We arrived in Auckland early Wednesday morning and checked in to our hostel – the Brown Kiwi in Ponsonby. As it was 10am NZ time, it was pretty much bedtime at home, but we decided to power through until the evening if we could. The Brown Kiwi lets you check in from 10am, which is really handy if you’ve just come off a long flight, and something most hostels won’t let you do.
As our first hostel of the trip, it couldn’t have been better. It was small enough to have a great little community feel, everyone was really friendly and happy to just hang out in the kitchen or garden. It didn’t have a party feel – people were all ages, from all walks of life.
We dumped our bags in our dorm room and headed out to a supermarket to grab some groceries. Without sunscreen on. Because it was only half hour away. Yeah so don’t do that… by the time we got back to the hostel we were burnt… the sun is so strong here! That should probably go without saying but we’re idiots. Whoops.
After that little adventure we got some sunscreen on and went out for a wander to get a feel for the city. The centre of the city is really hard to describe. All I can say is that is seems really impersonal. It didn’t seem particularly inviting, or interesting, or exciting at all. We didn’t love it on day 1. We decided we had to be missing something… it’s the most populated city in New Zealand for a reason, right?
On day 2 we decided to explore a little further and got the hop on, hop off city bus to travel around a bit more. We went out to Mission Bay and chilled out on the beach, before hopping off again at Auckland Museum for a look around. All I can say is that if you’re in Auckland, you need to go to the museum. It’s brilliant! You could easily spend a whole day there. There’s all sorts – Maori history & culture, volcanic eruption simulator, natural history, world war 2 exhibits including a full sized spitfire… basically we enjoyed it!
After two days in Auckland, we decided we wanted to get away for a while, so we headed out to Waiheke Island for a day (I wrote about this in a seperate post) then yesterday decided on an ambitious 6 hour kayak adventure to Rangitoto island, kayaking 5 miles out to the volcano, hiking to the top through the old lava fields, and watching the sun set over the city. It was by far the best thing we’ve done so far – I’d highly recommend the evening kayak trip as you’ll be the only ones on the whole island, a place usually crawling with tourists on day trips.
Surprisingly, after the 5 mile kayak out to Rangitoto I didn’t feel like my arms were going to fall off, although after the hike up to the summit I felt like my legs might. It’s always a treat trying to breathe quietly so no one knows how out of breath you are… We made it though and the view was spectacular, I can’t even begin to say how special it was to be at the summit of a deserted volcanic island, watching the sun go down over the water, with the Auckland cityscape in the background. It was so peaceful, once I’d caught my breath anyway.
We walked down the volcano after the sun disappeared, got back into our kayaks and started the 5 mile trip back to the city in the dark. After half hour or so, we noticed our paddles trailing little lights through the water. We dipped our hands in the warm sea and stirred up the bioluminescence. It was like creating ghostly green sparks from our fingers. I might have pretended to be a wizard. Anyway, it was the best £80 we’ve spent in a while and a good end to our stay in Auckland.
All in all, Auckland is a strange city… it’s really clean and tidy, and everyone seems friendly, but it’s a city we just can’t love. The CBD is dominated by the Sky Tower and not much else, and to be fair it has a dramatic skyline. Best viewed from a distance we found. It definitely began to grow on us as we started to explore the surrounding area, and we’d say just get out of the city and over to the islands.