Carolina: Cruising Past 70: 8 Landmarks in Auckland, New Zealand in 2 Days!

Thursday, October 19, 2017

8 Landmarks in Auckland, New Zealand in 2 Days!

Auckland Harbor Bridge
Four months is my usual timetable for babysitting a grandkid. But the Australian multiple-entry visitor visa has a maximum of ninety days for each entry. The application fee for an extension is almost the same as the cost for a ticket to Auckland, New Zealand. So I decided to go to Auckland over a long weekend to get a new ninety days. Happily, Bill decided to go with me! We stayed with a friend, Zenie, who owns a spacious 2 BR penthouse unit right in the heart of the city.

Zenie;s home
Auckland is in the North Island of New Zealand and has become the largest urban area in the country with a population of 1.6m. The surrounding hills are covered in rainforest, the city is dotted with dormant volcanic cones, and the central part sits on a narrow isthmus between two harbors. Classified as a Beta + World City, important in commerce, arts, and education, Auckland ranks on the 2016 Mercer Quality of Living Survey, as the third most liveable city in the world.

We spent three days in the city, two on city tours on our own and one on a day trip to the most popular island on the Hauraki Gulf, Waiheke. In our two days in Auckland, we explored eight different landmarks. The first four, right in the city center, was what Bill and I found on a self-guided tour, taking five-minute bus rides from my friend’s home. On our last day, Zenie and her husband Parkin drove us around to the other four, all a little farther away from the Central Business District.

Auckland Museum
The Auckland Museum is located on the rim of the crater of the extinct Pukekawa Volcano, the highest point in the 75-hectare Auckland Domain, the city’s oldest and largest park. Housed in an iconic neo-classical building, it holds a collection of New Zealand’s military and natural history. From the Museum, the Sky Tower can be seen, standing at 328 meters, as the tallest man-made structure in New Zealand and the southern hemisphere.
Auckland Museum

Also at Auckland Domain sits the Wintergarden, where we found so many beautiful plants and flowers. Two glasshouses, established after WWI, are protected heritage sites. One of the barrel-vaulted Victorian style glasshouses contains temperate plants while the other contains tropical plants. The glasshouses look onto a formal courtyard with a sunken pond and statues. Bill and I spent more than an hour there because it was such a haven for my camera, especially macro photography.

Aotea Square
Aotea Square is a large paved public area in the central business district of Auckland. Officially opened in 1979, it is used for open-air concerts and gatherings, and markets and political rallies, for crowds of up to 20,000 people. At the Queen Street entrance is an arch formed in wood and copper by Selwyn Muru, a Māori sculptor, as an expressionist version of a traditional Māori entry gate. Parts of the Square are a Town Hall, the Admin block, the Aotea Center, and the Civic Theater.
Aotea Square

St. Patrick’s Cathedral
On the way to St. Patrick’s Cathedral, we passed by the SkyTower but didn’t have the time for a stop. We found out that the land on which the cathedral stands was gifted to the Catholic Church in the 1840s by the government. The original church was made of wood, then stone, then finally in 1884, brick. Today’s  structure dates back to 1907, giving the church a high ceiling, a wide nave and white walls with large stained glass windows letting in a lot of natural light.

St. Patrick's Cathedral
Harbor Bridge
MJ Savage Memorial Park
The Auckland Harbor Bridge is an eight-lane box truss motorway bridge over the Waitemata Harbour. It is 3,348 ft long, with a main span of 799 ft, rising 142 ft above the high water. It has been nicknamed 'coathanger' because of its shape and, even as it is considered an Auckland icon, is derided for being a poor copy of the Sydney Harbor Bridge. It is also interesting to note that walking, cycling, and rail facilities are absent. In 2016, however, funding was approved for such additions.

MJ Savage Memorial Park
Situated off Tamaki Drive near Mission Bay, the Michael Joseph Savage Memorial Park is set among 49 hectares of land with impressive panoramic views overlooking Waitemata Harbor and Rangitoto Island. The tall obelisk, sunken pool, and landscaped gardens are a memorial to New Zealand's beloved first Labour Prime Minister (1872 - 1940). It was in the 1930s when the Maori sought to remedy living conditions through Michael Savage, who proceeded to found the welfare state.

Mount Eden
The entire isthmus and both harbors can be seen from the top of Auckland’s highest volcanic cone at 643 ft on Mount Eden. The symmetrical 164-ft deep crater is known as Te Ipu Kai a Mataaho (the Food Bowl of Mataaho). It is considered tapu (sacred) and exploration is prohibited. The remains of pa terraces and food storage pits are still visible. Until recently it was possible to drive right up to the summit but concerns over erosion led to restricted vehicle access. It took us 20 minutes to walk up!
Mount Eden summit

One Tree Hill
One Tree Hill is a park on the site of the second largest dormant volcano in the Auckland area. Today you can still see the remains of the original settlement. By the time the Europeans arrived, the village was abandoned and the only thing that remained was a single totara tree. In 1850 this tree was mistakenly cut down. The leader Campbell replaced it by a grove of non-native trees. After some time, only one of the trees remained and the Mount became known as One Tree Hill. In 2001, the lone tree was removed as inappropriate on an important Maori heritage site. A 1940 obelisk remains on the hill, in memory of Campbell who is buried there.

One Tree Hill
From One Tree Hill, we had to hurry to catch our flight back to Melbourne. But Bill and I were so glad we took this little trip to Auckland. Although we were not able to go to Hobbiton, we got to know the city through these eight landmarks. On the next post, you will also see how the day trip to Waiheke became the highlight of our little escape to New Zealand.  

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