A Weekend in Auckland and Waiheke Island

September 8, 2014
When we woke up last Saturday morning, it was light out. Thats not good, I thought. Scott told me it was just 3 minutes before the alarm was set to go off. Huh, the sun sure is coming up early these days… how is it the sun came up at 7 last week, and 6am this week?
It’s not 6am, is it?

So instead of having breakfast, coffee, washed faces and brushed hair, we threw our clothes on, grabbed our bags that we (thankfully!) packed the night before, brushed our teeth and ran out the door. Time from bed to car: approx. 4 minutes. Time until flight departed: 55 minutes.
We made it to the airport in record time (there might be less police out at 7am on Saturday morning- thankful for this too) and surrendered to the fact that we’d be paying for the privilege to park on asphalt laid close to the airport instead of far from the airport. Dammit.
We ran through the airport like George Clooney in that one movie about airplanes. I’m brilliant, so I had already checked us in and our boarding passes had been texted to me.
We sprinted to security with just carry-on luggage and were immediately reminded why living in New Zealand is awesome. 6 people in the whole security line, and you don’t have to take your shoes off. Win.
We bolted to our gate! We made it! Where do we board? Oh, we’ve got 10 minutes to spare?… damn, could have parked further away. Anyways, we bought a questionable parfait and a coffee as our reward for making it on time- and to replace the calories from the morning that had turned into a work out.
Weekend getaway, at last.
Flying over the Kaikoura range

So in the hurry to go, I was really pleased that I remembered the iPad and the camera. In the end, I never once touched the iPad, and the camera got trucked around with no memory card in it. So every single picture here is substandard Windows Phone quality. (Lesson #89: buy the phone with the better camera. I wish I did.)

We arrived in Auckland to rain. Relentless, windy, gray rain. And unfortunately for us, that’s the way it was destined to be for the better part of our holiday. In the past we’ve always been so lucky with weather on our vacations. I guess our turn was up.

Anyways, we made the best of it. We had lunch, walked by the water, through a few parks, through the university, and over to Auckland Domain, which is kinda like a botanical gardens but also a bunch of playing fields. We were soaked. There were a few greenhouses we took cover in, with some beautiful tropical flora.

Pretty sure this pitcher plant traps kittens instead of flies.

We ended up a few miles from town, so taxi’d it back into the city centre, where we walked some more, and eventually found dinner at a taco truck (!). It was a bit disappointing, but still, a taco truck! View from the truck:

The next day we boarded the ferry to Waiheke Island. The journey took about 45 minutes, and we quickly felt like we were out of the city. Apparently lots of people commute from Waiheke to Auckland every day, and I could see why. It’s kind of calming to watch the city shrink away in the distance. Waiheke is an island half way between Auckland and Coromandel, it’s tropical and quiet, with lots of wineries and 8,000 permanent residents. Beats city life if you ask me.
When we arrived to Waiheke, there was still no weather change. We scrapped our idea of renting and riding bikes around the island (plus, lots of people had told us that was a crazy idea) and we rented a car. A real winner of a car too… every time it was idling, or in first, or second gear, it lurched and stopped and went like a faulty carnival ride. Good times.
It takes about 2 hours to drive around the whole island, so we made a few stops along the way. We checked out a bird sanctuary, where apparently the birds had been put off the the weather as well. We still had an enjoyable muddy hike through some tropical scenery.

After a few more stops for scenery we pulled over at the Man O War Vineyard on the rural east coast of Waiheke. If you check out their website, you can see what Waiheke looks like in the sun. I can’t say enough good things about their wine, which is surprisingly all grown on Waiheke Island. Who knew a subtropical island could grow so many varietals, so well? Also, they are the only winery on the island (there are 20+) that have complimentary tastings. Oh, and their honey (of all things) is fantastic! We brought some home. I have no photos, but do check them out!

Driving north on the rural road away from Man O War, we stopped for one last walk in the rain, on what would obviously have been an amazingly beautiful hike if it were sunny. But there was one thing… lambs!

As usual, we used AirBNB for our accommodations throughout the weekend, and although I have nowhere to really rave about, every spot was nice, quiet, comfortable, etc, etc. If you don’t already use Air BNB when you travel, you are missing out.

The following day we woke up in Waiheke to overcast, but dry(ish) weather. Before we returned our rental “car”- strictly at 10:30 – we drove to the north side of the island to explore a bit more. We found a pretty little cove in Palm Beach and hung out as long as time would allow.

About 10 minutes.

This day also marked 8 years Scott and I have been together. So that’s fun 🙂
I thought this tree growing on the rock was neat. A little confusing in the picture but whatever. It’s my blog.

We returned our rental car promptly at 10:30, but decided no to get on the ferry quite yet. Especially since I had just gotten a text from our next place of accommodation back in Auckland which read:

Hi Kristen. Horrid Day. Let me know when you’ll be here. Sally.

At least we were in a place that was dry. From above, anyways. So from the rental car spot we tramped up and over the hill to a couple of vineyards. Admittedly, they were the tourist trap wineries, being close to the ferry and all, but hey- we’re tourists, and usually pretty happy to be trapped by wine. It was amusing to walk into each one with muddy boots (and Scott with a muddy backside as he went sliding down a hill on the hike over). If they were put off by us, they hid it well.

We were pretty happy both both Cable Bay and Mudbrick, although both used lots of grapes grown in the south island and from other parts of New Zealand. Not nearly as impressive (or tasty!) as Man O War!

Entrance, and questionable photography, at Cable Bay Vineyard. Great pino gris and syrah, skip the sauvignon blanc!
Mudbrick. It looks better than it tastes. And tastings are a rip off. Yep, I said it.

We finally boarded the ferry in the early afternoon and headed back to Auckland. And our dry, gray skies turned… well, horrid. What a horrid day. We taxi’d up to Sally’s house in Ponsonby- a poshy little neighborhood recommended to us by friends for shopping and eating. Unfortunately, the weather was so foul that even shopping was pretty uncomfortable. We settled in for a crazy snack of mushrooms and bacon, and I had a pear and vodka smoothie… or something? Anyways, the most exhilerating thing we did this afternoon was eat, so I took a picture of it.

That night we went to a comedy show across town in New Market at the Lumsden Free House. If you’ll recall from some post a year or so ago, a “free house” is a bar that has a license to sell whatever kind of booze they want instead of being regulated by “big beer” companies in New Zealand like Macs, Steinlager, or Heineken. Gross. Anyways, this just means you’re guaranteed an actual craft beer selection. And to be fair, good craft beer was not hard to find in Auckland.

The comedy show was good- minus one or two of the acts, and it was free, which is my favorite number. We felt like we had kind of salvaged our night.

Oh- and on a side note, we took the bus from the ferry to our accommodations in Ponsonby, from Ponsonby to New Market, and back, as well as around quite a bit the next day. The public transportation system in Auckland is amazing, and each ride anywhere in the city, bus or train, is $2 per person. Christchurch, San Francisco, Paris: take notes.

The next, and last, day we woke up to the sound of silence. No rain. No wind. Blue skies.

We jumped out of bed and got to it, because there was so much time we had spent indoors looking out. It was Sept 2, the second official day of spring, but it was like Auckland got the memo a day late. But the memo was received: it was a beautiful, sunny, warmish spring day.

We bussed over to Mount Eden, one of the largest of Auckland’s many craters. It’s a volcanic area, with 53 volcanoes locally that have erupted at least once. Anyways, view from the top:

Hole in the ground.

After taking in the sun and views from Mount Eden we had lunch in Kingsland- another highly recommended suburb for shopping and eating- we ate, and left. It was boring. But we headed down to the waterfront and found….

BIKES! We found bikes! We found free bikes! Well, $2/person to “register” and the first 2 hours were “free”. And we actually kept them an extra hour because… bikes!

We rode all around the Auckland waterfront, to a nearby suburb called St. Heliers. After a few bends in the road, the tall buildings disappeared and were replaced with sailboats, and the people dissipated. It was calm and warm and sunny. And bikes!

Taking in the view from St. Helier
Browns Island.
Happy to put the skyline in the background.
We really felt like we fixed our trip that last day. We are people that rely on good weather and thrive on physical exercise, fresh air, and sun. We can’t sit in bars and cafes all day and talk about ideas and philosophies. (Though I get mighty philosophical after a few IPAs.) We need to spin, stretch, breathe and sweat. Even though we both know this, it was really apparent by the end of this little holiday.
We’re not disappointed though. We had a good time, and we know more than ever now what really makes us happy. (Ok, we probably always knew. Bikes. Beer. Sun.) But now we really, really know.
When you need sunnies- its a good day!

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1 Comment

  • Reply Anonymous September 19, 2014 at 10:39 am

    Hi wow thanks so much for sharing!! Thanks Lindie we will be immigrating from South Africa to New Zealand hopefully this year! I can’t wait!!!

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