Beyond the CBD

We spent most of today on Auckland Scenic Tours’ Full Day Auckland Tour; Mike was our guide and driver, and he was great. He’s lived in Auckland all his life and knows the city well and did a fantastic job of making us feel some of the changes that have happened over the last 50 years.

We started with a drive along the coastline, passing the Ports of Auckland and crossing Hobson Bay to Orakei, where we left the coast to enjoy seeing the homes of the rich and sometimes famous on Paratai Drive (multi-million dollar homes with stunning views). This pink house is owned by one of Auckland’s Desparate Housewives.

We stopped at Achilles Point (named for the ship which defeated the Graf Spee in 1939). There were a couple of Maori pouwhenua (much like totem poles) there, and Mike took photos of us doing something vaguely like a haka at the pole.

I hope our posing wasn’t too disrespectful to the Maori ancestors being honored by the poles.

Our next stop was the Auckland Domain, where we took a short walk to the Winter Garden to explore the Fernery and the Temperate House.

Mike showed us how ferns develop koru (fiddleheads) to add fronds.

The Silver Fern is endemic to New Zealand and is one of the country’s symbols.

The Temperate House was loaded with flowers. I could fill an entire post with them, but I’ll restrain myself.

Our next stop was Mt. Eden (Maungawhau), one of the earliest Maori settlements. We saw ancient Maori food storage pits and had great views of Auckland.

We did a wine tasting at Soljans, one of the oldest wineries in Auckland; I especially liked their port, and was happy that they’d ship it to the US at a decent price.

We had a delicious lunch at the Riverhead Tavern (snapper risotto).

We drove past the house Kim Dotcom rented while he was running Megaupload (before he was arrested on fraud and computer crime charges). Mike said it was supposed to be worth 50 million New Zealand Dollars (about $30M US).

We stopped at North Head to enjoy the views, watch sailors in action, and explore the Disappearing Gun.

Our final stop wasn’t on the official itinerary; Mike took us to the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron.

The club has won many trophies over its 150 years.

But the highlight was the America’s Cup, which they’ll be defending later this year.

This evening, we walked over to the Wynyard Quarter; we had a great dinner at Baduzzi.

On the walk back, we enjoyed seeing the Sky Tower lit in red, probably for the Lunar New Year.

The Tepid Baths had been one of the stops on yesterday’s scavenger hunt, and we passed by it on our way back to the hotel. This time, I was able to get a photo!

Tomorrow promises to be another full day.