We arrived in Auckland on the Wednesday morning (February 21) and the ship was cleared and I was on the gangway before 10:30AM. I didn’t have much planned, I wanted to explore under my own steam and as we remained in port for 2 days, I didn’t have to rush to fit everything in.
I started the day slowly, walking from the ship and along Queen Street, where you’ll find everything from Gucci stores to souvenir shops. I had shopping in mind, but it was local crafts I was in search of, not over-priced designer bags. I found 4 shops that I really liked and they all offered locally made arts and crafts, including wooden maori masks which were screaming at me as soon as I walked through the door. I left with 1 mask, a few t-shirts and some crisps from the supermarket. I was quite content with my morning but on my way back to the ship it poured with rain. I spent 20 minutes taking shelter before it stopped and I could finally drop my bags off in the cabin and then continue with my exploring. My first stop in the afternoon was St Paul’s Cathedral, a beautiful church nestled in the heart of the city. It was stunning both inside and out and offered 5 minutes peace from the hustle and bustle of the city. As I left, the Sky Tower was staring me down and although I have a terrible fear of heights, I knew I had to be brave and experience it. I purchased my ticket for NZ$29 and up I went. The ticket gives you access to the Sky Deck at 722 feet, Main Observation Level at 610 feet and the cafe. The views are absolutely stunning! I was so lucky that there was a break in the weather and while I was up the Sky Tower, there was barely a cloud in the sky. You MUST do this if you visit Auckland. I am so glad that I did it! You could spend hours up there if it’s your kind of thing, but even though I did enjoy it, I was aware that my feet were much further from the ground than I’d like them to be. I explored both levels, took some photographs and admire the views, then I made my way swiftly back down.
Sky Tower Fast Facts
- It took two years and nine months to build, at a cost of NZ$85 million.
It’s 328 metres high
Has 1,267 stairs from the base to the Sky Deck
- It’s primarily constructed from 15,000 cubic metres of concrete, 2,000 tonnes of reinforcing steel and 260 panes of glass
- It should remain standing in the unlikely event of a magnitude 8.0 earthquake occouring within 20 kilometres of the tower
Day 2 was also a slow day, I went out the evening before and didn’t get back to the ship until late, but it was OK, the day would involve a comfortable seat on the hop on hop off bus. I’d arranged tickets for this with CruisingExcursions before Marian and I left on the cruise. All we had to do was show up, get the bus ticket and off we could go. It was seamless. I’d definitely recommend this as an advance booking option. We opted for the Red Tour which starts just opposite the cruise ship terminal (opposite Princes Wharf next to the big Phillips sign). We drove to Bastion Point Lookout, Kelly Tarlton’s, Parnell Rose Gardens, Holy Trinity Cathedral, Parnell Village and then left the bust on Queen Street. It kept pouring with rain, otherwise we would have also went on the Blue Tour, but the rain was so heavy at times that you could barely see out of the windows. I enjoyed the tour we did and I really liked the charm of Parnell. It was quaint, more laid back than the city and had an abundance of shops, bars and restaurants. It was a nice suburb and an ideal option if you want to escape the fast pace of Auckland for a few hours.
Just to note, the Blue Tour includes stops at Auckland Zoo, Wintergardens, Eden Garden, Mt Eden and a few others, so it really is worth doing if you have the time and the weather is on your side. You can purchase your ticket directly from the CruisingExcursions website and then when you arrive for the tour simply give that to the person issuing tickets. The will then issue you with an Explorer Bus Pass which also includes a return ticket for the Devonport ferry and you can get discounts on other city attractions, including the Sky Tower, Auckland Zoo, Auckland Museum and Eden Garden. It’s absolutely worth doing and the ticket is valid for 24 hours.
We sailed from Auckland late on the Thursday night and the next morning found ourselves at anchor in the Bay of Islands. To go out on deck and find that your ship is surrounded by dolphins is something we can usually only ever dream of, but that morning, for us, it became a reality. I’ve never seen so many! They were there to greet us and we lavished in every single sighting.
The tender service was much smoother here than it had been at Easter Island and we were thrilled. Marian and I left the ship on the first tender for independent passengers and off we went to explore Paihia. It’s a charming little town but it was incredibly busy and there was so much to do! We started with a walk around the town (which took around 20 minutes) and found a shop that was bursting with beautiful clothes. Needless to say, we stayed in there for some time and both left with bags filled with new garments. We also had a walk around the small arts and crafts market that had been set up on the village green. There were lots of beautiful things and nearly all were locally made, but some things were quite expensive. Next, we made our way along to the rocky beach to look for shells, we stayed there for a while, searching for treasures and admiring the view. It was perfect. We could see the ship, people parasailing and the ferries going back and forth, and for a while, we had the whole beach to ourselves! Perfect.
We left the beach and strolled back into town and found a vegan/vegetarian restaurant where we had lunch. Marian is vegan, so we always try to look out for something and honestly, I don’t mind trying something new. I ordered a black bean and cheese tortilla with sour cream and a side of beetroot – don’t ask about the beetroot – and it was delicious! We were both satisfied, Marian had a tofu and satay sauce sandwich with veggies and she enjoyed that, too. We left with full tummies and decided to walk the opposite way to where we had already been and as we turned the corner we were greeted by the sight of a stunning beach. We walked along it, picking shells as we went and took some time to once again just admire the view and appreciate the fact that we were there. We used this as a good way to end our day. Considering Paihia is such a small place, we managed to explore for almost 6 hours. If we’d been there a little longer I would have taken a ferry to one of the neighbouring islands. Maybe that’s a reason for me to go back!
We had the most incredible sail away from Bay of Islands. The view was stunning in every direction and a beautiful sunset ultimately followed. I enjoyed our time in New Zealand very much. I feel like I got the chance to see 2 very different sides to the country, but I know there is still so much more to explore. This World Cruise has been absolutely incredible so far, but I am starting to worry that it might spark even more of the wanderlust inside me and I’ll need to think about doing this all again, in the not too distant future! I am completely hooked and living every single moment of it.
We’re now heading for Sydney! I know, I still can’t believe it! It’s going to be fantastic. We’ve got 1 more day at sea before we arrive there and I’ve spent the last day and a half soaking up the sun on deck and talking to the wonderful new friends that I’ve made since being onboard. The ship is home, the crew and passengers are now my friends and family and right now, I’d not want to be anywhere else!