Every day we spent in Auckland seemed better than the previous day. We enjoyed exploring the city, walking through the Auckland University campus, crossing a bridge, and discovering another park with a shade path that took us to the impressive Australian Museum. We spent an hour in a ‘winter garden’ with koi ponds and statues between grey stone buildings with skylights and exotic flowers from Asia and the Polynesian islands.
One morning, we had breakfast in Parnell, a charming neighborhood with restored late 19th century and early 20th century buildings and storefronts. Erstwhile banks and mercantile stores had been converted into sushi restaurants, flower shops, and wine stores. Parnell reminded us a bit of Georgetown, Carmel, and Kensington. We had two dinners in Parnell, one at an Italian restaurant and the other at a ‘fusion’ restaurant named Iguazu for the waterfall in Argentina.
Our last day in town, we took an afternoon cruise of the scenic harbor. Auckland is an isthmus between two harbors, Waitemata harbor in the north and Manukau harbor in the south. Auckland international airport is on Manukau harbor which opens on the Tasman Sea.
Before our afternoon cruise, we walked down the embarcadero for lunch at an outdoor restaurant. The skies were cloudy, turning dark. As we were seated, there was a loud explosion like a sonic boom. Everyone jumped and looked around nervously. Our waitress said, “Oh, don’t worry, we get lightning in the summer when dark clouds come from the west.”
By the time we finished lunch, the skies cleared a bit and we board our boat. Tour companies offer harbor cruises for a half day, full day, dinner and wine cruises, and visits to islands with vineyards, seaside villages, and a wildlife park.
Auckland harbor has abundant visual attractions; the amber-colored ferry building, outdoor restaurants, a maritime museum with a wave-like white roof, and sailboats, yachts, and small fishing boats.
We sailed from Auckland wharf and passed the harbor bridge which spans the narrowest point between Auckland and the North island. Residents on the north island can drive across the harbor bridge or take a ferry to work downtown. It reminded us of Tiburon and Sausalito on San Francisco Bay linked to the city by the Golden Gate Bridge. But they allow bungy jumping off the Auckland harbor bridge; not so on the Golden Gate.
Australian naval ships docked at Devenport Naval Base, mostly used for research. (I recently read in the Wall Street Journal that the Australian Navy held a memorial service off the Queensland Coast to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Battle of the Coral Sea when a U.S. battleship Lexington was sunk by Japanese navy. More than American 600 sailors went down with the ship. Historians say the battle ended Japanese plans to occupy Australia and New Zealand in the early days of World War II.)
Our ferry stopped at islands to pick up day trippers who’d landed earlier to hike around the islands. At one dock, I snapped photos of seagulls resting on the dock. As hikers came out on the dock, the gulls flew up.
We passed uninhabited islands, including one with a national park reached only by boat.
Sailing in Auckland harbor
The harbor was full of sailboats and yachts, lazily dancing over the waves. One group looked to be competing, sailing around buoys, then racing to a finish line in the distance.
Auckland is the largest commercial port in New Zealand. The federal government had recently legislated a layoff of dock workers and a cut in benefits. Dock workers retaliated by calling a strike. Newspapers and TV covered the controversy for days. It got pretty ugly. We could see the docks from our balcony, lit up at night as ships waited to be loaded and unloaded.
Returning in Auckland, dark clouds were gathering again, making the skyline look ominous. But rain held off and we returned to Parnell for our last dinner in Auckland.
Preparing to dock, we passed the city’s maritime museum with an interesting wave design. At night, the museum’s roof is lit and flashing blue lights ripple back and forth like waves coming ashore. Pretty spectacular to see.
As we walked off the boat, we had another view of the Sky Tower sandwiched between an apartment and high-rise office buildings.
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