardian home, and then headed up the hill to a overlook of the beautiful bay and river. Before getting on the trail we had to protect the kauri tree by spraying our shoes and brushing them clean. Kauri dieback disease is a fungus that is killing kauri trees so steps are taken to protect kauri trees whenever possible. After the hike we took some pictures in the giant photo frame set up by the beach before going for a swim to cool off. The water was fairly warm and so salty! It was easy to float and relax.
Auckland | Day 3
Kicked off third day in Auckland with brunch at Federal & Wolfe. I had scoped it out the day before (and also read a raving review in my guide book) so I knew thats where I wanted to eat. It was a tough call but I ended up ordering smoked fish kedgeree and it was delicious (basmati rice, smoked fish, poached egg, lemon and fresh herbs).
After brunch I headed up the street to the Sky Tower- I finally got to to up! I showed my Jucy hotel keycard and got the backpacker discount - saved $10! It was cool to get such a good view of the city and of all the volcanos! Like Alida said the day before 'if there's a hill there's a volcano' and there are a ton! At 328 meters you get a really good view and there's also a chance to jump off of it! I passed since I was planning on bungee jumping in Queenstown but it did look really fun.
After the Sky Tower, I went to the Auckland Art Gallery and found out it was a free admission day- score! The architecture was awesome but the art was not quite up my alley- I do not get contemporary art at all. There were some cool pieces though.
Turns out they let you in for free when you only have 40 mins to explore three floors of an amazing museum before it closes at 5- oops. I had to hustle- no time for things that didn't look interesting. I headed straight for the Maori exhibit and loved seeing all the carvings and stepping inside a replica Maori house. I also loved the 1800s replica village that was set up on the third floor - I liked that you could walk into all the buildings and check them out. There was also a volcano exhibit that caught my attention- if you know me you know I have a pretty major fear of earthquakes and volcanos aren't that far behind. As part of the exhibit they had a fake living room set up with couches, coffee table, decorative items and a fake patio door showing a view of the harbor. There was also a TV that showed a fake news story about earthquakes leading up to an impending volcanic eruption. We watched the evacuation, the scientific facts, a description of what would happen before that (cue steam rising out of the water outside the fake patio doors) and then the whole room shook like in an earthquake and the TV went black. Then lots of big booms and more shaking as the volcano erupted and the ash cloud hit the fake living room. Afterwards there was a segment advising people to be prepared for a volcano emergency because 'it's not if but when'...cue my nightmares.
After that lovely experience it was time to head out- I walked through the super cute Parnell district. I picked up some ice cream during the walk and stopped in at the Windsor Castle Bar for a glass of wine (and free wifi). Then I headed back to my hotel via the Britomart district. Great looking restaurants and bars!
And the shopping looked fun too however at that point I had been on my feet going on 7 hours and I was about done. I picked up some yummy Thai food and headed home for an early night of TV watching (Australia's junior master chef!) and relaxing. It was my last night in a private room as I was going to be in hostels for the next two plus weeks and I wanted to take advantage of the quiet. Loved my time in Auckland! Definitely want to go back and spend more time in the North Island!